Damba Darjaa, a Buddhist monk from Inner
Mongolia, spoke at the Sunday@Sunset lecture series of
Earthville Network , about his motherland which has
been ruled by the People's Republic of China for 53 years in
the year 2000. This is the longest period of Chinese rule
among all the non-Chinese territories annexed by the PRC.
----- Translated and compiled by Dugar Gyab
As you all may already know, the people of the
Mongol nation, who have been living in the northern part of
Asia, became strong in the 13th century under the leadership
of Chinggis Khan. And further, the Mongols were reknowned in
the world. The social condition then was, unlike nowadays,
that science and technology were not developed. To develop a
guarantee peace, they had to rely mainly on the military, and
in those days, the mounted army was the most advanced type of
military force. The Mongols have always been nomadic people,
and they owned numerous horses. This and the nomadic lifestyle
itself, created very good conditions for the Mongols to
develop themselves into a strong nation with one of the
strongest armies in the world.
After they advanced militarily, and guaranteed
peace and development within their own country, it became
necessary to have peaceful neighbors: to create a peaceful
atmosphere to live together peacefully. For this, they needed
to establish friendly relations with China - the closest
neighbor geographically. The Mongols actively attempted to
gain friendship of China and Russia for a long time. According
to the history of those days, the offer by Mongols to
establish a friendly relationship with China wasn't accepted
by the then rulers of China. Thus came the countless fighting
between the two. However, the Mongol rulers those days were
seemingly a bit too proud of their military might. From my own
point of view, perhaps the Mongols were too cruel and
oppressive to the people of China. For this I personally feel
From the end of the 13th century, the Mongols
started becoming interested in Buddhism, first of all, Tibetan
Buddhism. One of the most important concepts in Buddhism is
compassion. So after the Mongols converted into Buddhism, the
teachings about compassion definitely influenced people's
minds. With the wide spread of Buddhism in Mongolia, violence
and fighting have naturally and gradually decreased.
In my personal opinion, about this part of
Mongol history, I would like to make two conclusions: One, as
far as politics is concerned, that [the beginning of the
spread of Buddhism in Mongolia] was the beginning of the
decline of this nation; and two, as far as religion is
concerned, the Mongols accepted Buddhism and this helped them
to lead a peaceful life rather than fighting all the time.
This is the positive side.
The above was a brief description of the most
important period of Mongol history. Up to this century,
Mongols were basically living like this. They accepted
Buddhism during this period, Buddhism widely spread in
Mongolia, and this had been a lot of help to Tibetans. The
Third Dalai Lama visited Mongolia, and a friendly relation
between Mongolia and Tibet was established. I feel proud that,
even today, the Mongol word "Dalai" is known to the world as
the title of the spiritual leader of Tibet.
While Buddhism was spreading in Mongolia, China
and Russia gradually became strong countries. After the peak
time of the Mongols as a strong nation had passed, Communism
was being introduced into both Russia and China, and they have
been looking for chances to eliminate Mongolia as a country.
Their methods were, first to divide their land, and to destroy
their religion and culture. With the two great powers working
together as the challengers, Mongolia was gradually divided.
On this issue, there is the responsibility of religion, and
there are historical and geographical strategic reasons as
well for the Chinese and the Russians to be succeeded. The
result nowadays is that, within Russia, there are three parts
of Mongolian territories, and all are divided into different
parts and different administrative regions, like the Republics
of Buryatia, Republic of Kalmykia and Tuva. And within China
is the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region which has already lost
some of its own territory. Those were cut off from the Mongol
region and annexed into some other native Chinese provinces.
So all of Mongolia is already being divided into at least six
or seven different parts. And there is an independent country
which is called Mongolia nowadays. It is the only part of
which of course does not control the whole territory of
Mongolia. And what we're calling Mongolia here doesn't include
territories that were conquered by the Mongols in 13th
century, but is the real, the original Mongol territory.
Since about 1947, Inner Mongolia, the same as
Tibet and Eastern Turkestan, has been subjected to the control
of China for more than 50 years. The present situation is that
they have lost almost all their religion, customs, and other
type of cultural identity.
The same as the other ethnic minorities, who
are also under the Chinese rule, the Mongols in Inner Mongolia
have been suffering for decades. To take one example, during
the Cultural Revolution, they used a name "the case of Inner
Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party" to eliminate
intellectuals, leaders and people who cared and loved their
nation. Even according to the official Chinese source, there
were 16,222 people were executed. But according to independent
researches, the figure should at least be about 150,000.
By experiencing this campaign, the Mongol
nation in Inner Mongolia was largely weakened, and merely the
name was left. Religion was forbidden. As Mongols we weren't
allowed to study our own language and writing, instead
everything should be done in Chinese. As myself an example,
when I was young, and started going to school, I had to study
About 30 years of tremendous suffering went by
like this. Starting from 1979, Chinese policies had some
changes and they allowed the ethnic minorities to study their
own languages. By then I had been in school for nine years.
So, as soon as it became possible to study Mongolian, I
started from the lower grades with little children to study
Time was passing by like this. As a Mongolian,
I determined to study my own language very well, to be able to
speak, read and write well. Although I felt grateful for
getting the chance, in fact I ended up speaking Mongolian with
a Chinese accent. Even today, although I speak and write in
Mongolian, I am not able to do it at a really standard and
satisfactory level. In 1989, when I was studying in Beijing,
my Chinese friends asked me why, as a Mongolian, I write so
well in Chinese. My answer was that this is thanks to "Our
Party" who forced me to study only Chinese.
While I was in school, in our text books, there
was nothing about Mongolian history. History lessons were all
about Chinese history and was translated from the Chinese
language into Mongolian. We had to study it. Because I receive
this kind of education, although I'm a Mongolian, until now I
have not been very knowledgeable of my nation, its history,
people and culture. When I was in school, we were supposed to
be against the religion. We were taught in school that
religion is a tool to make fools of people and to exploit the
In 1983, I traveled to some places including
Beijing and Wutaishan. In Wutaishan, which is the most
important Chinese Buddhist site, I met an eighty four year-old
monk. As soon as I saw the old monk, I had a strangely
pleasant feeling and an urge to talk to him. So I went to talk
to the monk and asked him questions about Buddhism, and asked
him how come he spent the whole of his life in such a useless
way. Then the old monk told me what now turned to be the most
basic things about Buddhism in a very comprehensive way. In
the end, the old monk told me something that deeply impressed
me. He repeated that I am a young man, so I should remember
his words. The words were: "Religion is to help sentient
beings. Even if it cannot help, it wouldn't do harm." It was
this one word that made me to be a monk and to wear this robe.
By then, I was already about twenty. Looking at
society, between individuals there are always conflicts. In my
observation, as a human being, rather than spending a life
with meaningless fighting and conflicts, it would seem better
if you could spend it with smiles.
I went to Wutaishan for the second time to
become a monk. After becoming a monk, I had new problems,
because as a Mongolian, in order to be a Buddhist monk, one
must learn Tibetan first. So again, same as I studied
Mongolian, I went back to study Tibetan with small children,
starting from the beginning. Then in Wutaishan, there were
only a few people who knew Tibetan. Therefore, in 1986, I came
to Lhasa to study in a monastery.
In Lhasa, because I didn't speak Tibetan, when
I went shopping at the Barkor, I spoke Chinese to the
Tibetans. I noticed that the Tibetans were upset with me
because I spoke Chinese. They pointed out that they find it
strange that I speak in Chinese while I'm a monk.
These words helped me a lot. From that point, I
started studying Tibetan hard. I came to speak Tibetan almost
the same as Tibetans. Because my physical feature is like a
Kampa, most Tibetans mistook me for a Kampa. Because my accent
is that of Lhasa, so they also mistook me as from Lhasa.
Mongolia is relatively near Amdo, so I also told them that I'm
an Amdo. So I contain features of all three regions of Tibet
Two years passed very well like this. At the
time my plan was to continue my study like that. But it did
not last long. On 29 September, 1987, there was a big
demonstration in Lhasa. At the time, I was there and I also
joined in it.
After the demonstrations, soon Chinese
officials they started carrying out "education" on us. They
told me that because I did not belong to theTibet Autonomous
Region, I should leave Tibet for my own region, and they
kicked me out.
Being kicked out from Tibet, I went back home
and then Wutaishan. And while I was staying in Wutaishan, one
day the Buddhist school that the late Panchen Lama opened in
Beijing accepted me a student. It was 1989. I went to
to study. We Mongols regard the Dalai and Panchen lamas the
most superior, as the greatest lamas. As such an ordinary man
as myself, to be accepted to the school that the Panchen Lama
founded, gave me such great delight that I cannot describe.
Only a few days after my arrival in Beijing,
the student movement had started. Although I didn't join in
it, I was curious and went there to see it everyday. After
continuing for about a month, one night we heard gun shots.
Because it was at night, we didn't know how many were killed
and how. But when we went out after a few days, we saw bullet
holes on the walls of buildings that surrounded the site of
the demonstrations. Many parts in the walls appeared dark.
From 1989 to 1990, for one year, I stayed in
the school, and studied with many important rinpoches from
Tibet. My level of learning wasn't high enough to be studying
together with those rinpoches. But the one year of study left
me the impression that there is no end to learning. I wanted
to continue my Buddhist study further, but could not do it in
Wutaishan. Not in Amdo region. Nor Kam or Lhasa. So, in the
end came the decision to come to India.
I arrived to Dharamsala on the 25th of October,
1990. From the name Dharamsala, I was assuming it a very big
place. The reason is, when I was in Lhasa, my Tibetan friends
sometimes would invite me to their homes and would show me
video tapes of the Dalai Lama's speech. And they told me a lot
about the Tibetan situation outside Tibet. So I had some
knowledge of Dharamsala before I came here. But getting off
the bus in Mcleod Ganj, I could not believe this is Dharamsala.
It was such a tiny place, and I was feeling strange. After a
few days, along with Tibetans, I went to see His Holiness.
After the Dalai Lama gave a speech for about ten minutes, he
received people one by one, asking each some questions. When
it was my turn, I told him that I'm Mongolian, and the Dalai
Lama shook my hand and was very pleased.
His Holiness has been very kind to me. He told
me that I'm the first Mongolian from the Chinese-controlled
Mongol region. Therefore, he told me, that I should let him
know without hesitation, if I have any difficulties, and he
would do his best to help me. In fact, help or no help, it
wasn't really necessary, since the Tibetan government has been
helping me. From my personal history, when I was younger, I
never even dreamed that I would one day meet either the Dalai
or the Panchen lamas. I especially never expected this much
privilege that when I came to India the Dalai Lama would shake
hands with me, welcoming me so warmly and being so kind to me.
Even today I feel that it was the happiest moment in my life.
During the ten years in this country, I was
called by His Holiness twice to his palace to talk to him. He
inquired in my life, study and everything else. From my
personal side, I was very grateful. From religious side,
initially, I counted myself very fortunate. But when I thought
deeper, then I concluded it that it is not only my own
fortune, but that His Holiness is concerned with the four
million Mongols who are under the Chinese regime, leads to his
kindness to me.
While being blessed by His Holiness, I had a
picture of myself shaking hands with His Holiness. I sent home
a copy of the photograph. I couldn't send it directly, so I
managed to send it to my Chinese friends to pass it on. Later
I heard that my parents and relatives were very delighted at
seeing the photograph and they even went on to celebrate it
After that, the Chinese police found out about
it and came to know that I escaped to India. So they carried
out an investigation on me by sending a policeman from Beijing
to Lhasa to gather information on me, as I later heard. After
this incident, it brought a lot of trouble for my relatives.
After my younger brother finished his school, they didn't
allow him to get a job. When he tried to study in Japan on his
own expense, they wouldn't let him. And he's still in this
kind of difficult situation up to now.
When we compare the situation of Inner Mongolia
with that of Tibet, the Tibet situation is that the Dalai Lama
is outside in exile, and so many Tibetans managed to get out
and are living abroad. There is a considerable degree of
support from the international community, and there is always
mention of the Tibet issue. Therefore the Chinese are not
really being as harsh on Tibet as they might want to be. As
for Inner Mongolia, although there is an independent Mongol
state to the north of it, they are afraid of the Chinese, and
if we escaped to the independent Mongolia, they would catch us
and would extradite us to the Chinese. The situation with
China today is that the government is most afraid that the
ethnic minorities, namely Inner Mongols, Uighurs, and
Tibetans, would unite and rebel together. Historically, the
Mongols are close to the Tibetans. Therefore, the Chinese
rulers today are also very wary of the possible new contacts
between the Mongolian and Tibetan freedom struggles. I'm the
first Mongolian to come here from that part of Mongolia.
Therefore the Chinese are determined to be tough on this first
example, and this is the reason why they are doing all these
things to my relatives.
This was the basic situation in my homeland
Inner Mongolia based on my own experience. I just came here
for a few days, and was informed about this talk only after I
arrived. I am very happy to get this opportunity at this place
to speak about my country to this many people. I appreciate
your time and attention. Thank you.
Whenever I see people like you who are from the
free countries, there grows deep in my heart an admiration.
The reason is that, not just Inner Mongolia, not just Tibet,
but in our wholr world today, there are many people who are
suffering for different reasons, being oppressed because of
religion and politics and so on. I always wish that all these
people be freed from whatever their sufferings are.