Tag Archives: tibet

Meditation: Setting an Intention

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This isn’t a meditation in and of itself, but should be a process that you go through every single time you sit down on the meditation cushion. Setting an intention isn’t just one of the most important parts of meditation practice, it’s also one of the most important parts of living a successful and meaningful life. Before you embark on any endeavor, you should examine your motivation and set an intention that you believe truly accords with this motivation. If you aren’t satisfied with your motivation, then make a conscious effort to change it so that you can direct your energies towards your goal as directly as possible.

Setting a proper motivation before practicing meditation is important because otherwise you’re just playing a mind game with yourself. Actual meditation requires a tremendous amount of focus and discipline to keep from wandering into the comfort of dullness, so setting a sufficiently strong motivation that truly accords with your inner motivation is necessary to engage with your practice as fully as possible. Otherwise, it’s easy to allow yourself to be led off into distractions. Your motivation should form the heart and soul of your practice, giving you that energy to persevere through difficult sessions and keeping you constantly striving towards deeper levels of insight.

Most importantly, be honest with yourself about your motivation. This is not as simple as it sounds. As with all things, there is very rarely a single motivation for engaging in meditation, but rather a complex web of reasons that bring you to the cushion. In psychological terms, this is called the principle of multiple determination. Spend some time analyzing exactly what it is you’re hoping to accomplish through practicing meditation and why this is the case. Who are you meditating for? Before any of my meditation sessions with Tibetan Buddhists, they always encourage the group to set the motivation to strive to achieve wisdom for the sake of helping lead all sentient beings to enlightenment. This is a beautiful intention for serous practitioners, but it is often unrealistic for the average layperson. It’s easy to tell yourself that this is your motivation, but unless you really embody that feeling in your practice, it’s an empty intention. There’s no shame in setting your intention a bit lower. Again, be honest with yourself! If you try and fool yourself into thinking that you’re motivated by something loftier than you truly are, it will hardly add any weight to your practice. In fact, if you set a motivation that is too high and then become aware that you aren’t actually energized by it, you might fall into a state of guilt, which is entirely unproductive for practice.

That being said, not all motivations are good. It is possible to have an unhealthy motivation for meditation. Below, I list 10 forms of unhealthy intention that are often problematic for Western practitioners, though they are hardly limited to those in the West and there are many more forms of unhealthy motivation than I list here.

1) Quest for perfection and invulnerability. This is not what meditation is for. This type of motivation is most often guided by a feeling of narcissism, a desire to be self-sufficient, and to rise above ‘worldly concerns.’
2) Fear of individuation. This form of unhealthy motivation is guided by a fear of taking responsibility for one’s own life in the belief that this can be avoided by a defensive pursuit of ‘egolessness.’
3) Avoidance of responsibility and accountability. Freedom from ‘egocentric needs’ can rationalize avoidance of anxiety-producing situations (i.e. taking charge of life), causing one to retreat into meditation.
4) Fear of intimacy and closeness. Retreat into the idea of ‘no-self’ can appear to provide a way of neutralizing hurt by avoiding close relationships.
5) A substitute for grief and mourning. Similar to #4, the idea of ‘no-self’ can provide a refuge from painful emotions if misinterpreted.
6) Avoidance of feelings. This type of unhealthy motivation is guided by the belief that the goal of meditation is to reach a state of non-feeling, rather than becoming better attuned to our feelings.
7) Passivity and dependence. ‘Egolessness’ can masquerade as a way of causing one to suppress their feelings of anger and self-assertion, as well as to disguise codependency as compassionate service to a loved one
8) Self-punitive guilt. This entails using the idea of ‘non-attachment’ to act out underlying feelings of unworthiness and guilt (“Feelings are bad and therefore I’m bad for having them.”)
9) Devaluing reason and intellect. Belief in the idea that meditation solely promotes experience over rational thinking can reinforce avoidance of thinking as a way of blocking self-understanding.
10) Escape from intrapsychic experience. Similar to #4 and #5, this involves attempting to ‘let go of the ego’ as justification for repressing anything that produces anxiety or insecurity.

Notice that in many of the examples above, I place Buddhist terms in quotation marks. This is to highlight the fact that they refer not to the true Buddhist concept, but a misconception of it twisted to fit the psychological needs of the individual. All of these forms of unhealthy motivation reveal a misunderstanding of what meditation is designed to accomplish and, as such, cause the practitioner to engage in practice for the wrong reasons. It is important to examine our reasons for practicing so that we don’t fall into any of the pitfalls listed above. If your practice has previously been guided by one of these motivations, that’s okay. In order to change your motivation to something more healthy, you first need to recognize that your previous intention was misguided and not giving all the strength to meditate that you’re truly capable of mustering.

As time goes on, it’s inevitable that your meditations will change. Even day to day, your meditation is likely to be guided by different intentions. What is most important is to be aware of these various motivations and, whenever possible, to set an intention that you can truly believe in. It is only through setting a healthy motivation that you can fully get behind that you can dive as deeply as possible into practice and your own mind.

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From 老外 to Chillip: Foreign Reflections on Tibet, China, and Bhutan (Part 2)

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I'm 人人 Famous!!

I’m 人人 Famous!!

The tone that I (mostly) unintentionally adopt when discussing this issue makes it seem as if China is some sort of evil empire out to subjugate the rest of the world for it’s own selfish means. But it isn’t so black and white. For millennia, China viewed itself as the Middle Kingdom between Heaven and Mankind, occupying a central and inescapable role in the maintenance of Harmony on Earth. Easy as it is to overstate the Middle Kingdom Complex, it’s impossible to deny that it continues to influence the modern government’s policy decisions.

To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the ‘peaceful liberation’ of Tibet, China constructed a massive phallic-looking monument across the street from the Potala Palace in Lhasa. At first glance, I thought this was really just a grand show of overcompensation, which I still feel that it is, but I’ve also come to realize that this monument to the people’s liberation is also extraordinarily genuine. In many ways, China actually does view its actions as a true liberation of Tibet from a feudal system. Standards of living have improved and so, as far as China is concerned, Tibet is better off.

In celebration of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.

In celebration of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.

As usual with things on here, this all comes back around to the Religion of Inevitable Progress. What tradeoffs are worth making in pursuit of material advancement? I feel that China is in a particularly precarious situation in regard to analyzing these tradeoffs given the Century of Humiliation that it endured in the not so distant past. After being raped by the West for decades and watching itself be carved up almost to the point of non-existence, China views itself as having a lot to prove to the rest of the world and a lot of lost time to make up for. As much as China is currently pushing for its place as a world economic and political superpower, it is also always fighting for its reputation. And what better way to maintain face and prove its superiority than beating the West at it’s own game? Rapid economic development, material advancement, and skyrocketing standards of living (at least in the cities) all lend credence to the idea that China can play the Western game, possibly even better than the nations that invented it. Given that China has been doing so well, why would it ever risk letting up for the sake of questioning the value of progress and the ways in which it is being achieved? The possibility for a massive loss of face is simply too high. And with the vast majority of people living better than they ever had, why would the government want to slow its march into the future? People will put up with a remarkable amount of censorship, pollution, undrinkable tap water, and a number of apparently arbitrary daily inconveniences if they can afford to move into the city and buy nicer cars and iPhones.

财神, the Chinese god of prosperity

财神, the Chinese god of prosperity

Still, there a number of issues bubbling below the surface that are overlooked by the Western media and that I never would have guessed could have existed without some time on the ground in China. As a college student, one of the issues that I find to be most intriguing is that of the education system. Throughout high school, parents frequently drive Chinese college students to the very limits of overwork. As the population grows and places in university become ever more competitive, the problem is only exacerbated. Chinese high school students spend an entire year of school preparing for the Gaokao, which might be considered roughly equivalent to the SAT except that it the scope of knowledge if requires makes the content of the SAT look like a pop quiz. It lasts either 2 or 3 days, and requires students to display their knowledge in Chinese, math, a foreign language, physics, chemistry, biology, history, biology, and political education. It’s essentially the only requirement for admissions to tertiary education in China so it is taken incredibly seriously. As such, for any students remotely serious about their academics, life outside of school is more or less non-existent.

Furthermore, once students have actually completed the process it and made it to university, things are often not that much better. The university system in China is strictly regimented, leaving little room for creativity and innovation, as well as extremely overbearing; it isn’t uncommon for students to spend 12+ a day in class. Given the methods of education, students are best equipped to study the hard sciences, engineering, or mathematics. Those looking to explore the humanities generally aspire to attend Western universities, often in America. Even those pursuing the subjects that the Chinese education system specializes in often would rather attend Western universities if financially feasible.

A beautiful little shrine next to one dedicated to Buddha Shakyamuni

A beautiful little shrine next to one dedicated to Buddha Shakyamuni

Such a harsh education system frequently breaks the students that have worked so hard to get there. My Chinese roommate often remarked to me that he thought that the American students at IES (the study abroad program I was enrolled in) worked far harder than any of his friends at Beijing Foreign Studies University (Beiwai.) When he first said this, I could hardly believe him, but he continued that many of them spend all day in their rooms playing computer games and skipping out on class. So long as they walk out of college with a degree, their grades are more or less irrelevant. And without their parents constantly breathing down their necks to succeed in school, many students are simply unable to find the motivation within themselves to do anything at all.

As if life for Chinese youth isn’t hard enough, 计划生育政策 (the One Child Policy) further increases pressures placed on children in China. Adopted by the government in 1979 as a method of curbing booming population growth for the sake of lessening pressure on natural resources and limiting the supply of surplus labor, the One Child Policy only permits families to have one child. While there are a handful of exceptions, such as when divorced parents that already have kids remarry and want to have a kid of their own or in the case of twins, adherence to the policy is strong enough, at least in urban areas, to have had a significant impact on Chinese society. Aside from the basic violations of human rights that the One Child Policy promotes and problems that arise from the increasing disparity between the numbers of men and women in China, it has also created acute problems for many Chinese youths. Combined with the one-pointed focus on school that is so strongly encouraged, forcing the current generation of Chinese kids to grow up as only children fosters a sense of isolation and loneliness that can’t be overstated. To compensate for this, parents frequently will spoil their children to the point that kids constantly expect to be pampered and treated like precious gifts to the world (a problem that also exists among many American children.) However, this is a terribly unrealistic expectation about what should be considered reasonable treatment by others and it often leads to deep consequences. The week that I left, a friend was telling me about a middle schooler that had recently jumped off of the roof of their school. The reason? They had had their Nintendo DS taken away because they were playing with it in class and didn’t know how else to deal with this massive injustice. And these types of stories aren’t even considered uncommon.

爱国!!!!!!!!!

爱国!!!!!!!!!

So while China views itself as being entirely capable of leading Tibet out of feudalism into the shining modern era, there are enough issues brewing at home that call into question whether or not the price of modernization might be too high.

(Note: I realize a lot of this comes across as a pretty scathing analysis of China today but, as I think has been pretty clear in a lot of my previous posts, my criticism is hardly restricted solely to China and I don’t mean to single it out as the most despicable nation in the world or anything like that at all. There’s much to love about the country, the culture, and the people, but in the context of this series it seemed more appropriate to point out some particular shortcomings, especially in regard to government and policy decisions, that are unique to China.)

From 老外 to Chillip: Foreign Reflections on Tibet, China, and Bhutan (Part 1)

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The world honors daring, exalts ostentation, and emphasizes progress. What the sage treasures is patience, frugality, and humility, all of which the world considers useless.
–Su Che’

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Tibet will never again be a sovereign nation belonging to the Tibetans. I can fully understand that many people might take serious offense to that statement since it’s so bold and bleak but after even just two weeks traveling around the country (…province) it’s the rude truth to which I’ve been forced to open my eyes.

To begin with, there are the diplomatic, economic, and geopolitical issues. China can’t afford to let go of Tibet. Tibet alone comprises 1/6 of China’s total landmass. Once Tibet goes, other contested areas of China such as Xinjiang and Taiwan are no longer as securely Chinese as the government continually assures people. So there goes another 1/3 of the country.

Furthermore, China’s Western provinces (Tibet included) are absurdly rich in natural resources. In addition to being one of China’s largest forested areas, Tibet also has enormous deposits in copper, iron, lead, and zinc. As much as China wants to claim that extending the railroad system out to Tibet was for the sake of tourism, it’s very clearly to facilitate bringing these resources back east to the more populous areas of the country. And as valuable as Tibet might be, China’s possession of Xinjiang is debatably even more imperative as it holds some of the world’s largest remaining reserves of both coal and oil, as well as huge stores of natural gas, rare metals used in manufacturing microelectronics, and precious metals, particularly gold. Additionally, in regards to geopolitics, Tibet provides a crucial buffer zone between the rest of China and India should there ever be any serious conflict between two of the world’s fastest rising countries.

However, these are all reasons that I’d heard before visiting Tibet. And, as convincing as they are, part of me was always convinced that diplomacy could win out. Maybe the Dalai Lama’s campaigning and the rising number of Tibetan self-immolations could rouse the world from its apathy in regard to the issue and dispel its fear of interfering with China over an issue that has been decided to be relatively trivial. It just wasn’t possible to completely give up on Tibetans getting Tibet back because, well, how could I just dismiss the ‘Free Tibet’ movement as having already failed?

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In the end, it was the practical reality of life in Tibet today that convinced me that ‘Free Tibet’ is a lost cause. I still have some shreds of hope that diplomacy could accomplish something but at this point that just doesn’t matter. Whether formally a part of China or not, Tibet has become and is poised to remain de facto Chinese. Ever since wrecking the country to shit and massacring Tibetans, both monks and laypeople alike, during its ‘peaceful liberation’ of the country, China has poured money into developing Tibet and building the region back up again. Historically, both Tibet and Xinjiang have been money sinks for the Qing Empire and the PRC. A tremendous amount of resources have gone into controlling territories that give relatively little back in terms of revenue. But China has been exporting droves of Han settlers out to the new province, leaving consolidation in the hands of the people rather than using military means. Force simply isn’t necessary anymore; the Tibetans have nothing back to fight with anyways. The main square in Lhasa is littered with military checkpoints and soldiers but their purpose is less to suppress a rebellion than to prevent a loss of face by stopping any more self-immolations at the epicenter of the conflict. The checkpoints search Tibetans for lighters and fluid, while the soldiers are all armed with long sticks and fire extinguishers. Foreigners are completely ignored and untouched; as far as the soldiers are concerned, the Tibetans are the only true threat.

An inconspicuous military checkpoint is tucked away in the bottom left corner of this picture

An inconspicuous military checkpoint is tucked away in the bottom left corner of this picture

The central government has invested heavily in expanding Tibet’s infrastructure, cutting up the mountainous landscape with electrical towers and extending roads to previously disconnected areas to encourage further Han settlement. Additionally, much to the chagrin of those that would like to see any sort of serious investment in healthcare or education in Tibet (which have been virtually non-existant to date), China’s expenditures on Tibet’s infrastructure has far exceeded all else in the hopes of making the region’s vast resources more easily accessible and easily transported to the rest of the country.Massive urban development projects have been undertaken, resulting in brand new Chinese-friendly districts in Lhasa and nearly the entire city of Shigatse is being given a makeover, with new skyscrapers under construction on every block. Yet while razing the old buildings to make room for the new ones, small efforts are still made to retain some façade of the culture that’s being desecrated, such as painting the 8 auspicious symbols on recently finished construction projects and allowing Tibetan script to remain on signs (though shrunken down and placed below the Chinese characters.)

The battle for Tibetan freedom isn’t being fought on economic and political fronts. The true fight to secure Tibet is cultural, and China is winning. It has preserved Tibetan culture to the extent that it is easily commoditized and converted into tourist attractions. Besides that, the modernizing projects will go on and wipe out whatever stands in the way.

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Beyond the Great Wall

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Finally made it beyond the Great Firewall and into the Kingdom of Bhutan. Already within two days I feel cleansed of all of Beijing’s pollution and back on solid grounding. Despite only having TV and Internet for 13 years, Bhutan has made things far easier for me to get online than China, largely because all Internet access in China is channeled through only 8 network servers, which is bound to slow things down a bit. Plus, there’s no limits on web browsing here (except on porn, so I think I’ll survive that, at least for the next 2 weeks) so I’m finally able to get back on here. In all honesty, I could have accessed the blog while I was in China if I’d used my VPN but I just never had the inclination.

Before I went to China I was told that I would need to be careful about what I write online, but the government takes very little interest in things written in English, especially if they aren’t explicitly attempting to raise a revolution since it’s unable to reach a large enough segment of the population to pose a true threat. It’s the Internet propaganda in Chinese that’s the real problem, and my Chinese never quite got to the level of being able to write subversive manifestos in anything other than my native tongue. Besides, my time in China was filled less with individual stories worth sharing on the Internet and was more of an accumulation of experiences and emotions that will inform my impressions of the world as I move forward. I’ll likely make reference to many elements from my time in China, but writing a little blog post for each noteworthy experience I had doesn’t seem necessary to write or remotely enjoyable to read. In lieu of carrying on this blog as a traditional travel blog (which it barely ever really was anyways), I’ll be using my experiences from the past semester as jumping off points for getting into deeper issues and concerns of mine. Nevertheless, I figure its worth making a bulleted list of some of the particularly cool/weird things that I’ve been up to over the past 4 months, really more as a record for my own sake than any sort of grand showcase.

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-Participating in the Buddhist Yoghurt festival in Tibet, marching with thousands of Tibetans to witness the massive, multi-story appliqué thanka.

-Spinning poi under the stars on the Tibetan Plateau while listening to California Love with some locals.

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-Participating in an Anti-Japanese rally (that soon turned anti-foreigner) in Xi’an to protest the Japanese claims to the Diaoyu Islands.

-Going to see the terracotta warriors (don’t do it, huge bust.)

-Being guided down the Silk Road by Benjamin Franklin himself

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-Scattering my broken prayer beads at the top of the Flaming mountains.

-Learning some badass new dance moves from old Chinese ladies dancing in the park.

-Hiking across a snow covered ridge in the western provinces and mounting a massive snowball attack on the rest of the group.

-Just barely losing an epic beard growing competition.

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-Chugging 白酒 (Chinese moonshine) on street corners ‘cause it’s only 50 cents a bottle.

-Sitting with Maitreya in a monastery complex during a light snowfall on the top of a mountain in Wutai Shan, one of China’s 4 sacred Buddhist mountains

-Getting my hair dreaded by some Nigerians while watching Are We There Yet twice in a row.

-Visiting E’mei Shan and Putuo Shan, two more of China’s 4 sacred Buddhist mountains.

-Taking a boat to see the world’s largest Buddha at Leshan while sporting a super fly life vest.

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-Learning how to Chi from the master

-Sipping beers with over 50 Santa’s while listening to live French jazz.

-Going ham to dubstep and macking in my panda hat.

-MINIATURE TANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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-Befriending a Tibetan monk in Gansu province and being told that he initially didn’t trust us because we’re white people studying Chinese but that we won him over because Tibetans and Americans are natural friends.

-Eating rabbit head, dog, just about every kind of pig innards you can imagine, and the dankest pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had (this one wasn’t Chinese, just really damn good.)

-Spending 3 hours trying to describe my thery of the soul to my Chinese teacher exclusively in Chinese, all the while being stared out like I am legitimately crazy.

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-Shotgunning beers at the highest point of the Great Wall.

-Wildin’ out at all you can eat and all you can drink 烧烤 (Korean BBQ) for $9.

-Starring in the greatest episode of Chinese South Park ever produced as Kenny, before dying in the second scene from la duzi to the sounds of a hardcore Waka Flocka trap remix.

-Sitting through 4 hours of Chinese class a day, 4 days a week (This isn’t really cool or weird. It just feels necessary to be mentioned.)

-Singing the well known Chinese song 朋友 to a room full of some of the country’s most highly regarded young musicians, while actually just meowing the whole time.

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-Drinking a 30 rack while shoved to the back of the train on the 3-day ride from Lhasa to Beijing because the train workers were mad racist (like most Chinese people).

-Meeting a Russian pimp at the airport and being offered a job teaching his two female friends that “work for his cleaning company and are definitely over 18.”

-Walking in the fresh snow along a frozen canal during the middle of the night, enjoying the only complete silence I’ve ever encountered in Beijing as I said goodbye to the city.

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-Gangam styling and shock-bombing photos across the country

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things on here. I spent the past semester so busy with relatively un-engaging schoolwork and with my mind wrapped up in the remarkably narrow universe that living in dorms on a study abroad program promotes that I lost sight of a lot of the things that I think are important in the world. At the end of the summer I felt as if I were reaching a threshold on a lot of my thought processes, getting inklings of a potential paradigm shift. I had to put a lot of my mental Gordian knots aside and leave the puzzles of the Religion of Inevitable Progress and the Monotheism of Consciousness alone for a while. Ideas on them would emerge every now and then, but the mental effort was never really there to truly grasp on and grapple with them in any meaningful way. Now that I’m in Bhutan, surrounded by fresh air, nature, and a culture permeating with religious iconography, I’m feeling much more back to myself and ready to reengage with the things that I find most interesting. I’m hoping to expand upon my series on the Religion of Inevitable Progress, as well as begin a new one on the Monotheism of Consciousness. Ideally, these ideas will form the basis for my undergraduate thesis, which I’ll be writing next year, but it’s hard to say in which direction things might go. If the quest to the mindnut followed a set path then we’d all already be there.

The Law of Karma and the Chinese Occupation of Tibet

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During our audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama last week we had the opportunity to ask him some questions, one of which was a request to explain the Chinese occupation of Tibet in terms of the law of cause and effect of karma. Basically, did the Tibetans deserve to be run out of their homeland due to bad karma from the past?

The Dalai Lama responded that the current Tibetans had likely accumulated large amounts of negative karma in previous lives. They weren’t necessarily Tibetans, or even humans or residents of this universe, but they had each individually built up bad karma. However, given that Buddhism proposes that we have all lived infinite lives, we have all also accumulated an infinite amount of positive and negative karma, so this explanation alone doesn’t go far in explaining the Chinese occupation.

In order the fully understand the issue, one needs a better understanding of karma than is usually provided by Western pop culture and common usage. Karma is generally likened to the aphorism, “what goes around comes around,” suggesting that if you do something bad now, it is guaranteed to come back to harm you in the future. However, “you reap what you sow” serves as a better encapsulation of the way in which karma works. Every thought, word, and action that an individual produces leaves a karmic imprint on his or her subtlest level of consciousness, the part of the individual that travels from one life to the next. These karmic imprints act as seeds, ready to flourish and bring positive or negative events into the life of the individual depending on the type of karma produced. However, in order for these seeds of karma to bloom, the conditions must be right. Karmic seeds can lie dormant for thousands of lifetimes if the conditions never become ripe.

In the case of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama noted that generations of Tibetans prior to 1959 had been neglectful of matters in the external world. The nationalist and expansionist policies of the PRC should have tipped Tibetans off and driven them to be more proactive in protecting their interests. However, their negligence created the appropriate conditions for the seeds of negative karma to flourish, leading to the Tibetans being forced into exile. Responsibility neither falls squarely on the Tibetans for generating negative karma in their past lives nor on the previous generations of Tibetans that failed to take action, but is spread out due to the dynamic cause and effect law of karma which recognizes both that individual action and external circumstances contribute to the occurrence of any event.

Photo credit to Corinne

Tibet Is Burning

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In the past two weeks, three Tibetans have committed self-immolation in protest of China’s oppressive polices against the Tibetan people, as well as the condemnation of the Dalai Lama. Two of these acts were committed in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and were the first to have occured there since Chinese occupation began in 1959. The third self-immolation that happened this week was in Ngaba, taking the life of a mother of three.

These recent acts of defiance are only the most recent in a growing number, part of the 39 that have occurred since 2008.Many of the martyrs have been current or former monks, and most of them have been in their early 20’s. Although there doesn’t appear to be any coordinated plan for these self-immolations, the Tibetans stand together in these acts of spiritual solidarity. While many of the earlier self-immolations appeared to be in reaction to extensive security clampdowns by the Chinese at the Kirti Monastery, involving keeping the resident monastics at gunpoint 24/7, the more recent acts seem to be in direct protest of the Chinese government’s behavior on the whole. One of the monks that I’ve talked to since I’ve been here told me that one of the self-immolators was a relative of his, highlighting just how many Tibetans are being touched by these acts.

There have been a few news articles posted to the NYT regarding this issue, with the lengthiest one yet being posted on Sunday. However, these pieces are tucked away at the bottom of the ‘World’ section of their site, while articles on cigarette taxes and videogame tournaments are considered to be more worthy front page news. These acts are almost meaningless if they don’t have the intended effect of raising awareness about the Tibetan’s suffering at the hands of the Chinese. Based on a conversation I had with some journalists in Dharamsala last week, my initial impression was that it was tremendously difficult to get enough information to put together a thoughtful article. They told me that no one they talked to had much to say about the acts, and that it was impossible for journalists to get into the Tibet Autonomous Region, since the Chinese are looking to present the best image of themselves as possible. However, after reading the article in the Times, and a couple others across the Internet, the issue doesn’t seem to be a lack of information at all. The information is out there, but major American news sources seem reluctant to present this issue to the largest audience possible. As to why this might be, I can only speculate. It’s horrifying, so maybe people would rather pretend it isn’t happening. Or maybe it will only make people feel guilty and helpless to read about these tragedies happening on the other side of the globe. Or maybe it’s even that we don’t want to make China angry, given its growing economic power, and risk being at its mercy any more than we already are with mountains of debt. Most of these ideas strike me as extremely cynical, but I have a hard time of finding any other way to look at the tremendous degree of negligence and ignorance surrounding this issue. How many Tibetans need to die or be maimed by these self-inflicted acts for something to be done?