Listen: Tibetan monk talks, Thupten Dadak left in 1959

Worldview’s Mike Maus interviews Thupten Dadak, founder of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. Dadak discusses the struggles of Tibetans in their homeland, the Dalai Lama, Buddhism, and immigrating to the U.S.

Dadak left Tibet in 1959, becoming the second Tibetan in Minneosta. He is a resident of Stillwater.


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THUPTEN DADAK: 1959, over 100,000 Tibetans escaped to India and Nepal.

SPEAKER: What about since then?

THUPTEN DADAK: Still there are few people can-- I mean, coming from Tibet. But it's very hard because once either-- both sides from Indian side or Chinese side, the [? founding ?] people coming to the border then they return to the China, give it to the Chinese. And then the Chinese put in prison or a lot of people are killed.

SPEAKER: Well now, there are Tibetan refugee camps in India?

THUPTEN DADAK: Yes. And in fact, we have Tibetan exile government under the direction of His Holiness Dalai Lama. And through that, we built [INAUDIBLE] organize our culturally and also religion, as those amongst who are here today. They have a monastery in India and also we have Tibetan own school in India and a lot of handicraft centers.

And I believe that Tibetan culture is very strongly live outside Tibet. There is no culture inside Tibet. It's totally under China. In fact, even Chinese control the bad controls, [? leather ?] injection to the Tibetan womens. And so, China is trying to do is stuff all Tibetan generation.


THUPTEN DADAK: Because there's one Tibetan born, they will keep Tibetan tradition, even as soon I think it was 87', 1987. They have a big demonstration, nonviolent demonstration, which is, the monks have no guns, no any weapons, just calling the name of His Holiness Dalai Lama or free Tibet, and killed 34 monks at that time.

And so the Chinese, even for 30 years, giving under control everything and teach Chinese culture. But still people in Tibet have a strongly attached to their own culture on leader. So Chinese are afraid of that.

SPEAKER: I'm talking on Worldview with Thupten Dadak of Stillwater. He's a founder of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. We've been talking a little bit about the Dalai Lama. How important is the Dalai Lama to Tibetans and why?

THUPTEN DADAK: What he fighting is for freedom for the people. And one time, I remember one of his message. He says, doesn't matter if Chinese people are very happy under Chinese. I'd be happy to go back [? Tibet ?] and live with-- under the China. Why am I fighting for freedom Tibet is, there is no freedom for my people in Tibet.

SPEAKER: Now, the Dalai Lama is, in addition to being a political leader, is a religious leader.

THUPTEN DADAK: Yes. He's religion and also political. And--

SPEAKER: Now, am I correct, the Dalai Lama is seen by Tibetans and other Buddhists as an incarnation of Buddha?


SPEAKER: Or as an incarnation of the Buddha.

THUPTEN DADAK: The Tibetan Buddhism believe he is a reincarnation of compassion Buddha. There-- in Buddhism there are one Buddha and then a lot of manifestations of that Buddha, some of compassion Buddha, some loving Buddha.

So Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of compassion Buddha. And also he's a leader of a 9 or 10 million Buddhists in the world.

SPEAKER: Tell me a little bit about the form of Buddhism or that the Dalai Lama is the leader of. Can you describe it for me? How is it different, for example, from Christianity or from Judaism?

THUPTEN DADAK: I don't know much about Christianity, how they believe. But just at my own experience, Christians believe there's a God, and God can do everything if you pray to them. And Buddhism is the founder of the Buddha. And we follow his teachings. And Buddha say, if you study, which I study, you will reach certain goal, certain point.

SPEAKER: Now, how is the tradition of what the Buddha said passed on?

THUPTEN DADAK: Buddha him-- self is a guide. He never say, I'm God and you follow me. He said, I am like a to guide. I will show you the road, which [INAUDIBLE] you going. And then you decide if it's right for you, then follow. And then you will get-- there is a nirvana, we call it, one certain stage. And then if you further enlightenment, which is himself is enlightened. So-- and it can be enlightened person, if you do right thing.

SPEAKER: Now, how important is chanting in Buddhism?

THUPTEN DADAK: Chanting is very important in, especially in Tibetan Buddhism. The chant is prayer and as well as its explanation of meditation. And so when the chant, the meditate sometime, and then the offering music is purified their negative speech.

We might say something to hurt somebody through by accidentally or through by your anger. So when you chant, it will purify your negativity for the speech. And then during the meditation, is obtaining that how I can control anger, attachment, jealous, and how I should be gain the compassion and love. Those all the method.

SPEAKER: You were a trained or studied chanting as part of your training in the monastery. Is that right?

THUPTEN DADAK: Yes. That's correct.

SPEAKER: Could you demonstrate the chanting for me, just a little bit, so that we have a sense of what it sounds like.

THUPTEN DADAK: I haven't done this almost six or seven years. But I like to try.



SPEAKER: When you do that, your face seems to reflect a little bit of the chant. There's a lot of concentration there. When you did that chant, what were you trying to do? What was its purpose?

THUPTEN DADAK: The purpose of this chantings are tantric teachings of Buddha. It is if somebody wants to learn tantric, has to be initiated. Actually, it keeps [? bended ?] the word to what they're chantings are because of-- there are no allowed to people can listen what the chanting is, to keep secret.

And so it's like the big sound is like a case. If you have beautiful camera, you need a case to protect that. Everything is done by the camera. But if you have a case that almost the voice is like a case. It makes a too nicely, if you look at it. Whoa, you can see this is expensive camera because looking at the case.

SPEAKER: And the voice kind of holds--

THUPTEN DADAK: Holds, yes.

SPEAKER: The thought and holds the spirit that you're trying to express?

THUPTEN DADAK: The camera is like your meditating to visualization of a certain deity or visualize your whatever the guru or Buddha. As that is the camera. The case is like the voice and then tune in a different-- to make like offering to pleasant, make the deities and also the listeners.

SPEAKER: Is it difficult to practice Buddhism in the United States?

THUPTEN DADAK: It's, I think, individual. People-- there are good practitioners, even in American. And then, if some people don't practice, if you-- even in a Buddhist society, you know. It's the same thing like here in Christian.

If you are not good Christian, doesn't matter where you are, you know. Same thing in Buddhism, I think.

SPEAKER: Do you ever feel alone? There are only two Tibetans in Minnesota right now.

THUPTEN DADAK: When I first came here in 1986, it felt kind of alone because of not knowing the culture and also the people so much, friends here around. And then 1988, the monks came here and I involved with the helping the tour.

And I went all over the America touring with the monks. And I met wonderful people. And then being in Minnesota and people became more and more friend. And so right now, I feel this is my second home.


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