China/Tibet/MN: As Eyes Turn Toward the Olympics, are We Seeing More Than We Want?


Inprisioned in their own Monasteries, and starved until dead, the Tibetan Nuns and Monks need our help. Minnesota boasts of the second largest Tibetan Community in US, and what are these peaceful people asking us to do? Pray with them.

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Thupten, one of the106 Tibetans to arrive in Minnesota in 1992, invited anyone to join their Prayer Vigil at a South Mpls Monestary. My friends and I decided to go but didn’t know much about it and didn’t know what to expect. It felt important to be open, but also realistic. There’s so much information out there and it’s hard to know what to believe or which “cause” should engage this generous “Giving” thing that Oprah, Bill etc. are talking about in our own tough economy.

Surpringly, the address led to a small house. Entering the back door, we were ushered through a small kitchen fragrant with sweet spice and wood, into a very simple, small, make- shift but resplendent Monestary. The word “abundance” was brought into form with a layered profusion of brilliant color presented in rugs on the floor, a succession of art lining the walls, bringing focus to a large altar where an exhaltation of Buddhist statues, pictures, brightly colored/patterned fabric, trinkets, art, and bowls of fresh fruit studded with money.

Although not silent, there was an air of respect and stillness permeating the space. Being greeted with such genuine warmth and openheartedness, melted unwitting skepticism. Crowded together on the floor, we sat on cushions called Zafu. Well worn papers, stapled together, were their prayer books. Reading the English side, threads of Eastern religion’s “oneness” and strong sense of “community” were apparent — community both personal and global. “What I do to you, I do to myself” brings to mind “Do Unto Others” and “Love One Another as You Love Yourself”. And even in this very exotic and strange setting, judging dissolved; and a sense of comfort nestled in. Monks in full robes began the prayers, chanting along the ancient, etherial waves of sound. Hightened sensations transported hearts and minds into another time and place where all actually ARE connected, and experience the power in the deep, inner knowing of that.

Discussion was vigorous after prayer. Thupten the founder of described Buddhist philosphy as one of having “compassion for every living being – love and kindness for every life on the planet”. He explained “all sentient beings are interconnected”.

He spoke about the last 50 years of religious persecution where “children are beaten for even saying the name or carrying a photo of the Dalai Lama.” He described people as “being beaten or imprisioned if their lips move” (as in prayer), prisions without medical care and Tibetans afraid for their very lives, to go to China-run medical facilities.

Thupten, like the Dalai Lama, speaks globally of all religions’ ability to produce loving beings, and fervently believes in everyone’s right to practice their own religion. He sees China as a threat to all religions and Tibet as China’s trial run. I tried to imagine being imprisioned just by mentioning the name Jesus. Interconnectedness begs the question: If it can happen there as the whole world watches, what IS to prevent that from happening here?

Thupten described a time of great dispair and great hope and asked with a palpable sense of urgency: “What can we do to help people in Tibet now?” “One Monk reminded us of the Dalai Lama’s desire to engage China.

Western creativity stirred among us, and proactive responses emerged. Killing by starvation
is just one of the current atrocities of religious persecution and genocide of a beautiful and
peaceful people. There is a concensus that Beijing’s Tibet policy is at a turning point, and we
in MN, have a critical, historic and unprecedented opportunity to make a difference. A
growing voice rings: we have a role to play, and all the world is watching. We have a chance
to redeem ourselves as a caring people of the United States of America and one deserving of
respect from the international community.

The discussion stirred much creativity and the following is a list of things that were in the works and others that are arising: Join us in making a difference!
• Sign Dalai Lama’s Petition asking for foreign media & international medical team to be allowed into Tibet. Go to “Heart of Tibet” store in Linden Hills 612-926-8723 or Contact and ask for a copy to read and disseminate.
• Call Your Senators! Get info from petition above.
• Learn More!
• Donate Suitcases and Medical Supplies to a group from the U of M who will be bringing them to Darhamsala. Contact:
• VIGILS: Come! experience the beauty of these people at their Vigil
April 10th, Thursday 2pm to 6pm State Capitol St. Paul
Candlelight Vigil for Tibet,
Every Friday indefinitely 5pm to 8pm Minneapolis Court House
4th Ave and 3rd St Mpls

“Please come to these events and lend your support to the ongoing nonviolent protests worldwide against the current Chinese crackdown and longstanding occupation of Tibet. Events organized by the Tibetan community”.

Great Movies to Rent!
2006 Rick Ray’s “10 questions for the Dalai Lama”
1997 Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun”
1997 Brad Pitt “Seven Years in Tibet”