I visited Tibet several times. My most memorable was by train from Beijing. The train passes over 4000m in elevation, you have oxygen pumped into the carriage to survive it without collapsing from altitude sickness.
The train rail is an essential part of the Chinese population of Tibet. Not only population with humans, but population with military. Tibet borders India. It's a very strategic place. Plus there was massive mineral resources to be transported. Hence, this seemingly impossible tourist train was a byproduct, more of a disguise than it was an investment in making Tibet accessible to tourism.
In Tibet, the Tibetan language is banned from schools. The traditional Tibetans are not permitted to put up photos of the Dalia Lama or any icon of the Buddhism that is their culture. Over 3 million monks and nuns were publicly executed after being humiliated in the most horrible ways, to prove that Buddhism is not a magic bullet for happiness. The Chinese military were merciless in proving it. But the superstitious Tibetan culture still believes in the "magic" of the Buddhist teachings. The transformation of matter.
You may well know the story. The Dalai Lama is the "King" of Tibet. He is a descendent of many Dalai Lama's before him. They are not descendants by blood. Only the "reincarnation" of their "spirit" - and the process of finding the next Dalai Lama after the death of the last, is a miracle in itself. The Chinese have "removed" the next Tibetan Dalai Lama, he is presumed dead. A young child taken and have installed a Chinese person as the next Dalai Lama. It will be an interesting transition when the current Dalai Lama passes.It's very complicated but nothing more complex than Trump and American voting. Just more brutal.
The first failed trip
My first venture to Tibet failed. I had clients, some of whom still read this blog so I must be honest. We planned to trek from the West of Nepal, Simikot, through a valley and across a border check point and into Tibet where a road crew would meet us and drive us to Mt Kailash. Tibet. There we intended to do the ancient ritual of circumambulating Mt Kailash. It's the equivalent to billions of prayers. It was a great plan.
After preparing ourselves in Kathmandu, we flew West to one of the hottest places I've experienced.Nepalgunj. While we were there bombs (I mean huge explosions) and gunshots could be heard all night as Nepalese Maoists fought troops in an ongoing civil war. (another story for another time).
We then flew to a very spooky place, Simikot, (just watch how hard this plane has to brake to stop from hitting the wall and how close it gets) - but that's not really the spooky bit. Simikot was a hotspot for Maoist Terrorism. The locals had been devastated by poverty, military control and Maoist demands for obedience. It was aweful, the worst I've witnessed in all my travels in Asia. So, after one night in a really bad space, we, the clients, my two guides, my six porters, 8 donkeys, two donkey owners and two more donkeys with food for the donkeys, (yes, Maoist rules)... we set off. It felt like Edmund Hillary doing Everest with 800 porters all over again.
With one client with dysentary, literally shitting herself as she walked, and all this entourage of help, we set up camp and were immediately surrounded by little orphans. Their one objective, actually two, be fed, and steal anything we left lying around. Oh, yes, and three, report back to the hideout of the Maoists who were keeping an eye on us. I carried over US$2,000 in bribe money we had been informed would be needed to negotiate our clearance in these un-policed remote mountains. It turns out, we didn't need it.
Two days into this trek, and still five days short of the checkpoint we were "held up" - I mean like "stickem uo" and arrested by a band of Maoists. Two boys about 12 years old carrying muskets from the 12th century, with massive barrels on the guns and one of those big hammers you have to pull back to shoot. (Daniel Boon style). Two girls chubby and dishevelled and a bunch of others in the bushes we couldn't see. They'd stopped us on a narrow rocky old path high up (300 meter shear drop) above the river. There was barely room to stand. Our donkeys were down the bottom of the valley. My lead guide translated. They refused money. We were going to be held for 7 days in a nearby Maoist camp.
It's not an act of bravery in these situations but more an act of cunning. As an entrepreneur I'd dealt with more bastards in my life than I care to speak about so this was Childs play.
- Limit your losses ... I passed on a message to get the donkeys and all the staff with them to head backward as smooth as they could. So, food and supplies would not be a bargaining chip.
- I got my dysentery ridden mobile shitting machine client to come forward to join us in negotiation to make their negotiating position as uncomfortable as possible (it was 40c and flies and ... well no need to explain)
- I showed no fear by laughing, chatting and making jokes much to the anger of their boss
- I sent each of my team away one by one until there were just two of us who had no Nepali language and then it was ignorance - we just picked up our back packs and waved goodbye.
It was over in two hours but in that heat it was intense.
We then scuttled back 5 hours to somewhere where there were huts and houses. The donkeys just kept going. We walked three days to get to the road block and walked it with a sick client back in one. Big day. And of course got help.
From then, the trip to Tibet was cancelled and all costs were sacrificed. The trek around Mt Kailash and all was paid for and lost. Nothing is ever missing. After arriving back in Kathmandu we rebooked my standard route up to Mt Everest base camp and let Mt Kailash and Maoists in peace.
Imagine housing commission flats built in their thousands but brand new. Rows and rows of new, fresh ten story, tiny appartments. This is Tibet. Along the roads Tibetan pilgrims, dirty, wounded and struggling do the one step salute to the earth. Lying flat on their face in the dirt, standing then taking one step and doing it again, for thousands of miles. Some of Lhassa is traditional but their are spies everywhere and the monks are heavily guarded. The old city is for tourists. The main temple, Potala Palace, is awesome and rebuilt from the devastation of the Chinese invasion. It's gorgeous. But, sad.
The countryside around Lhassa, the capital of Tibet is strewn with freeways and construction sites. Military patrols are frequent.
The devotion to non violence
Tibetan terrorists have never bombed the World Trade Centre nor busses in London. Nor decapitated innocent people in broad daylight. And so, their plight remains, "un-newsworthy" plus the mighty power of China would sanction any country who took sides with the Dalai Lama and followers. So, non violent action has been the only option. It is a work in progress. It seems that what is lost in the culture and heritage of Tibet,
With the Chinese policy of resettlement of Chinese to Tibet, Tibetans have become a minority in their own country. Chinese is the official language. Compared to pre-1959 levels, only 1/20 monks are still allowed to practice, under the government's watch. Up to 6,000 monasteries and shrines have been destroyed. See for more
This is awful. However you and I know that nothing is ever missing it just changes in form. Where is Tibet now and can China really destroy Tibetan culture...?
- Read this to get some absolutely awful facts about this.
- Can anything be destroyed or does it just change form?
- 500 million people now follow and support the Dalai Lama (before the invasion it was 10 million)
- China have just distributed the Tibetan culture around the globe and made it more popular
- China destroyed 6,000 monasteries
- How many Buddha states, tattoos, necklaces, the balance sign, the books written have you witnessed since the invasion. Before there were thousands and now there are trillions. The monasteries are just now spread out around the world - thank you China.
- By not fighting, non violence, Tibetan monks demonstrated a far more feminine approach to doing battle, the water, the longer slow and less aggressive approach to work, life and business. Many companies have adopted mindfulness, equality, fairness, anti-bullying and anti abuse policies in direct alignment with Tibetan teachings. Unknowingly China birthed a revolution in goodness.
The right wrong paradox is for the masses. It is unsustainable which is why they fight amongst themselves and within themselves. The good bad paradox is birthed out of classical "Chinese" and "religious" domination and authority. The good bad paradox cannot survive in the long term.
An entrepreneur cannot be bound by such ridiculous deception nor limited by the paradox that stress most people. An entrepreneur must rise above the paradox to the matadox.
A paradox is a statement which is pointless, because it contradicts itself, only one side can win. A metadox is when you rise above paradox and say "both" are right, both are wrong.
An entrepreneur cannot be bound up in opinions from self or other. This is a critical issue. An opinionated entrepreneur is an oxymoron. Such limiting viewpoints are the antithesis of health or opportunism. In entrepreneurship, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Finally, for an entrepreneur, creation and destruction are part of a cycle that needs to be embraced. If not, the entrepreneur will, like Tibet, try to self-isolate, attract calamity, disaster and humbling circumstances to bring the out of their comfort zone.
The mass media see this devastation as a wrong. They are totally within their cultural realm. This is best. The invasion is an injustice, just as rape, murder and any such violence are. We must know what is good for our world. We must not put guns and power in the hands of those who are weak and use it for harm. Yet, within us, at a spiritual level, we must sustain a healthy viewpoint. There is order in the chaos. Without advocating persecution, we can also know that violence in any form, doesn't win, it just changes forms. It's simply not worth the energy. Our enterprises can thrive without it.