Karma Ngedon Gyatso

Karma Ngedon Gyatso in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Tibet Times)

The disabled monk who self-immolated and died in Kathmandu on August 6 left Tibet because he was not able to practice his religion, according to information published in Tibet Times “Tibet Times, a Tibetan language newspaper published in Dharamsala, India” (ICT report, Tibetan monk dies after self-immolation in Kathmandu, Nepal). The exile newspaper also published images of Karma Ngedon Gyatso and made audio available of him speaking in November, 2011, soon after he arrived in exile (Tibet Times). Thirty-eight year old Karma Ngedon Gyatso died after setting himself on fire at the Boudha stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Karma Ngedon Gyatso (pictured) propelled himself with his arms using two wooden blocks, dragging his paralysed legs behind him. Despite this severe disability, before he left Tibet for exile, he went on pilgrimage to various sacred sites in Tibet, including the sacred Mount Kailash. In one image, he reaches up from the ground to take a bowl of food. In another, he is smiling at the camera, with his hands rested on the wooden blocks and his legs curled underneath him.

In the interview with Tibet Times, translated below into English, Karma Ngedon Gyatso said that due to restrictions by the authorities on numbers of monks at his home monastery in Tibet, he was not able to register officially and was often harassed by officials as a result. He spoke about mining in his home area, and his fears about the extinction of Tibetan culture.

A translation of the Tibet Times article into English by ICT follows below.

Tibet Times

November 14, 2011

Karma Ngedon Gyatso

Karma Ngedon Gyatso in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Tibet Times)

The correspondent talked with monk Karma Ngedon Gyatso, a recent arrival from Tibet who is currently residing at the Central Reception Centre who is from Yangpachen in Damshung (Chinese: Dangxiong) [in Lhasa Municipality, the Tibet Autonomous Region] about his brief life story, the situation in his fatherland, and his reasons for coming to India.

Although he became a monk at the age of 13 in Yangpachen Monastery in Damshung, in the same year he suffered problems with his legs and had to return to his home. After five years of treatment there was no progress and both his legs became disabled. He returned to the monastery. Last year [2010] in the second Tibetan month he left the monastery and depending on his two hands went on a pilgrimage to the sacred sites in Tibet. Eventually, after going to Mapham Yutso and Mount Kailash, he arrived at the Reception Center in Nepal. On the 17th of this month [November, 2011] he arrived at the Reception Center in Dharmsala.

His description of the situation in the monastery and his reason for coming to India this time were as follows. In the Yangpachen monastery in Damshung there was severe restrictions imposed by the Chinese government. Of 70 monks in the monastery, only 40 were provided with rights and facilities as monks. The rest were not permitted to part in monastic activities. For the performance of cham [monastic dance] and prayer ceremonies, permission has to be sought many months ahead from officials by offering bribes. Since all district and provincial level officials are Chinese while those ordinary officials under them are Tibetan, the Tibetan officials are made use of to implement government policies and to impose restrictions in the monasteries; thus Tibetans are being made to sabotage Tibetans.

During his decade at the monastery, he did not get the identity document of a monk and thus his stay there was somewhat of an illegality. Last year he was ordered not to stay in the monastery but to return to his home. After departing from the monastery and during his travel on pilgrimage he was constantly harassed by security personnel as he did not have identity papers as a monk. He was asked not to wear monks’ robes. However, he continued on his way by responding that since he was disabled and could not work and secondly because he was poor without having anyone looking after him, wearing the monks’ robes was a way to eke out his living.

The reporter asked him whether the Chinese government provided support to the poor and the disabled. He responded, “For one year I was given 2 Gyamas [a measure of weight, approximately half a kilo] of meat, 2 Gyamas of butter, and one bag of Tsampa by the Chinese government in the form of assistance. Other than that I have not been given any aid nor looked after.”

Asked about his perception during his pilgrimage to many areas of Tibet, he said that the real Tibet is being lost. He gave the example that in his home area from around 2005 there was mining and now the mountains were empty and so work had to be stopped. In the past five-six years hundreds of vehicles carried the ores from the mountains to Chinese areas even though they maintain that they are assisting Tibet.

Again, in terms of his perception during pilgrimage, when he was in the Tod Ngari region rarely was monastic discipline being observed despite outward appearances. The Chinese government was exterminating the culture, including Tibetan Buddhism. In terms of society, too, wherever one went in Tibetan areas, Chinese outnumbered Tibetans and all areas have been turned into Chinese towns. Pointing to some youths at the Reception Center [for new arrivals into exile] who were with him he said that most of these youths knew only Chinese writing and speaking and did not know Tibetan language or writing.

At the end, he said that even though in Chinese government’s publicity they talk about the People’s Republic of China, in reality the government does not implement the provisions in the Constitution regarding policies toward the minorities in general and in particular the Tibetans. Not only that, different policies are being implemented in each of the Tibetan areas. In the case of his own area and monastery, Yangpachen, although he knew that the policies being implemented there are not in the Constitution, but there is no channel for appeal or discussion. He said the it was a case of China doing whatever it felt like doing without any observance of the law or system and that it was like brigands.