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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. tomoyoihaya@hotmail.com

27 July 2015

For Tenzin Delek Rinpoche - thousands eyes are shedding tears


Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly respected Tibetan religious leader, was held in prison for over 13 years, serving a life sentence for a crime that he did not commit.  In another word, he was innocent.

On July 13th, he passed away in the prison, in believed-to-be poor health condition.

Further more, the local authority ignored family and local people's wish to have his body returned so as they can have proper prayer ceremonies.  Instead his body was cremated in the remote detention center, as if they wanted to erase all the evidences of their ill treatments to his body over years.   Only ashes were returned to his sister and family.

He was somebody whom many thousands of people kept in their hearts and who dedicated his life to
keep his culture alive, to promote education, and to help people.   He was a hope and a lamp to shine the darkness in suppressed lives of people.

Loss. Injustice. Sadness.



10 July 2015

For Kusho Sonam Topgyal July 9 2015

For Sonam Topgyal, 26 years old monk, who set himself on fire in Kyegudo, Kham, Tibet on July 9th 2015.

A few photos of him engulfed in flames on the paved square, some people standing near by, came out to the exile place first.  His name, age, and hometown came out later. No further details did not reach due to the immediate shut down of means of communications to outside.

In the photos, he has his hands in prayer, almost clasping.

By standers took him to the hospital, however, his condition is unknown.

This happened 3 days after H.H. Dalai Lama's 80th birthdays.  It felt like the whole world was celebrating his birthday and wishing for long life.  Despite of pressure from the local Chinese authorities, many pictures came out from Tibet that Tibetan people inside Tibet are celebrating it by putting up Kundun's photos and making beautiful alters with offerings to them.

Then this sad news came out.  It is heartbreaking to imagine what was on his mind during the celebration and before his protest.

Note:  Further details at present of July 10. Sonam Topgyal is a native of Kham Nangchen, his father's name spells Nangchen Tashi and Bode is of Mother. He has five siblings.
He had been studying for 7 years at Dege Dzongsar Monastery. 

2 July 2015

Remember Choephel and Kayang, October 7 2011

For Choephel, 19 years old and Kayang, 18 years old, who carried out their protest together on the main street in Ngaba county town, Amdo, Tibet, on October 7 2011.

The two young men, former monks from Kirti Monastery, clasped their hands together and set fire on themselves before security personnel extinguished the flames and took the two to the country's government hospital.

The Ngaba area has been under military lockdown since major protests were held in the area following the spread of protests across the Tibetan plateau beginning  in March, 2008.  In one major demonstration in Ngaba in 2008, at least 10 Tibetans were shot dead by security forces.

"Tibetans are deeply religious, and they are willing to pay the ultimate price for their religion and freedom" Zorgyi

"Monks take a vow that says they are not allowed to end their lives. But on the other hand, these actions are not for an individual, they are for a people"  H.H. Karmapa


23 June 2015

Remember Kelsang Wangchuk October 3 2011

For Kelsang Wangchuk, a 17 years old monk from Kirti monastery, who self immolated in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on October 3 2011.

kelsang carried a photo of the Dalai Lama and was shouting slogans against the Chinese government when he set fire to himself along the main street in Ngaba county town.

Shortly after his protest, additional security forces were deployed in town and at Kirti monastery, increasing an already tense security atmosphere in the area known for its outspoken expression of the Tibetan identity and frequent peaceful protests.

It is said that a few days prior to Kelsang's protest,  pamphlets were distributed and posted around Kirti Monastery and the market place in Ngaba county town which read: If the current security crackdown in the area were to continue, many more people were prepared to give up their lives in protest.

Soon H.H. Dalai Lama will become 80 years old.  There are many pictures online arrived from Tibet that people put up his photo with beautiful offerings, celebrate his birthday openly,and wish for his long life.  While feeling cheered up by seeing photos of Tibetan people in Tibet who show their unshaken devotion and strong spirit,  my thoughts go to these brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for the better world.  I wish they could come back to this world to celebrate it together after the true peace comes to Tibet and in the world. 

11 June 2015

Remember Lobsang Kelsang and Lobsang Kunchok -September 26 2011

For Lobsang kelsang and lobsang Kunchok, two teenage monks from Kirti Monastery, who set
themselves on fire on September 26 2011 in Ngaba town, Ngaba, Amdo.

Two of them left monastery after the morning prayer session and arrived at the intersection down town in Naba town around 10:30 am. They sat there for a while.  Then they stood up, holding up a Tibetan national flag together, calling out slogans, and gradually set them selves on fire.

The security force rushed and extinguished the flame to take them away.
It is said that Lobsang Kunchok survived and Lobsang Kalsang's well being is unknown.




27 May 2015

For Sangye Tso

For Sangye Tso, 36 yrs old, who self immolated in Choparashing, Chone County, Amdo, Tibet on May 27 2015.

She, a mother of two, carried out her self-immolation around 4 am in front of a Chinese security  and re-education building located within the compound of Choparshing monastery.

The monastery has been under intense pressure including arrests of monks and applying fines for having peaceful protests.  The large buildings that house security and propaganda workers had been actually built inside the monastery's walled compound to watch activities of monks.

These suppressive actions of the Chinese authorities have deeply hurt and humiliated the local Tibetans who see them as attacks against Tibetan culture and religion, and that the sense of injustice and helplessness felt by many may have been what drove Sangye Tso to carry out her desperate protest.



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.