Far East Meets South West
The two young monks had been identified as being reincarnate Lamas, and from and early age had studied at their monasteries in Tibet. Both were diligent students of the Buddhist faith, and became friends. Both became Abbots responsible for their own monastery, and the spititual welfare of their people.
By 1959 the young Abbots were nineteen years old, and their lives were to be changed for ever. These were dangerous times in Tibet. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was taking place, and the Chinese Revolutionary Army had occupied their country. They knew they would be prime targets for killing, when their areas were occupied, so they joined forces and made plans to escape with their families and friends. Around 300 of them became refugees.
It was thought that the trip over the mountains to safety, would take around 3 months, and supplies of food were calculated accordingly. However the capital, Lhasa, was under Chinese military control, and the refugees had to find alternative routes, over hostile terrain. Summer gave way to autumn then winter. Their pack animals had long since been abandoned, and desperate for food, they were reduced to boiling their yak skin bags and belts in order to get some nourishment.
By now it was too dangerous to travel by day, for fear they would be sighted by the Chinese Army, and killed. Military planes flew sorties overhead, thus prohibiting the lighting of fires for warmth and cooking. Conditions for the refugees were extremely miserable.
Eventually they reached the Brahmaputra River which they would have to cross. But the crossing was patrolled by the Chinese. The party hid in a forest and set about making coracles out of yak skin and tree resin. As the coracles made the hazardous crossing of the river, the Chinese started firing on them killing some and capturing the majority. Nine prisoners managed to escape and rejoin the refugee party, to continue their journey on foot for another six months. By this time they were all near to collapse, when they found a cave where they slept, and waited to die.
They did not realise that they were only two days march away from safety, and that Luck in the shape of some hunters found them, took them to their village and fed them until they were strong enough to continue their trip to India.
Out of the original 300 who started out, only fifteen made it to India. The remainder had either died of exhaustion in the mountains, or had been killed or captured by the Chinese.
(Adapted from Kagyu Samye Ling The Story)
More to follow.