Palden Gyatso shares vision of peace in Farmington, New Mexico

By Debra Mayeux

FARMINGTON, The Daily Times (Sep 24, 2005) - The Venerable Palden Gyatso travels the world speaking to prime ministers and presidents. He has addressed the United Nations and has spent countless hours with the Dalai Lama.

Gyatso is now in Farmington sharing his story about life in a Chinese prison.  The 74-year-old Tibetan monk was captured when he was 28 years old. He had been a monk for 18 years, having entered the Buddhist monastery when he was 10.  He calls himself "a simple monk," who managed to escape his captors through the workings of Amnesty International.

"It was not that the Chinese voluntarily released me, it was from pressure from Amnesty International," he said during a Friday interview at the Farmington home of Sarah Teofanov. She is sponsoring his visit through the workings of San Juan Peace Net.

Gyatso was released Aug. 25, 1992, and sent back to the Drapung Monastery in Tibet.  What he found was his childhood home in wreckage.  "It was almost destroyed," he said, adding the Chinese were watching his every move. "It was like being captured."

He decided to escape Tibet by fleeing Sept. 8, 1992, to India, where he met the Dalai Lama.  "I finally felt the relief of freedom," Gyatso said.

The Dalai Lama urged Gyatso to write a book about his capture and life in prison. It is titled "The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk." The book led to invitations from world leaders and changed Gyatso's life.

He was soon sharing a message of peace and forgiveness with some of the most powerful men and women in the world. They were listening and allowing him to tell his story. They were also open to understanding his life's religion, Buddhism.  It was through this religion that he found strength while being captured. He said he concentrated on Buddhist philosophy when he was being tortured beyond belief.

"I relied heavily on refuge, which has the wisdom of antidotes and discourses of how to manage or to create space in an adverse situation," he said.  Gyatso also used the Tong Lan meditation, in which he reversed his situation.  "I would give love, understanding and compassion to the one driven by hatred and revenge," he said, adding that through this he "received their hatred."

Gyatso, who speaks with the assistance of Rigdzin Tingkhye, an English translator, told Tingkhye that the Tong Lan meditation is very difficult and he "mimicked it," while imprisoned.  "We all have a capacity to overcome our hatred," he said.

Gyatso added that anger and hatred are the root of suffering.  "We have to discriminate anger and when we are driven by hatred and anger, we destroy the peace of others and self," he said.

Gyatso is sharing this message with the people of Farmington. Through it, he hopes to develop a conscious goal toward world peace.  "If people can perceive any sort of inspiration or lessons from my life story, that is my hope," he said. "We all have the capacity to overcome anger and hatred."