“I believe that few readers of this book will fail to be moved by Palden Gyatso’s story and the tenacity and dedication it displays. Like Palden Gyatso, I am optimistic.... If he has proved nothing else, Palden Gyatso has demonstrated that we are not helpless and that even individuals can make a difference.” the Dalai Lama, from the Foreword
The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk
978-0-8021-3574-2 • $14.00 • Paperback • Sep. 1998
“My story is not a glamorous one of high lamas and exotic ritual, but of how a simple monk succeeded in surviving the destructive forces of a totalitarian ideology.” These are the words of Palden Gyatso, and his story is an unforgettable journey into the heart of Tibet and an enduring testimony to the strength of the human spirit and its quest for freedom.
Palden Gyatso was born in a Tibetan village in 1933 and became an ordained Buddhist monk eighteen years later. Through sheer determination, he won a place as a student at Deprung Monastery, one of Tibet’s “Three Greats,” where he came to spiritual and intellectual maturity. However, Tibet was enduring political changes that would soon alter his life irrevocably.
When Communist China invaded Tibet in 1950, it embarked on a program of land reform and “thought reform” that would eventually affect all of Tibet’s citizens and nearly decimate its ancient culture. Under Mao, Tibet’s sovereignty was systematically destroyed: books were burned, history altered, and art plundered in the name of “reuniting” Tibet with China. The religious orders were denounced as exploitative and monks were forced to attend pro-socialist study sessions in place of study and worship. In 1959, along with thousands of other monks, Palden Gyatso was forced into labor camps and prisons. He would spend the next thirty-three years of his life being tortured, interrogated, and persecuted simply for the strength of his beliefs, for being a monk.
In 1992 Palden Gyatso was released from prison and escaped across the Himalayas to India, smuggling with him the instruments of his torture. Since then, he has devoted himself to revealing the extent of Chinese oppression in Tibet and the atrocities he endured. Palden Gyatso’s story bears witness to the resilience of the human spirit and to the strength of Tibet’s proud civilization, faced with cultural genocide.