Once a month, then, for the past 44 months, a Tibetan has decided that China's occupation of Tibet warranted an act of martyrdom. And for each one of those who decided to take this final step, there are thousands, even millions, who stand in solid sympathy with this action. These martyrs (now saints in the minds of many Tibetans) had their own reasons for undertaking this dire action. But they all shared one reason: to call attention to the current plight of the Tibetan people, all 6 million of them, who daily face torture, beating, and deprivation of their civil & religious rights at the hands of the Chinese.
The Tibetans have succeeded in that central aim. Most of the world who pays attention to human rights, or who follows the Dalai Lama, or China, or India, or Tibet, or human cruelty, will know that, currently, the Tibetan people are suffering.
That's the easy part. But as the Tibetans burn, and publicize their plight, and call our attention to their plight, each of them hoped, as they died, that those who saw what was happening would do something about what was happening. Not only for those Tibetans who are currently living under this regime, but for future generations of Tibetans and for all those whose daily lives are diminished by the Chinese Communist Party. They hoped we might do something.
That's the hard part.
What can you do? Realize what you're up against. After the ordinary political mechanisms are exhausted—blog, Facebook, Twitter, emails, donations, letters, protests—realize that our national economy is dedicated to trading with China, and that while your letters are important, it will take more than letters to stop this profit-making machine and ask it to rethink its strategies in light of the welfare of 6 million Tibetans.
I'm going to say something I can't verify: Lloyd Craig Blankfein, the current CEO of Goldman Sachs, doesn't care enough about the human rights violations in China either to resign in helpful and enlightening protest or to counsel against investing in China until the Dalai Lama is allowed to return to Tibet. You will not change Mr. Blankfein's mind, I suspect, nor will you alter Goldman Sachs' policies. You already knew this. And maybe you even knew that stopping Mr. Blankfein, and what he represents, was beyond your capabilities.
But here's something you can do. You can remake yourself, a little each day. And you can do that by repeating to yourself three times a day—set your watch—one of the Dalai Lama's teachings that you find moving. Maybe one on compassion. Or maybe on nonviolence. And attach this teaching to an image of Tibetan suffering—a nun or monk in chains; a self-immolator engulfed in flames; an elderly Tibetan in Lhasa; a young Tibetan unemployed and increasingly removed from his heritage.
Do this every day for two weeks. And then three weeks. And then try it for a month.
You will then begin to make decisions, even say things, that reflect your awareness of how deeply the roots of human cruelty lie within you. And within all of us.
And here's what typically happens next. You signed that letter that came from the latest Save-Tibet nonprofit, and it went to your senator, and you got up the next morning and saw that number 58 killed herself in Amdo, and you thought, logically enough, that your letter did no good. You felt tired. Maybe numb. You didn't save the Tibetan people, after all.
But then you recalled the teaching you'd memorized, and you saw that your capacity for disliking the Chinese had maybe gotten a little smaller. Next, it occurred to you that no single group of people is ever responsible for any single tragedy, and that the responsibility for problems of this complexity sits on many shoulders, and that the source of this tragedy in Tibet has many authors, and you, who for so long said nothing about the violence in your own heart, are no longer surprised that the only reasonable and logical response to international violence, after the letters are written, the protests organized, the tweets tweeted, is to address the violence that runs through your own works and days.
And so for a month you have done that. And you feel better, better enough to continue for another month. Slowly, you see the nature of the struggle for peace has goals that the media often misses, but that you don't. You don't miss these goals because you've relocated the source of the struggle from Tibet, which you've never visited, to your own heart, which you see now you need to visit more regularly. You see that a deeply peaceful heart that shows up for five minutes in the middle of an argument with your best friend or your spouse is a great victory for the quiet, unpublicized struggle that you've engaged.
Good for you. Say that. "Good for you." And repeat the teachings. One more time. And visualize the images.
You listened deeply to the instructions that have now been beamed at you 57 times. And you're doing the only thing that you can do—engaging the fight for peace and nonviolence and tolerance on the only field that matters. The field of your heart.
Good for you.