Traveling Tibet

Tibet- The truth behind the occupation, my personal letter to Dalai Lama

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Tibet has been in my bucket list to visit for many years, and recently I finally got the chance to get my permit to visit. I expect to find a beautiful country, with an amazing culture to discover and incredible people. I was right. What I didn't expect is that learning about the truth behind the occupation in Tibet would touch my heart and the best way to overcome it, was to write a love letter to your Holiness Dalai Lama.

Tibet - The truth behind the occupation

It was a cold morning in Tibet, sitting at the hotel restaurant and having my early morning breakfast with my Tibetan friend – plain toast, a piece of apple and tsampa.

My mind was spinning with so much joy for being in Tibet, but also, overwhelmed for everything I had learned and seen in the past few days visiting Lhasa.

A few days taught me lessons of a lifetime and made me appreciate the opportunity to see the planet and to meet wonderful people who can share their stories, their lives and their experiences with me.

One of the lessons I learned is that Tibetan are among the most devoted religious people I’ve ever met in my life, and their relationship of love and adoration to their spiritual guide, the Dalai Lama, is the most beautiful and genuine feeling.

Before I headed back to the airport to continue my trip in Nepal, I had one last question for my Tibetan friend: – “If I have the chance to meet “His Holiness” what message would you like me to tell him?”

He seemed surprised by my question, but he didn’t hesitate to lean his body towards me and whisper his answer in my ear.

His answer was simple, with only a few words, but with such strong feelings of hope and also sorrow, that it brought me to tears.

I know that most likely I won’t have the chance to meet Dalai Lama in person, but I could, at least, write him a compassionate letter and hoping that when you read this, you can have a better understanding of the truth behind the occupation and the same sense of compassion and respect for the wonderful people of Tibet.

Tibet the truth behind the occupation Potala Palace
Potala Palace in Lhasa, official Dalai Lama residence

Your Holiness Day Lama the 14th

Just recently, I had the honor to visit your dear country, Tibet, and I am very pleased to share with you what I have seen, what my experiences were and how it made me feel. As a curious world traveler, who always dreamed of going to Tibet, today I understood deep inside that I had a purpose for visiting Tibet.

I want to start by saying that what I found in Tibet was a beautiful country, with beautiful people that hold an incredible religious devotion. I have traveled to over 40 countries in my life, and what I saw in Tibet, I have not found in any other place in the world.

The people in Tibet are the most friendly, kind, and giving people I have ever seen. I also like to describe the people of Tibet, as faces a of Strong Spirit.

Their devotion are stronger than I could imagine possible. At times I was brought to tears watching the demonstration of faith, which is passed on through generations. I could see the children following the religious beliefs of their parents and grandparents.

The truth behind the occupation in Tibet can be seen on the kids
The devotion passes through generations
Children praying Jokhang Temple Tibet
Kids praying outside Jokhang Temple

This is when I started to see the truth behind the opression in Tibet

The few temples and monasteries that remain are peaceful places that hold a rich history and are still treated as holy sites by your people. I visited many of these places in Lhasa, and I was introduced to the Dalai Lamas 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….all the way to the 13th. This is when history starts to change, and we were not told anything further.

This is when I started to understand that your people are treated as prisoners inside their own country, and it is sad, and it broke my heart in so many ways.

I was told that a lot of things changed in Tibet since when Your Holiness had to leave, and your people are not allowed to talk about the 14th Dalai Lama or are not allowed to have any images, books or anything that mention your name. If they do, they can get in trouble.

But don’t worry, because your people have your image very alive in their minds and hearts. The fact that they cannot have your picture in their houses doesn’t change anything about how they feel about you. An image or a book are only material things. We can control material things, but we cannot control someone’s heart and mind; they are much bigger.

The Tibetan people are not allowed to have a passport, so they need to remain in their country and accept the lack of freedom.

If you work for the government, they do not allow you to go to temples, you must give up your faith and religious practice in order to keep your job. The government controls the religious in Tibet. 

The truth behind the occupation in Tibet
A women praying in the streets of Lhasa

Smile, you are on camera

Upon my arrival in Lhasa, I was told by my friend that the camera I could see on the dashboard of the car pointing at us was placed by the military and they were observing our behavior and monitoring our conversations. We would need to be cautious about what we could ask, and not ask any questions about religion and especially, the government. It made me feel so uncomfortable.

But that was only the first of many times I would feel like that in Tibet. At the same time that it made me feel sorry for the people of Tibet, it made me appreciate the freedom I have living in America.

The same freedom your beautiful people do not know under the current government.

Camera to monitor Tibet
The camera on the dashboard of the car used to monitor visitors

Also, what I could observe while I was visiting your country, were many cameras hanging everywhere in the city, just monitoring people. It really broke my heart to see the contrast of people praying and seeing the military standing by their sides, holding heavy guns and making sure they do not do anything to show resistance.

People just want to pray and show devotion and I cannot imagine they would need to be monitored for praying!

IMG_4917-2
In front of Potala Palace
in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet

Lessons for a Lifetime

In order to enter some of the streets, we had to go through a security area (just like the immigration at the airports) where they ask for your ID and scan your belongings and your body.

I learned that a few years ago a tourist shouted “Free Tibet” in that same area, so now they have the security system to make sure if it happens again, they will identify the person who is committing a similar “crime”.

When visiting the remaining temples, I could see some images were all-new, replacing the ones that were destroyed since the occupation in Tibet. Also, some books and some sections of the temples and monasteries were rebuilt using Tibetan’s donation money, and it is all possible because your people are so giving and they will donate the little that they may have.

I felt the lack of freedom too when my mind was spinning with questions that I wanted to ask in order to learn more about Tibet history, but I was not allowed to ask. I kept many questions without answers still with me. But just by observing the Tibetan people I could still learn a lot.

My wish was to see Tibet as a free land of beautiful smiles and strong spirit.

I wish you, Your Holiness could still be living among your people and sharing your teachings about love and compassion. I wish the world would be a peaceful place to live and that all the people would have the right to freedom.

The truth behind the occupation
IMG_4990

Before I left Tibet, I asked one last question to my Tibetan friend, and to be respectful, I said at the end of my question “You only answer if you can”.

My question was, “If I meet with Dalai Lama, what should be my message to him?” and the answer that brought me to tears was: “Please tell him we are all waiting for him to come back home and that we miss and love him” – so this is my mission through this letter, to deliver this simple, but powerful message from your people to you.

They really love and miss you, and Tibet is not the same without your leadership and teaching.

Your people wait for you, and their hope is still very alive inside their hearts. The lessons I learned after spending a few days in Tibet are that it doesn’t matter what is happening around you, how unfair things can be, or how they try to hurt you – be kind, have compassion and keep a smile on your face and your hopes alive.

These are lessons Your Holiness have taught all of us, and this is the legacy that each Tibetan holds in their hearts and minds for eternity.

Following your wise teaching, I still try so hard to understand the real reason for the Chinese occupation in Tibet and to fill my heart with compassion, while I control my mind from any feelings of anger.

I love our Planet and I am so grateful I am on my mission to explore and to connect with the amazing people of the world.

“I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness.  It is the practice of compassion” – Dalai Lama

 

With Regards,

Paula Martinelli

 

a woman in Tibet
a man in Tibet

WORDS OF COMPASSION BY DALAI LAMA WISE TEACHING

“From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. 

Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affects this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. 

I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars, and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. 

Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled.

If, however, they are not, these negative emotions will plague us - with no extra effort on their part! - and impede our quest for the happiness of a loving mind”

 

IMG_5140-3
IMG_5027-2

TIBETAN BUDDHIST PRAYER

May you be at peace,
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature.
May you be healed,
May you be a source of healing for all beings.

YOU CAN ALSO SUPPORT FREE TIBET

Free Tibet is an amazing organization working hard to raise awareness and fight for international recognition of Tibetan’s right to Freedom. They are entirely funded by  supporters across the world. Please join me to Free Tibet and support human rights for these amazing, beautiful and peaceful people.

"Tibet today is one of the most repressed and closed societies in the world"Senator Robert Menendez, Chair of US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 2012

China invaded Tibet in 1950. Inside its borders and across the world, Tibetans have never stopped believing Tibet is a nation. After more than 60 years of occupation, Tibetans still resist China's rule and defy its oppression.

 

WHERE NEXT?

My top picks to make your trip to Tibet the best experience

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Tibet Travel Guide

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Guidebook to Tibet

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Hi, I am Paula

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I'm a Brazilian native who calls U.S. home. A world traveler, adventure seeker, and an athlete who is always in search of authentic and real-life experiences.

I am passionate about cultural immersion, responsible traveling, and to empower people to live a Healthy Lifestyle.

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28 thoughts on “Tibet- The truth behind the occupation, my personal letter to Dalai Lama

  1. Beatriz Totzke says:

    Thanks for sharing such powerful experience! I will be honored to join the movement to freedom.
    Love heals and builds strength.
    Much love and blessings

  2. Sandra Modolin says:

    I agree with Beatriz! What a powerful and yet sad message. It makes me feel conflicted inside. I am not sure this will happen during our lifetime, but I do wish freedom for the people of Tibet.
    Thank you for sharing this with us and remain strong sharing these amazing experiences!

  3. Juliana Johnson says:

    This was very touching!
    Beutifully written! It opened my mind, heart and soul. I am ashamed to say I don’t know enough about the Dalai Lama’s teachings, but not too proud to recognize I have much to learn from it, and I am now inspired enough to learn more.
    So, thank you

  4. Maria Yanda says:

    A bitter sweet tale with incredible photos! Such contrast: the looming surveillance cameras and oppression vs the brilliant colors and kind faces of Tibet. A very complex history of power and greed and the people that have held on to their faith in spite of it. There is definitely something we can all learn from this! Thank you for sharing!

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Very beautiful description Maria of the contrasts in Tibet, and you are absolutely right. Tibet is an incredible beautiful country, the the Tibetan are the kindest and also the strongest people I have ever seen. Thank you!

  5. Brandy says:

    To use your freedom to speak for those who truly don’t have a voice is a beautiful gift, a blessing really. I pray that even one person who is in a position to change the religious oppression the kind,Tibetan people experience get ahold of your lovely letter. May Your travels continue to open peoples hearts and minds.

  6. Patricia says:

    Olá Paula, amei seu post…. muito esclarecedor e abre a mente para cultura para nos tão distante e desconhecida. Fico feliz que tenha sido tão corajosa em sua empreitada, destemida e exercitou sua curiosidade numa exploração consciente e inteligente. Parabéns!!!?

  7. Katy says:

    Hi Paula
    It was very interesting to read of your experience and you have taken some beautiful photos.
    You have described well the great sights and warmth of the Tibetan people and your Love Letter to the Dalai Lama is heartfelt and touching.
    I too visited Tibet last year; as with you I found it to be an incredible experience but also a deeply upsetting one.

    As tourists it is important to have an awareness of the background, history and context of the countries we visit. Following my visit to Tibet I have learnt so much more about the oppression, all pervasive surveillance, degradation of Tibetan culture/ language and the many Human Rights abuses since the occupation in 1950.
    I now support Free Tibet and am very keen that anyone intending to visit Tibet has access to as much information as possible on what life is like for the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. If we are not aware then there is the potential to be unknowingly subject to the ‘Disneyfication’ of Tibet.

    In your Free Tibet hyperlink box I was hoping that more information might be available on what the Free Tibet campaign is about and how people reading your blog might be able to learn more and support the campaign.

    It would really be appreciated if you could please add the following to your blog. Free Tibet is an amazing organisation working hard to raise awareness and fight for international recognition of Tibetan’s right to Freedom.

    https://www.freetibet.org/

    The following is also a short documentary film giving an overview of what life is like for Tibetans who live under China’s rule

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHdZMcmQoEx8K5yeUpajptA

    With thanks and very best wishes to you
    Katy

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Dear Katy – Thank you so much for taking your time to read my blog and for your extremely helpful feedback about Tibet. It is a powerful experience for anyone who is so blessed to visit Tibet and learn about the occupation, I and I have to share about what I saw and learned from this experience. I think about these people every single day of my life. You are right, I just added more detailed information about Free Tibet. They are amazing and so brave and we need to educate people about how everyone can help. Again, thank you so much!

      • Katy Delaney says:

        Thank you so much Paula.
        Like you, the Tibetan people are always in my thoughts and any opportunity to raise awareness is a chance to further the move towards a Free Tibet.
        Keep up the good work!
        Very best to you
        Katy Delaney

  8. Sangay tsering says:

    Thank you so much dear Paula Martinelli for showing a light on Tibetan in tibet, I don’t have words to express my gratitude for your support and the message that you brought from my fellow brother in Tibet to his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama filled my heart with hope and love. We’ll never stop our fight against CCP regime’ cruelty, suppression and genocide towards Tibetan until we succeed. With love and hope sangay tsering born and brought up in exile.

    • Paula Martinelli says:

      Your message brought a big smile on my face now, thank you! Seen the hope and faith alive in each Tibetan is unbelievable and amazing! Keep the love and hope alive, please. We are here with each one of you for a FREE TIBET!

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