The warm aroma of incense and Tibetan chai welcomed approximately 50 snow-covered guests entering Barnes Auditorium last night who wanted to learn about the Tibetan struggle for human rights.
Unfortunately, the two speakers who planned to share their testimonies and spread awareness of China’s occupation of Tibet were stranded in New Jersey by a powerful winter storm. Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), which hosted the event, took over the evening.
The revised program began with an introduction by Keyzom Ngodup ’05, Cornell’s only Tibetan undergraduate. She explained the importance of holding the event, even without the speakers, to increase awareness of the Tibetan plight at every possible opportunity.
“Who I am — people don’t know,” Ngodup said. “A culture is dying out.”
Tibet, a small Buddhist country in the Himalayas, is an independent state that has been under illegal occupation since China’s invasion in 1949.
Following the invasion, Tibetans suffered the loss of their political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. He was exiled to India with hundreds of thousands of other Tibetan refugees. Tibetans also lost many basic human rights, including freedom of speech, religion, and press.
Last night’s program began with a taste of Tibetan culture. Venerable Gephel-la, a local Buddhist monk, gave a short speech explaining the significance of the Cham monastic ritual dance.
Gephel-la played the cymbals, which represent the union of wisdom and compassion in the Tibetan tradition, while partner Tenzin Thutop danced to the beat in a traditional costume. The dance represented the taming of anger and hatred, motivated by compassion and peace.
Gephel-la then guided the audience through a brief meditation, in which he said, “We have to discipline our minds … to become calm.”
After the meditation, Ngodup shared the story of her parents’ struggle to escape Tibet and their willingness to die holding hands, rather than be tortured, if the Chinese caught them. Retelling the story evoked an emotional response from both Ngodup and the audience.
Later in the program, the hosts showed a film, National Geographic’s Escape from Tibet. The film depicted Tibetans fleeing through Nepal to India and called attention to the hardships of staying in their native country, as well as the suffering experienced during an escape.
Following the film, Dr. Rob Kanaly grad, a member of SFT, led the audience in a brief discussion of the Tibetan struggle. Audience members addressed the media’s limited coverage of Tibet as well as fears that India’s welcome of Tibetan refugees may not last forever.
“The most interesting thing to me about the Tibetan cause is its nonviolence