Monday, 25 August 2014

Mila Thöpaga

Source: | August 25, 2014

Milarepa was born in Gungthang. His father was Mila Sherap Gyaltsen and mother, Nyangtsa Kargyen. He had one younger sister, Peta Paldron. He was named Mila Thöpaga, which means “Mila who is a joy to hear.” At a young age, he lost his father and his family’s estate passed into the hands of his father’s brother, Mila Thöpaga’s uncle, who, with his wife, virtually enslaved Mila’s mother and family, making them work in the field. He, along with his mother and sister, went through tremendous suffering because of the ill treatment of his uncle and aunt.
At his mother’s request, when Mila grew up, he studied magic from two different teachers in order to take revenge through the use of magical powers. Through a spell, he killed thirty-seven people, including his uncle’s family, and destroyed most of the crops of the village. After this was done, great remorse arose in him for the heavy karmic consequences he had caused himself, and his mind turned towards the sacred dharma.
Mila first went to the Tsang region and studied with the great master, Rongtön Lhaga. The latter eventually advised Mila to go and study with Marpa. At the age of thirty-eight, he went to Lhodrak to find Marpa. Before he arrived, Marpa had a dream in which a yidam prophesied the arrival of Milarepa.
Mila spent over six years studying with Marpa, who made Mila build the famous nine-story tower as part of his journey on the path. At the end, he received the abhisheka of Chakrasamvara from Marpa during which he received the secret name, Shepa Dorje, which means “Laughing Vajra.” Marpa also conferred on Milarepa the full transmissions, instructions, and abhishekas of Tantra, as well as the lineage of Mahamudra – all that Marpa had received from Indian mahasiddhas Naropa and Maitripa.
After practicing very diligently for twelve years under Lord Marpa, Milarepa attained the inseparable state of vajradhara (the complete state of enlightenment) in this very lifetime. He then became known as Milarepa, which means the “Mila, the cotton clad one.” (“Repa” is the designation given to many tantric yogins since they wear a white robe.) At the age of forty-five, he started to practice at Drakar Taso (White Rock Horse Tooth), and other well known caves and also began to wander and teach at various places.
Milarepa is most famous for his songs and poems, in which he expresses the profundity of his realization of the dharma with extraordinary clarity and beauty. Many of Milarepa’s poetic compositions have been translated into numerous other languages.
Milarepa had countless disciples such as Rechung Dorje Drakpa, Gampopa or Dhakpo Lhaje, the eight-heart-sons, and many others. Among them, his spiritual successor who continued his lineage and became one of the main lineage masters in Milarepa’s tradition was Gampopa.

Scientists discover how Tibetan people can live at high altitudes: 8,000 year-old genetic mutation enables them to survive with less oxygen

By Jonathan O'Callaghan for MailOnline

Researchers say Tibetans have a genetic variation that enables them to survive in high  
                altitude, low oxygen environments
This could explain how they can survive at heights of 14,800 feet (4,510m)
The mutation is believed to have originated 8,000 years ago
It gives them a selective advantage in their environment over other humans
Finding could lead to novel solutions for diseases such as cancer
Tibet is a high-altitude plateau region north-east of the Himalayas in China

Sure, Wolverine's claws were impressive, but how would one of the most famous X-Men have coped if he'd tried to survive at a height of over 14,000ft (4,270 metres)?
The answer would most likely be 'not well', but while off-limits to some, it turns out that people such as Tibetans can thrive in the thin air of high-altitude areas thanks to an 8,000 year-old mutation.
Researchers say they've successfully identified this genetic variation for the first time, and it could explain how some people can survive in these extreme environments.

Researchers say Tibetans (pictured) have a genetic variation that enables them to survive in high altitude, low oxygen environments. This could explain how they can survive at heights of 14,800 feet (4,510m)

The research from the University of Utah appears in the journal Nature Genetics and looked at areas such as the Tibetan Plateau.
'These findings help us understand the unique aspects of Tibetan adaptation to high altitudes, and to better understand human evolution,' said Dr Josef Prchal, senior author and University of Utah professor of internal medicine.
In 2010 Prchal’s group was the first to establish that there was a genetic basis to Tibetan high altitude adaptation.

Since then, together with Dr Felipe Lorenzo, the team have proved that the DNA of Tibetans has a slight variation that prevents their body struggling with a lack of oxygen.

Instead, 88 per cent of Tibetans have the mutation that enables their bodies to thrive in low-oxygen environments, something that is virtually absent from closely related lowland Asians.

It is believed the change began 8,000 years ago, when the gene EGLN1 changed by a single DNA base pair.
The findings indicate the tiny genetic change endows its carriers with a selective advantage.


For his research, Dr Prchal needed Tibetans to donate blood, from which he could extract their DNA, a task that turned out to be more difficult than he ever imagined.

It took several trips to Asia, meeting with Chinese officials and representatives of exiled Tibetans in India, to get the necessary permissions to recruit subjects for the study.

But he quickly learned that official documents would not be enough.

Wary of foreigners, the Tibetans refused to participate.

To earn the Tibetans’ trust, Dr Prchal obtained a letter of support from the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

'The Dalai Lama felt that a better understanding of the adaptation would be helpful not only to the Tibetan community but also to humanity at large,' said Dr Prchal.

He also enlisted the help of native Dr Tibetan Tsewang Tashi, an author and clinical fellow at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
More than 90 Tibetans, both from the US and abroad, ultimately volunteered for the study.

When traveling with Dr Tashi in Asia, Dr Prchal was surprised at how he got Tibetans to grasp the research they were being asked to take part in.

Dr Tashi simply helped them realise that their ability to adapt to life at high altitude was unique.

'They usually responded by a little initial surprise quickly followed by agreement,' said Dr Tashi.

'It was as if I made them realise something new, which only then became obvious.'

The mutation, believed to have originated 8,000 years ago, gives Tibetans a selective advantage in their environment over other humans. The finding could lead to novel solutions for diseases such as cancer. Tibet is a high-altitude plateau region north-east of the Himalayas in China (shown)

For his research, Dr Prchal (shown) needed Tibetans to donate blood, from which he could extract their DNA, a task that turned out to be more difficult than he ever imagined. It took several trips to Asia, meeting with Chinese officials and representatives of exiled Tibetans in India, to get the necessary
Dr Prchal collaborated with experts throughout the world, including co-senior author Dr Peppi Koivunen from Biocenter Oulu in Finland, to determine that the newly identified genetic variation protects Tibetans by decreasing an aversive over-response to low oxygen.
In those without the adaptation, the thin air causes their blood to become thick with oxygen-carrying red blood cells, often causing long-term complications such as heart failure.
The EGLN1 variation however, together with other unidentified genetic changes, collectively supports life at high altitudes.
Dr Prchal says the research also has broader implications.
Because oxygen plays a central role in human physiology and disease, a deep understanding of how high altitude adaptations work may lead to novel treatments for various conditions, including cancer.
'There is much more that needs to be done, and this is just the beginning,' he said.

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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Songs of His Holiness the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso

His Holiness the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso
In order to complete the Potala Palace, Desi Sangye Gyatso carried out the wishes of the Fifth Dalai Lama and kept his death a secret for fifteen years. People were told that the Great Fifth was continuing his long retreat. On important occasions the Dalai Lama's ceremonial gown was placed on the throne. However, when Mongol princes insisted on having an audience, an old monk called Depa Deyrab of Namgyal Monastery, who resembled the Dalai Lama, was hired to pose in his place. He wore a hat and eyeshadow to conceal the fact that he lacked the Dalai Lama's piercing eyes. The Desi managed to maintain this charade till he heard that a boy in Mon exhibited remarkable abilities. He sent his trusted attendants to the area and in 1688, the boy was brought to Nankartse, a place near Lhasa. There he was educated by teachers appointed by the Desi until 1697, when the Desi sent his trusted minister, Shabdrung Ngawang Shonu to the Manchu court to inform Emperor K'ang-si of the death of the Fifth and discovery of the Sixth Dalai Lama. He announced the fact to the people of Tibet, who greeted the news with gratitude and joy and thanked the Desi for saving them from lamenting the setting of the sun and, instead, making them rejoice in its rising.

The Desi invited the Fifth Pachen Lama, Lobsang Yeshi, to Nankartse, where Tibet[s second highest religious leader administered the vows of a novice monk to the youth and named him Tsangyang Gyatso. In 1697, the fourteen-year old was enthroned as the Sixth Dalai Lama in a ceremony attended by Tibetan government officials representing the three major monasteries - Sera, Gaden, and Drepung - Mongol princes, representatives of Emperor K'ang-si and the Lhasa populace.

In 1701 there was a conflict between the Desi and Lhasang Khan, the descendant of Gushir Khan, and the latter killed the Desi Sangya Gyatso, which disturbed the young Dalai Lama. He left his monastic study and chose the outdoor life, he had no plans to take the fully ordained vows. In fact, he visited the Panchen Lama in Shigatse and requested his forgiveness, and renounced even the vows of a novice monk. Though he continued to live in the Potala Palace, he roamed around Lhasa and other outlying villages, spending his days with his friends in the park behind the Potala Palace and nights in taverns in Lhasa and Shol (an area below the Potala) drinking chang and singing songs. He was known to be a great poet and writer and he wrote several poems. In 1706, he was invited to China and died on the way.

Songs of His Holiness the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso
Extraordinary as a lover of wine and women, melodious as a singer of love songs and above all, tragic as a national hero of the status of a Dalai Lama, reduced to become a heroic pawn at the hands of the Qosot Lhazang Khan, the Sixth Dalai Lama became a legend within his short lifetime. Worshipped and loved by Tibetan people with stainless faith, Tsangyang Gyatso's songs became famous in every corner of Tibet receiving once again the fascination of simple folk poetry.
"White crane!
Lend me your wings
I will not fly far
From Lithang, I shall return"
So wrote a desolate and lonely Tsangyang Gyatso (whose name means 'Ocean of Melodious Songs'), the Sixth Dalai Lama of Tibet, wrote to a lady-friend of his in Shol town in 1706, when he was being forcibly taken away to China by the Mongol soldiers of Qosot Lhazang Khan — away from his people and the Potala palace. No one understood the hidden meaning contained in the song nor did anyone suspect that the young Dalai Lama had decided to end his earthly manifestation and yield the Tibetan spiritual and temporal realm to the care of the next Dalai Lama. But when that very year the sad and shocking news of the 'disappearance' or more probably the 'murder' of Tsangyang Gyatso at Gunga-Nor lake spread across Tibetan landscape, the secret meaning of last of his many songs dawned on the grief-stricken and bewildered Tibetan masses who dearly longed for his presence during a turbulent turn of history, and anxiously looked towards Lithang for the next incarnation. It may be more correct and safer to state that some of the verses indirectly show his deep knowledge and practice of of tantra, as it is clear from the one song in which he has claimed:
"Never have I slept without a sweetheart
Nor have I spent a single drop of sperm"
The claim of control over his flow of sperm openly declared his grasp and mastery of tantric practices. Of exceptional interest in the tale of three sandalwood trees Tsangyang Gyatso planted close to each other before leaving Tawang. He prophesied that the trees would grow identical to each other on the day he would once again visit Tawang. In 1959, the local people noticed to their amazement that the three sandalwood trees were growing equal to each other in size and had become identical in shape. Unfortunately, the trees caught fire which plunged the local people into anxiety and dismay. Soon afterwards they heard of the unrest in Tibet caused by the Chinese invasion, and after a week-long spectacle of crowds of foreign and Indian pressmen, security personnel and unusual suspense, they saw that the Dalai Lama had indeed come to Tawang once again, this time as Great Fourteenth, on his way to exile in India.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Over the eastern hills rises
The smiling face of the moon;
In my mind forms
The smiling face of my beloved'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Yesterday's young sprouting shoots
Are withered straws today,
Like the ageing body of a youth
Stiff bent as a southern bow'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'If only I could wed
The one whom I love,
Joys of gaining the choicest gem
From the ocean's deepest bed would be mine'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'She smells sweet of body
My sweetheart, the highway queen;
Like the worthless white turquoise
She was found, to be thrown away'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Longing for the landlord's daughter
Blossoming in youthful beauty
Is like pining for peaches
Ripening on the high peach trees'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Sleepless I am
Because I am in love;
Fatigue and frustration overwhelm
When day brings not my beloved to me'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Spring flowers fade in the fall;
It is not for the turquoise bees to mourn.
I and my sweetheart are fated to part;
It is not for us to cry'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Frost gathers on the glistering flowers
And then the cold north wind blows.
The frost and the wind must have come
To drive the bees away from the flowers'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'I have hoisted prayer-flags
For the good luck of my beloved.
Forest keeper, Ajo Shelngo,
Do not trample her good luck flags'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'I incline myself
To the teachings of my lama
But my heart secretly escapes
To the thoughts of my sweetheart'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Even if meditated upon,
The face of my lama comes not to me,
But again and again comes to me
The smiling face of my beloved'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'If I could meditate upon the dharma
As intensely as I muse on my beloved
I would certainly attain enlightenment
Surely, in this one lifetime'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'When my luck was good
I hoisted auspicious prayer-flags
And the young lady of noble birth
Hosted me at her home'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Your sweet smile is
To steal away my young heart.
If your love for me is true,
Promise me so
From the depths of your heart'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'When the gem was mine
I cared not, and ignored its value.
Now that the gem is lost to others,
Melancholy overwhelms me
As its pure worth dawns on me'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'My sweetheart who truly loved me
Has been stolen to wed another.
I am sick with longing sorrow
And frustration emaciates my frail body'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'In my dreams often
I see my lost beloved;
A soothsayer I must seek
To search for her soon for me'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'If the maiden will live forever
The wine will flow evermore.
The tavern is my haven;
With wine I am content'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'My beloved from childhood
Seems to be of the wolf's race;
Even after many nights together
She tries to escape,
Like the wolves, to the hills'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'To the wings of this eagle
The wind and the rocks have been cruel.
The sly and scheming ones
Have harassed me, always without ceasing'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Pink clouds
Hide frosts and hailstorms;
He who is a half-monk
Is a hidden enemy of the dharma'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'The moon tonight seems
To be the full moon,
But the hare* inside the moon
Does not seem to be alive" 

* Refers to a Tibetan belief that a giant hare resides in the moon
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Like the rising moon of the third day
My beloved is dressed is pure and white,
But on the full moon of the fifteenth day
Take an oath of meeting as pure and bright'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Even the stars in the sky
Can be measured by astrology.
Her body can be caressed,
But not so fathomed
Her deep inner longing'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Sweetheart awaiting me in my bed
Yielding tenderly her sweet soft body,
Has she come to cheat me
And disrobe me of my virtues?'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Peacocks from eastern India,
Parrot from the depths of Kongpo,
Though born in separate countries
Finally come together
In the holy land of Lhasa'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'People gossip about me.
I am sorry for what I have done;
I have taken three thin steps
And landed myself in the tavern of my mistress'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'In the short walk of this life
We have had our share of joy.
Let us hope to meet again
In the youth of our next life'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'The garrulous parrot
Please stay with your mouth shut.
The thrush in the willow grove
Has promised to sing a song for me'
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'Yama, the mirror of my karma
Residing in the realm of death,
You must judge and grant justice.
Here, while alive, I had no justice"

Translation of the 'Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama' by K Dhondup, Dharamshala.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

US senators approve 5,000 visas for Tibet refugees

AFP: US lawmakers debating a landmark immigration bill on Monday approved the provision of 5,000 visas to Tibetan refugees to enter the United States over the next three years.
Citing "terrible" and increasing oppression by Chinese authorities against Tibetans, Senator Dianne Feinstein offered the matter as an amendment to the vast legislation aimed at fixing the US immigration system.
Feinstein said the measure, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee by voice vote, would ease conditions for displaced Tibetans living in India and Nepal, where she noted Tibetan resettlement facilities are more than 50 years old.
"In Nepal, the government has been essentially following Chinese mandates to make it very difficult for the Tibetan refugee community," the veteran Democrat told fellow senators.
The immigration bill would ultimately provide a 13-year path to citizenship, or longer, for most of the 11 million people living in the United States illegally.
However, its prospects of getting through both the Senate and the House of Representatives remain uncertain. The Tibetan visa provision would take effect if the wider bill becomes law.
Feinstein also cited the more than 110 Tibetans who have self immolated since 2009, with most dying of their injuries, in demonstrations against what they view as Chinese oppression.
Republican Chuck Grassley said he supported the visa measure knowing full well it would not sit well with authorities in Beijing.
"On this issue I don't mind irritating China," Grassley said.
Senators have already waded through nearly a third of the more than 300 amendments being considered for the bipartisan immigration bill. Several of the measures are aimed at making the sweeping legislation more palatable to conservatives.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

China wants Britain’s Cameron to apologise for Dalai Lama meeting

TibetanReview: As UK’s Prime Minister Mr David Cameron expressed an intend to visit China this year, the latter has on May 7 demanded that he make amends for having met with the Dalai Lama during the latter’s visit to London in May last year.  "China hopes the British side will earnestly respect its concern on the Tibet-related issues and take concrete actions to create favorable conditions for bilateral relations to grow," China’s official Xinhua news agency May 7 quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as telling a regular press conference in Beijing.

Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg together met in London on May 14, 2012 with the Dalai Lama, the report noted.

Hua has said the China-UK relations were damaged by British leaders' meeting with the Dalai Lama last May, noting China's clear and firm position on the Tibet issue, and its unswerving determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. She was reported to have “reiterated the Chinese government's stern opposition to the secessionist activities of the Dalai Lama, as well foreign leaders' acceptance of meetings with him in any form.”

Although Hua did not elaborate on what concrete actions she wanted the UK government to take, it is understood to mean that the latter should tender an apology and also pledge not to meet with the Dalai Lama again.

Meanwhile, May 7 cited a British government statement as saying Mr Cameron had not canceled any official visits to China. "Of course we engage with China on a huge range of issues, on some we agree, on others we disagree, but we strongly believe it is in the interests of both countries to manage our differences with respect, and cooperate as much as possible," the statement was quoted as saying.
The statement has also reiterated that the British government’s position on Tibet was longstanding and clear: that it regarded the Himalayan region as part of the People's Republic of China.

However, despite the diplomatic rift, British exports to China grew almost 40% to 10.5 billion pounds ($16.4 billion) last year from 2010 when Mr Cameron became prime minister, the report noted.
Mr Cameron had also met the Dalai Lama before he became prime minister in 2008 to discuss the situation in Tibet and Tibetan autonomy. All previous British prime ministers since John Major have also met the Dalai Lama. 

Tibetan monk in precarious health after Chinese imprisonment

TibetanReview: Chinese authorities in Xining city of Qinghai Province have released in Apr 2013 a Tibetan monk after he became seriously ill and required secretive hospitalization as a result of severe ill-treatment in jail, said Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Right and Democracy May 8. The centre said the monk, Sonam Yig-nyen, 44, became seriously ill soon after he was sentenced to a two-year jail term in Oct 2012.

Sonam Yig-nyen was among five monks taken into custody in a surprise Chinese police raid on Nyatso Zilkar Monastery in Tridu (Chinese: Chenduo) County of Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province, on Sep 1, 2012. The other monks were Lobsang Jinpa (30), Tsultrim Kalsang (25), Ngawang Monlam (30), and Sonam Sherab (45).

Due to severe ill-treatment by the Chinese police, Sonam had to be hospitalized for more than a month soon after he was sentenced. His family and friends were not allowed to visit him either in prison or at Xining’s largest hospital, an army hospital, where he was kept for more than a month.

In Apr 2013, the authorities sent Sonam back to Yushu, possibly for treatment at another hospital.
The centre said the monk’s family and friends have still not been able to see him. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

“Tibet’s Next Incarnation?”

Constitutional Crisis, Confusion and Conspiracies at the Central Tibetan Administration
For some months now, large-scale protests and violent street battles have been raging throughout Cairo and other major cities of Egypt. Thousands of Egyptian liberals and secularists have come out on the streets to protest what they called President Mohamed Morsi’s “power-grab”, after he issued a declaration awarding himself new powers, which he claimed were “temporary” until a new constitution was put in place. Morsi’s opposition will have none of it and claim that he wants to make himself “the new Pharaoh”.
The exile Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has since last year been going through a major constitutional crisis of its own. The odd thing in Dharamshala’s case is that no one there appears to have realized that anything consequential had happened at all. It is perhaps likely that some of the more savvy residents of the exile Tibetan capital had their suspicions but were too intimidated or confused to say anything, much less stage a protest at the Gangchen Kyishong square.
I only got my first inkling of this “crisis” when I came across this reworking of the title of the Tibetan prime minister from that of “kalon tripa” to “sikyong” an older and somewhat obscure title used by the old regents of Tibet. But I assumed this name change was merely a cosmetic one. Samdong Rimpoche had some years back changed the title of the exile PM from the traditional si-lon to the more grandiose soundingKalon Tripa or the “Enthroned Kalon”*
So I assumed, as everyone else did, that the change from Kalon Tripa to Sikyong was also just a change in the Tibetan name and that the office of the prime minister remained the same. In an official reportissued on September 26, 2012, by CTA on its website it was also made clear that only the name or title of the office had been changed:
“Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay today ratified the recent amendments made to the Charter of Tibetans in Exile to change the official title of Kalon Tripa to Sikyong.”
But in the last paragraph of the report there was a hint that perhaps something more than a name change had actually taken place: “His Holiness the Dalai Lama said on 8 August 2011 that he was handing over the political leadership that he inherited from Regent Tagdra Rinpoche to Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the first democratically-elected Sikyong or Tibetan political leader.”
In effect the Dalai Lama was handing over his power as sovereign monarch, which he had received from the Tagdra