Towards the last two months of my last visit to India in the spring of 2012, I encountered the Tibetan community in exile in India experiencing painful news of their people self-immolating in fire one after another in China-occupied Tibet. My experiences in the past visits in India (drawing a cremation site in Varanasi, documenting fire pits, cremation alters, and contemplating on life and death around fire) synchronized with this particular movement, an extreme way of ‘offering’ their bodies to ‘fire’ for asking freedom and peace.I could not help drawing large and small drawings as emotional response and with a sense of mourning.

After coming back to Vancouver, the self-immolation kept happening and I felt that my personal and professional task is not finished.

I have come back to India to continue to document and draw under the same theme.

20 May 2015

For Tenzin Gyatso

For Tenzin Gyatso, 35 yrs old, who self immolated on May 20 2015 in the Khangsar twonship of Tawu county, Ganzi Kham.

He carried out his protest around 8 pm near a bridge close to official government buildings in Khangsar.
While he was burning, security personnel stationed in the area rushed to put out the fire and took him away.

He is survived by his wife and four children.

I keep thinking of the bridge near where he set himself on fire.

Broken bridges.  Rebuild them.  Cross again.  

13 May 2015

Remember Tsewang Norbu - August 15 2011

For Tsewang Norbu, 29 yrs old monk from Nyitso Monastery, who self immolated on August 15 2015 in Tawu County, Kardze, Kham, Tibet.  He is the 3rd person who self immolated in Tibet since 2009.

He drank petrol before setting himself on fire and died on site while calling for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

The Chinese state media confirmed the death of a Buddhist monk shortly afterwards, with Xinhua stating: "It was unclear why he had burnt himself".

For Tibetans, it was clear why he had burnt himself. 

30 April 2015

Light Impermanence

All living things are born to this world
as if only to experience cruel successions of transience in life
as if only to experience sorrows and pains
that are caused by many destructive outer forces
and their lives are taken without them knowing what savours and depth of life are.

we often feel powerless in front of huge fierce storms.

However, the seemingly powerless sum of beings, transform despairs to resilience, power to live, and boundless compassion.  The survived gather and light candles and butter lamps to send rays of light in a dark tunnel because they see a light at the end of the tunnel.

16 April 2015

For Nyikyab ( Dhamkar)

For Nyikyab who self immolated in the village of Suruma in Ngaba county, Amdo, Tibet on April 15 2015.  He set himself on fire after calling out slogans.

Pictures of himself in Tibetan dress, his dead body, and a makeshift alter made by him before his self immolation protest, came to the exile Tibetan community first.

The alter was adorned with a framed photograph of the 14th Dalai Lama, and late the 10th Panchen Lama, his family pictures with his children, various offering bowls, and flowers.
Imagine the feeling when he was making the alter, making offerings, and looking at pictures of his gurus and his dear family.  Prostrations, prayers, burning incense, and he offered himself.
The alter of somber and a pure heart.

Please come back to your homeland and may a real peace and freedom soon prevail there.

15 April 2015

Two Waterfalls from My Eyes

Eyes, burning "lights" among eyes
burning incense with a candle light
all of sudden there came the sense of presence
of people near and far who passed away from this world,
in flame, in the shaken and collapsed land, in water and in immeasurable pain

Uncle came, dear friend came and many came around the candle light
Many whom I never met, I know only their last stories in their troubled lands.
They came, even though it were in my illusion.

Eyes were shedding tears like waterfalls.
Eyes became surfaces of lakes, connected from a heart
For thousands of eyes, thousands of waterfalls

On one night after a memorial day of Yushu earthquake 2010

10 April 2015

For Yeshe Khando

For Yeshe Khando, a 47 years old nun, who self immolated in Ganze, Kham, Tibet on April 8 2015.

She went to kora ( circumambulation) around Ganze Monastery and around 9 am, she set herself on flame in front of the local police station. Her last words were " return of H.H. the Dalai Lama","Freedom in Tibet", and "One united Tibet, not two“. 

The police extinguished the flame and took her body away.  If she is dead or alive is not known.

She had been in a long meditation retreat and was known a calm and composed person.

"Give the ones you love
Wings to fly
Roots to come back
and reasons to stay"

Dalai Lama

With many prayers 

30 March 2015

For Norchuk 2

Dear Norchuk

You died on March 6 2015
by setting yourself on fire

later the news came
that you left three children behind. Three children.

the reality of life without free air, clear water, and pure soil for generations
where many lost their lives in expressing their dignity and that they never give up

Probably you had lived fully: you offered water every morning, prayed, worked hard and raised children.
Till you decided to give your life away for what you believed in.
I wish I could feel you more.

After days since your passing, I see you standing with your bare feet on soft green grass like a mountain.  So as you can watch your children grow

Peace, peace, peace.  Peace, please come to your land

15 March 2015

Thinking of Lobsang Phuntsok and Ngaba on March 16th

Four years ago today, Lobsang Phuntsok, a monk from Kirti Monastery, Ngaba, Amdo, set himself on fire.  He was only 20 years old. He walked to a busy main street from his monastery alone and walking in flame raising slogans loudly.  "May H.H.Dalai Lama return to Tibet" " Tibet needs freedom".

He fell into the ground twice then a bunch of army and police forces came to surround him. The witness says he was beaten severely on site.

Local people grabbed his body to admit a hospital but the hospital refused to treat him.
In great pain, he passed away around 3 am on the next day.

More than 3, 000 monks offered prayers all day and over night in front of his body wrapped with kathaks and three thousands and some hundreds people came to pay condolence to him at the monastery. Everybody was in tears.

March 16 in Ngaba is known to have had a major crush between local people and Chinese army force when a peaceful protest happened cross Tibet in 2008.  More than 30 people were brutally killed by random gun shots.  More than 1,000 were arrested and many went missing.

One witness said:
" Many people were killed in Ngaba on March 16, 2008.  After 3 years,  many people offer butter lamps at the monastery and home to pray for the victims.  Phuntsok's way was self immolation."

8 March 2015

For Norchuk

For Norchuk, who self immolated in Trotusk, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on March 6 2015.
She is 40 years old and she has recently taken a vow not to eat any meat.  Those are only things that are known along with her portrait picture.
I gazed at her face, the face of the woman who is around my age.  What brought her to decide to do this extreme protest in her village.  What kind of life had she have?   
it is again in Ngaba, the green county, where one life has gone in flame.

After sitting in front of the unfinished drawing for a while,  the last thing my mind did was to press finger prints with white ink around her face.  Pressing like offering butter lamps and prayers.  White to purify her pain.

NOTE: After this post, the further information about her came into the exile side.  Actually she is 47 years old and has three children.

7 March 2015

Thinking of Tapey and March 10th

Tapey, a monk from Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Amdo, is the first person who self immolated in Tibet.

On February 27th, 2009, he doused himself with oil, walked alone from the monastery to the crossroads in the market area of the town, and set himself on fire.

It is said that he was carrying a home made Tibetan flag that had at its centre a photograph of the Dalai Lama.

While shouting slogans, People's Armed Police force arrived and opened fire on him.
He fell the ground.

So many monks, nuns, young, old, fathers, and mothers, have followed him in Ngaba up till now.  people say  Ngaba is a land of the beautiful green pasture, yet, green grass has absorbed countless tears and blood of people.

I tried to feel Tapey's mind when he was making his country's banned flag in his room.  What a important meaning it must have had to him.  Yearning for freedom? Determination to show his dignity to the enemy?

March 10th is the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa in 1959.  Thousands of people had ringed the walls of the Norbulingka palace -summer residence of the Dalai Lamas to protect H.H. Dalai Lama the 14th and to show solidarity against Chinese Communist Party's rule. This lead to the major uprising in Lhasa on March 20th and in a few days, it is said ten thousands to fifteen thousands of Tibetan people were killed.  On this day, around the world, except in Tibet, many protest marches take place and streets are covered with Tibetan flags.