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New Oral Histories of Tibetan Elders

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 8:30 PM

New Oral Histories of Tibetan Elders from Bylakuppe, India

February 3, 2014 - The Tibet Oral History Project (TOHP) accomplished a very successful mission in the Bylakuppe and Hunsur Tibetan Settlements where they videotaped 25 oral histories from December 22 to January 6, 2014.  The focus of this endeavor was to interview revered teachers, lamas and rinpoches who were attending the teachings given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  To this end, 18 of the 25 interviewees were individuals with a religious or monastic background.  The average age of the interviewees was 79, although also interviewed was a younger monk, who gave testimoney at the Spanish High Court which tried Chinese government officials for human rights abuses.

TOHP is grateful to the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for being given the opportunity to meet with His Holiness on December 29th and to present His Holiness with interview transcripts and DVDs from previous interviews.  His Holiness expressed warm appreciation for TOHP's efforts and graciously offered to hold one of the volumes for a photo with TOHP's team.  The team was honored to also meet and receive the blessing of the 102nd Gaden Tripa Thubten Nyma Lungtok Tenzin Norbu, spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

TOHP wishes to express gratitutde to the Tibetan eldeers who shared their stories.  Their interviews provided intriguing descriptions of age old Tibetan culture and monastic traditions.  Many elders bravely dealt with painful memories in relating their eyewitness accounts of tragic events around the invasion and subsequent occupation of their country.  The elders were thankful for the opportunity to preserve Tibet's history by recording what they had seen with their "own eyes" and to express their hopes for Tibet and the preservation of the Buddha dharma, which enabled them to survive.

Among the notable spiritual leaders, TOHP was honored to record the early monastic educational experiences of Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, former Prime Minister of the Tibet government-in-exile.  TOHP was also fortunate to videotape the fascinating and historically significant account by Arjia Rinpoche, who described in detail who the Chinese installed a government-appointed Panchen Lama.  Another interviewee was a Tibet resistance fighter trained by the CIA in Colorado, who was parachuted into a remote area in the Himalayas where the Tibetans were trying to ward off the invasion of Chinese troops.

The Tibet Oral History Project's most hearfelt gratitude is to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who advised that the stories of Tibet's elders be recorded before they were lost forever.  TOHP's commitment has been to follow His Holiness's advice and, as he requested, to make the oral histories known worldwide through the Internet and to translate them into Chinese.  To date TOHP has documented 209 oral histories of Tibetan elders, posted 120 interview transcripts on the Internet, sent the available transcribed collection to 12 libraries around the world such as the US Library of Congress, Oxford and Stanford Universities, the University of California, Berkeley and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India.  Some interview video excerpts are now available in Chinese on TOHP's website and on YouTube with plans to translate more in the future.

This endeavor and its follow-up work of transcribing the interviews and publishing them on the Internet has been made possible by the financial support provided by the International Campaign for Tibet's Rowell Fund, the Firedoll Foundation and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, as well as individual donors.

About the Tibet Oral History Project:  On the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibet Oral History Project was initiated in 2003 by Marcella Adamski, PhD to record the early life experiences of Tibetan elders, who were foreced to flee their homeland in 1959 following the Chinese invasion and subsequent occupation.  The Tibet Oral History Project is a non-profit organization committed to making the elder's oral history interviews accessible via the Internet in order to share with the world the culture and history of Tibet.

To learn more about the Tibet Oral History Project visit their website at:  www.tibetoralhistory.org

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