High Road to India

In 1996 Clint Collins, a student at Woodstock School, made an award winning documentary about the young refugee children attending the Tibetan Homes Foundation in Happy Valley, another school in Mussoorie, India. It is a moving story of bright, courageous children who escaped from Chinese authoritarian rule in Tibet because they wanted to pursue dreams they would not be able to have if they stayed in modern-day Tibet.

See this 30 minute video below:

Tibet – History of Tragedy

A documentary titled Tibet – History of Tragedy outlines the history of Tibet during the 20th Century. This film will give you an overview of the social and political conflict behind the story told in Windhorse Warrior.

The documentary comes in four parts on YouTube:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Where to buy Windhorse Warrior

Screenshot 2018-10-25 14.18.15Copies of Windhorse Warrior are available via AbeBooks.com and Amazon.

Please note that these may be shipped from India. Few outlets will have copies in the US and Europe until next spring. Niyogi Books India, the publisher, ships to US outlets each April. The next shipping is April 2019.

Right now the best deal is through AbeBooks and a direct connection with the publisher. They offer copies for US$14.45 plus $6.04 shipping for a total of $20.49. But delivery time at this price will be very slow – but for $18.12 shipping it can be delivered in 5-8 business days!

Locally, in Port Townsend and the greater Seattle area, you can order directly from me. I am selling signed copies for $25.00. Mailing it to you, book post, will be about $4.40. You may email me at rfriedericks@mac.com

In the near future I will be having public readings with signed copies available for purchase. I will make the venues and dates known as they develop. I anticipate an interview for Booklover’s Cafe, on the Port Townsend community radio station KPTZ.org soon.

Bookmarks, like the one shown on the left, will be included with each copy purchased from me. There are five designs.

Shambhala Warriors

A Shambhala warrior, like a windhorse warrior, is a metaphor for the Buddhist ideal of the bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is any person who has aroused the compassionate wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. She or he strives to fearlessly alleviate the suffering of others by acting out of compassion while filled with insight into the radical inter-existence of all phenomenon. This kind of warrior engages in a battle that is not between the good guys and the bad guys – because ‘the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every heart’ – but is dedicated to dismantling the weapons of separation and destruction that are mind-made.

Below is a short talk by Joanna Macy describing what her teacher, Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche, told her about the Kingdom of Shambhala and Shambhala warriors.

Janna Macy (born May 2, 1929), is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books. (Wikipedia)

Windhorse Warrior

My novel has been published by Niyogi Books India!

Description

Screenshot 2018-10-25 17.20.45

Windhorse Warrior offers an inside look at the struggles and aspirations of the Tibetan people during the 1950s. It is a tale that weaves together the politics of occupation and resistance, an other-worldly romance between a Chinese communist and an educated Tibetan woman, and the soaring vision of the Tibetan spiritual heart.

Chuang Wei Ming, a young zealot from Shanghai, arrives in Lithang—on the eastern Tibetan plateau—with a mission to prepare the people for Maoism but soon outgrows its limiting worldview. Chuang falls in love with the beautiful and intelligent Dechen, who introduces him to the richness of Tibetan Buddhism. Palden Rinpoche, Dechen’s spiritual teacher, includes Chuang in their plan for a general spiritual awakening based on the Legend of King Gesar of Ling. Together, they pursue a pure communism infused with Buddhist teachings to create an ‘enlightened society’.

This is a story that extends beyond the decade in which it is set. Its message is true today in the global context of oppression and disparity, fake news, and injustice. Those who believe in a just and beautiful world will find themselves longing for an ‘enlightened society’ filled with spiritually awakened women and men, free to pursue their true potential and eager to enrich the lives of others.

Availability

I have 100 books for sale locally now. Books will not be readily available in the US until next spring. By then you should be able to buy one from Amazon or order through your local bookstore at $25.00 for hardcover. It will eventually be available in paperback and as an ebook (Kindle). A photo of the cover is below. Go to the Book page for details on purchasing a copy.

Read it and write a review on Goodreads.com.

Or ask questions and make comments below.

 

Tibetan Nomads in the City

Here is song from a young Tibetan lamenting what is happening to the once freely roaming nomads of the high Tibetan Plateau. More and more Tibetans are forced to live in crowded cities where they feel cut off from their way of life and their spiritual roots. Lobsang Nyima sings in the traditional Tibetan style.

The lyrics were written by Menlha Kyab and an English translation is below:

The sky was bluer than turquoise
From the mountain peaks I came
The buildings are taller than steep mountains
In this city where I am left
The buildings are taller than steep mountains
In this city where I am left

The true path is covered in dust
People’s minds are driven by the rush
Although the city is bustle and noise
There is no one to be trusted
Although the city is bustle and noise
There is no one to be trusted

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The vast expanse of my love
Is lost in this city

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The vast expanse of my love
Is lost in this city

The true path is covered in dust
People’s minds are driven by the rush
Although the city is bustle and noise
There is no one to be trusted

The city of electricity
The path is a painting of a rainbow

Yet there is no bridge for the mind
In this great ocean of samsara
Yet there is no bridge for the mind
In this great ocean of samsara

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city

Translation by High Peaks Pure Earth

Gesar and Arthur: Legendary Kings East and West

Gesar

My son David recently rediscovered a paper he wrote in college comparing King Arthur of Great Britain and King Gesar of Ling in Central Asia.  We had several conversations at the time and since then we have had more discussions about the way these two legends helped guide and mold their respective civilizations. Many of our discussions occurred during the years I was writing Windhorse Warrior, a novel about Eastern Tibet during the Chinese Communist invasion and occupation.  In my novel the story of King Gesar inspires a small group of people to create a socioeconomic structure based on Buddhist and true Communist principles that would provide an alternative to what was being forced upon the Tibetan people. Besides promoting my novel I hope this, and following posts, can help the West discover and understand King Gesar and the East, King Arthur.

Gesar BardsThe legend of King Gesar is an orally transmitted epic poem. The verse of the songs and opera performances were not written down until the late 19th or early 20th Centuries. The legend still has significance among Tibetans, both in exile and those still in Tibet, and among the people of Mongolia, Tuva, Buryatia, Kalmyk and other Buddhist groups in Central Asia. The story is kept ‘alive’ by bards who enter a shamanic trance, visit Gesar’s time and place, the Kingdom of Ling, and recite the legend from first-hand experience. The female or male bard observes and gives voice to the activities of Gesar and his warriors and courtiers in their separate reality though at the present moment. In this way the story deepens and evolves with each bardic visitor. Each one sees and understands some unique part of the mythic motif of ‘once upon a time, far, far away’ which magically unifies the present with the past and future, the eternal now.

Literary accounts of King Arthur began before the 9th Century but it is likely these were preceded by an oral tradition transmitted from generation to generation and place to place by Celtic bards and perhaps the Druids themselves who kept ‘alive’ a legend of a warrior king who embodied their highest ideals. We might assume that they did so in the same way as the shamanic bards of Central Asia: by ‘spirit journeys’ into a parallel world. We can assume this because shamanic methods of spirit journey are universal and thousands of years old.

Medieval ArthurThere are Celtic mythological roots to stories of Arthur and Merlin throughout Britain, Wales, Ireland and Britany including tales of Merlin involved in the creation of Stonehenge. If so, these stories go back at least 4000 or 5000 years. The Celts developed an extensive empire that, by 200 BC, reached across Britain, northern France and into the Italian peninsula. They were eventually conquered by the Romans in the 1st Century BC. This began a period of Roman and Christian influence over the Celtic culture.

Historians believe there never was a British king named Arthur but his name first appears in an account of British history written by Nennius, a 9th Century monk. He wrote of King Arthur as victorious over the Roman empire in the 2nd Century BC while also waging a 5th Century war on the Saxons. The name Arthur appears in this account because Nennius needed “the Welsh-sounding name to add focus to what was principally a political treatise” (Scott-Robinson). By using the name of a well know mythological hero of Welsh epic poetry, Nennius added deep significance to his fanciful history. In the 12th Century Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ and further embellished Nennius’ account. This book “owes a great deal to Geoffrey’s fertile imagination” (Scott-Robinson).

Thus an earlier bardic legend of Arthur, a heroic war leader, was co-opted and modified to fit political intentions and contemporary cultural values. By the time novels were written and printed for the literate noble class in the 15th Century, Arthur had become more of a figurehead while the real action of the stories centered on his knights. Western civilization was changing; the individual began to take center stage rather than the collective represented by the King.

By this time, too, creative imagination was the novelist’s tool instead of shamanic spiritual journey. The modern writer imagines his or her own world and shares it with the reader or audience through text or screen. Culturally popular stories such as Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, Narnia or Harry Potter evoke an alternative world ‘in a galaxy far, far away’ or just through the wardrobe. A good writer or director enables us to participate in other worlds of the imagination but seldom enter, like a shamanic bard, the “zone unknown,” as Joseph Campbell called it. Gifted writers, nevertheless, if they are open to the muse, can tap into mythic truth* and a good listener can participate in the imaginative journey ‘further in and higher up’ into Narnia.

Over the past seven to five hundred years, the ability to have direct access to deeper realms of spiritual insight has faded away from industrializing societies. The result is that today stories of King Arthur are nearly unrecognizable as a spiritually or socially uplifting saga. For example, a recent movie about King Arthur (http://kingarthurmovie.com) is an action film presenting a tumultuous Camelot with characters mirroring the violent, competitive, self-serving values of our patristic system. There remains not a shred of the ideal good king who created an ‘enlightened society’ in which all the people could thrive. As the global ‘babylon’ of self-centered consumerism continues to expand its reach, the legend of King Arthur will continue to succumb to this erosion. And even the legend of King Gesar, as it catches on and is translated into Communist Chinese culture, will experience a similar erosion.

I have some questions that are open to discussion: If these old epic legends are the result of spiritual journeys, how do shamanic bards tapped into the same inner landscapes, heroic personalities, and events? Are Camelot and Ling actual places in a parallel world? Or is it the power of suggestions; one bard follows another’s lead in describing the place and events? And what about the modern novelist or screenwriter; would their stories about Camelot differ from what we are given to read and watch now if they could cross into that parallel world through shamanic trance?

Shamans held places of importance in early societies. In many places in the world today she or he is someone who walks with one foot in the everyday world and the other foot in the spirit world.  Epic legends, including Arthur’s and Gesar’s, are told by shaman to remind the community that all life is a manifestation of a greater Reality. They remind people that they are interdependent and filled with the capacity to know Reality directly. They guide the community in the ethic of universal justice and compassion toward all beings. Both King Arthur and King Gesar manifested what it is to be fully human; fully awakened, compassionate beings.

I am exploring these two legends because I feel it is important that we maintain contact with the spiritual insights of the ancients. The legend of Gesar, and most likely the early oral accounts of Arthur, carry values and wisdom teachings that go back over 50,000 years into our past and, as the protagonists in Windhorse Warrior discover, the Legend of King Gesar holds a key to helping us establish an ‘enlightened society’ and overcome our current environmental and social crises.

__________

Quotes from:’ The Old Religion of Britain, Weird Tales from the Middle Ages,’ Richard Scott-Robinson: http://www.eleusinianm.co.uk/Arthur/wt1arthur.html

Other resource: The Epic of Gesar of Ling: Gesar’s Magical Birth, Early Years, and Coronation as King, translated by Robin Kornman, Sangye Khandro, and Lama Chonam, 2015

*If ‘mythic truth’ strikes you as an oxymoron you have clearly been duped by the current cultural system that is out of touch with ancient wisdom. A ‘myth’ is not a fantasy nor is it a false belief. Used in the sense of this article, it refers to archetypal stories that communicate universal facts about our selves and our world.

Dechen

The main female character in “Windhorse Warrior,” the historical novel to be released in 2018, is a Tibetan woman named Dechen.  The name means ‘great happiness’ and, of course, she brings great happiness to all the people who know her.

Educated outside of Tibet in Darjeeling, India at a Catholic school and going on to study in America, she returns to her home town in Kham to discover she no longer fits in.  Among her troubles when she returns is her father’s wish for her to marry a local young man.  She finds few people she can relate to and eventually returns to Kalimpong, near where she went to school, where her uncle, Palden Rinpoche, is a much loved spiritual teacher.  With her uncle’s encouragement, Dechen begins to study her spiritual heritage, something she had neglected during her many years as a scholar in Western schools.

You will have to read the novel to find out the rest of the story but I wanted to introduce you to someone who inspired the character of Dechen.  Below are two short videos that feature Dolma, a Tibetan woman who runs a motel in Bamei, Kham.

The first video is about our visit there to see her:

 

Below Dolma sings a song called “White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings.”  It is from a poem written by the Sixth Dalai Lama to say where he would be reincarnated.  It goes “White crane, white crane; lend me your wings.  I won’t fly far. I’ll return from Lithang.”

 

Dechen’s singing is an important part of the story.  She becomes a ‘drungma’ or shamanic bard who sings and recites from the epic poem about King Gesar of Ling.

For a synopsis of Windhorse Warrior see the previous post.

Windhorse Warrior

The synopsis for a manuscript I have completed is below:

Windhorse Warrior

by Richard Friedericks

wangdu_horse1 film

One sweltering summer morning in Shanghai, China in 1947,  a young student named Chuang Wei Ming discovers his girlfriend taking part in a communist protest march against the Nationalists.  He watches horrified as she is murdered by a squad of Nationalist soldiers.  Her martyrdom nudges him to find out about her passion for communism.

Three years later Chuang volunteers to take communism to Tibet.  Coincidentally assigned to Lithang on the Eastern Tibetan Plateau, he finds the Tibetan relatives of his Shanghai girlfriend.  He persuades the family to turn over their ancestral land to the farmers working on their land.  Together they form a successful cooperative that captures the imagination of several surrounding communities.  The Chinese Communist Party is not appreciative of Chuang’s methods which honors the will of the local people and upholds their traditional culture and religion.  Management of the cooperative is, instead, given to Tenzin, a young Tibetan eager to do the will of the Party.

Chuang turns his attention to another community and meets a lama with a dream of reviving the ‘enlightened society’ of the legendary King Gesar.  Chuang jumps at the chance to use the lama’s clout with the people to further his own mission.  But Chuang’s ideals are challenged by the lama’s apprentice Dechen, the twin sister of his Shanghai girlfriend.  As their relationship develops, Dechen’s ideas, rooted in Tibetan Buddhism, enrich Chuang’s understanding of a truly enlightened society and help him to recognize the spiritual purpose of life.

Tenzin, who wants to marry Dechen, is jealous of Chuang and has him arrested for kidnapping Dechen.  Chuang’s rescue leads to injuries that nearly kill him.  During his convalescence he enters the world of King Gesar through a shamanic trance.  When he recovers, Chuang is able to recite the story of Gesar which marks him as a fully integrated member of Tibetan culture.  Chuang, Dechen and the lama now implement a plan to promote an enlightened society through spiritual renewal, social reforms and non-violent resistance to the Party’s dictatorial control of the people.

Deng, the local Commander of the People’s Liberation Army and Communist Party representative, issues an ultimatum: the people must voluntarily choose the ‘Red Road’ of Communism or the ‘Black Road’ will result.  Chuang suggests another road; the Golden Way of an enlightened society.  In keeping with the legend of King Gesar, a horse race is proposed to which Commander Deng agrees.  The winner will choose which road the people will follow and marry Dechen.  Deng believes he can rig the race in Tenzin’s favor and impose the Red Road.  But Chuang enters the race in disguise and wins.  His mission and dreams fulfilled, Chuang takes Dechen’s hand and together they invite the people to unite and walk the Golden Way to an enlightened society that honors spiritual as well as material abundance.

Tenzin, recovering from defeat and pressured to please Commander Deng, takes aim at Chuang with a pistol.  Dechen is shot instead and dies in Chuang’s arms just as her sister died in Shanghai.

___________________

I am currently seeking a publisher.  The manuscript is 120,000 words with maps, character list and translations of Tibetan words.

Gorkha

The next phase of our eleven full days in Nepal between May 8 – May 18 started on the morning of Sunday, May 10. It began with the arrival of a van hired from Nepal Sanctuary Treks at Ron and Cheryl’s in Bhukuntole near the British School. After expressing our gratitude to Ron and Cheryl we went to Kalimati and picked up the other three people of our original group (Lisa, Knight, Heather Knight, and Chris Butler) and the four other’s who had decided to join us – a paramedic from South Africa, two EMT’s from Texas, and a volunteer firefighter from Virginia.

On our drive out of the Kathmandu valley, David decided to call Becky Paris, a friend from our time in Pokhara when he was in primary school. Becky is now an anesthesiologist/trainer at Tansen Hospital. David asked her what she knew of NGOs involved in Gorkha district and she suggested we look up World Vision, as they had been assigned that district. Gurkha is not too far off the road to Pokhara so we decided to take the detour and see if we could make a connection right away with World Vision.

We arrived in Gorkha around two in the afternoon. I had called my friend Kiran Shrestha in Pokhara. He’s a Rotarian with connections. He called Nakul Thapa, the President of the the Gorkha Rotary Club, who met us when we arrived in town. We asked him if he knew where World Vision was in Gorkha but he had no idea. Wondering what to do next we saw several UN vehicles drive by and enter the Gorkha Inn which had been set up as their headquarters in the district. We made our way toward the Inn with the intention of finding out what was going on and how we might fit in. As we reached the entrance, Nakul recognized a man in a vehicle exiting the Gorkha Inn parking lot. After a brief conversation between Nakul and the man in the car, he stepped out and introduced himself as Dr. Joshi of WHO. I introduced our group as firefighters and paramedics.

Dr. Joshi recommended that we follow him up to the Gorkha District Health Office. When we arrived he invited us in and asked what kind of work we might be able to do. After explaining our skills which included treating injuries and building temporary shelters, he suggested we might be able to help construct temporary shelters in which local health workers could continue seeing patients. We thought this was an excellent idea and a perfect fit for our abilities.

I was impressed that Dr. Joshi opened up his laptop and brought up the same UN coordinating website that Ron has shown me the night before. He began looking at the health cluster pages to see which villages had health posts that had been destroyed in the earthquake. He found two that were fairly close and we could possibly complete in the few days were had to offer. Dr. Joshi spoke with us in English, but I occasionally spoke Nepali with his staff members. I explained that I’d learned Nepali as a child in Tansen and that my father, Dr. Carl Friedericks, had started the hospital there. This, I’m sure added to our credibility and their willingness to give us an assignment.

We left the District Health Office with assignments to build two temporary village health centers. We were given two letters introducing us to each VDC (Village Development Committee). The two areas were Gankhu VDC (population about 3000) and one for Mirkot VDC (population about 6000). One of the letters was for the health worker in charge of the VDC Health Centre. The other letter was for the Secretary of the VDC, an appointed administrator and representative of the Government. The letters authorized us and instructed the local officials to allow us to operate in the village area.

Authorization letter from Gorkha District Health Office

Authorization letter from Gorkha District Health Office

IMG_3877 - 2015-05-10 at 19-53-49The road to Gankhu was unfinished but passable, we were told, but even so our driver was unwilling to take his van on it. The road to Mirkot was even worse. We decided to go to Gankhu first; it was a smaller place and easier to get to. If we were successful there, and we had enough time, we would go on to Mirkot.

 

IMG_3868 - 2015-05-10 at 18-38-07We asked Nakul Thapa, the Gorkha District Rotarian, to help us find transportation to Gankhu. He found us a small bus which we hired for the journey. It was a hair raising journey!  Chris Butler admitted he made a mistake sitting at the front of the bus as it careened down the hill from Gorkha, swinging off the single lane tarmac on the outside to pass a bus or truck laboring uphill. He said, “I run into burning buildings, but this scares the sh*t out of me!”

Despite hiring the entire bus, we picked up passengers along the way. They turned out to be family members of the owner of the bus returning to their village after the earthquake had frightened them away. We were happy to share our bus as we ventured deeper into the hills and submitted to the same environment and risks everyone in Nepal was facing.IMG_3874 - 2015-05-10 at 18-40-28 This family had lost their house, but were returning to the village to pick up the pieces and continue. Besides two young boys, there was a new born baby girl. David began talking with the young mother and shared his own family pictures with her. Chris later commented on how gorgeous this woman was.

When we arrived the Nayasanghu, the main village of Gankhu VDC on the new motor road, I showed the letters to a shopkeeper who informed us that the health worker had returned to Gorkha for the night but would return the next morning. The letter, however, immediately gave us credibility among the townspeople. My fluency with the language was also immediately noted and appreciated. Feeling welcomed, I said we would consult with the health worker about a location for a temporary health center and we would like to camp somewhere for a few days. Our bags and totes containing medical supplies were unloaded from the bus and we were taken to the school yard where we pitched camp.

Nayasanghu School, Gankhu, Ward 5

Nayasanghu School, Gankhu, Ward 5

The school was very close to the old health center so we thought it was a good location. We could also treat people who would show up when word got out that we had medical supplies. The District Health Office also authorized us to treat patients with injuries and had given us forms to use to help with district-wide data collection.

IMG_3910 - 2015-05-10 at 20-12-17

Collapsed classroom walls.

The outer structure of the school buildings, at first glance, looked okay. But looking closer we saw that several interior walls had collapsed and parts of exterior walls bulged or had collapsed. They were all too dangerous to enter. During April and May schools in Nepal are on summer holiday. Annual exams are in March followed by a two month break. But school was due to begin again by the end of May or early June. No temporary shelters had been built for classes in this village and we wondered where teachers and students would be meeting. Hopefully another group like ours would be assigned to set up temporary classrooms in the school yard.

Village children came to see what was going on when we set up camp in their school yard. Though all of them were living in make-shift structures, usually under a tarp, they were all clean, well dressed and happy. They enjoyed playing football (soccer) and being curious children. Several practiced their English with us and one boy was even able to act as translator when people showed up for treatment.

Playing football with village children.

David and Chris playing football with village boys at our camp in their school yard.

It was evening by the time we settled in. Still gripped by jet lag and several days of travel we were in our tents and asleep by about 8:30. It was hot and it didn’t cool down much at night. We never knew exactly how hot it was but we guessed it was around 95 degrees F.