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Reaching out to the Dalai Lama

Dalai Donation

Dalai Donation (Photo credit: Sandro_Lacarbona)

A few weeks ago, after an interview posted here resulted in a brave Tibetan women reduced to tears over accusations that her story hurt the Dalai Lama, I thought it would be worth asking for a chance to meet His Holiness to find out what he really thinks. Although opinions from anyone else are only opinions, I would certainly stop my efforts to get people thinking and talking about abuse of Tibetan women if that was truly what the Dalai Lama desired. I didn’t expect much. I know that requesting the opportunity to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama in person is asking a lot, and understand he is busy with people much more important than I am, but I decided there was no harm in giving it a try. This is the message I sent:

I write to you with hesitation because I am only an ordinary refugee born in a poor family in a small village in Amdo. I do not wish to inconvenience His Holiness or waste his precious time, but I would like to ask certain questions no one else can answer.

Like many Tibetan women, I have endured physical, sexual and emotional violence from members of our community. I recently returned to India from my new home in America in part to reach out to Tibetan women who are facing circumstances now that I did in the past. My goal is to help these women in any way I am able, while my two young daughters attend Norling Creche where I hope they will master Tibetan language and have a rich experience with Tibetan culture. I believe that by working to reduce violence against Tibetan women I can help our community become healthier and promote a better future for Tibetan girls like my daughters.

However, I have been receiving criticism for addressing abuse of women openly and honestly, especially from monks and educated Tibetans. The critics say that my memoir, A Hundred Thousand White Stones, and my efforts to encourage discussion about the treatment of women are harmful to the community and embarrass His Holiness the Dalai Lama. So many people have repeated similar complaints that I have to wonder if they’re right, these critics are more educated than I am and may understand these things more clearly than I am able to. 

If I am truly harming the community or embarrassing His Holiness in way I will stop what I am doing immediately. What I am asking is that I can hear if what I’m doing is right or wrong from His Holiness himself. He is the only one I can trust completely. Anybody can use his name to make their argument, but only he can explain his true views.

Thank you for your time,

Kunsang Dolma

An email version of this message went unanswered for a couple weeks, so I printed it and brought a copy in person to the office next to the temple in McLeod Ganj. I was incredibly nervous, I almost couldn’t do it. I’d never tried anything like that before, and I was worried my rough Amdo speech would come out instead of the honorific Lhasa form required for the situation. I thought they might laugh and think I’m stupid. However, they took my letter without much trouble or discussion at all. The next day I received an an encouraging email response from the Additional Secretary from the Dalai Lama’s office. The Secretary invited me to meet personally with one of the Dalai Lama’s personal secretaries to discuss my request and said, “Concerning the contents of your letter, I do not see any reason for you to stop your efforts in highlighting the rights of Tibetan women facing various types of violence within our community.”

Next week: Meeting the personal secretary

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21 Comments

  1. ཆ་ཚང་བཀླགས་བཞག གནས་སྟངས་འདིའི་ཐད་ནས་ང་དངོས་གནས་ཧང་སང་སོང་། བོད་མི་ས་ཡ་དྲུག་པོས་འདི་ལྟར་རང་རང་གི་གནས་ལུགས་དང་རྒྱུ་མཚན་ཁྱེར་ཏེ་ཁོང་རིག་ལ་གཟིམ་ཆུང་མཇལ་ཁ་ཞུ་བར་མ་ཟད། ད་དུང་ཁོང་སྐུ་དངོས་ཀྱི་གསུང་པའི་བཀའ་སློབ་ལ་ཉན་རྒྱུ་ཡིན་ཟེར་ན། མཇལ་མཁན་རྣམས་བསོད་ནམས་ཆེན་པོ་དང་ཚོགས་བསགས་བཟང་བོ། སྐལ་བ་དང་ལྡན་པ་ལོས་ཡིན་མོད། ཁོང་རིག་ངོ་མ་སྙིང་རྗེ་བའི་ཡུལ་རེད་སྙམ། དེང་སྐབས་ཀྱི་ཉིན་རེའི་ཁོང་གི་མཛད་འཕྲིན་ངོས་ཟིན་ན་བློ་ཡུལ་དུ་མི་ཤོང་བ་ཞིག་ཡིན་པ་ཤེས་གསལ་རེད། དེ་མིན་རང་རང་གིས་མ་འཇོན་པ་ལས་༸གོང་ས་མཆོག་གིས་བོད་ཀྱི་ཆབ་དཔལ་རིག་གསུམ་དང་སྤྱི་ཚོགས་གནད་དོན་སོགས་ཡོད་ཚད་ཀྱི་ཡོད་ཚད་ལ་མ་གསུངས་པ་ཞིག་དང་ལམ་སྟོན་མ་མཛད་པ་ཞིག་དཀོན་མོད། ང་ཚོས་མིག་ཟུང་བཙུམ་ནས་རྣ་བ་བཀབ་ནས་མ་མཐོང་མ་ཐོས་པར་ལྷག་ཡོད།
    རི་རབ་ལྟར་བརྩིགས་ཡོད་པའི་ཁོང་རིག་གི་གསུང་རྩོམ་ཁག་ལ་མཇལ་ཐུབ་ན་ཉིད་ཀྱི་གནད་དོན་འདི་ལེགས་ཉེས་གང་ཡིན་རང་བཞིན་གྱིས་ཁ་གསལ་བོ་ཆགས་ཡོང་གི་རེད།
    ཨ་རིག་གིས་དམར་རྗེན་དུ་བཤད་པའི་སྐད་ཆའོ། །

    • kunsangdolma says:

      I would never interrupt His Holiness uninvited or push an issue he didn’t agree to talk about, but what’s so wrong with just asking the secretary? Why is just asking so bad? Is it because you think women’s issues aren’t as important as the issues men like to talk about. Women are beaten and raped, and there’s no help for them, no shelter, no hotline, no community support for victims. Is it okay because it’s not a problem for men? Men talk and talk about “independence,” but don’t realize that equality is part of independence. Women are human beings the same as you, and we want the same things, we deserve the freedom in relationships and in our community too.

  2. Ten deden says:

    Thanx for being so brave, u r an inspiration for everyone.

    • kunsangdolma says:

      Thanks for your support. I don’t know how much I can do to help change things for the better, but I feel like I should try to do what I can. Tibetan women deserve equality, respect, and safety.

  3. Druk phuntsok says:

    Tibetan women right have been as par with Tibetan male since we came to India for exile, be in terms of education and vocational training or any post in office..I have been brought up in exile with two sister and many cousin sister and relative and i have never witness any kind of miss treatment of wonmen in any social society in Tibetan community in India..But yea there is problem in marriege that is completly personal case…But what you have been through cannot blame whole Tibetan community.. More over every tibetan settlement have TIBETAN WOMEN ASSOCIATION,We have never heard about any such cases and There is INDIAN constitution and law which protect every right of women..And all of sudden some one came complaining Tibetan woman right as if TIBETAN EXILE GOVERNMENT AND TIBETAN WOMEN ASSOCIATION ARE SLEEPING or are you claiming, you are better and more competent to handleTtibetan women right then exile government and Tibetan women association.BACK TO YOU;

    • kunsangdolma says:

      I’m sorry that what I’m doing seems to upset you. I understand that being an exile culture threatened by a hostile occupier at home and by pressure to conform to Western expectations in exile makes people sensitive to criticism. Unfortunately, I think that hiding our problems is part of conforming to Western expectations. Peaceful and perfect Tibetans are a Western myth, not our reality, we’re complicated human beings. I’m not trying to criticize the TWA here, but I do believe it’s important to have independent voices in our community outside the government. The government is dependent on foreign sponsors, limiting what they are comfortable talking about. The result is that we’ve been stuck in 1959. Somehow we need to move forward to make a positive future for our kids.

  4. dhondup says:

    Kunsang Dolma La

    It seems like you are going through a tough relationship and you are not treat right, the point is not all tibetan men are same as the one did not treat you right, if you have the strength to talk about this then i am sure you will get the strength to get rid off the men who don’t respect you, they are plenty of nice tibetan men out there.

  5. tenzin lhndp says:

    i sincerely appreciate for what you are doing around to empower women rights and all..But to my sincerest request on behalf of whole community, please make sure you do a proper research on your case studies and don’t just carried away for what other Tibetan women have to say. lately i have been seeing many young Tibetan women voicing against the gender discrimination in community by generalizing through some incidents which is totally unacceptable. i am afraid such blunt accusation from a section of women will make us antifeminist..at least for me. otherwise such brave move from a common women like you is truly an inspirational. good luck ahead!

    lhndp, Delhi University,India

  6. Kunsang Dolma la,

    hearty congratulation for the positive response from private office(I am not surprised). Your works are inspiring and I am sure with time people will realize the importance of women’s empowerment in our community (even for an effective the political struggle)
    We can’t keep discarding women’s right and other social issues as secondary to our political struggle and thus something to be dealt later, for political solution will take time and in between it is imperative for us to self-strengthen our-self by eliminating the social evils in our society.
    respect & regard

  7. tenzin kalden says:

    I am a Tibetan living in Tibet and I think it’s better not to hide this kind of problems. And I think her work is admirable!

  8. Indeed it’s good to bring this into the light, by ignoring these problems, we will not solve them. Worldwide women are raped and mistreated and Tibetan men don’t have to feel offended by your words. It happens everywhere also in the so-called civilized countries like Europe and the US!
    There is still a long way to go for women.

  9. Lobsang Jingpa says:

    I think it is better to go to Tibet itself and raise this very issue among the Tibetans inside Tibet, it would be much effective and helpful useful for many of our women there , like sisters , mothers and so on,

    actually there are many educated and transparent women activities on this very issue in Tibet like Jamyang Kyi and etc.

    I think it’s depends on one’s own conditions too,
    anyhow admire and rejoice for what you are doing and good luck with that,
    sincerely wish that you will do it with most wise and kind way.
    some call His Holiness feminist, if you really could implore this kind of issue to H.H in person and request to him to give a message on this very issue, obviously it would make a huge leap ahead to forth.

    I”m a just simple monk who came from Tibet Amdo near where you come from, I have been witnessed how treat our sisters, mothers there in Tibet,
    obviously there are some irresponsible ones and careless ones but meantime there are a full of gentle men too. we can not generalize as a whole region men like that because of a very few irresponsible men’s behave . but over all it’s not THAT MUCH bad like you are talking,
    of course it is understandable that you had faced with unthinkable sufferings,
    so I think our Tibetan women too equally have responsible for this very issue.

    I hope you will also try to understand that thousand years way of our Tibetan living system too, although western modern women’s way of life and sense are very highly sensitive there .
    thank you and good luck with that dear .
    lobsang jingpa

  10. Lobsang Jingpa says:

    and also since you are a part of our society your problem is the problem of our society as well,
    so I hope many of our Tibetan ladies and gentle menn also try to understand others feelings and whole parts of our society from many angles. and hopefully cooperate here with her.
    love all Tibetan women and gentle men .
    we are equally deserve the same basic human right.
    thank you

  11. sangyi says:

    Kunsangdolma la, you’r right. Bring everything to the light. Only truth will set us women and men free from ignorance. Since the girls become young women and mothers, it is the uttmost importance to empower those who will be the first loving teacher to a little precious human, the Baby. When a mother is physical and emotional traumatised, how can she give the perfect role model of a woman for a child? And i experienced my self that it isn’t appreciated in our tibetan community when a woman speak clear talks; especially about gender relaxed issues. Unfortunately it is known in the west, tibetans are good in preserving but not really strong in Invention of new ideas or even resistent to wellcome new ideas and methods. Thats a real weakness and we have to learn to over come this and be confident to speak our conscience in words and actions. Thus keep going! I cheer you and many of good spiritual intelligent country-men/women are behind you. Tashi delek lo. Tsering C.P.

  12. dear kunsang dolma la

    i think each and every society have that kind of case. but as compare to the other soceity or country ,that we dont have such kind of problem. if we have , i am sure , every tibetan women as well as men’s will support you.
    by the way , in such case’s you have to look the situation what is more important. but i am not saying that your approval is wrong. right now, we have to do unity and stand for tibet.

    • kunsangdolma says:

      I think the question is how long do we keep saying “right now” we have to put social issues aside. We have been waiting on politics for decades, and there is no end in sight. Making our community healthier is something we can do on our own and do now.

  13. Thinley says:

    A Taiwanese Chinese once told me Tibetans must do “House cleaning” first before making loud noises about bringing change to wider world. He was more than right. We cannot be blind to the wrongs going on within and talk about world peace and compassion elsewhere. Injustice is injustice no matter where it happens, and our society is no exception at all to this. Our conscious self image is holding Tibetans back from making progressive change socially, culturally, economically and politically. It’s not only women who are suffering, just recently I chanced upon an article on phayul.com related with corporal punishment still being tolerated in our exile schools. This is a violence against school kids, similar to domestic violence or any form of cruelty meted out against women. For every issue that we are facing, we tend to approach Buddhist way. It is time we treat ourselves like any human being on earth and make a human approach rather than attach it with Buddhist values and principles. While I applaud Kusang la for your unrelenting effort, I don’t deem it necessary for you to seek approval from higher or any other authority from doing what you think and feel is right. His Holiness is a global rights advocate and will be proud rather being hurt by what you are doing in this case. There is no doubt about it. I spent sometime working as a voluntary researcher at Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), and I learned that His Holiness once lectured the staff at the center to not only focus on gross violation of human rights taking place in Tibet under Chinese rule, but also at the same time point out if rights violations are taking place in our own settlements in exile. Pointing out wrongs in our own community doesn’t make you anti-Tibetan or Pro-China. You are bringing progressive change to our community, but while doing that you also need the courage and preparedness to endure resistance. While we continue our struggle for freedom, we must not also stop ourselves from bringing progressive and positive changes within our society. We need to move ahead with holistic approach.

  14. […] week, I wrote about my request to speak with the Dalai Lama regarding women’s equality in the Tibetan community. As directed by the response I received, […]

  15. […] week, I wrote about my request to speak with the Dalai Lama regarding women’s equality in the Tibetan community. As directed by the response I received, […]

  16. khampacat says:

    This is not a real issue. Its a house hold issue and what can CTA do about this. If you are harrased or abused then just go the nearest police station and file a report against the abuser. I read the stories here and one goes like a girl who leaves school to be with her boyfriend as a wife.later she got beaten. how stupid? its her own fault. who told her to run after boys?
    @thinley
    who cares about what taiwanese chinese says.
    Its known fact that tibetan children are very “khyongpo” and stick helps to shape them.

  17. khampacat says:

    And the picture above is misleading with the caption ” Dalai Donation (Photo credit: Sandro_Lacarbona)”
    duh? its an offering. Money does not goes to his holiness. shaamden!

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