Tibetan Monk Palden Gyatso’s visit to Causes
Posted Jun 17, 2011 by Jen Burton
When I walked in to the Causes lunch room the other day, I was struck, quietly, with emotion. Palden Gyatso was sitting, smiling, with his translator in advance of his talk here at the office. I’ve never been in the presence of someone like him before and I was moved.
Palden is an 80 year old Tibetan monk who spent 33 years imprisoned by the Chinese government for his crimes of conscious. He was imprisoned in 1959 during the Chinese occupation of Tibet and their “Cultural Revolution.” While in prison, Palden was brutally tortured at the hands of Chinese prison officials – the stories are graphic and heartbreaking, but it’s important people learn about these atrocities as they continue today to the hundreds of political prisoners in China.
Today, Palden has dedicated his life to exposing the truth about how the Chinese occupiers abuse political prisoners. His mission is to make sure the world knows about the ongoing atrocities and human rights violations happening right now in Chinese prisons and to share what his life was like for those 33 years.
“From the beginning, my purpose is to educate people on what [happens] in Tibet, to people like myself… So many people in Western Europe and America do not know that Tibet was a separate nation and our government went through tremendous tragedy through the brutal force of the Chinese… Freedom is such a natural love for everybody, as a human being I must work for freedom,” Palden Gyatso as quoted on FreeTibet.org
During his talk, he removed his dentures and, toothless, explained that while in prison, a Chinese guard shoved a cattle rod in his mouth sending him into convulsions and eventually leaving him unconscious. He woke some time later in his own blood and vomit having lost several teeth. The rest fell out a few days later. This is just an example of the torture he endured. A few years after his 1992 release, Amnesty International provided him with a full set of dentures so he could eat and share his story with the world.
Incredibly, when Palden was released he was able to smuggle several of the torture implements the Chinese government used on him. Having seen some of his scars in person, this photo gives me chills.
His presence is filled with an incredible sense of grace and compassion. When asked how he used meditation during his imprisonment he replied that his practice centered around the idea that he could hold the suffering of others so that they may experience freedom and happiness.
Palden’s 1998 autobiography, The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk details some of the horrors he faced, and, more importantly, asks the reader to understand the situation in Tibet. And, once we understand, we’ll be compelled to help. He’s here in the US for the next four months raising awareness and giving a face to torture.
The Causes staff thanks Palden for his generosity and grace. We also offer our thanks to Heidi Minx of BuiltOnRespect.com for bringing this experience to us. We are honored and grateful.