Tibetan Buddhist monk, Palden Gyatso, (Photo Anna Branthwaite) spent 33 years imprisoned by the Chinese and drew deep on his Buddhist practice to survive his brutal treatment. He escaped to the West to tell his story and I met him in London to discuss his experiences his searing memoir, Fire Under the Snow movie from amazon also a Autobiography Book from amazon
Palden Gyatso was born in a Tibetan village in 1933 and became an ordained Buddhist monk at 18 — just as Tibet was in the midst of political upheaval. When Communist China invaded Tibet in 1950, it embarked on a program of “reform” that would eventually affect all of Tibet’s citizens and nearly decimate its ancient culture. In 1967, the Chinese destroyed monasteries across Tibet and forced thousands of monks into labor camps and prisons. Gyatso spent the next 25 years of his life enduring interrogation and torture simply for the strength of his beliefs. Palden Gyatso’s story bears witness to the resilience of the human spirit, and to the strength of Tibet’s proud civilization, faced with cultural genocide.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the book is his lack of resentment towards his tormentors. How had he been able to avoid hating the Chinese? After Tsering had translated my question, Palden shook his head vigorously. I had not understood.‘It is not that I was without hatred. Especially when I was being tortured by my guards, I had immense hatred against them because I was being hurt. But, as a religious person, after the event I could reflect on what had happened, and I could see that those who inflicted torture did so out of their own ignorance. As a religious person I have to sit back and ask myself, what is all this? Buddhist teachings say, don’t let your calm be disturbed and do not respond to anger with anger.’