The awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo has thrown the world's spotlight onto China and given new hope to those it oppresses, including Tibet. Azriel Re'Shel senses this is a pivotal moment for this precious land.
For centuries, a race of pure hearted humble humanitarians has bowed their heads, prostrated their bodies and blessed the world with their prayers for the entire human race: "May all beings be free, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free from the causes of suffering."
Perched on the snowy roof of the world, these loving and compassionate beings have kept a vigil over the Light of our planet. The continuous soft hum of their selfless prayers has resonated into the high mountains and propelled all of us towards better rebirths, higher consciousness and greater happiness.
The Tibetan situation with China provides us with a microcosm of global issues, a classic "battle" between the forces of light and dark, consciousness and ignorance, spiritual values as opposed to material values. Just as our world appears to be tilted on the brink of either catastrophe or a new age, so we see Tibet teetering on the edge. The very future of Tibetans as a people is uncertain, as their country has been swamped by Chinese immigration, environmental destruction and their spiritual values and way of life all but completely destroyed.
With the recent awarding of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese activist, writer and poet, Liu Xiaobo, who is currently languishing in a Chinese prison due to his comments against the Communist regime ruling his country, the global spotlight has focused sharply on China - and the cat has most certainly been set among the pigeons.
This momentous event, which signals a small turning of the global community towards truth and integrity instead of bowing to economic pressure and bully tactics, could spell a loosening of the noose of Chinese control, human rights abuses and unlawful occupation of Tibet.
Recently, in Hong Kong, nearly a thousand protesters demanded Liu Xiaobo be released and criticised China for its human rights abuses, including lack of freedom of speech and other basic human rights. There were also other protests in America on Human Rights Day by Tibetans and Chinese nationals. And despite China pressuring the international community to boycott the Nobel Prize Awards ceremony, most countries attended. Those who supported the boycott included Russia, Pakistan, Ukraine, and the Philippines, while Serbia reversed its initial decision to stay away in the face of intense EU criticism.
As a South African, I lived through the momentous time of the changeover from the apartheid regime to a democratic regime and I feel China is cresting on a wave that is slowly heading in a similar direction. With this Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a Chinese activist incarcerated in Beijing, the world is stating that despite China's stranglehold on the international economy, the issues in its own country and in Tibet are important and cannot be ignored. Human beings are not commodities. Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland says the award to Liu Xiaobo is not a protest, but a signal to China that it is very important for China's future to combine economic development with political reforms. "This prize conveys the understanding that these are universal rights and universal values, they are not Western standards," said Jagland.
Liu Xiaobo was a key leader in the Tiananmen Square uprising and the Nobel Committee described him as the foremost symbol of the struggle for human rights in China. The award in absentia is only the second time the Nobel Peace Laureate or a representative has been prevented by his government from attending the ceremony in Oslo; the first was Carl von Ossietzky who was also incarcerated at the time, this time under Hitler's Nazi regime in Germany in 1935. In recognition of the Chinese Government's decision to prevent even Liu Xiaobo's wife from attending the ceremony, no medal or diploma was presented and the laureate's absence was symbolised by an empty chair.
We are now just starting to really understand the truth that we are all one. We are all connected. What affects one of us affects the whole and even science agrees with this universal law. We are affected by everything, as the work of Dr Masaru Emoto with water crystals so graphically illustrates. Scientific experiments with transcendental meditators in the US show their impact in lowering crime levels. Similar studies carried out in the Middle East during the Lebanon War demonstrated that groups of TM meditators produced a 34% reduction in the intensity of the war and a 76% reduction in deaths through war. In 2003, the highly respected Journal of Offender Rehabilitation devoted all four quarterly issues entirely to studies demonstrating that the TM program was effective in treating and preventing criminal behaviour, as well as reducing international conflicts and terrorism.
Today there are thousands of people doing powerful healing work on our planet and in ancient times there were certainly many spiritually aware and powerful people spreading peace and love. But in Tibet, over centuries, thousands of monks and nuns who used to occupy Tibet's thousands of monasteries before the Chinese invasion, were creating a force field of peace. Sera Monastery, one of Tibet's major monasteries, had 8000 monks at its prime. Now that number has dwindled to 200 to 300 monks under tight Communist control.
In 2002, the Tibetan Year of the Horse, tens of thousands of Tibetan pilgrims, many of whom had saved up meagre harvest profits for most of their lives, made a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and started to circumambulate this sacred abode of Shiva. The Year of the Horse is the year associated with Mount Kailash. Each sacred site has its own astrological year of power, just as humans do; one of 12 animal signs combines with one of five elements, the exact combinations repeating themselves every 60 years. When this happens, the sacred site pulses with more energy, so if you visit within that year you gain greater power and healing. And it is, of course also auspicious for the sacred site itself and therefore the planet.
So in 2002, despite Chinese oppression and the enormous difficulties and restrictions of travelling in their own country, these thousands and thousands of pilgrims set off on a kora. This kora took place against the backdrop of a crazy world. The terrorist attacks of September 11 were fresh in people's memories and the US was deep in conflict in Afghanistan and perched on the precipice of the Second Gulf War. Very crazy times indeed, times that some people said were the Armageddon predicted by the Bible.
How much crazier and more damaging could this time have been without the thousands upon thousands of devout Tibetan pilgrims quietly circumambulating Mount Kailash, their hearts filled with prayers of peace for our planet? If we imagine what 10,000 healthy light filled cells can do for our body's health, we get the picture on a planetary level. Tibet has had a massive and vital role to play in preserving world peace and harmony over the centuries and the Buddha is the only being on this planet to have achieved full enlightenment at the complete and highest level during this great aeon. It is no surprise that today Buddhism is the fastest growing belief system in the world.
Tibet is also the home of all the major rivers in Asia. All the high vibrational healing and prayers from the practices in this mountain kingdom have flowed down from the high plateau into the entire Asian basin and consciousness of the people, affecting millions. For thousands of years, the Tibetans were caretakers of the land and our planet, as the world's third pole, due to the existence of the biggest ice fields outside the Arctic and Antarctic.
Since the Chinese invasion, the environment has been seriously compromised by pollution, mining, deforestation, dumping of nuclear waste and the destruction of the traditional Tibetan way of life that supported the land. Even with all the challenges the Tibetan nation faces, these enduring people still provide pure and amazing teachings to the rest of the world. Their inspiring example teaches us to be compassionate, kind and forgiving, no matter what happens in life.
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama says that the voices in favour of democracy, the rule of law, liberalisation and transparency are growing in China. He is urging people to visit Tibet, to go and see for themselves what is really happening there: "Go to Tibet and see many places, as much as you can; then tell the world."
An important reason for his encouragement to visit his homeland is to disprove China's assertion that people are happy there. "The Chinese government never admit, never acknowledged there is a problem," said the Dalai Lama. "So now I think the world community has a responsibility to show the world there is a problem."
While Tibetans have been suffering tremendously under the rule of China for 51 years, we also need to help Chinese people who are suffering in their own country. There are 1.3 billion people living in China under draconian rule without basic rights.
There is widespread belief that visiting Tibet harms Tibetans and supports the Chinese regime. This is untrue. It is through visitors that Tibetans are brought in touch with what is possible outside the pain and oppression in their own country. They know if you've been in contact with His Holiness and for them it is like an energy transmission through you from the Dalai Lama.
Travel to Tibet is very restricted nowadays and you have to travel with an organised tour group. When visiting any country, be sure to be shown the truth of that country and her culture by the people indigenous to the place, not the invaders or the dry academics, but those who live and breathe with the spirit of the place. We who have benefited so much from the high values and practices of this unique and special people from the highest snowy plateau on our planet need to reach deeply into our hearts and give something back.
At this momentous time, Tibet's future is precarious, its language and culture threatened by mass Chinese immigration. The Tibetan people are in serious danger of losing their unique and precious identity and way of life. By supporting them, showing them we care, we can help. Tibetans in Tibet gain huge morale from caring Westerners visiting their country and honouring their way of life and spiritual system.
A recent visitor to a monastery in Tibet recounted how he discreetly gave out tokens from His Holiness and pictures of His Holiness to monks and lay people. All were deeply touched and Tibetans, normally quite restrained people, were clearly emotional and moved by other people's contact with their beloved leader and were given renewed hope. In another monastery, a monk quietly approached the Westerner and gave him a letter saying, "Please tell the world what's going on here, we are suffering terribly, show this to the world, let them know so they can do something. Please help us."