A Path Home

In the beginning, it was simple. When Tibetans first stumbled down from the mighty Himalayas in the late 1950s and later, there was only one clear-cut vision, or dream: to go back to Tibet from whence they came. There was a set of a dozen or so paths that led back.

It isn’t so easy anymore.

With the profusion of thoughts and ways, between independence and autonomy, life and death for some, came confusion. The paths have become hazy and convoluted, encroached upon by the prickly thorn bushes of differing opinions and attitudes. Even for some long-time activists, immersed in the terminology and the fight, it can be overwhelming. And let us not be ashamed to say that there have been times when we have been driven to the edge of our sanity, after hours of battling with conflicting emotions.

I think (or try to), and push myself. There might be, there just might be something, something that all of us, something that we missed all along. It sits there tantalizingly, just over the horizon, on the periphery of our thoughts, just out of reach. And that something, that elusive something, would be the magic potion, the solution to our cause.

I have often wished there was a place to go, where I could find quick answers to my questions. Yes, unfortunately, finding answers to questions is time-consuming and sometimes an equally frustrating process. I scavenge the net, the libraries, books, whatever comes into my reach. I think, I talk, I discuss ideas, I listen to others. I follow the news, attend meetings and seminars, and join discussions on the web.

And I am still scavenging.

No one reading this will know if I have red, puffy eyes from straining too long over too many different things.

No one will see if I have sleepless nights while too many thoughts churn ceaselessly through my head.

And for all of this, do I seem any closer to finding an answer?

Here I remember a Rabindranath Tagore poem that I read a long time back, called “Ekhle Cholo”:

If no one hears your knocking
And all men shut their doors;
Then lose not heart oh! Hapless one.
But in the fiery thunder set,
The torch of your heart aflame,
And burn in the darkness alone.

And now, just recently, there seems to be some stronger glimpses of that tantalizing solution lingering just over the horizon. China is changing and there are signs emanating from the Beijing leadership that give us reasons to be hopefully optimistic. Hands have started to stretch out to grasp that elusive answer that may now be inching closer to our fingertips.

If the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee to China can bring stable relations between the two giant countries, this will help in promoting peace and stability in Asia in particular, and the world in general. Good, normal relations will have a positive impact on the whole world, and it will assist China in solving the Tibet issue in a way suitable to both parties.

One thing is clear. Some in the new generation of Chinese leaders realize by now that relations with India cannot be normalized without addressing the Tibetan issue. Moreover, in the past year one can see that the Chinese leadership has started realising that they can no longer ignore popular international opinion on Tibet as they have done in the past.

All this is pointing to one vital angle of the struggle for Tibet, one that is becoming more and more controversial with each new generation born in exile or under the yoke of Chinese rule, and increasingly harder to control.

History has shown that hatred and violence have the vicious ability to confuse and contaminate one’s cause. The real issues, and the origin of the conflict, get frustratingly obscured. Paths become twisted once violence introduces its own tangle of concepts.

Even though violent acts can grab headlines and bring a passing moment of international attention, they never bring any substantial help or sympathy to one’s cause. Look at the ruined townships and the hopelessness on Palestinian faces. Look at the devastation in Africa and Afghanistan. Extremist animal rights activists in Britain might put shrapnel into the backs of babies, but it is Greenpeace’s peaceful boat blockades that make international news.

If one looks at the Tibetan struggle, this is where the Tibetans have scored.

Tibetans have a huge sympathetic following amongst people worldwide due to the non-violent path that we follow. Financially, the Tibetan cause is dependent on the support that it has generated. And in the vital political arena some headway has been made. US President George Bush signed the Tibetan Policy Act into law, which encompassed a promise to engage the Chinese government to reach a negotiated agreement on Tibet and look after the welfare of the Tibetans in exile.

This goes to show that despite the sound and fury that accompanies terrorism, it is, after all that has been said and done, nothing but murder — a tool of the politically weak. It does nothing to achieve solid and lasting goals. These come when you have gained the respect of the rest of the world, not through the amount of blood that has been spilled.

What the Tibetans have presented to the world is the extraordinary idea of a whole nation, not just individuals, resisting violence and terror through love and compassion. It is not a new concept in itself, but it is the one that has faced the toughest test of all. The basis of the Dalai Lama’s political philosophy has the potential to become a new parameter in this strife-torn world, when war is still seen by the few and powerful as a tool of conflict resolution. A peaceful solution to the Tibet issue would set a guideline for the future, a roadmap to peace through peaceful means. A path home.

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