Last 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, I approached the office next to the McLeod Ganj temple to ask about talking to one of the Dalai Lama’s personal secretaries. Before going to the office to I printed a letter stating my interests and examples of questions I wanted to ask. I was good that I did, the security staff were skeptical that I was really supposed to be there, but they did deliver the letter and I heard back soon from Lobsang Jinpa.
The letter read:
Dear Lobsang Jinpa la or Desang Tsering la,
I was recently advised by Tenzin Taklha la upon receipt of my request for an audience with the Dalai Lama to speak to one of you in person about my request. I am asking for the opportunity to have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama because I would like to have the benefit of his guidance on issues relevant to Tibetan women. I am concerned particularly about domestic violence and rape, and my wish is for His Holiness to advise me about the appropriateness of raising these issues and the most beneficially direction to focus my efforts to create positive change.
I would like to ask the following questions:
1) I believe that violence toward women is having a negative impact in our community on women and families. However, I have been told that talking openly and honesty about mistreatment of women creates a bad image of Tibetans and embarrasses Your Holiness. Should I stop my efforts to promote discussion about this problem or is it important to let the truth come out and trust that truth will lead to a positive outcome?
2) Criticism of specific aspects of Tibetan behavior can easily be misunderstood and hurt people’s feelings, resulting in a negative emotional response. Do you have any advice for raising sensitive issues effectively while respecting the emotions these issues bring out?
3) Do you see a role for the exile administration in addressing social issues in addition to political goals?
4) Were you physically disciplined while growing up? Do you think physical punishments could be harmful to children?
5) What can ordinary people do to help bring change in Tibet that will enable Your Holiness to return?
Thank you for your time,
Meeting the secretary was much more comfortable than I expected, he was friendly and easy to talk with. I had been very nervous before I arrived, this was my first experience meeting an important a office worker. I arrived early to give myself time to walk around the temple, the peaceful sound of monks praying helping me to relax a little. Once I met the secretary, my nervous feeling totally went away, he made feel welcome, like we were having a nice conversation rather than the harsh interview I was anticipating.
He seemed to be genuinely interested in the issues I was bringing up and took them seriously. We talked back and forth for a little over half an hour, going through some of the questions in the letter and discussing the topic of women’s rights in general. Unfortunately, he told me, the Dalai Lama would only be in Dharamsala for ten days when he came back, time for meetings with the Dalai Lama was extremely limited. He said the Dalai Lama used to take an active interest in things like what I was talking about, but was cutting back on his involvement now that he was retired from politics, the secretaries were supposed to direct people to the exile administration instead whenever possible.
Although he didn’t set up a meeting with His Holiness, I appreciated that he took the time to talk with me and treated the problems I wanted to address respectfully. He suggested a few people who I might want to speak to who might be able to assist with my efforts to promote women’s rights in the Tibetan community, and presented several books in Tibetan and English before I left, some of them books he wrote himself. Overall I don’t feel disappointed, it was more than I expected and I am glad know that there is support for what I’m doing.