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.

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

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The Nine Stages of Mental Development

Shamatha, which means calm, is the practice of meditation to develop the ability to focus the mind in single-pointed concentration. This is practiced as a pre-requisite for mindfulness or insight meditations. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition this practices is described as a nine stage progression beautifully depicted in this thangka showing a monk chasing and finally capturing an elephant. 9-stages-samatha-meditation The elephant is being led by a monkey. The monkey represents distractions. How well we know this scenario! This is ordinary mind or conventional mind mired in the Babylon Matrix (Jonathan Zap). But through study of the writings of Wisdom Teachers and mediation practice, the monk is able to capture and subdue the elephant. Gradually both the monkey and the elephant turn white representing the meditator’s ability to maintain the power of concentration.

Stages three and four represents the meditator’s ability to fix and hold his or her concentration steady. The meditator has lassoed the elephant and gradually the monkey, elephant and even a rabbit turn and look at the meditator to indicate that distractions acknowledge who is in charge.

In stages five and six the meditator begins to lead the elephant and the monkey of distraction follows the mind rather than leading it. The mind is controlled; the meditator uses a goad to discipline the elephant. The rabbit disappears and the mind is finally pacified.

In the seventh stage the monkey leaves the elephant and stands behind the meditator and pays homage.  In stage eight the meditator is in complete control. Single-pointed concentration is achieved.

The ninth is the stage of mental absorption. Perfect equanimity is found and the path has ended. The elephant rests beside the meditator who sits at ease. Now out of the meditator’s heart streams a rainbow like ray.

Stages ten and eleven represent crossing over into mental bliss. The meditator rides the elephant along the rainbow path into the perfection of the transcendent realm and returns bearing the sword of Wisdom. Samsara’s root is severed by the union of shamatha and vipashyana or insight meditation with emptiness as the object of contemplation. Aware of pure awareness, the meditator is now equipped with Compassion and Wisdom to guide others on the path to enlightenment. Ox Herding In the Chinese Chan (Zen) tradition this concept is illustrated through the Ten Ox Herding images by Master Kakuan in 12th Century China. There is a similar progression to the pictures to depict levels of realization.

The meditator (1) searches for the ox, (2) sees the tracks and follows them until (3) the ox is discovered in its hiding place. Once the ox is captured (4), the meditator is able to lead (5) and (6) then ride it back home. (7) Once home, the meditator achieves perfect concentration in non-duality (8). The next step, according to the Chan tradition is to realize the underlying, unshakeable unity of the cosmos (9); there is no separation between created (samsara) and uncreated reality (nirvana). Once realized, (10) the meditator returns to the marketplace. His Compassion compels him to help others on the path to enlightenment by offering his Wisdom.

The difference between the Tibetan and Chan illustrations reflects the cultural orientations of each rather than significant differences in the path or outcome. The Tibetan thangka, a sacred painting on cloth, is colorful and highly mythological while the Chan has an earthy pastoral flavor. Of course, there are no elephants in Tibet – nor in China – but Tibetan Buddhism was highly influenced by Indian culture. The Ox Herding pictures on the other hand demonstrate the Chinese orientation to nature beautifully and simply represented in ink drawings.

Both of these are examples of sacred or visionary art created for the purpose of teaching or clarifying the path of spiritual development. (See previous post: The Mission of Art.) Sacred art is purposeful and often uses high levels of logic as it in these illustrations. At the same time it is visionary and uses archetypal images from the realm of myth. Sacred art at its best is a union of logos and mythos.

Windhorse Rising

This blog started out about learning, then took a turn toward issues around Tibet and I haven’t written anything here for over a year. In the meantime I’ve stared another blog – an experiment – an online writing project called “Windhorse Rising“.

The online novel will unfold chapter by chapter with graphics, audio and video with the aim of building a readership.

The story takes place in the 1950’s when communism was just getting started among the people of the Tibetan highlands. One of the main characters is an idealistic Chinese Communist Party member zealously trying to bring liberation to the people he is growing to love. He is opposed – gently, but firmly – by a group of people who want to revitalize Tibetan heritage and spiritual values through the performance of folk opera and the story of King Gesar.

Begin reading the story and watch it unfold. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Epoch Times – The Distorted Image of Tibet (Part I)

Interview with a Han Chinese woman who discovered that the Tibetan people are different than the image propagated by the Communist Party.

Go directly to Part I
See also Parts II, III, and IV

read more | digg story

Tibet report – Chinese Government à la G.Orwells 1984

vLog with Tibetan Connection Radio reporter Lhakpa Kyizom about staged news events, violence, continued repression and a new Chinese Policy implemented to gain control of selecting the next Dalai Lama.

Chinese Policy: “Order Nr.5 is all the reincarnations of the high lamas are selected by the Tibetans (…) but now the Chinese they want to control that reincarnation through their Order Nr.5 and want to put their control over the reincarnation of the lamas. If his Holiness passes away they have the control of the next Dalai Lama.”

Go to the Digg story below to see the video.

read more | digg story

Forty five years

Forty five years ago I came in direct contact with Tibetan culture for the first time. Prior to that I had seen Tibetan caravans traveling through Tansen, Palpa, Nepal. I was well aware of the situation on the other side of the Himalayan mountains and I had even been in the audience when the Dalai Lama visited my school in Mussoorie, U.P. India soon after his escape from Tibet in 1959.

It was December, 1964. I was sixteen then. We had holidays in the winter because the school was in the mountains and I had been invited on a bird collecting expedition up the Kali Gandaki River. We hiked from Pokhara up over the Ghorepani pass to the Kali Gandaki and then up the river from Tatopani to Lete, Ghasa, and the amazing bend in the river at the foot of Dhaulagiri. (I’m sure I can claim to be one of the very first expatriates on what has come to be known as the “Annapurna Curcuit” and very definitely the first teenager.)

Trekking in Nepal, age 18

Trekking in Nepal, age 18

At this point I stood in the deepest gorge above sea level; the river runs at 6,000 feet above sea level while both Dhaulagiri to the west and Annapurna further to the east are above 26,000 feet. Another amazing thing about this bend in the river is the abrupt climate and ecological change from subtropic and temperate to desert alpine; from the lush southern slopes of the Himalayas that get drenched with monsoon rains to the arid trans-Himalayan plateau of Tibet. Culturally, of course, there is also a remarkable abrupt change – from Indian Subcontinental to Central Asian.

Now I’m sixty one. It’s been forty five years since I was on that expedition. Further up the Kali Gandaki River, just beyond Jomsom on our way up to Muktinath, the three of us – two Americans and a Briton – found ourselves surrounded by armed men on horseback. They demanded to know where we were going and what we were doing with guns. I wasn’t carrying one, but the other two had shotguns for bagging larger birds we would be sending off for the Chicago Natural History Museum’s collection of Himalayan birds. One of the men on horseback rode over and grabbed a shotgun and examined it. It was passed around and examined carefully. My collegue opened up one of the shotgun shells and showed the horseman the tiny birdshot inside. We were suddenly surrounded by horsemen howling with laughter when it was clear to them we were hunting and collecting birds. We showed them a few specimens.

In broken English and Nepali we managed to communicate with these rough riders. We discovered – and had already guessed – that they were Khampa warriors who were engaging and harassing the People’s Liberation Army across the border inside Chinese occupied Tibet. When they learned that two of us were Americans they did the thumbs up sign and said, “America, good!” They pointed to the sky and indicated supplies were dropped by American planes.

The conflict between Tibetans and Chinese Communism has been going on for over fifty years. The armed struggle by this tiny group of warriors stopped ten years later (by 1974). That is an interesting story all its own. Since then the Dalai Lama has tried to reach an understanding with the leaders of China about the occupation of Tibet. But this is a story that many people are well aware of especially since the world wide protests against Chinese suppression of Tibetan human rights during the Olympic Torch Relays earlier this year.

I have visited Western Sichuan, or Kham – where the Khampa warriors come from – but I have not been to Lhasa or any part of the TAR. Someday I would like to go there, someday when both Tibetans and Chinese recognize their interdependence and can live with mutual respect and affection for each other.

Lhasa Leaders Sacked

An article in the Guardian today reported that two of the top people in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) have been sacked – Wang Binyi, police chief and Qin Yizhi, deputy governor of the region. Qin made the world media last summer when the Olympic torch relay went through Lhasa for saying the Communist party would “smash the scheming of the Dalai clique”.

We can only wonder why these two were sacked. Hopefully, it is a sign that the Communist Party finally realizes they can’t tolerate bullies if they want to become full participants with the rest of the world. We can only wait and see how their successors behave.

Despite earthquake, Tibetan crackdown continues

Recently Hong Kong reporters were allowed into Lhasa. They reported armed police in the streets and continued heavy-handedness by the local communist party. 

An article in Reuters, Hong Kong warns that the situation is getting worse despite international pressure. The earthquake in Sichuan is diverting attention from the Tibetan problem. This is being used as a convenient moment to apply more pressure to force compliance. 

The earthquake and the Tibetan human rights protests are two huge challenges for the government. 

Voices of Reason from Inside China

Below is something from Joey Ayoub on Facebook. He’s included a document written by several well-know Chinese dissidents that I thought worth repeating. Please read the following document realizing that there are people inside China who don’t automatically believe the government’s propaganda. This document accentuates how effective the Chinese media is in controlling what most Chinese people believe and what it is telling the world.

_________________________________

March 22, 2008

Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibetan Situation by Some Chinese Intellectuals

1. At present the one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national unity. We call for such propaganda to be stopped.

2. We support the Dalai Lama’s appeal for peace, and hope that the ethnic conflict can be dealt with according to the principles of goodwill, peace, and non-violence. We condemn any violent act against innocent people, strongly urge the Chinese government to stop the violent suppression, and appeal to the Tibetan people likewise not to engage in violent activities.

3. The Chinese government claims that “there is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique.” We hope that the government will show proof of this. In order to change the international community’s negative view and distrustful attitude, we also suggest that the government invite the United Nation¹s Commission on Human Rights to carry out an independent investigation of the evidence, the course of the incident, the number of casualties, etc.

4. In our opinion, such Cultural-Revolution-like language as “he Dalai Lama is a jackal in Buddhist monk¹s robes and an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast” used by the Chinese Communist Party leadership in the Tibet Autonomous Region is of no help in easing the situation, nor is it beneficial to the Chinese government¹s image. As the Chinese government is committed to integrating into the international community, we maintain that it should display a style of governing that conforms to the standards of modern civilization.

5. We note that on the very day when the violence erupted in Lhasa (March 14), the leaders of the Tibet Autonomous Region declared that “there is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique.” This shows that the authorities in Tibet knew in advance that the riot would occur, yet did nothing effective to prevent the incident from happening or escalating. If there was a dereliction of duty, a serious investigation must be carried out to determine this and deal with it accordingly.

6. If in the end it cannot be proved that this was an organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated event but was instead a “popular revolt” triggered by events, then the authorities should pursue those responsible for inciting the popular revolt and concocting false information to deceive the Central Government and the people; they should also seriously reflect on what can be learned from this event so as to avoid taking the same course in the future.

7. We strongly demand that the authorities not subject every Tibetan to political investigation or revenge. The trials of those who have been arrested must be carried out according to judicial procedures that are open, just, and transparent so as to ensure that all parties are satisfied.

8. We urge the Chinese government to allow credible national and international media to go into Tibetan areas to conduct independent interviews and news reports. In our view, the current news blockade cannot gain credit with the Chinese people or the international community, and is harmful to the credibility of the Chinese government. If the government grasps the true situation, it need not fear challenges. Only by adopting an open attitude can we turn around the international community’s distrust of our government.

9. We appeal to the Chinese people and overseas Chinese to be calm and tolerant, and to reflect deeply on what is happening. Adopting a posture of aggressive nationalism will only invite antipathy from the international community and harm China’s international image.

10. The disturbances in Tibet in the 1980s were limited to Lhasa, whereas this time they have spread to many Tibetan areas. This deterioration indicates that there are serious mistakes in the work that has been done with regard to Tibet. The relevant government departments must conscientiously reflect upon this matter, examine their failures, and fundamentally change the failed nationality policies.

11. In order to prevent similar incidents from happening in future, the government must abide by the freedom of religious belief and the freedom of speech explicitly enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, thereby allowing the Tibetan people fully to express their grievances and hopes, and permitting citizens of all nationalities freely to criticize and make suggestions regarding the government¹s nationality policies.

12. We hold that we must eliminate animosity and bring about national reconciliation, not continue to increase divisions between nationalities. A country that wishes to avoid the partition of its territory must first avoid divisions among its nationalities. Therefore, we appeal to the leaders of our country to hold direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama. We hope that the Chinese and Tibetan people will do away with the misunderstandings between them, develop their interactions with each other, and achieve unity. Government departments as much as popular organizations and religious figures should make great efforts toward this goal.

Signatures:

Wang Lixiong (Beijing, Writer) Liu Xiaobo (Beijing, Freelance Writer) Zhang Zuhua (Beijing, scholar of constitutionalism) Sha Yexin (Shanghai, writer, Chinese Muslim) Yu Haocheng (Beijing, jurist) Ding Zilin (Beijing, professor) Jiang peikun (Beijing, professor) Yu Jie (Beijing, writer) Sun Wenguang (Shangdong, professor) Ran Yunfei (Sichuan, editor, Tujia nationality) Pu Zhiqiang (Beijing, lawyer) Teng Biao (Beijing, Layer and scholar) Liao Yiwu ()Sichuan, writer) Wang Qisheng (Beijing, scholar) Zhang Xianling (Beijing, engineer) Xu Jue (Beijing, research fellow) Li Jun (Gansu, photographer) Gao Yu (Beijing, journalist) Wang Debang (Beijing, freelance writer) Zhao Dagong (Shenzhen, freelance writer) Jiang Danwen (Shanghai, writer) Liu Yi (Gansu, painter) Xu Hui (Beijing, writer) Wang Tiancheng (Beijing, scholar) Wen kejian (Hangzhou, freelance) Li Hai (Beijing, freelance writer) Tian Yongde (Inner Mongolia, folk human rights activists) Zan Aizong (Hangzhou, journalist) Liu Yiming (Hubei, freelance writer)

__________________________

If China wants to join the international community, as it has declared by hosting the Olympics, the world – and the Chinese people – need to see some radical changes taking place immediately. Unfortunately this is unlikely; instead they are directing their people’s emotions toward ugly racist nationalism that mirrors Nazism during the 1930’s and 40’s.

Shrill voices of unreason calling for a boycott of all French products outside of many Carrefour grocery stores – which the government says “supports the Dalai Lama” – are an emotional response to what the government is printing in the national media. This is the result of the story of the man in Paris grabbing the torch from the Chinese woman in a wheelchair. The story has been used to jerk tears and inflame nationalist passion. Now that the government sees that this isn’t good for international relations, they are trying to tell the people to be “calm” and “rational” while patriotic zeal should “concentrate on development”. (The Guardian, Monday April 21 2008)

The government must be following the principle that the end justifies the means – the end being economic growth and the “development” of China as the world’s next superpower. The means, unfortunately, continues to trample the rights of the people.

This is a long, long way from the high ideals of communism!

Olympic torch fiasco

The Chinese people have put so much nationalistic pride into the Olympics and the Torch Relay. And now that protests have marred the glorious moment, they are turning their hurt pride and anger against the rest of the world. The Chinese government, taking this as an excuse, will crackdown harder than ever before on dissidents, Tibetan protesters and “criminal elements” out to “split” China.

Read this article by my colleague Kent Ewing in Asia Times for a full account of recent events: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/JD16Ad01.html

On another note, the Chinese were unaware when they embraced the Olympic torch idea that this “ancient, sacred tradition”, was invented by Leni Riefenstadl, Hitler’s filmmaker for the 1936 Olympics! It served Hitler well, and now the Chinese are breaking distance and number of cities visited records! They even plan to take it to the top of Mt Everest. Slate magazine said this about it:

“It seems Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s filmmaker, invented the torch relay for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then deployed it with “terrifying mastery,” according to Die Welt, in her film Olympia.

What a disappointment this must all be for the China Daily, the English-language organ of the Chinese Communist Party, which last month bragged that the 2008 torch relay “will traverse the longest distance, cover the greatest area and include the largest number of people” since this ancient Greek custom was invented by the Nazis in 1936. After the chaos in Paris, the same newspaper was reduced to spluttering at the French press, the French people, and French culture itself: “Pride and prejudice,” the newspaper intoned, have “cast a shadow on this ancient civilization.”

“How utterly predictable. Even without the recent riots in Tibet, anything as ludicrous as a 130-day, 85,000-mile torch relay was going to attract a healthy dose of negative attention. Why does the thing have to go to so many cities, after all? Why does it need to go through Tibet? Why is it surrounded by track-suited thugs? Why does it travel in a customized jumbo jet? Wasn’t this supposed to be a relay? And what is the symbolic significance of a battery-operated chemical flame, anyway? What does it have to do with athletes or world peace? Any ceremony of such profound inauthenticity—the Chinese are calling it the “journey of harmony”—deserves to be disharmoniously disrupted as often as possible.” http://www.slate.com/id/2188974/