[Monday 2 October 2011] The overnight train from Delhi arrived at 7am in Pathankot. Tenzin Choedon from the Tibetan Parliamentary Secretariat greeted us at the station, and we clambered into cars to drive us the rest of the way to Dharamsala, stopping for breakfast en route.
We arrived in Dharamsala at about 11am, just as the mist was beginning to roll in. The hill-town was buzzing with monks, nuns, Tibetans and tourists alike. Today, was the third of four days of Buddhist teachings being given by the Dalai Lama. Amongst the crowds were some 1,000 Taiwanese, in Dharamsala especially for the teachings.
Following a rest and lunch, the party walked to Kirti Monastery for a meeting with Kirti Rinpoche. Just as we reached the building we were told the breaking news that another Kirti monk in had self-immolated in Ngaba, eastern Tibet. (The exact circumstances and the whereabouts and well-being of the monk are not known. Read more at Radio Free Asia.) To meet the Rinpoche (head lama) of Kirti Monastery suddenly took on a new dimension.
At the beginning of the meeting, Fabian Hamilton passed on the group’s dismay and sadness at the news of the immolation.
After welcoming the MPs and the rest of the delegation, with the traditional giving of khatags, Kirti Rinpoche answered questions from the group. He explained that the recent immolations (today’s is the fourth this year at Kirti) were a desperate attempt to draw the international community’s attention to the situation in Tibet. He said Tibetans were “totally frustrated” with China’s ongoing occupation and the lack of freedoms.
At the end of the meeting Fabian thanked Kirti Rinpoche for the meeting and assured him that those present would do their utmost to help bring a peaceful solution, not only to the current Kirti crisis, but to Tibet as a whole.
In the evening the delegation had an informal dinner at the Lotus Drum Stick restaraunt with two special guests, Tenzin Geyche and Ms Dicki Chhoyang. Tenzin Geyche has recently retired after over 40 years as the Private Secretary to the Dalai Lama. Tenzin’s role included travelling with the Dalai Lama on all his overseas trips. Ms Dicki Chhoyang is the Kalon (Minister) for the Department of Information and International Relations.
After two days of planes, trains and automobiles everyone is glad to finally be in Dharamsala and to have a good night’s rest in a proper bed! Tomorrow the programme starts in earnest with meetings throughout the day. However, the undoubted highlight will be an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Group Update: Simon Hughes MP joined the group in the evening for dinner, after travelling from Amritsar. Simon will be with group for the rest of the trip. Youdon Aukatsang also joined the group today. Youdon is a Chitue (a Member of the Tibetan Parliament in exile) and is Director of Empowering the Vision, an NGO which gives skills and leadership training to young Tibetans. Youdon will be on hand throughout our stay in Dharamsala to answer questions and help facilitate meetings.