Tenzin Choedrak - Rainbow Palace (322p

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This moving and powerful book charts Choedrak's painfully deprived Childhood in rural Tibet, the harsh years of training in the monastery and his eventual rise to become a Lhamenpa, personal physician to the Dalai Lama. But unfortunately, this personal achievement only marked the beginning of his greater struggle. The Chinese occupied Tibet in 1950 and the country descended into violence and chaos. Choedrak, among thousands of others, was imprisoned under the most cruel and repressive conditions imaginable. The events he was forced to be witness to and endure were so appalling that it is hard to believe he managed to retain his humanity let alone his religion. Yet Choedrak managed not only to find incredible reserves of bravery and strength but compassion for his torturers whom he ended up tending as patients. This book is not only a humbling and inspiring personal testimony but a historical account of the Chinese oppression of Tibet: a horrific and systematic breach of human and civil rights that the international community has left shamefully unchallenged. Choedrak's life, and those of other Tibetans who have suffered under occupation is both a terrible measure of the cruelty of which human beings are capable and the incredible resilience of the human spirit and its will to love.--Rebecca Johnson


<ul><li><p>THE RAINBOW PALACE</p><p>TENZIN CHOEDRAKWith Gilles Van Grasdorff </p><p>Preface by the Dalai Lama</p><p>BANTAM BOOKS</p></li><li><p>THE RAINBOW PALACE Le Palais des Arcs-en-Ciel</p><p>A BANTAM BOOK : 0 553 81303 X</p><p>PR IN TIN G H ISTORYAlbin Michel edition published 1998 </p><p>Bantam Books edition published 2000</p><p>1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2</p><p>Copyright Editions Albin Michel S.A., 1998 English language translation Judith Armbruster 2000</p><p>The right of Tenzin Choedrak to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and </p><p>78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.</p><p>Condition o f SaleThis book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or </p><p>otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition </p><p>including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.</p><p>Set in ll/1 3 p t Palatino by Kestrel Data, Exeter, Devon.</p><p>Bantam Books are published by Transworld Publishers, 61-63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA, </p><p>a division of The Random House Group Ltd, in Australia by Random House Australia (Pty) Ltd,</p><p>20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point, Sydney, NSW 2061, Australia, in New Zealand by Random House New Zealand Ltd,18 Poland Road, Glenfield, Auckland 10, New Zealand, </p><p>and in South Africa by Random House (Pty) Ltd, Endulini, 5a Jubilee Road, Parktown 2193, South Africa.</p><p>Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives pic.</p></li><li><p>To the Tibetan people, to the Tibetan culture and medicine, </p><p>with a very special thought for the monks of Chothey, and for Men-Tsee-Khang.</p></li><li><p>As long as there are suffering beings,And until their illnesses are cured,</p><p>May 1 be their physician, their remedy, their servant</p><p>Chantideva,'Initiation into the practice of the Bodhisattva'Chapter III, Strophe 8</p></li><li><p>Contents</p><p>Preface by the Dalai Lama 9Foreword 11Translator's Note 12</p><p>Part One: 1922-19501. Return to the Human World 152. My Childhood as an Orphan 233. First Steps to the Monastery 334. A Young Monk at the Monastery of Chothey 475. 1 Will Be a Doctor 646. 'I Bow Before You and All the Buddhas' 817. Student of Tibetan Medicine 988. The Purification of Mercury and Other </p><p>Medicinal Plants 1129. 'May I Be . . . Their Physician, Their Remedy, </p><p>Their Servant' 129</p><p>Part Two: 1950-197610. And I Became a Lhamenpa 139</p></li><li><p>11. The Day Everything Toppled 15512. In the Hell of the Chinese Prisons 17913. Drapchi: the Death Camp 20214. Survival at Yititok 218</p><p>Part Three: 1976-199815. Caring for One's Enemies 23716. Twenty-one Years Later 25617. Again with Kundun 27518. Epilogue: On the Threshold of the Great Voyage 293</p><p>Endnotes 297Glossary 304Bibliography 310Tibet: Geography and Demographics 315Acknowledgements 317</p></li><li><p>THE DALAI LAMA</p><p>Preface</p><p>I welcome the publication of Dr Tenzin Choedrak's autobiography. Dr Choedrak's story epitomizes the suffering of thousands of Tibetans over the last five decades. I hope this book will help create greater awareness of Tibet in the world.</p><p>Ironically, while in prison in Tibet, Dr Choedrak treated and cured many Chinese officials, winning the grudging admiration of his captors. The fact that hardened communist ideologues went to Dr Choedrak for treatment and cure - that, too, in the period when everything old and traditional was considered anathema - shows the efficacy of our medical system.</p><p>What is remarkable about Dr Choedrak, or many other Tibetans for that matter, is the fact that he harbours no feelings of hatred for his captors. All the time while he was being subjected to incredible hardship and torture, he did not lose faith in the Buddhist teachings that his tormentors were also human beings, having the seeds of Buddhahood, and like every</p><p>9</p></li><li><p>one of us had fallen under delusion and adverse conditions. This belief saved the life and spirit of Dr Choedrak and many other Tibetans.</p><p>Since his arrival in India, Dr Choedrak has worked as my personal physician and Chief Medical Officer at the Tibetan Medical &amp; Astrological Institute in Dharamsala, where many young Tibetans are being trained in the traditional Tibetan medical science.</p><p>I have no doubt that many readers of this book will be moved and inspired by his example of endurance and generosity. This book, I hope, will also encourage greater international support and concern for the plight of Tibet.</p><p>Tenzin Gyatso Fourteenth Dalai Lama</p><p>10</p></li><li><p>Foreword</p><p>Knowledge of Tibet, its history, culture and religions is recent. Each piece of research that is carried out represents another stone in the construction of the edifice. This book is intended as a contribution to that process. Tibetology progresses with tentative steps, gradually bringing to light a country and a people threatened with extinction.</p><p>G.V.G.</p><p>11</p></li><li><p>Translator's Note</p><p>The Rainbow Palace was originally created from extensive tape-recorded interviews conducted by Gilles Van Grasdorff with Dr Tenzin Choedrak, in Tibetan. The tapes were transcribed into English and subsequently translated into French for the French edition of the book, Le Palais des arcs-en-ciel (Albin Michel, Paris, 1998). The present English translation is based on the French edition. Every effort has been made to use the accepted English spelling of the Tibetan words. The translator is especially indebted in this, and other technical matters pertaining to the text, to jack Palmer-White, Paris, Tsering Tashi, Director, Tibet Center, Chicago, and Mary Alice Parsons, Chicago.</p><p>J.S.A.</p><p>In order not to interrupt the reader, footnotes and a glossary of names and words in common usage can be found at the end of the book.</p><p>12</p></li><li><p>Part One</p><p>1922-1950</p></li><li><p>1Return to the Human World</p><p>My name is Tenzin Choedrak. By the Tibetan calendar, I was born the 15th day of the second month of the year dog-water. That would be April 1922.1 was born to a poor family in a simple house in the heart of a country so old that it feels eternal. The mountains around us were majestic, covered with immaculate snow; the rocks were massive, and the vegetation was sparse. Our surroundings were rugged, but also rich with history.</p><p>My birth was premature. Amala [the familiar Tibetan name for 'mother'] had carried me only six months when I was born. On the day of my birth thunder rumbled so fiercely in the mountains that the villagers thought it might be the distant roaring of a dragon, provoked perhaps by my unexpected arrival.</p><p>The birth process is easily explained by reference to Tibetan medical texts. However, explaining the precise causes for a particular individual's birth is more complicated. Imagine the moment is at hand for your rebirth: you are in bardo*, the intermediate state between</p><p>* Words followed by an asterisk the first time they appear in the text are explained in the Glossary.</p><p>15</p></li><li><p>The Rainbow Palace</p><p>life and death. Your spirit's need for a physical support grows more urgent. Impelled by karmic* energy, you approach your future parents at the moment of their sexual union.</p><p>Seeing them like that, you are seized by a strong emotion, you naturally experience a certain attraction for the one and aversion for the other. The Gyushi* says:</p><p>Three substances are necessary to the formation of a body: first, a perfect sperm without defect from illness; second, menstrual blood [the Tibetan term for the ovum], which must be at the right moment of its cycle and also free of defect; and third, the spirit of the being in bardo impelled by its karma. The five elements and their natures - earth, water, fire, air, and space - are also necessary to a being's physical existence. These are the conditions required for conception. Further development into male or female depends on the connections the being will make in its intermediate state. If it feels drawn to the mother and feels aversion for the father, it will be born male. On the other hand, if it is drawn to the father and feels anger toward the mother, a girl will be born.</p><p>In my case I was born a boy. Was I meant to come back to pursue my spiritual path and help others? Only the human world permits this kind of progress. Toward the end of the pregnancy, the uterus becomes like a prison to the baby, full of revolting substances. In this dark fortress the baby feels intense sadness, repulsion, and uncleanliness. Only then does it prepare to leave its mother's abdomen. The moment of birth is a painful trauma for the infant. The Gyushi says, The sensation of</p><p>16</p></li><li><p>Return to the Human World</p><p>birth is similar to being skinned alive, or being stung by wasps, and when the infant is bathed, contact with the water gives the sensation of being struck.</p><p>I do not know what I might have done in a previous life to be born prematurely. The explanation would be tied to my parents' actions and to the karma accumulated over the course of my earlier lives.</p><p>My family has always been very respectful of Tibetan customs and traditions. After Amala gave birth to me, she did not touch her hair or in fact any object. To do so too soon after my birth would be to risk losing whatever she touched. Mola, my grandmother (I prefer to use the Tibetan word for it is also an expression of respect), went to Amala's bed and had her rub her hand over a small stone.1 The third day2 after my birth my family held the purification ceremony to free me of the birth impurities. It was still forbidden for anyone to visit the house because Tibetans believe the atmosphere inside the dwelling is still impure. Thus, it is necessary to wait until prayers and incense have done their work.</p><p>Amala washed her face and hair with warm water, put on clean clothes, and received the many villagers who came with presents to welcome me into this world. As Buddhists, we consider the human world the most precious of all worlds for it offers us the possibility of accumulating sufficient merits to reach Enlightenment.3</p><p>At dawn a month later a rainbow formed. There followed a black cloud, almost palpable, with twisting arms that imprisoned the distant monastery and then enveloped the hill closest to our house. And the rain fell, slanted and cold. Early in the afternoon a stocky black crow perched on a tree south-east of our house. At sunset it crowed mournfully and our dog barked six times. A few</p><p>17</p></li><li><p>The Rainbow Palace</p><p>hours after these disturbing signs my mother, who was weakened by illness, left her physical form. My older brother was sixteen; I was scarcely a month old.</p><p>Many years have passed since my mother's death. Today I am a simple Buddhist monk. One thing I am sure of is that everything is impermanent.</p><p>The seventh Dalai Lama* said, 'Sometimes made up of happiness, sometimes misery, a human life is a fragile precious thing.' Though life be an apprenticeship, every being born on this earth must pass through the inevitable stages of birth, old age, illness and death. We have only to look around us to realize how obvious is impermanence. Nothing is stable, and it is equally true that nothing happens by chance. Every event flows from a preceding one. Even in our behavior we are not free. Our will and our desires depend on the sum of our past actions. We Buddhists call this the law of causality.</p><p>A person does not merely vanish into thin air at the moment of death. There will be a rebirth that may be happy, miserable, of a higher order or less good, depending on the dying person's state of mind and the quality of his or her karma. Most beings are powerless in the face of karma, which is why they must go through a rebirth. The maturity of the imprints left on the psychic continuum by past actions of body, word, and mind will shape the rebirth. This is why we ought to prepare ourselves long in advance of such prospects, as the poet Milarepa4 invites us to do:</p><p>When you're strong and healthy,You dont think about the illness that may strike;But it hits youWith the force of sudden lightning.</p><p>18</p></li><li><p>Return to the Human World</p><p>Busy with worldly affairs,You don't think about the approach of death;Suddenly it surges up, like the storm That bursts over your head.</p><p>Mola often told me about my mother's death. On that terrible night in the month of May the low hum of relatives, friends and monks could be heard tirelessly repeating the mantra of Chenrezik, the Buddha of Great Compassion, Om Mani Padmi Hung*. Very early in the morning heavy gray clouds covered the mountain, and the thunder rolled louder and closer. At midday the sky cleared and bright colors splashed the countryside. Spirals of smoke from incense were still escaping from the altar when they draped my mother's body in a seated position in white linen. The lama said a final prayer with the family before carrying her to the nearby mountain, a mysterious place where vultures nest.</p><p>Mola told me that my father's pride would not let him express his pain, but that he sadly watched the lama until the man's outline merged with the horizon and seemed to be absorbed by a strange soft milky light. When the lama reached the consecrated spot, he set the body down as he intoned the prayers that penetrated the dense silence of the mountain heights. The sun's fire struck the earth. Way up high a sheet of snow, like a long stream of tears, suddenly broke away from the rocks, a farewell to the cherished being who had left this life.</p><p>The lama cut the body up, carefully detaching each shred of flesh, and threw the pieces to the greedy birds who had been watching; then he ground the bones, mixed in some tsampa*, and left the mixture there. In</p><p>19</p></li><li><p>The Rainbow Palace</p><p>doing this, the lama made it possible for Amala to acquire a last merit as she crossed the stages of the bardo.</p><p>Today I am an old man. I do not know if I will live much longer: Tn the ocean of the Samsara*, our lives move like an eternally changing tide.' To escape from this ocean of suffering which carries us through birth, old age, sickness and death, we should tirelessly manifest goodness, love, compassion and equality of spirit toward all sentient beings. There is a proverb that says:</p><p>No matter where we live,If we are prisoners of the Samsara,We may as well dwell on the point of a needle,Which can bring no happiness or pleasure.</p><p>It is unpleasant to remember a motherless childhood of many deprivations. But these were not my only sufferings. There is another period of my life of which the memory is painful. I refer to the twenty-one years I spent in prison, that marked me deeply. I remember with emotion meeting two old men from my village in a prison camp. I never saw them alive again. Most of those who shared our pain are no longer living, victims of the atrocities of the Chinese jailers. A few survived, like the monk Pelden Gyatso, who shared a cell with me for a year in the prison at Yititok near Lhasa. This memoir is intended to tell their story as well.</p><p>The past is heavy to bear. I could either consider it as over and done with and simply wipe it out of my mind, or I could meditate on the law of causality. Neither is easy. When memories assail me, I wonder if it would not have been better for me to withdraw from</p><p>20</p></li><li><p>Return to t...</p></li></ul>