|[8 August 2016] In mid-July, Tibet Society’s President Norman Baker visited the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, northern India. Whilst there, he met with the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa. Norman has written a short essay on his experience.
I never cease to be impressed by the way the Tibetans have created from nothing such a vibrant and cohesive community in exile. Indeed, I believe it is unmatched amongst diaspora anywhere else in the world.
The Central Tibetan Administration, acting as a government-in- exile, oversees a whole range of functions such as health and education, as I was able to see at first-hand. This included a visit to the Department of Health and Astrology, not two subjects the western mind would normally link. And yet western herbalists will choose the time of the day, month and year when herbs should be picked, just as the Tibetans do. It is always interesting to learn of parallel but unconnected practices existing in totally different parts of the world.
As a member of a music outfit myself, I was particularly interested to meet a group of Tibetan musicians and hear them play instruments unheard in the west. I also had the chance to hear rehearsals for a Tibetan opera.
The Central Tibetan Administration houses a section dealing with archives, in particular religious texts smuggled out of the country at the time of the Chinese invasion. It speaks volumes, literally, for the religious devotion of the Tibetans that they brought with them so many heavy texts on the hugely arduous march across the snow from Tibet to India and Nepal. Some that I saw date back to the 12th Century. I am now in touch with the British Library to see what help and advice might be available to help ensure these precious works are protected going forward.
My visit also allowed me a meeting with His Holiness the Karmapa (pictured right), one of the most senior lamas. I was delighted to discover that he shares my concern about the environment, and in particular the environmental damage being wreaked in Tibet by the Chinese government, through their policies of deforestation, mineral extraction and forced relocation of nomads. He has in principle accepted an invitation from me to visit England next year to lecture on these matters.
The crowning moment, of course, was an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama (pictured at top), to discuss the political situation here in Britain and more widely. He looked very healthy and as always made us laugh.
I came away from my visit reflecting on the marvellous and stoical way they have played the bad hand dealt to them, and determined that Tibet Society will continue to do all it can to fight for Tibet.
Rt Hon Norman Baker, President Tibet Society
Tibet Society, the world’s first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. Annual membership £24; Family £36; Life £500.