Who doesn’t like seeing a monk on the street?

With their big smiles, flowing robes and peaceful way of life, monks are a refreshing reminder of goodness in our world.

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Tibet has an Indian Postal Code ::: McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala

A sleepy little town in Himachal Pradesh, McLeod Ganj feels more like Tibet than India. Streets are lined with Tibetan prayer flags, momos are served in place of samosas and getting a good thali is nearly impossible.

Monk robes dry along with Indian pants, shirts and other clothes by the Bhagsu waterfall in Dharamasala
Monk robes dry along with Indian pants, shirts and other clothes by the Bhagsu waterfall in Dharamasala
A monk field trip beneath to check out the Himalayas by Naddi in McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala, India
A monk field trip beneath to check out the Himalayas by Naddi in McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala, India

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Also known as Little Lhasa, after the capital city of Tibet, McLeod Ganj is home to thousands of Tibetan refugees including His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

A GOOD READ: the story of my visit to the Dalai Lama’s home and compound

From the bustling downtown of Dharamasala City all the way up to Bhagsu, Naddi, Daramkot and beyond, monk-sightings are a part of daily life. Dressed in deep red robes, it’s not uncommon to find a shaved head sitting in an internet café, sipping tea or taking photos of their surroundings on an iPhone.

My personal favorite monk sighting, and by favorite I mean most odd/disturbing, was in a video game café in McLeod Ganj, India. As you can see from the photo below, guns were blazing as a couple of teenage monks shot their enemies in an X-box war game.

Is it just me, or is there something a bit wrong about Tibetan monks in robes playing a war video game
Is it just me, or is there something a bit wrong about Tibetan monks in robes playing a war video game

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

The Sad History of Tibetan Monks in McLeod Ganj, India

Looking around town, it seems as if the monks of McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala, are at home in their Indian digs. While that may be true, the sad reality is that these Tibetan monks are living in exile, following the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959.

A pro-Tibet sign, just outside the Dalia Lama compound in McLeod Ganj, India
A pro-Tibet sign, just outside the Dalia Lama compound in McLeod Ganj, India
Monks studying at the Dalai Lama Complex in McLeod Ganj, India
Monks studying at the Dalai Lama Complex in McLeod Ganj, India

Before visiting McLeod Ganj and the Tibet Museum outside the Dalai Lama Complex, I honestly knew very little about the atrocities committed against the Tibetan people. Now, I want to share that knowledge.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

I love when I have a photo all framed to go, then a Tibetan monk walks into the shot and makes it infinitely more interesting --- Upper Bhagsu, McLeod Ganj
I love when I have a photo all framed to go, then a Tibetan monk walks into the shot and makes it infinitely more interesting — Upper Bhagsu, McLeod Ganj

“Human rights abuses documented in Tibet include the deprivation of life, disappearances, torture, poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, denial of fair public trial, denial of freedom of speech and of press and Internet freedoms. They also include political and religious repression, forced abortions, sterilisation, and even infanticide.

According to a UN report regarding the adoption of its Tibetan resolution in 1965, ‘The Chinese occupation of Tibet has been characterised by acts of murder, rape and arbitrary imprisonment; torture and cruel, inhuman and degraded treatment of Tibetans on a large scale.’”

Then there’s the genocide. According to a Tibetan Government in Exile census, more than 1.2 million people have been murdered since 1959: a figure that is challenged by the Chinese government. ~info courtesy of Wikipedia

 / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Self-Immolation & Free Tibet Signs Everywhere

In protest of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, it’s common for monks to light themselves on fire to draw media attention towards the cause. These acts of martyrdom are documented all over McLeod Ganj, India, on large posters, banners and signs.

Eight (of thousands) monks who have given their lives via self-immolation to bring about greater awareness of the injustices taking place in Tibet by China
Eight (of thousands) monks who have given their lives via self-immolation to bring about greater awareness of the injustices taking place in Tibet by China

Personally, I don’t really know how much good monks lighting themselves on fire does: considering that the occupation has been going on for 50+ years with no signs of ending.

It's tough to avoid the images of monks on fire in McLeod Ganj, as the signs are everywhere...like this one next to the Dalai Lama compound and behind a street food vendor
It’s tough to avoid the images of monks on fire in McLeod Ganj, as the signs are everywhere…like this one next to the Dalai Lama compound and behind a street food vendor

Still, I do respect the spriti of resistance that the Tibetan people embody and truly do hope to one day visit a free Tibet!

  / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Free Tibet --- and dry some pants by the Bhagsu Waterfall in Dharamasala, India
Free Tibet — and dry some pants by the Bhagsu Waterfall in Dharamasala, India
Monks working on sand mandalas at the Dalia Lama Complex in McLeod Ganj, India
Monks working on sand mandalas at the Dalia Lama Complex in McLeod Ganj, India

:: For More Information… ::::::::::

To learn more about the history of China in Tibet, I encourage you to visit the below sites:

Counterpoint: Because life is never one-sided, here’s an interesting look at the Tibetan occupation from the Chinese Government’s POV

 / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

If you do find yourself in McLeod Ganj, be sure to visit the Tibet Museum, just outside the Dalai Lama’s compound. In front, you will find this final image: a memorial to Tibetan martyrs.

Tibetan National Martyrs' Memorial - Outside the Dalia Lama Complex, McLeod Ganj
Tibetan National Martyrs’ Memorial – Outside the Dalia Lama Complex, McLeod Ganj

Thoughts?
Reactions?
Outrage?
Share & Discuss…

Share the Journey

  • Sheila

    Greg,
    What an enlightening journey you are having.  I have known about the Tibetan monks and their plight.  Thank you for sharing your adventures, your thoughts and your photos. Hope you stay well and return home with lots of great stories and memories.  Regards to Carrie.  Sheila

    • http://www.AdventuresofaGoodMan.com Greg Goodman

      Hi Sheila. So great to hear from you! It really is an enlightening journey. Also, an exciting, frustrating, educational and inspirational one full of heaps of personal growth and stretching my comfort zone :)

      So glad you’ve been able to join us virtually…that’s the real reason that I send out these posts.

      Hope all is well on the 10044!

  • http://journals.worldnomads.com/flyingpiglet Gill Winter

    Hi Greg
    I really enjoyed this page of photos from McLeod Ganj. You must have been there at around the same time that I was. I spent from March to June teaching English at Tibet Charity (my second stint of teaching), and was there when Jamphel Yeshi set himself on fire in Delhi. A situation which has been very difficult and sad for the Tibetans (who are an amazingly resilient and positive people, generally) has become much worse in the last 2 years with the epidemic of self-immolations and China’s response (brutal within Tibet, uncaring as regards the international response.)
    NB After my first time in Dharamshala I wrote a book “Between Monks and Monkeys” about my experiences. It’s available as an e-book on Kindle etc, or as a paperback – contact me via the website address if you are interested.
    Thanks once again for your photos and comments. I hope to go back to McLo next year – your pics made me want to set off at once! Gill

    • http://www.AdventuresofaGoodMan.com Greg Goodman

      Hi Gil,
      Thanks so much for your kind and beautiful words. Yes, we were there at the same time. I wonder if we ever passed each other on the street and didn’t know it. I would say there’s a very real chance it happened. And now, off to look at your Web site. Have a beautiful day!