We started walking again the next day. Hunger and thirst was making it difficult for us to survive. We did not have a compass. All we had was a hand drawn map from a guide in Lhasa. Tsering’s condition worsened. I started carrying him on my shoulder. For another week I walked carrying him, stopping at times to rest.
“Leave me. I am becoming a burden Tenzin. You move on. Or else we both will die”, pleaded Tsering.
I was way too tired to respond. I signed him to keep shut.
That night, Mother Nature turned cruel. Tired and hungry, the snow storm hit us like scavengers craving our flesh. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I sensed my body burning with fever. That night, I thought I would die. I did not hear anything from Tsering either. I prayed as long as I was in my senses. And then, there was a black out!
When I woke up, I realized I was in a village.
My prayers were answered. We were rescued by a group of Nepali farmers. We seemed to have crossed the border at some unmarked point. We were in Nepal now.
I felt better but was not completely fit. On seeing me awake, a lady rushed with a glass of water. I drank it in one go.
“How long was I out?” I inquired.
“Four days”, she said.
I thanked her for her generosity when I suddenly recalled about Tsering’s condition.
“How is my friend?” I asked.
She did not say anything. She took the glass and went away. I tried to go behind her but was too weak to walk.
After sometime, a man came inside.
He looked at me and smiled.
“You are a brave man. You and your friend have done something that requires a lot of guts!” he said.
I did not know what to say. I smiled back.
“Your desire to reach India seems very strong. That’s why you survived the storm.”
Then he paused. He pulled a wooden stool and sat beside my bed.
“Unlike your friend!” he concluded.
For a moment, my mind was blank. “What was he trying to say?” I thought.
“Your friend couldn’t take the storm. He breathed his last breath yesterday. I am sorry. But his condition was very bad when we brought him. It was little we could do for him. But before he died he had asked me to deliver a message for you. ” he said.
There was a pin-drop silence in the room. I looked at him blankly.
He continued, “Your friend said, he got back what he did. It was Karma. And he also said that his prayers are with you to fight back for your country.”
I could not hold back my tears. Tsering was no longer alive. I felt responsible for his death to some extent. I shouldn’t have included him in the journey.
That night, they carried me to his funeral. And as his last rites were carried out, I promised him to fulfil his desire. “This journey and your life won’t go in vain.” I sweared.
I stayed there for almost a month. The villagers were very helpful. Once, when the Nepali police came looking for escapees from Tibet in the village, I was made to hide in a small go-down for two nights until the danger was over.
After a month, with the help of a few villagers, I boarded a bus to Kathmandu and arrived unharmed at the Tibetan Reception Centre.
There, I was registered and given food and shelter. After two weeks, I was sent to a Tibetan Refugee home in Dharamsala, Northern India.
My journey was over. But what still haunts my mind was the answer.
“Fire!” Tenzin said after opening his eyes.
Dalai Lama looked at him.
“It is fire I fear the most. Fire took my entire family.” He said.
Dalai Lama did not say anything. He allowed him to continue.
“Why is fate so cruel my Lord? I believed in Karma. My friend thought he died because of it. He died because he killed one of them. But what was the fault of my family? Why did they die?”
Dalai Lama shook his head.
“Karma doesn’t mean that you will pay for your sins at that very instant. Those people who killed your family and many of those innocent people will face its consequences. You always get back whatever you give. May be not now; not at this moment, but you can’t escape from Karma! Your friend was lucky to realise it before he died. What you seek Tenzin is not an answer but revenge!”
His voice echoed the Hall. A bird which was chirping from sometime nearby flew away.
“You were a Monk. You were taught to love humanity and not destroy it. Vengeance will lead you to be one like them. No one can ever win with vengeance and hatred. You have disgraced yourself!” Dalai Lama said in a firm voice.
Tenzin understood his mistake. He stared at the marble floor. He could not raise his eyes in front of Him out of shame.
Guilt had wrapped his soul just like a plastic wrapper which covers a candy. You need to remove the wrapper to enjoy the candy. The chains of guilt had captured his soul. And he desperately wanted to reach his soul.
“Remember that a Monk’s life is only for the betterment of mankind!” he recalled the words of the head Lama in the Labrang Monastery.
“How did he forget his vows as a Monk? Was he really so disgraceful?” he wondered.
Dalai Lama sensed the storm within Tenzin.
“You are not God Tenzin but just a mere human being. You are bound to make mistakes. But the choice is yours how to undo it. You want to fight for Tibet. Fight like a Tibetan. Fight like a warrior whose sacrifice would add glory and not shame,” said Dalai Lama.
Tenzin looked at him slowly.Tears were rolling down his cheeks. He folded his hands and asked,
“What should I do?”
“Fight your fear first. And then let the Monk inside you answer! ” smiled His Holiness.
For months Tenzin stayed in India joining the other Tibetans in various protests to free Tibet. But he still did not find a way for atonement of his sins. It was then he heard that the Prime Minister of the Republic of China was coming to New Delhi, India to discuss some nuclear deal.
Tenzin made up his mind. He prayed that night, and decided to leave for Delhi. Next day, he shaved his head and after almost a year wore the saffron cloth. He looked at the mirror. His eyes were calm. He sensed, he was about to gain enlightenment today.
When he reached Delhi it was almost noon. He reached the venue where the meeting was to take place. But to his surprise, he saw there were hundreds of Tibetan refugees with placards shouting to free Tibet. The media was already present. There were a few monks too.
He walked slowly to reach the centre. People gave him way as a sense of respect for a young monk. Tenzin reached the centre and waved his hands to pacify the crowd.
The media saw as well that a Monk was asking the crowd to maintain silence. Every camera focussed him.
When the crowd was quiet, Tenzin took a deep breath and said,
“I am a Monk from Tibet. I am here to tell the world that the most peaceful country of the world needs your attention. My people are suffering. And you know why! We are not like them. So, we cannot harm them the way they do. What we can do at best is to question the Humanity. Is our suffering just? ”
“No!” shouted the crowd.
Tenzin did not say a word. He was about to face his fear. He took out a bottle of kerosene from his bag and drenched himself in it. In front of the entire crowd and media, he took out a matchbox and lit himself into fire.
Pandemonium broke out. Media got live coverage of something they say “jaw-dropping” and “sensational”.
Tenzin sat down and closed his eyes. His body was burning. He did not shout a bit as he faced his fear. He was giving his life for his country. He did not harm anyone but was still about to turmoil the hearts of millions.
Police jumped into the scene. But nobody knew what to do. Ambulance came in some time. They managed to put down the fire and took the burnt body to the nearest hospital. Tenzin was declared dead.
His soul was now free from the burden of guilt. He had lived the life of a true Monk.
The footage of a Tibetan Monk who had self-immolated was broadcasted all over the world. What resulted was a widespread protest everywhere. From celebrities to ordinary people, everyone advocated for the cause all across the world. Chinese Government felt the pressure.
Thousands of Buddhists joined the “candle rally” in honour of Tenzin a week later.
He was a knight who sacrificed his life for the betterment of Tibet. Nobody knew the name of the 23 year old Monk who had caused a widespread attention towards the sufferings of his country. So, the world gave him a new name. He was now called, “the Man without Fear”.
95 persons have self-immolated so far in Tibet since Feb 27, 2009. Out of them, 82 were men and 13 women.
Let their sacrifice not go in waste.
Save HUMAINITY. Free TIBET.
This is a fictitious story inspired from the life of a 23-year-old Tibetan refugee named Tenzin who in 1994 survived a harrowing escape from Tibet to come down to India.