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The Last Time I Saw Tibet
The Last Time I Saw Tibet
Description
The Last Time I Saw Tibet

Bimal Dey was born in 1940 in Kolkata. He travelled to Tibet on foot in 1956, at the age of sixteen; this journey is the subject of his travelogue The Last Time I Saw Tibet. From 1967 to 1972, he undertook a 230,000 kilometre journey around the world on an ordinary bicycle. He has also been to the Arctic Circle and Antarctica a number of time. A yoga teacher of repute, he lives in France and is associated with a number of social welfare projects in Africa and in India.

Malobika Chaudhuri runs Mono Translation Bureau, a multilingual translation agency, in Kolkata, she has translated several novels of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay for Penguin.

Back Of The Book

Bitten by wanderlust at a young age, Bimal Dey has travelled the world, including the Arctic and Antarctica. But it's his journey across Tibet, from Gangtok to Lhasa and Mansarovar when he was a teenager, that holds a special place in his heart. The Last Time I Saw Tibet recounts his adventures during this trip in 1956: a time when Sikkim was not yet part of India, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama still ruled in Tibet although Chinese presence was marked, and Indians were not banned from travelling there.

Ordained as a Buddhist monk by his Guruji just before the start of the journey (only lamas can stay in monasteries), posing as one who had taken a vow of silence (he did not know enough Tibetan to convince the Chinese authorities). Day trekked across the Nathu La pass, Chumbi valley and the Sangpo river along with an intrepid band of lamas, before reaching Lhasa, or Hla-Sa (abode of he gods'), many months later.

He visited the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka, the summer palace, was witness to the grandeur of the Potala royal palace where the Dalai Lama resided, and even had an audience with His Holiness. From Lhasa, the author trekked on his own to Kailashnath and Mansarovar, the holiest of pilgrimages for any Hindu. During his journey, he encountered the deep generosity of the local people, made friends among ascetics and mendicants, and the awe-inspiring majesty of the Himalayas brought with it a true understanding of spirituality and faith.

Many years later, in the eighties, the author would have the privilege of visiting Mansarovar twice, but he always hankered to travel alone across Tibet, a wish that was eventually granted by the Chinese authorities only at the cusp of the new millennium. This time he saw the ravages of the Chinese occupation in Lhasa, a slow decimation of the Tibetan culture across the countryside, which convinced him that ever more visitors is one way of keeping alive Tibet and its rich and unique traditions.

Preface To This Edition

In The 1981 preface to The Last Time I Saw Tibet I had written: 'I 1956, the doors to Tibet were almost closed to foreigners, most certainly to Indians…Somehow, that year, the government of Nepal managed to obtain permission from the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu for a group of pilgrims to travel into Tibet…Later I heard that that group of ours was the last group of pilgrims that was allowed in. it was the last time that I-or any of us-were to see Tibet.'

I has also written: 'Since 1958 Tibet became virtually inaccessible. But I have been praying for the situation to change. The doors to heaven cannot under any circumstance be barred; every human being has the right to go on a pilgrimage of Kailash-the Almighty is not the particular property of any country. Kailash is a holy pilgrimage site for all of humanity.'

My prayers have been granted-the path to Kailash has once again been opened. In the past few years almost fifteen thousand pilgrims from India have travelled to Tibet. They have circumambulated Kailash and bathed in the holy waters of the Mansarovar. For this I and thousands of pilgrims and those with wanderlust offer our heartfelt gratitude and respect to the Indian and Chinese governments.

On 6 July 2006, my joy knew no bounds. That day, in Gangtok, Pawan Kumar Chamling, the chief minister of Sikkim, announced the reopening of the Nathu La pass. Nathu La! The name resounds across the continents, and every cell in my body reverberates with a strange thrill. Finally, the ancient link between two great nations-India and China-has been re-established.

The Nathu la pass is of historical importance. In ancient times this was part of the Silk Route. Of course in the course of time the Silk Route has changed its path a number of times. But the basic route lay from Europe, particularly Venice, through Tehran or Istanbul (in olden times its name was Constantinople) and other ancient cities like Samarhand and Tashkent, to Lhasa, and through the Nathu La pass to Siliguri and Kolkata. Many foreigners believe that the Nathu La pass was the gateway to the Silk Route for the Mongols between Gangtok and Lhasa. For us, however, it is much more: it is the gateway to the original route to the ultimate pilgrimage of all, to Kailash and Mansarovar.

A separate visa is not granted for going to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, from India via Kailash and Mansarovar since it is not on the route. Pilgrims to Kailash travel from Nainital or Almora to Lipulake and taklakot and take the Gurla pass to reach Mansarovar and Kailash. But one can reach Lhasa directly from Nathu La by following the course of the Brahmaputra river. One has to go to Nathu La via Gangtok. From Kolkata the Nathu La pass is 550 km and from Lhasa, it is 460 km; it is at a height of 14,910 ft (4545m).

Nathu La was the border post between India and China on the ancient Silk Route. Local people call it the Dalai Lama's path because this is the route he took when he fame as refugee to India. Nathu La is called Yadu on the Tibet side. The people there refer to it as a salt route. This is because sea salt would reach Lhasa from Midnapore along this route.

This historic Nathu La pass has reopened now, and can there be greater cause for happiness than this? For me, this is the pilgrimage route to Jokhang and Potala.

For the past few decades I have been wandering all over the world. I have seen that human society exists through a process of creation, destruction and renewal. No border of any country is permanent. There have been far-reaching changes in so many parts of the world. Humanity was divided and a wall constructed through the middle of a city in Germany; but this Berlin Wall was also destroyed, without bloodshed, thanks to the combined onslaught of humanity. In Europe many countries have united now, as had happened with the states in America. At the other end of the world, the Palestinian Wall had been constructed and then broken. While moving along, this what I have realized-mankind as a whole wants amity, peace and unity. When all seek the same effects, it is then that there can be a sense of true freedom. That is what is known as global harmony.

It is in the spirit of harmony that India and China have today united at the Nathu La pass. In the past, at the Tibetan border, there was a massive signpost which stated: 'You are under enemy observation now'. This has now been replaced by a board which proudly states: 'Please come here. We are very good friends'.

1956 was not the last time I saw Tibet. I have gone back several times. And will again. The only difference is that back then, in 1956, it was Tibet; now it is China.

Preface to This Editionvii
Preface to the Original Editionxi
A Farewell to My Roots1
On the Way26
A Tibetan Family39
The City of Yatung and Dungkar Gumpha44
Phari51
A Nocturnal Journey57
Kiangphu Gumpha and Lama Tshering Jong63
To Gyatse65
On the Eternal Pilgrimage74
The Pilgrims' First Offering77
Meditation on the Arya Tara89
From Gyatse to Samding Gumpha100
The Dorje Pamo109
The Language113
My First Glimpse of the Sangpo115
The Chaksam Gumpha116
On the Threshold123
The Drepung Gumpha125
Lamas and Learning131
A Tibetan Tale: History and Faith134
Lhasa and Jokhang, the Core Temple 140
Lhasa148
Potala, the Royal Palace151
Lama Lamdup161
Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's Summer Palace 164
The Dalai Lama167
Lhasa: The Last Days175
Gearing Up for Kailashnath179
In Search of the Route to Kailash184
The Exorcist of Sangpo185
A Night of Terror193
Strangers Become Friends196
Shigatse198
The Panchen Lama203
On the Way to Kailash206
The Sage of Pasaguk210
Tradum217
At the End of My Tether225
A Few More Steps to Heaven228
Heaven, at Last233
My First Night at Mansarovar238
Kailashnath246
Kailash Baba254
Tibet's Eternal Flame: Milarepa267
Afterword: Lhasa Once More in the New Millennium279

The Last Time I Saw Tibet

Item Code:
IDI794
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2007
Publisher:
ISBN:
0143101242
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7.7" X 5.0
Pages:
350
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The Last Time I Saw Tibet

Bimal Dey was born in 1940 in Kolkata. He travelled to Tibet on foot in 1956, at the age of sixteen; this journey is the subject of his travelogue The Last Time I Saw Tibet. From 1967 to 1972, he undertook a 230,000 kilometre journey around the world on an ordinary bicycle. He has also been to the Arctic Circle and Antarctica a number of time. A yoga teacher of repute, he lives in France and is associated with a number of social welfare projects in Africa and in India.

Malobika Chaudhuri runs Mono Translation Bureau, a multilingual translation agency, in Kolkata, she has translated several novels of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay for Penguin.

Back Of The Book

Bitten by wanderlust at a young age, Bimal Dey has travelled the world, including the Arctic and Antarctica. But it's his journey across Tibet, from Gangtok to Lhasa and Mansarovar when he was a teenager, that holds a special place in his heart. The Last Time I Saw Tibet recounts his adventures during this trip in 1956: a time when Sikkim was not yet part of India, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama still ruled in Tibet although Chinese presence was marked, and Indians were not banned from travelling there.

Ordained as a Buddhist monk by his Guruji just before the start of the journey (only lamas can stay in monasteries), posing as one who had taken a vow of silence (he did not know enough Tibetan to convince the Chinese authorities). Day trekked across the Nathu La pass, Chumbi valley and the Sangpo river along with an intrepid band of lamas, before reaching Lhasa, or Hla-Sa (abode of he gods'), many months later.

He visited the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka, the summer palace, was witness to the grandeur of the Potala royal palace where the Dalai Lama resided, and even had an audience with His Holiness. From Lhasa, the author trekked on his own to Kailashnath and Mansarovar, the holiest of pilgrimages for any Hindu. During his journey, he encountered the deep generosity of the local people, made friends among ascetics and mendicants, and the awe-inspiring majesty of the Himalayas brought with it a true understanding of spirituality and faith.

Many years later, in the eighties, the author would have the privilege of visiting Mansarovar twice, but he always hankered to travel alone across Tibet, a wish that was eventually granted by the Chinese authorities only at the cusp of the new millennium. This time he saw the ravages of the Chinese occupation in Lhasa, a slow decimation of the Tibetan culture across the countryside, which convinced him that ever more visitors is one way of keeping alive Tibet and its rich and unique traditions.

Preface To This Edition

In The 1981 preface to The Last Time I Saw Tibet I had written: 'I 1956, the doors to Tibet were almost closed to foreigners, most certainly to Indians…Somehow, that year, the government of Nepal managed to obtain permission from the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu for a group of pilgrims to travel into Tibet…Later I heard that that group of ours was the last group of pilgrims that was allowed in. it was the last time that I-or any of us-were to see Tibet.'

I has also written: 'Since 1958 Tibet became virtually inaccessible. But I have been praying for the situation to change. The doors to heaven cannot under any circumstance be barred; every human being has the right to go on a pilgrimage of Kailash-the Almighty is not the particular property of any country. Kailash is a holy pilgrimage site for all of humanity.'

My prayers have been granted-the path to Kailash has once again been opened. In the past few years almost fifteen thousand pilgrims from India have travelled to Tibet. They have circumambulated Kailash and bathed in the holy waters of the Mansarovar. For this I and thousands of pilgrims and those with wanderlust offer our heartfelt gratitude and respect to the Indian and Chinese governments.

On 6 July 2006, my joy knew no bounds. That day, in Gangtok, Pawan Kumar Chamling, the chief minister of Sikkim, announced the reopening of the Nathu La pass. Nathu La! The name resounds across the continents, and every cell in my body reverberates with a strange thrill. Finally, the ancient link between two great nations-India and China-has been re-established.

The Nathu la pass is of historical importance. In ancient times this was part of the Silk Route. Of course in the course of time the Silk Route has changed its path a number of times. But the basic route lay from Europe, particularly Venice, through Tehran or Istanbul (in olden times its name was Constantinople) and other ancient cities like Samarhand and Tashkent, to Lhasa, and through the Nathu La pass to Siliguri and Kolkata. Many foreigners believe that the Nathu La pass was the gateway to the Silk Route for the Mongols between Gangtok and Lhasa. For us, however, it is much more: it is the gateway to the original route to the ultimate pilgrimage of all, to Kailash and Mansarovar.

A separate visa is not granted for going to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, from India via Kailash and Mansarovar since it is not on the route. Pilgrims to Kailash travel from Nainital or Almora to Lipulake and taklakot and take the Gurla pass to reach Mansarovar and Kailash. But one can reach Lhasa directly from Nathu La by following the course of the Brahmaputra river. One has to go to Nathu La via Gangtok. From Kolkata the Nathu La pass is 550 km and from Lhasa, it is 460 km; it is at a height of 14,910 ft (4545m).

Nathu La was the border post between India and China on the ancient Silk Route. Local people call it the Dalai Lama's path because this is the route he took when he fame as refugee to India. Nathu La is called Yadu on the Tibet side. The people there refer to it as a salt route. This is because sea salt would reach Lhasa from Midnapore along this route.

This historic Nathu La pass has reopened now, and can there be greater cause for happiness than this? For me, this is the pilgrimage route to Jokhang and Potala.

For the past few decades I have been wandering all over the world. I have seen that human society exists through a process of creation, destruction and renewal. No border of any country is permanent. There have been far-reaching changes in so many parts of the world. Humanity was divided and a wall constructed through the middle of a city in Germany; but this Berlin Wall was also destroyed, without bloodshed, thanks to the combined onslaught of humanity. In Europe many countries have united now, as had happened with the states in America. At the other end of the world, the Palestinian Wall had been constructed and then broken. While moving along, this what I have realized-mankind as a whole wants amity, peace and unity. When all seek the same effects, it is then that there can be a sense of true freedom. That is what is known as global harmony.

It is in the spirit of harmony that India and China have today united at the Nathu La pass. In the past, at the Tibetan border, there was a massive signpost which stated: 'You are under enemy observation now'. This has now been replaced by a board which proudly states: 'Please come here. We are very good friends'.

1956 was not the last time I saw Tibet. I have gone back several times. And will again. The only difference is that back then, in 1956, it was Tibet; now it is China.

Preface to This Editionvii
Preface to the Original Editionxi
A Farewell to My Roots1
On the Way26
A Tibetan Family39
The City of Yatung and Dungkar Gumpha44
Phari51
A Nocturnal Journey57
Kiangphu Gumpha and Lama Tshering Jong63
To Gyatse65
On the Eternal Pilgrimage74
The Pilgrims' First Offering77
Meditation on the Arya Tara89
From Gyatse to Samding Gumpha100
The Dorje Pamo109
The Language113
My First Glimpse of the Sangpo115
The Chaksam Gumpha116
On the Threshold123
The Drepung Gumpha125
Lamas and Learning131
A Tibetan Tale: History and Faith134
Lhasa and Jokhang, the Core Temple 140
Lhasa148
Potala, the Royal Palace151
Lama Lamdup161
Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's Summer Palace 164
The Dalai Lama167
Lhasa: The Last Days175
Gearing Up for Kailashnath179
In Search of the Route to Kailash184
The Exorcist of Sangpo185
A Night of Terror193
Strangers Become Friends196
Shigatse198
The Panchen Lama203
On the Way to Kailash206
The Sage of Pasaguk210
Tradum217
At the End of My Tether225
A Few More Steps to Heaven228
Heaven, at Last233
My First Night at Mansarovar238
Kailashnath246
Kailash Baba254
Tibet's Eternal Flame: Milarepa267
Afterword: Lhasa Once More in the New Millennium279
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