Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong

"Make the Spirit that has not arisen in our heart arise, and when it arises, may it not diminish but increase."

Text adapted from "Grandmothers Council the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision For Our Planet"
by Carol Schaefer
Trumpeter Books, 2006

In 1958, Tsering Dolma Gyaltong strapped two of her three children to her back and made a dangerous month-long journey through her beloved Tibetan mountains to India.  The family was escaping the brutal Chinese Communist take-over of their country. Tsering's husband's work of pleading Tibet's case to the world made it too dangerous to stay in Tibet.

Sadly, Tsering's oldest daughter remained behind with relatives. She was attending a communist run school. Had she been abruptly pulled out of school, the Chinese officials would have been alerted and possibly killed the entire family.

During the communist take-over, China claimed 2/3 of Tibet's land as its own, murdered 1,200,000 Tibetans, destroyed 6,254 monasteries, and deforested the mountains.  100,000 Tibetans were interred in labor camps, and another 100,000 escaped. Grandmother Tsering and her family were forced to make the same trip as the Dalai Lama.  Like the Dalai Lama, grandmother Tsering and her family have never been able to return to their homeland...

Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong was born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1933.  Her grandparents cared for Tsering and her four siblings while the parents worked.  "...We were a very happy people. Our minds were very happy. We could take care of many children. Many generations lived in one house."

At age 12, Tsering's grandmother passed away. At 15, Tsering began practicing Buddhism, which taught her than it's more important to focus on others and not one's individual self.  Tsering realized this quality had guided her own mother and grandmother.  "Women had a difficult time in Tibet," Grandmother Tsering remembers.  "I was fortunate, being that I was a girl, to be sent to school. So, in gratitude I would read and write letters for women who couldn't."

In 1972, Grandmother Tsering left India and moved with her family to Toronto, Canada. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government had asked Tibetan refugees to live in many countries, seeking to bring peace and well-being to wherever they live.  Sadly, those Tibetans left behind have found little peace. They have lost their independence and basic human rights. Grandmother Tsering's prays daily for the world and for her people to simply know peace and happiness.

Grandmother Tsering returned to India in 1984 where she revived the Tibetan Women's Association. In 1995, she attended the Fourth World Women's Conference in Beijing China. She faced many threats and dangers as she, along with others, openly criticized the Chinese government for its treatment of Tibetan people, especially Tibetan women.  Her courage motivated other Tibetan women to continue raising their voices. (India/Tibet: Tibetan Women Take to the Streets Against Beijing's Slavery) Grandmother Tsering asks us to focus our prayer on softening the Chinese peoples heart so that the Dalai Lama would be allowed to go home before he died. She feels this is the only way that Tibetan exiles can return to their homeland.

Grandmother Tsering believes most of the world's spiritual traditions are very similar, except that with Buddhism, the main teachings are training the mind.  "Our mind is what we have to be really happy within," Grandmother Tsering says. "If everyone really did a true spiritual practice, which develops into a positive mind, the world would not be in the dire situation we find it in today."

Grandmother Tsering is deeply troubled by the killings and destruction here on our planet.  She believe it's the parents who create the children who grow up and destroy the world.  "As the Dalai Lama says, a child's first teacher is the mother. The mother is the one who teachers them right from wrong and how to be a good person in the culture. Children must be instructed and trained to be kind. They need to be taught to have reverence for life and for spiritual traditions. Such lessons are highly valued in Tibet."

Grandmother Tsering also believes competition and self-importance are the reasons most people don't seek an inner peace. "People wish for happiness but do not find it," she said. "A person might, through much suffering, gather a great deal of money during their life ... but money doesn't bring a person well-being in the end. The real problem is we do not love each other. We do not have this deep pure love that makes the positive connection. There's not enough of that."


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Grandmother Tsering's Photos:

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