Fujisan's Kyareng

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Tibetan Yoga Keksel

Tibetan Yoga Keksel


 22/06/2024 Tibet House Japan, Tokyo


Tibet House Japan organized a Yoga class online to celebrate International Yoga Day on June 21. Yoga enthusiasts from different corners of Japan joined the class. Geshe Chaphur Rinpoche of the Gyalshen Institute in California conducted the Yoga class based on the ancient teaching of rdZog-chen (Great perfection), pronounced Zog-chen.


Here is the gist of what Ven. Chaphur Rinpoche taught at the class. Chaphur Rinpoche taught the Nine-breathing exercise and the Tibetan Yoga practice known as Keksel (Tib:kegs-sel). Nine-breathing exercise should precede each five exercises of the Keksel. Understanding of the tsa, lung, and thigle, (channel, wind, and sphere-light) and the position of the three channels are important.


Our body is a network of channels (Tib:rtsa) and from the crown of the head to the secret region below navel, we have three channels: right white channel, left red channel, and central blue channel.


Sitting comfortably in equanimity (Tib:mnyam bzhag), block your right nostril with the index finger and breath in from the left nostril, now block you left nostril with the index finger of the left hand and bring down your right hand and breath out from the right nostril. Do it three times.


Next, block your left nostril with the index finger and breath in from the right nostril and repeat the process accordingly as above three times.


Lastly, block both nostrils with the ring fingers of both hands slowly and breath in slowly and bring down both hands breath out. Do it three times.


While breathing in, imagine the five colors of the five elements: space, wind, fire, water, and earth coming in. These are five outer elements. Proper balance of these elements in our body is needed for good health. These will stimulate the inner five elements (mind, breath, heat, blood, and flesh) and these will further stimulate and nourish the sacred five elements (heart, lung, liver, kidney, and spleen) of our body. This breathing help keep these vital organs of our body healthy.


From the spiritual and mental side, the right white channel cools and tames our anger; the left red channel burns and control our attachment and desire; and the central blue channel dispel our ignorance.  


So, through the proper conduct of the nine breathing exercise, we nourish our five vital organs in our body and help clear our negative emotions of anger, attachment, and ignorance.


Outer elements      Inner elements      Sacred elements     Color


Space                    Mind                     Heart                    White

Wind                     Breath                   Lung                     Green

Fire                       Heat                      Liver                     Red

Water                    Blood                    Kidney                  Blue

Earth                    Flesh                     Spleen                             Yellow


These nine breathing exercises should precede each of the five Keksel exercise. Breathing has 4 process (Tib:rLung sbyor yan lag bzhi).  Through these nine-breathing exercises negative emotions like attachment, anger, and ignorance could be cleansed. The five Keksel exercises are meant to open and activate the five chakras (Tib:'Khor-lo) that people have in their bodies. Locations of the five chakras are: crown of the head, throat, heart, navel, and the sacred region.


First exercise is Upward moving wind (Tib:    )

Breath in, and turn your head from right to left three times, turn left to right three times, and back and forward three times and let our the breath. Breathing has four processes: breath-in, rebirth, hold, and breath out. Hold the breath in between the crown and throat.


Second exercise is Holding life energy (Tib:srog 'zin)

Breath in, raise your right hand and circle it around your head three times; repeat with left hand; put your hands on your hip-waist, let your right arm in curve come forward three time and go back three times; repeat the same with the left arm and breath out.


Chaphur Rinpoche is an accomplished Geshe from Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. He has written several books and teaches Bon, Dzogchen, and Buddhism in the States. He is the founder and Spiritual Director of Gyalshen Institute and Chaphur Foundation in the San Francisco Bay Area, the United States.


This is a student's note. Errors and omissions could not be ruled out. Serious students are advised to attend the Rinpoche's teaching directly.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Tibet: The water tower of Asia



Towards A Global Common Good

 By Dr. Tsewang Gyalpo Arya*

 Abstract: Tibet, a country situated on the world`s highest plateau with an average height of 4000 meters from sea level, is known to the world as the Roof of the World. But for the environment and climate scientists, it is popularly known as the Third Pole and for the Southeast countries as the Water Tower of Asia. The ecology of Tibet is said to be very important in the context of global climate change and as the source of fresh water for the Southeast Asian nations. However, the plateau is suffering great damage due to the increased Chinese militarization, damming, and mining activities. In this paper, we shall study how Tibet is the water tower of Asia and why the protection of the Tibetan plateau is incumbent on all of us.

 Keywords: Tibet, Tibetan plateau, Roof of the World, Third Pole, Water Tower of Asia, Damming of Tibet, Tibet Ecology

Why Tibet's environment and ecosystem is important?

What is happening to Tibet's ecology does not forebode well for Tibet, Asia, and the world. Tibet has suffered great ecological disturbance and environmental damage since the 1950s under the Chinese colonial policy of excessive mining, deforestation, damming, and militarization of the plateau. Environmentalists and scientists have realized that this continued damage to the Tibetan environment will mean rapid melting of the Himalayan glaciers and permafrost affecting the livelihood of more than 1.5 billion people down the stream and further triggering global warming.

 Tibet, comprising the three traditional provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham, has an area of 2.5 million square kilometers, five times the size of Thailand and six times the size of Japan. It has an elevation of more than 4000 meters and holds the largest number of glaciers next to the North and the South pole, therefore, it is referred to as the third pole. These glaciers are the source of ten major rivers and tributaries sustaining and feeding the land and the people in Southeast Asian countries of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.


Tibet map museum.jpg

Photo: Tibet Museum, DIIR Dharamsala

Tibet has maintained a good and balanced relationship with its environment since ancient times. The estimated population of Tibet is over 6 million, very sparse for a vast land, and the people are devoted to their religion and spiritual pursuits. Nature has it that way to make them the perfect guardians of the plateau for the benefit of all sentient beings and global climate stability. Mountains, rivers, and forests are revered and treated as the abode of gods and goddesses. Mining, fishing, hunting, and deforestation are forbidden.

The philosophy and the law of interdependence were at the core of the Tibetan value system and civilization.

 It has environmental decrees issued occasionally to maintain this balance with nature and other living beings. Ri-rgya-klung-rgya, Ri-rlung-rtsa-tshig, bK`-bdus-tsa-tshig, and Yarlung-bya-gso-khang[1] are some of such decrees protecting the environment and wildlife on the plateau. In fact, scholars say that Tibetans were perhaps the first to have laws on the environment. Man, animals, and nature all lived together harmoniously. This has saved the Himalayan plateau and the glaciers, and the neighboring countries could enjoy the blessing of the pure snow water of Tibet since ancient times undisturbed.

 How Tibet is the water tower of Asia?

 46,000 glaciers and the vast permafrost on the Tibetan plateau and the rivers are the major sources of rivers in Asia. Senge-khabab, Langchen-khabab, Maja-khabab, and Tachog-khabab are the four great rivers originating from the base of Mount Kailash in western Tibet and flowing into India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Among the many reasons why Mount Kailash has been worshiped by Indians and Tibetans of various religious schools since ancient times, this could be the one logical reason. Senge-khabab flows through India to Pakistan as the Indus River. Langchen-khabab flows southward as Sutlej in western India. Maja-khabab becomes the sacred Ganges through Gangotri. Tachok-khabab flows eastward and, joining Kyichu becomes Yarlung-tsangpo and flows to India and Bangladesh as Brahmaputra.


International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Washington DC


Gyalmo-ngyulchu from central Tibet flows to south China, Myanmar, and Thailand as Nujiang, Thalween, and Salween. Zachu River of Tibet is the famous Mekong River. It is 5000 kilometers long from its source in Tibet to the South China Sea nourishing millions of people in China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam[2].

 Drichu and Machu Rivers of Tibet are the sources of the Yangtse and Huangho Yellow Rivers of China. These two rivers are the longest rivers in China and the Huangho Yellow River is considered the cradle of Chinese civilization. From this, we can understand how important Tibet is as the source of water in Asia.

 How this water tower is being damaged?

 With the occupation of Tibet by Communist China in 1950 and with the increased human activities under Chinese colonial policy, we are witnessing great damage to the Tibetan plateau and the ecosystem. This damage comes in the form of melting of the glaciers and permafrost due to increased militarization of the Tibetan plateau, increased housing, and industrial projects because of increased migration from mainland China, excessive mining of the mountains, and damming of the Tibetan rivers. 

 This continued damage to the Tibetan environment has increased the temperatures at the plateau negatively affecting the net accumulation of glaciers and permafrost. The Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development has reported that temperature warming more than 1 degree centigrade on the Tibetan side of the Himalayas will result in rapid melting of the glaciers which will be disastrous for the plateau and all the riparian states[3]. If the current rate of increase in the temperature continues, scientists say that by 2050, 2/3 of the 46,000 glaciers in the Tibetan plateau will be lost[4]. This will cause an acute shortage of fresh and life-sustaining water in the riparian Southeast Asian states.

 On top of this melting glacier crisis, China is building dams to contain these rivers for its mega hydro projects and changing the rivers' course without consultation with the riparian states below. Ms. Dechen Palmo, a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute, writes, "Over the last seven decades, the People's Republic of China has constructed more than 87,000 dams. Collectively they generate 325.26 GW of power, more than the capacities of Brazil, the United States, and Canada combined. On the other hand, these projects have led to the displacement of over 23 million people."[5]

 International Campaign for Tibet (ITC) reports that the Chinese government plans to construct large hydropower stations in Tibetan areas, likely to have a negative impact on the environment and lead to the relocation of thousands of local people. At least one project directly affects a UNESCO-protected World Heritage site.[6]

 As of now, China has built several thousand dams, dikes, and reservoirs in Tibet and China. With these dams and dikes, China could release water to cause flood and at the same time stop the tap creating a draught situation downstream. This is very dangerous and intimidating. China already has 11 huge dams upstream of the Mekong River putting Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam at the mercy of China's "open and close tap" policy.  China plans to build many more dams and dikes in the Lower Mekong Basin under the guise of One Belt One Road (OBOR) or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) promising mega hydropower and development.

 How this OBOR or BRI has benefitted the participating nations is an open secret and well delineated in the report by the International Republican Institute (IRI)[7]Washington for all to see. The developing countries should be careful enough not to be taken for a ride by this Chinese overture to collaborate and generate hydro-energy, it will only fulfill the strategic ambition of China's hydro-hegemony. It is also said that most of the dams are constructed in highly seismic-prone zones, this forebodes great dangers of flood and inundation in the event of earthquake.

 How this damage to the water tower will affect the neighboring countries?

 China's continued militarization, excessive exploitation of mineral resources of the Tibetan plateau, and damming of rivers in Tibet have adversely affected climate change, global warming, and the stable flow of water to Southeast Asian countries. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has reported that at the current pace of melting glaciers with increased temperature and human activities, the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus and other rivers across the northern India plains would soon become seasonal rivers. This would greatly affect the livelihood of millions of people in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature has reported that the Indus River is one of the world`s ten rivers most at risk. This is because China has built a dam on the dying river in the Ngari region of Western Tibet without sharing the information with India and Pakistan[8].

 Recent news in Japan Times reports that the UN has declared South Asia the worst in the world for water scarcity. "A staggering 347 million children under 18 are exposed to high or extremely high water scarcity in South Asia regions plagued by floods, draughts, and other extreme weather events, triggered by increasing climate change."[9]

 Experts blame China's mega dam projects as the cause of the historic drought crisis in 2019 where Mekong's water levels fell to their lowest[10] and the livelihood of 70 million people in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam were affected. Agriculture, fishery, forestry, tourism, trade, and transportation industries suffered greatly. Just as the Huangho Yellow River was the cradle of Chinese civilization, the Mekong River was the cradle of Southeast Asian country's civilization.

 We come across many reports and articles on how the Mekong is drying up and how people's lives, flora and fauna, agriculture, fisheries, and tourism are affected. The Head of the Mekong Program at Mae Fah Luang University in Thailand, Dr. Khen Suan Khai, writes "The once mighty and resourceful Mekong is in a critical situation. The Mekong River is maltreated; the lands are mismanaged; unconscious development projects in the region are cluttered. All in all, the people are suffering and their voices need to be heard. The Mekong's floodplains and 37 wetlands sustain about 61 million people living in the five countries of Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand. However, the development activities in the Upper Mekong Basin and unconscious development projects in the lower Mekong have challenged regional stability and the balance of power in the region."[11]


Figure 2: Sub-basins, major rivers, and evaluation of the UMB in China


 Another major cause of co-disasters is China`s excessive mining of the Tibetan plateau. Tibet has deposits of more than 132 different minerals like copper, silver, coal, gold, lithium, lead, zinc, oil, gas, magnesium, uranium, etc. China forced more than 2 million Tibetan nomads between 2006 and 2012 to the cities under the slogan of development and protecting the environment[12]. Many nomads lost their land and livestock and found themselves on the street without proper livelihoods. China made them dependent on the minimal government subsidy to have total control over them.

 China`s colonial policy of aggressively mining Tibet's mountains for mineral resources and taking the booty to mainland China is damaging the fragile Tibet's ecosystem. It is reported, "China's booming electric vehicle industry is fueling a lithium rush in the Tibetan plateau that risks damaging the troubled region's fragile ecology and deepening rights violations." Around 85% of the country's total lithium reserves are said to be in Tibet.”[13] China has boasted of its environmental law in its white paper, but environmental damage due to excessive mining in the Tibetan plateau has led to water pollution and the death of aquatic life. Local environmental groups who protested the mining of the sacred mountains were arrested under the charge of "separatism, disrupting peace and security" in the region[14].

 Gabriel Lafitte, the author of "Spoiling Tibet" writes, "Environmentalists are aghast. So certain these days are the arrest, detention, tortures, and public confession, for publically questioning official policy, they dare not speak directly. This is their plea."[15]

 Water pollution in the Tibetan plateau is not good for all the nations below the streams.

 What H.H. the Dalai Lama has said about the planet Earth?

 H.H. the Dalai Lama has said, "This planet of ours is a delightful habitat. Its life is our life, its future is our future. Indeed the earth acts like a mother to us all. Like children, we are dependent on her. In the face of such global problems as the effect of global heating and depletion of the ozone layer, individual organizations and single nations are helpless. Unless we all work together, no solution can be found. Our Mother Earth is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility. Take the issue of water as an example. Today, more than ever, the welfare of citizens in many parts of the world, especially of mothers and children, is at extreme risk because of the lack of adequate water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions. It is concerning that the absence of these essential health services throughout the world impacts nearly two billion people.

 "Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Ignorance of interdependence has wounded not just our natural environment, but our human society as well. Therefore, we human beings must develop a greater sense of the oneness of all humanity. Each of us must learn to work not only for his or herself, family, or nation but for the benefit of all mankind."[16]

 So, we can see how we have greatly deviated from what His Holiness has said. What is happening in Tibet, what is happening in Ukraine, and what is happening in Gaza right now is all because of our divisive way of thinking about the "I, you, and they" concept. We all must see that this Tibetan Plateau, the Water Tower of Asia, belongs to all of us and we all need to protect it if we want our children to continue to have a peaceful life with a continued supply of fresh water from the Water Tower of Asia. For this, we all must uphold the principle of global community and the need for universal responsibility as advocated by H.H. the Dalai Lama.

 What do we all need to do to save this tower?

 What happens at the rivers upstream is definitely going to affect the rivers downstream and the people. Therefore, the environment and ecology of Tibet is not a matter of Tibetan people only. It is a critical issue for all of us, it is a global issue. It affects global warming and climate change, and the lives of more than 3 billion people, 40% of the world's population. So, we all need to ensure that Tibet's environment and ecology are properly protected so that people and lands dependent on the rivers from the Tibetan plateau are not deprived of this water resource and their livelihood.

 Prof. Brahma Chellaney has in one of his writings concluded "China - with its hold over Asia's transnational water resources and boasting more than half of the world's 50,000 large dams - has made the control and manipulation of river flows a pivot of its power and economic progress. Unless it is willing to play a leadership role in developing a rule-based system, the economic and security risks arising from the Asian water competition can scarcely be mitigated."[17]

 Therefore, we all need to urge China to share hydro project-related information with the nations concerned and stop the China-centric hydro hegemonic policy. This Chinese mad rush in damming all the rivers from Tibet will not only be disastrous for Tibet and the riparian states but also to mainland China. The riparian nations need to make the international community aware of this critical water issue and chalk out a way to deal with this crisis not in isolation but through collective effort for the global common good.

            སེང་གླང་མ་རྟ་་ཨིན་སཊ་གང་བྷྲ་བཞི།                    བོད་ཀྱི་གཙང་པོ་འཕགས་ཡུལ་ཕྱོགས་ལ་འགྲིམ།

རྒྱལ་མོ་དངུལ་ཆུ་རྒྱ་བཱར་ཐཱེ་གསུམ་གྱི།                  ནུ་ཇིང་ཐལ་ཝིན་སལ་ཝིན་གཙང་པོ་ཡིན།

ཛ་ཆུ་རྒྱ་བཱར་ལའོ་ཐཱེ་ཀམ་ཝེཊ་ཡི།                        མེ་ཀོང་གཙང་པོ་ཆེན་པོ་དེ་ཡིན་ནོ།

བྲི་རྨ་རྒྱ་ཡི་གཡང་རྩེ་ཧུ་ཝང་ཧོ།              གཙང་ཆེན་དག་གི་བྱུང་ཁུངས་བོད་ཡིན་ནོ།


Senge, Langchen, Maja, and Tachog Rivers of Tibet are the Indus, Sutlej, Ganges, and Brahmaputra, Tibet's rivers flow to the Arya Bhumi.

Gyalmo-Nyulchu is China, Burma, and Thailand's Nujinag, Thalween, and Salween Rivers.

Zachu is China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam's Mekong River

Drichu and Machu are China's Yangtse and Huangho. All these great rivers` sources are in Tibet. Therefore, it is very important to protect Tibet's environment.

 *Dr. Tsewang Gyalpo Arya is the Representative of the Liaison Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama for Japan & East Asia. He is the former Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) and the Former Director of the Tibet Policy Institute of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala, India. This paper was presented as an opening remark during the 4th Tibet Environment Conference “Tibet: The Water Tower of Asia – Towards A Global Common Good” from 27-28 November 2023 at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.

 End Notes:

[1] Tenzin Norbu, Tibet: The Third Pole & the Himalayas, FNVA

[2] Khen Suan Khai, Threats to the existence of Riparian Communities of the Mekong, 17/08/2021, Heinrich Boll

[3] Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, Retreat of Tibetan Plateau Glaciers Caused by Global Warming Threatens Water Supply and Food Security, August, 2010

[4]Zamlha Tempa Gyaltsen, The Tibetan Plateau: Why it Matters to the Indian Subcontinent, Tibet Policy Journal, Vol- issue

[5] Dechen Palmo, Tibet's Rivers Will Determine Asia's Future, The Diplomat, 1/11/2019

[6] Damming Tibet`s Rivers New Threats to Tibetan Area under UNESCO Protection, International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Report 2019

[7] Chinese Malign Influence and the Corrosion of Democracy by the International Republican Institute (IRI) Report 2019

[8]Aashina Thakur, Tibet is “Third Pole and Water Tower of Asia”: River flowed throughout Asia 1/02/2021

[9] South Asia worst in the world for water scarcity, says U.N. Japan Times, p-6, 14/11/2023

[10] Lee Kok Leong, Mekong River Faces Existential Threat From Chinese Dams, 23/06/2022, Maritime Fairtrade

[11]Khen Suan Khai, Threats to the Existence of Riparian Communities of the Mekong, 17/08/2021, Heinrich Boll

[12] Tibet was never a part of China, p-129, DIIR publications, 2018 

[13] China's lithium boom harming fragile Tibetan plateau, Japan Times, p-4, 4-5/11/2023


[15] Damming Tibet`s Rivers New Threats to Tibetan Area under UNESCO Protection, International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Report 2019

[16] H.H. the Dalai Lama, Message for Earth Day, 22/04/2021, www.dalailama.com

[17] Brahma Chellaney, Chellaney: China's great water wall, The Washington Times, 8/04/2013


Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Tibet and Mongolia


Tibet and Mongolia`s historical, political, and religious ties, and the Treaty of 1913

Dr. Arya Tsewang Gyalpo*

Tibeto-Mongol Friendship Alliance Treaty was signed on February 13, 1913, at Ulan Bator.

Photo: Lungta Spring 2013, Amnye Machen, Dharamsala

 Abstract: Tibet and Mongolia had close historical and religious ties since the times of Genghis Khan who conquered nearly the whole of Asia and Eastern Europe in the 13th century. Tibetan Lamas and the descendants of Genghis Khan developed a unique relationship of "Cho-yon", priest-patron, where the Mongol's military power protected Tibet from internal and external attacks and the Tibetan Lamas gave the Mongol chiefs moral and spiritual legitimacy to rule. Later, this priest-patron relationship continued with the Manchu Qing dynasty too. However, at the turn of the century, both Tibet and Mongolia became pawns of the Great Game of the Anglo-Russian rivalry in Asia and the Chinese invasion. Today, we have an independent Mongolia on one side, and Tibet and Southern Mongolia on the other under Chinese occupation. Through systematic suppression of information and distortion of history, China continues to claim sovereignty over Tibet and Southern Mongolia. This paper will examine Tibet-Mongol's historical, political, and religious ties to challenge the Chinese false claims and resurrect the 1913 Tibeto-Mongolian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, the real aspiration of the two nations.

 Tibet and Mongolia

Tibet and Mongolia existed as independent nations with unique civilizations, languages, and cultures of their own. They were once strong military powers who later adopted the path of peace and non-violence. What was Tibet in the 7th to 9th century, was Mongolia in the 12th to 14th century. Although Mongol Khans ruled the eastern empire, including China, under the Yuan Dynasty directly, it left Tibet to the Tibetans. The two shared a unique system of governance, politico-religious theocracy, based on the Buddhist principle of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and the Khuthugtu Jetsundampa. The system is still alive and respected, albeit in a different form.

 Early Tibetan Military Power

Tibet was once a military power in central Asia in the 7th to 9th centuries. Emperor Srongtsan Gampo (569-650 AD), who united the disarrayed Tibetan princely states, marched the Tibetan army far east into the Chinese territory and claimed the hand of Princess Wencheng Kungchu, and the Tang emperor Taitsung had to acquiesce.[1] To the South, the Tibetan army got into the Indian border to subdue King Arjuna in Bihar for suppressing the Buddhist religion and for harassing the Chinese goodwill mission[2]. The Tibetan Emperor helped restore King Narendradeva's reign in Nepal. To the North, the Tibetan army went as far as the Tarim basin and captured the four garrisons of Anhsi, present-day East Turkistan[3]. During the time of Emperor Trisrong Deutsan and Emperor Triralpachen in the 8th and 9th centuries, Tibetan military power was at its peak. In 763, Tibetan troops raided the Chinese capital Changan, present-day Xian, and installed a new emperor, Ta-she.[4] In 778, Tibetans helped Siamese King Imoshun in fighting the Chinese aggression in the region. In 790 Trisrong Deutsan's army recaptured the four garrisons of Anhsi or Anxi and the area around a lake in the north of Oxus River, present-day Amu Darya in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which came to be known as Al-Tubbat, a little Tibetan lake.[5] During Triralpachen's time in 821, a peace treaty initiated by the Buddhist monks in Tibet and China was made and the contents of the treaty were inscribed on three pillars erected one at the Chinese capital Xian, one at Tibet-China border Gongumeru, and one in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet.

 The Tibetan emperors, who united Tibet and sought hegemony beyond borders, saw the need to enrich the moral and spiritual side of the Tibetan empire. Emperor Trisrong Deutsan invited Indian Saint Shantarakshita and Tantric Guru Padmasambhava to teach Buddhism in Tibet. This was followed by the visits of many Indian masters to Tibet and Tibetans to India and Buddhism began to get firmly established in Tibet through royal patronage. However, Wudum Tsanpo, the 43rd Emperor of Tibet, was against this too much influence of religion which he felt was weakening the country and making it precarious to foreign invaders. But his unpopular policy to suppress religious institutions got him assassinated in 842 and thus started the disintegration of Tibet and the land remained without central leadership for about 400 years until the emergence of Sakya Lama's rule with the help of Mongols in the 13th century.

 Buddhism in Tibet

Tibet around that time was without a unified central leadership. There were regional power struggles among the small hegemonies and warring chieftains. But this period gave Tibet and the Tibetans a good time to interact with India and Nepal and Buddhism began to bloom in Tibet. With the complete burning and destruction of Nalanda and Vikramshila universities in 1193 AD, Buddhism gradually died in the land of its birth. Fortunately, the teachings found a safe haven in Tibet, where the major Indian texts were translated into the Tibetan language. Buddhism flourished in Tibet and played an important role in maintaining peace among the warring nations of Mongolia, Manchu, Nepal, and China.

 Mongols` Conquest

Mongols under the leadership of Genghis Khan rose in power in the 12th century and by the next century, most of Asia and Eastern Europe came under Mongolian domination. Mongols established five Khanates to rule the country and the conquered territories: Mongol Qipchag Khanate in Russia and Europe; Ilkhanate in Persia, present-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, etc.; Chagatai Khanate in the area around present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kirghizstan; Ogedei Khanate in the area around the Mongol homeland; and the Yuan Empire in present-day China, Burma, and Korea in the east.[6]

 Godan Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan who attacked Tibet in 1240, later realized that the Mongol empire was strong but it lacked the deep moral and spiritual hallow of Tibet. His audience with Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsan of Tibet in 1247 at Liangzhou opened Mongolia to Buddhism. Later, Kublai Khan, who founded the Yuan dynasty in 1271, further promoted Buddhism in Mongolia with Sakya Phagpa of Tibet as his teacher. China`s Sung Dynasty came under the Yuan Dynasty in 1279, which was a Mongolian dynasty. Therefore, the Chinese claim on Tibet and Southern Mongolia based on the Yuan Dynasty`s conquest is irrelevant and a gross distortion of history. If this logic is to work, then Mongols have a far better reason to claim China and Tibet.

 In the later part of the Yuan regime, its grip on power and administration began to wane due to internal feuds, corruption, and discriminatory policy. Ultimately, the peasants' Red Turban Rebellions (1351-1368) toppled the Yuan regime and the Chinese Ming dynasty took over in 1368. The Mongol Yuan Dynasty survived as the Northern Yuan Dynasty in present-day Mongolia and Southern Mongolia.

In 1644, the Chinese Ming Dynasty collapsed and the Manchu Qing Dynasty took over China just as the Mongol's Yuan Dynasty took over China 365 years ago in 1279. In 1634 with the death of Lekdan Khan, the last Khan of the Great Northern Yuan dynasty, and his son Eiji Khan's submission of the Imperial Seal to the Manchu Emperor, Mongolia came under the influence of the Qing Empire.[7]

 Mongols and Tibetans` Coexistence

Although the Yuan Dynasty disintegrated gradually, remnants of the Great Northern Yuan Dynasty and the divided Mongol Khans played important roles in Tibet's internal political and religious struggles. When Tibet was engrossed in internal power struggles for temporal and religious leadership, the Mongol tribes under their chieftains sided with the Tibetan factions of their choice.[8] Prominent Mongol tribes involved in the Tibetan infighting around the times were: the Qoshot of Oirat Mongols, Dzungar, Chahar, Chogthu, Urluk of Torgut Mongols, and so on[9]. Khuthugtu Khan, also known as Lekdan in Tibetan, the last Khan of the Great Northern Yuan dynasty, was a follower of the Karmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. He along with the Choghtu Mongol tribes tried to suppress the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. But Toru Bayikhan aka Gushri Khan, the leader of the Qoshot Mongolian tribe of the Oirat confederation, intervened and his victory led to the installation of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso, as the temporal and spiritual leader of the whole of Tibet in 1642.[10] This was how the Dalai Lamas began to rule Tibet until the Chinese invasion in 1950.

 The Great Game

The great game of Anglo-Russian supremacy in Asia led British India to send a military expedition to Tibet in 1904 and the 13th Dalai Lama fled to Mongolia, where he was warmly received and the relations between the two countries strengthened. The Dalai Lama stayed in Mongolia for about a year and became aware of the Mongolian people's aspiration for a greater and closer union with Tibet and to do away with the Qing dynasty's influence.[11] Both Mongolia and Tibet saw the prospect of a grand alliance of Tibet and united Mongols under the Russian protectorate.[12]

 The 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet and the 8th Jetsun Dhampa Khuthugtu played important roles in keeping the two countries independent of Manchu, Russia, and the British. Manchu dynasty who executed the priest-patron relationship with Tibet well in the past became more assertive in laying claim on Tibet. British India fearing that Tibet would come under Russian influence occupied Tibet.

 Russia and British-India looked at Mongolia and Tibet as important and profitable buffer states, important to keep the rivals at bay, and profitable to keep their commercial and trade interest. Chinese suzerainty concept helped them to keep each other from occupying the regions and yet maintain their commercial sphere of influence in the regions. The Anglo-Tibetan Treaty of 1904 gave the British considerable rights in Tibet, but China was not happy about this treaty. To mollify China, the Anglo-China Convention was signed in 1906,[13] and finally, the tripartite treaty, the Simla agreement of 1914, and the validity of this agreement is a still debate requiring separate papers. Russia signed an agreement with Mongolia promising to protect its autonomy and non-interference from China in the region's internal affairs in November 1912. This was followed by the Sino-Russian convention in 1913 and ultimately a tripartite treaty among Russia, China, and Mongolia in June 1915.[14] 

 The ambiguities surrounding the treatise and the strong resistance from Tibet and Mongols made China assertive and later aggressive. The Republic of China invited Tibet and Mongolia to join the newly formed Republic.[15] But both Tibet and Mongolia believe that though they had certain levels of relations with the Qing regime, it never compromised the sovereignty and independence of their nations. They firmly rejected China's proposal.

 Russian, Tibet, and Mongol Alliance

In this quagmire, Tibet and Mongolia, who were once military powers and later turned into peaceful religious nations, found themselves confronted with the new nation-state concept and the tightening noose of the great game gnawing at their independence. The 13th Dalai Lama's escape from British invasion and stay in Mongolia and his meeting with the 8th Khuthugtu Jetsundampa and the Mongolian princes in 1904 sparked a close feeling of shared history, religion, and culture. They saw the need to exert their independence and protect their religion and culture. In this direction, they saw hope in Tsar's Russia, strong and powerful, under whose reign Buryats, Kalmyks, and Tuva enjoyed a high degree of autonomy in practicing their Buddhist religion[16].

 Here, Agvan Dorjiev (1853-1935), a Buryat Mongol, who studied in Tibet and rose to the rank of Tsennyi Khenpo, a debating partner and teacher to the young 13th Dalai Lama, played a very important role in promoting and preserving Tibet and Mongolia's independence. He advised both Khuthugtu and Dalai Lama to see the Russian Tsar as the ultimate protector of the faith and devoted his whole life to promoting the Pan-Buddhist Kingdom under Russia's protection.[17] Dorjiev visited Russia three times with messages from the 13th Dalai Lama to the Tsar seeking relationship and protection. Russia responded favorably and diplomatically but without making any concrete commitment[18].

 Tibet and Mongolia Declare Independence

Toward the beginning of the 20th century, the great game of British and Russia became more manifest, plunging Tibet and Mongolia into the whirlpool of geopolitics away from their spiritual world of peace and complacency. The geopolitics of the time tried to divide Tibet and Mongolia into outer and inner regions. While this was effected in Mongolia, Tibet withstood the division initially. (However, in 1965 the CCP created Tibet Autonomous Regions with central and western Tibet, and included Amdo and Kham provinces of Tibet into the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan.)

 Having lost the Opium War in 1840 with British India, the Qing's power began to diminish in China and Western colonial powers began to exert their influence in China.[19] Despite the fragile and unstable situation, the Qing emperor held an aggressive policy toward Tibet and Mongolia.

 Taking advantage of weak and unstable Tibet after the British invasion in 1904, breaking the historical sacred priest-patron relationship, the Qing army invaded Tibet (1906-1910), looted the country, and brought immense destruction of monasteries and properties. The 13th Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India, where he negotiated with British India to support Tibet to expel the invading Manchu forces. In October 1911, China's decade-long civil wars and the Xinhai Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen toppled the Qing Dynasty and China became a republic. This enabled Tibet to drive out the invading Manchu force and break all relationships with the Manchu based on the priest-patron principle. Although Tibet has been an independent nation since ancient times, the geopolitics and the needs of international diplomacy made the 13th Dalai Lama declare Tibetan independence on February 13, 1913.

Similarly, when the Qing regime adopted an aggressive policy to control the western frontiers, including Outer Mongolia, through stringent administration and cultural assimilation, the Mongols revolted. The Qing's colonial ethnic and cultural assimilation policy was greatly resisted by the Mongolians. The 1911 revolution in China and the fall of the Qing dynasty gave Mongols a good opportunity to revolt and reject the Qing`s authority. Mongolia declared its independence and installed the 8th Jetsun Dhampa Khuthugtu as the temporal and spiritual head of Mongolia on November 30, 1911. 

 Sun Yatsen, the first Chinese President of the Republic of China, who took over the Qing regime rightly said that historically China has fallen under foreign rule twice, the first time under the Mongol's Yuan dynasty and the second time under the Manchu's Qing regime.[20]  He treated the Manchu Qing regime as a foreign power and declared Chinese republic and invited Mongolia and Tibet, even Nepal to join the republic. [21] But both Khuthugtu[22] and the Dalai Lama[23] claimed their independence and rejected the proposal.

 The implication here is that China overthrew the Qing regime, which was a foreign entity, and the Republic of China was born. This helped Tibet and Mongolia to shake off any influence or authority that the Qing regime had been claiming over the two regions. Just as the Manchu Qing regime was a foreign invader for China, as declared by Sun Yatsen[24], it too was a foreign intruder for Tibet and Mongolia. With the collapse of the Qing regime, China won its independence, and Mongolia and Tibet too declared their independence in 1912 and 1913, respectively.

 Tibeto-Mongol Treaty of 1913

The Tibeto-Mongol Treaty of January 11, 1913, signed at Urga, present-day Ulan Bator, came as a response to the indifferent, condescending, and aggressive attitudes adopted by Russia, British, and China toward Tibet and Mongolia. The two countries realized that they were used as pawns in the selfish game of the three powerful neighbors. They found it odd that despite their independence since ancient times, why do they need the endorsement of foreign countries. So, they recognized each other`s independence from any foreign influence and promised to help each other against foreign invasion, and bound themselves to work for the promotion of their faith and values. The preamble of the agreement reads:

 "Mongolia and Thibet, having freed themselves from the dynasty of the Manchus and separated from China, have formed their own independent States, and having in view that both States from time immemorial have professed one and the same religion, with a view to strengthening their historic and mutual friendship and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nikta Biliktu Da-Lama Rabdan, and the Assistant Minister, General and Manlai baatyr beiseh Damdinsurun, as plenipotentiaries of the Government of the ruler of the Mongol people, and gudjir tsanshib kanchen Lubsan-Agvan, donir Agvan Choinzin, director of the Bank Ishichjamtso, and the clerk Gendun Galsan, as plenipotentiaries of the Dalai Lama, the ruler of Thibet, have made the following agreement."[25]

 Articles one and two of the agreement succinctly declare the formation of independent Tibet and Mongol States and recognize and approve the authority of the Dalai Lama and the Khuthugtu as the heads of the respective states.

 The remaining seven articles discussed how the two nations should collaborate and work together to safeguard their territories and faith from foreign intruders and how trade and commerce should be conducted for mutual benefits.

 The three powerful neighbors received this treaty with mixed feelings of doubt and concern.[26] Instead of respecting the aspiration of the two countries, the great game used it to gain control and claim over the regions through the use of "autonomy" and "suzerainty" concepts and they questioned the validity of the treaty.

 They purported that the treaty was invalid because it was signed by Agvan Dorjeiv, a Mongol Buryat and citizen of Russia, on behalf of Tibet. Some believed that the Dalai Lama had not authorized Dorjiev to sign such a treaty. We must know that Avgan Dorjiev was a respected scholar, tutor, and advisor to the 13th Dalai Lama, and his role as an emissary of Tibet is well documented.[27] He escorted the Dalai Lama to Mongolia in 1904 when the British invaded Tibet. Moreover, the two other signatories, Donir Ngwang Choezin and Gendun Galsang, were authorized representatives of the government of Tibet[28] posted in Mongolia. Tibetans have sometimes downplayed Dorjiev's role while dealing with the British officials, but this was more of a diplomatic move to assuage the British fear. Whereas in reality, the 13th Dalai Lama and Tibetan Kashag (cabinet) at that time relied heavily on Dorjiev's advice and his mission to Russia and Mongolia.

 Doubt on the authority of Dorjiev to sign came up when Sir Charles Bell, British India`s Ambassador to Tibet and a noted Tibetologist, wrote that Dorjiev`s authority was based on a letter given to him by the Dalai Lama in 1904 when the latter was fleeing from the British expedition to Lhasa and the letter contain only religious matter and nothing of treaty-making authority.  However, from the several letters and authorizations that the 13th Dalai Lama had given to Agvan Dorjiev, Prof. Jampa Samten clarifies that it was the letter of August 1912, not 1904, that authorized Agvan Dorjiev to sign treaties on behalf of Tibet and the letter did mention treaty-making authority.[29]  

 Dr. Michael C. van Walt van Parag, a noted international lawyer, and a Tibetologist, made a legal examination of the treaty and endorsed the treaty as a valid international treaty made by the two nations who satisfy the treaty-making criteria under international law.[30] He concluded his findings with:

 "The government of Mongolia today and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet and the government in exile constitute continuity in relation to the parties that concluded the 1913 treaty as the legitimate representatives of their respective nations. The question that then remains to be answered is whether and to what extent the 1913 treaty persists in its validity today. If the intention of parties is to give expression to the continuity of the profound bonds that unite them, ways of usefully implementing, reaffirming, and building on the 1913 treaty today can be explored."[31]


The important point to note here is: Mongols have played a far wider help in the form of priest-patron relations than the Manchus. Starting from the sacred intimate relationship between Mongols and Tibetans from Sakya Pandita and Godan Khan (1247) to Phagpa and Kublai Khan (1254), the third Dalai Lama and Altan Khan (1578), the fifth Dalai Lama and Gushri Khan (1642) and so on, Mongolia and Tibet enjoyed far deeper relations and Mongol Khans provided greater service to Tibet in the form of priest-patron relations. The 4th Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso, was a Mongolian and the Mongol's spiritual heads both the 8th and 9th Jetsun Dhampa Khuthugtu were Tibetans. If any military influence and conquest in the past justify a claim on the sovereignty of another country, then Mongolia has a much better reason to assert a claim over Tibet.

 There is an urgent need to study and research the roles played by the Mongol Khans and the Tibetan Lamas to explore the working of the priest-patron relationship, which kept the two communities close, yet without infringing on each other's sovereignty. This may help the modern world to understand the concept of politico-religious governance and peaceful coexistence.

 Tibet and Mongolia, who were once military powers realized the horror and destructive nature of war and embraced the path of Ahimsa, non-violence, as taught by the Buddha. If the world wants to see a future without wars, it must follow the path adopted by Tibet and Mongolia.

 China is a great civilization with a rich history, culture, and potential to contribute positively to promoting peace, arts, and learning. The communist leadership should respect this great ancient civilization and refrain from rewriting and distorting the history of the nation and the occupied territories to legitimize the doings of the communist regime and suppression of freedom and democracy. The Chinese communist regime's irredentist claim on Tibet and Mongolia based on the vicissitudes of past relationships the two countries had with the Qing regime is not valid.[32]

 Free Tibet and Mongolia are very important to guide us to explore and further this non-violent path of governance and peaceful coexistence. War is not a solution to solve our differences, mutual respect and dialog are. H.H. the Dalai Lama has on numerous occasions said that the 20th century was the century of wars, we must make the 21st century a century of dialogs. Tibetans and Mongolians were way ahead in realizing this, but the modern world has kept them captive and chained. A free Tibet and Mongolia and H.H. the Dalai Lama`s proposal of the Tibetan Plateau as a Zone of Peace will greatly contribute to promoting peace in Asia and the world.

 *Dr. Arya Tsewang Gyalpo is the Representative of the Liaison Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama for Japan and East Asia. He is the former Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) and former Director of the Tibet Policy Institute of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). The paper was presented at the Second Mongol-Tibet Cultural and Religious Symposium organized to commemorate the 110th Anniversary of the 1913 Tibeto-Mongol Treaty of Friendship and Alliance at the University of Tokyo, Japan on July 15, 2023.  


 Reference Books:

1)     Alex McKay, Tibet and the British Raj, LTWA, India, 2009

2)     Amnye Machen, The Centennial of the Tibeto-Mongo Treaty 1913-2013, Lungta Spring 2013, Dharamasala

3)     Ann Heirman & Stephan Peter Bumbacher (Editors), The Spread of Buddhism, Boston, 2007

4)     Arya Tsewang Gyalpo, The Ancient Tibetan Civilization, LTWA, Dharamsala, 2022

5)     Arya Tsewang Gyalpo, Harnessing the Dragon's Fume, DIIR, India, 2021

6)     Charles Bell, Portrait of a Dalai Lama, Wisdom Publications, Lodon, 1987

7)     DIIR Publications, The Mongos and Tibet, Dharamsala, 2009

8)     DIIR Publications, Tibet Proving Truth From Facts, Dharamsala, 2006

9)     DIIR Publications, Political Treaties of Tibet (821 to 1951), Dharamsala, India

10) DIIR Publications, Tibet and Manchu, Dharamsala, 2001

11) Nikolai S. Kuleshov, Russia's Tibet File, LTWA, India, 1996

12) Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, Kodansha, USA, 1992

13) Shakabpa W.D., Tibet A Political History, Potala, New York, 1984

14) Sreemati Chakrabarti, China, National Book Trust, India, 2007

15) Warren W. Smith, Jr. Tibetan Nation, Harper Collins, India, 1996

 Research papers:

1)      E.T. Williams, The Relations Between China, Russia and Mongolia. The American Journal of International Law

2)      Eric Her, The Great Game: Mongolia Between Russia and China, The Mongolian Journal of International Affairs, 1997

3)      Chung Tsering, Bod Sog chings yig gi zhal shus, 22/08/2018

4)      Dr. Tsedendamba Batbayar, Mongolia and Tibet in the British-Russian Great Game, Mongolian Academy of Sciences

5)      Dr. Michael C. van Walt van Parag, A Legal Examination of the 1913 Mongolia-Tibet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, Lungta 17, Dharamsala.

6)      Jampa Samten, The Legality of the Tibet-Mongolia Treaty of 1913, Tibet Journal, LTWA, India

7)      Tashi Tsering, The Tibeto-Mongol Treaty of January 1913, Amnye Machen, Lungta Spring 2013, Dharamsala

 Website information:

1)      https://www.britannica.com/topic/Yuan-dynasty

2)      http://jetsundhampa.com/index.html

3)      https://www.dalailama.com/

4)      http://tibetanbuddhistencyclopedia.com/en/index.php?title=Bogd_Khan

5)      https://www.e-ir.info/2022/08/07/mongolian-independence-and-the-british-at-the-end-of-the-great-game/

6)      Anglo Russian Convention of 1907: https://history.blog.gov.uk/2017/08/31/anglo-russian-entente-1907/

7)      https://www.rbth.com/history/331743-buddhist-agvan-dorzhiev

8)      https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/inner-mongolian-autonomous-region

9)      Editors: Ann Heirman and Stephan Peter Bumbacher, The Spread of Buddhism, Brill, 2007 https://ia802902.us.archive.org/19/items/thespreadofbuddhismaheirmanandspbumbacheredsbrillarticles_444_t/The-Spread-of-Buddhism%20A-Heirman-and-S-P-Bumbacher-eds%20Brill%20%28Articles%29.pdf


[1] Shakabpa Tsepon WD, Tibet A Political History, p-26

[2] ibid p-28

[3] ibid, p-30

[4] ibid, p39

[5] ibid, p-44

[6] DIIR, The Mongols and Tibet, p-9, p-20

[7] 1) Ann Heirman & Stephan Peter Bumbacher (editors), The Spread of Buddhism, p-395. 2) Encylopedia.com

[8] ibid, p-387 (Klaus Sagaster, The History of Buddhism Among the Mongol)

[9] Shakabpa, Tibet A Political History, p-103-105

[12] 1)Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, p-503. 2)Alex Mckay, Tibet and the British Raj, p-63

[14] Eric Her, p-64, p-65

[15] DIIR, Tibet, Proving Truth from Facts, p-5

[16]Nikolai S. Kuleshov, Russia's Tibet File, p-6, p-43

[17] 1) Jampa Samten & Nikolay Tsyrempilov, From Tibet Confidentially p-57.  2) Alex McKay, Tibet and the British Raj, p-84

[18] 1) ibid, p-9. 2), Nikolai S. Kuleshov, Russia`s Tibet File, p-7

[22] Dr. Michael C. van Walt van Parag, A Legal Examination of the 1913 Mongolia-Tibet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, p-18.

[23]  DIIR, Tibet, Proving Truth from Facts, p-5

[28] Dr. Michael C. van Walt van Parag, A Legal Examination of the 1913 Mongolia-Tibet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, p-28

[30] Dr. Michael C. van Walt van Parag, A Legal Examination of the 1913 Mongolia-Tibet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance