Ani Pachen

Ani Pachen (Photo: Tenzin Dhongthog)

Ani Pachen, a prominent female resistance leader from eastern Tibet, passed away in Dharamsala on February 2, 2002 evening. She was 68.

Born in 1933 in Gonjo in Kham, eastern Tibet to Pomdha Gonor, the chieftain of Lemdha. Her father was a resistance leader who confronted the Chinese invading forces. After her father’s death, Pachen took over the leadership of people in her region in their fight against the Chinese. Her biography, Sorrow Mountain: the Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun, details Pachen’s story, including her over 20 years of life in prison.

In his message to Pachen’s autobiography, the Dalai Lama says, “In recounting the events of her life here, Ani Pachen tells a story that is typical of Tibet over the last fifty yers. The final years of freedom reveal a simple, contented way of life. Her family, like so many others, was guided by values strongly influenced by the Buddha’s teachings of compassion, interdependence, and an awareness that nothing lasts forever. Ani Pachen’s father, a Khampa chieftain, clearly commanded respect more for his sense of justice and responsibility than for his mere position.”

The Dalai Lama had a particular admiration for Pachen, as he pointed out to Tibetan officials during his tour to the United States some years back when he saw Pachen among the audience. Pachen had then come to promote her book. The Dalai Lama said Pachen was someone who was sincere and honest.

After escaping to India, Ani Pachen continued to be involved in Tibetan issues, becoming an active member of Gu-Chu-Sum, the organization started by former Tibetan political prisoners. She toured interntionally, including a visit to Washington, D.C., in the course of which she gave public talks, met members of parliament and spread awareness of Tibet to whoever would listen to her.

In a press release about Pachen’s death, Gu-Chu-Sum recounted her contribution, “Ani Pachen was an active participant in all the three major protest demonstrations organized by the monks of Drepung, Sera and Gaden in Lhasa on the 27th September 1987, 1st October 1987 and March 5th 1988 respectively. In order to avoid re-arrest by the Chinese, she escaped into exile in 1989,” Gu-Chu-Sum said.

Gu-Chu-Sum said Pachen had just returned to Dharamsala from Bodh Gaya where she had gone to attend the scheduled teachings of the Dalai Lama.