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Speaker set to talk about Tibetan struggles, administration

Phelgye is ‘model of love and compassion,’ resident says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Geshe Thupten Phelgye remembers the hardships he faced during his time as a Tibetan refugee and said he hopes to promote peace and educate local residents about the current state of the Tibetan organization. Phelgye, a former member of Tibet’s Parliament-in-exile and Gelugpa Buddhist monk, is scheduled to give a presentation at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalist Church. The event is hosted by local artist and activist Stan Padilla as well as the Social Action Committee of the church. Phelgye said his presentation is going to focus on 2011 being a historical year for the Tibetan people, because the Dalai Lama resigned his leadership and directed the state’s charter to be amended to put full democracy into law. The Dalai Lama declared Tibet a democratic state on Sep. 2, 1960 after China took control in the 1950s and Tibet’s government went into exile, Phelgye said. Now the three branches of the Central Tibetan Administration can sign bills into law rather than bills going to the Dalai Lama for approval, Phelgye said. Because Tibet does not have a government separate from that of China, Phelgye said political members are careful not to call the organization a government. Phelgye said he will also discuss how hard it was for many Tibetan people to deal with the fact that the Dalai Lama, who had been Tibet’s cultural and spiritual leader, would no longer be the main leadership of the state. “That was like shocking news for all Tibetans inside and outside after that,” he said. Phelgye said he wants to note that full democracy has been a dream of the Dalai Lama’s since democracy was declared. “I would also like to say it’s a special day for His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” he said. “One of his key dreams … has been fulfilled, because when he was sworn into the Golden Throne of Tibet at age 16, he saw in the Tibetan political system … so many necessary changes to be taken up.” Phelgye said he thinks Auburnites can relate to what is going on in Tibet right now. “I can say it may not make sense politically, but as part of human society we all are concerned about peace and happiness for all man kind,” he said. “In this fast changing time of this area, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and some of these great world peace leaders are dearly cared for and loved by people around the world.” Phelgye said the uniqueness of Tibet’s situation is that the Dalai Lama worked to ensure that elected officials in the state’s three branches would represent the people, and that no one person would be able to take control. Friday’s presentation could also include information on the Tibetan revolution against China being an individual-led one, not an organizational-led one. Phelgye said he has strong memories of being a Tibetan refugee when he was growing up. “I was only 3 when my parents fled to India,” he said. “My sister was 5 … my younger brother was only 1 month, and we were nomads in the far north-eastern part of Tibet. Even then it took us two years to actually make our way to India. We were caught several times by the Chinese military and put back into concentration camps.” In November 1961 the family made it to India. While he was growing up, many people in the refugee camp with him died due to lack of medication. Because of the demand, medical staff only wiped needles off on rocks before using them in other patients. People also had surgeries without anesthetic and held to be held or tied down. When he was 13, Phelgye tried to join the military to fight against the Chinese, but the military would not take him because of his age. In 1972 Phelgye met the Dalai Lama for the first time, and the experience completely changed his frame of mind. The next year he joined the monastery. “I came to understand hatred served no purpose,” he said. Nevada City resident Nancy Clemens, a student and friend of Phelgye, said Phelgye is an inspirational person. “I think that he makes Buddhism very practical and useful for every day life and (that helps with) improving the quality of one’s life,” Clemens said. “He is also a living model of love and compassion.” Stan Padilla, who said he has known Phelgye for many years, said he hopes the presentation teaches local residents about what’s going on in Tibet currently and that it’s important to know about the world around them. “We are a part of the world, and what happens in the world affects us and what we do affects the global community as well,” Padilla said. “We really are a global culture now and Auburn is a part of that. I want to bring a higher sense of moral and social justice to the area.” Larry Smith, who is a member of the Social Action Committee at the church, said he hopes the presentation leaves attendees with a better understanding of the situation in Tibet and of Buddhism as well as greater acceptance of others. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- The State of the Tibetan State in 2011 What: A presentation by Geshe Thupten Phelgye, former member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile. When: 7 p.m. Friday Where: Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalist Church, 190 Finley St., Auburn Donation requested: $10 or $5 for students or those with limited income Saturday event: “The Peace of Buddhist Way” retreat Information: Call Stan Padilla at (530) 637-4158