Offerings of Light – In Memory of Tibetan’s Hero Martyrs

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Exactly three years ago, February 27, 2009, a young Tibetan monk named Tapey left Kirti Monastery and walked to the crossroads of the market in the town of Amdo. He had showered his body in oil, lit a match, and set himself aflame as he waved the Tibetan flag with a photo of the Dalai Lama on it. His was the first Tibetan sacrifice – an expression of spiritual courage, a cry against decades of unendurable oppression, a plea for recognition and assistance from the world. The Chinese call these brave souls terrorists.

Buddhism emphasizes the preciousness of human life and the karmic weight the destruction of life carries in future rebirths. However, sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of others is also acknowledged as an act of compassion. I recently watched the movie “Joan of Arc,” with Ingrid Bergman, and immediately thought of these Tibetan martyrs. Below is the poem that came from these juxtapositions in my mind.

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Offerings of Light

Flames flood flesh
searing pain
soon ends.

She cried out “Jesus”
they shout “Dalai Lama.”

Centuries separate martyrs.
She burned on a pyre.
They burn in squares, at crossroads.
An executioner lashed her to a cross
set the wood aflame.
They anoint their bodies in oil
light the matches themselves.

Their bodies tantric offerings.
Towers of fire
blaze with defiance
suffering of spirt
cannot be endured.

St. Joan, French young woman
responded to voices she alone heard.
Fought oppressors of her people
refused to deny her spiritual guides.

Tapey, Tibetan young man
waved his country’s  flag
with the Dalai Lama’s photo
first to set himself aflame.

Near 20 human candles
lit in three years.
January 2012 Sobha Tulku,
“I give my body
an offering of light
to chase away darkness
to free all beings
from suffering.”

Light offerings of death
to terminate tortured humiliation
to stop sacred sites’ desecration
to end environmental decimation.

Will worlds remain silent
while sons and daughters of the land
take the ultimate stand?

Remember their names
Tapey, Tengyi Phuntsog, Lobsang Kalsong
Dawa Tsering, Kayang
Tsewang Norbu, Sobhu Tulku
Lobsang Kachok, Kelsang Wangchuk
Choepel, Norbu Damdrul
Tenzin Wangmo, Palden Choetso
Tenzin Phuntson, Tsultrim.

Centuries ago
Joan’s body became a beacon of hope
for the French against English dominion.
Now Tibetan monks and nuns
light a path through the
darkness of China’s nefarious night.

With bodhicitta motivation
compassionate wish
to relieve pain
of sentient beings
their flames are alchemy
transforming tyranny
into freedom’s equanimity

2 Comments on “Offerings of Light – In Memory of Tibetan’s Hero Martyrs”

  1. Skywalker,
    I’m really trying to wrap my mind around the message of your poem; however, I have to admit it’s not easy for me. I like you even though we’ve never met, and the fact that we have different worldviews does not dimenish that fact. I hope to get to know you and understand your work better. Jackie

    • Jackie – This poem is about the young people in Tibet who have sacrificed their lives, by burning themselves, to protest the oppression and torture they suffer under the Chinese. I compare their sacrifice to that of Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake for hearing saints and God talk to her and for defending the rights of the French people against the oppression of the English. Hope that clears things ups a bit.

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