Tribute to Kailash
By Sean Jones
friend, pure hearted guardian and protector of Holy Mount Kailash
and Celestial Lake Manasarovar, our guide and interpreter, how much
you cared for us poor pilgrims who came into your high domain to
seek the legendary blessings of that most sacred place on earth,
center of the world, watershed of Asia, fountainhead of life for
many hundreds of millions of human beings! In a twinkling of an
eye you would provide for all our needs, even before we expressed
them: food, tea, shelter, warmth, guidance, jeeps, trucks, tents,
maps, routes, inspiration and information.
Your family has provided the
hereditary guide of Kailash for generations, your father taught
you, and his father taught him, and until a few years ago your tiny
family home at Darchen, at the foot of Kailash and itself the beginning
and the end of the holy circumambulation path trodden by enlightened
and ordinary beings for millennia, was the only building, apart
from the Burmese gompa, amidst that fabled encampment of the tents
of traders, monads and pilgrims.
You knew every fact and every
detail of every legend of every imprint of yogis' hands, feed or
whatever embedded in the rocks along the way, you could tell every
story and every myth attached to the streams, rivers, waterfalls,
pools, pastures, slopes, cliffs, knolls, outcrops, buttresses, hills
and mountains along every inch of the path.
You told how it was established
that one circumambulation of Kailash would wash away all the negative
karma of this life - and that 108 would guarantee one's enlightenment
in this very lifetime - you, who by 1986 had already completed no
less than 125.
You composed a book in Tibetan,
A Guide to Kailash and Manasarovar, detailing much of this history
and the religious significance of this sacred cosmic center of Buddhists,
Hindus, Jains and Bon-pos. You followed this remarkable achievement
with the publication of your second book, Early History of the Ngari
Korsum (Western Tibet), which was also published in Tibetan in Lhasa,
in 1996, This gave full historical coverage of the ancient culture
of Ngari, including not only Kailash, Manasarovar and the ancient
Tibetan Kingdoms of Guge, Purang, Ladakh but also the Khyunglung
period which predated them.
Your legacy of these rare publications
are concrete proof of your vision, ability, determination against
all the odds to succeed in enabling these precious elements of the
sacred life of Tibet to survive and prosper in their native land.
It was with this purpose in mind that you returned to Tibet at the
heights of the Cultural Revolution in 1969, after nine years in
India as part of the refugee community with His Holiness the Dalai
Having studied hard and learned
English while in India you were then able to make skillful use of
the Chinese policy of encouraging tourism in Tibet by entering into
Chinese government service as a tourist guide for the Kailash area
and, easily establishing yourself as the most competent and knowledgeable
guide. Since 1981 you were able to help countless pilgrims from
all over Tibet, Asia and the rest of the world to succeed in their
quest to see and circumambulate Kailash and Manasarovar.
Meanwhile with the help of local
Tibetans, over the ensuring yours you quietly but gradually facilitated
the repair, rebuilding and re-consecration by lamas of many of the
shrines, stupas, temples and monasteries that had been devastated
and desecrated during the dark years of the Cultural Revolution.
In addition to playing a vital
role in renewing these ancient and holy buildings and institutions
throughout Western Tibet but mostly in the Kailash and Manasarovar
area, you also dynamically drove ahead with programs to create new
services and educational and medical institutions to relieve suffering
and further Tibetan culture and identity, for example the Kailash
Medical College, which you built at Darchen and opened in 1959 for
forty young Tibetans to be trained in the ancient practice of traditional
Although your clear vision made
you into a fearless accomplisher and defender of sacred Tibetan
life, it is as a quite, gentle, sweet and dear friend that we all
know you, every Kailash pilgrim who had the extreme good fortune
to cross path with you. you were always ready to give up your own
comfort to ease the suffering of others, you could not eat or sleep
if someone else was hungry or tired, until you had set them right.
What a rare and exciting pleasure
it was, to sit over a fire in your precious company in the night
in Darchen, whiling the hours away listening spellbound to your
tales and your ideas, discussing plans, drinking endless tea.
For visitors and pilgrims from
many countries you were the Mr. Fix it of Western Tibet: if our
travel permits had expired you would know how to renew them; if
we had no travel permit you knew how to get one; if a fine had to
be paid, you would reduce it to one tenth of the sum; if we were
arrested by the PSB you would have use released on the spot; if
we needed jeeps, you would find a good one at a fraction of the
usual rate; if we needed to film or photograph in temples or caves,
with a quiet word you would arrange the clearance; if we needed
to get out to Nepal; you would arrange it on a safe route, with
minimum fuss, reliable porters and pack animals, and minimum expenses;
if we were sinking, there would be a seats in a comfortable truck
with Tibetan drivers, at the same rate as for local friends.
Even so, in 1995 you were preparing
to give up your secure jog and spend your winters researching and
writing on Western Tibet, and your summers guiding the pilgrims
as a free man. My wife and I will always treasure the memory of
that long night we spent in the open, walking to Darchen after our
jeep (borrowed by you for us from the police, complete with driver,
since none other was available to bring us from Sengye Tsangpo to
Darchen) got stuck in the middle of river, when we had to jump for
it and wade to the bank, just as the sun was sinking down behind
the mountains of the Aksai Chin to the far Northwest behind us.
Having to abandon the vehicle, wearing light day clothes, we then
had to trudge twenty miles through the blackness of the night, on
the trail-less way across the desolate, rough and rocky terrain,
wading barefoot on the way across two wide and multi-channeled,
icy streams, full of sharp stones, which we would only hear, not
see, and this at 15,000 feet above sea level.
This is the kind of guide you
were: your determination and confidence that we would reach Darchen
without dying of exposure, your knowledge of what to do and which
direction to walk in , and your tireless cheerfulness kept us going
the whole night through, we having no idea of what direction we
were moving in, and unable to see our hands in front of our faces.
When we were exhausted and ready to lie down to sleep and probably
die, you roused us forward insistently, showing no fatigue, although
we knew your back and neck trouble were causing you severe pain
in walking. When we arrived at Darchen, shortly before down, it
was your good wife who got up, let us in, let the fire and had us
sipping hot tea within five minutes.
This is the kind of guide you
were: after sunrise, while we slept, exhausted, you organized another
jeep to drive back and rescue the abandoned vehicle, and by the
time we woke up, to a fine hot lunch, you were arriving back with
our luggage, cameras, passports and tickets, rescued from our stricken
jeep, all intact and dry as a bone, and delivered to our door with
your cheerful, knowing smile, and apologies for all the inconvenience.
But how auspicious that we were able to walk the last twenty miles!
You said; it would increase the merit from our pilgrimage at least
a hundred times! Then you spent the rest of the day, while doing
your own work preparing for the ceremonial opening of the Kailash
Medical College with everyone from the governor of the province
down starting to arrive for the ceremony, organizing pack-yaks and
a yak-drover for us to start off on our honeymoon Kailash circumambulation
the following day, which, thanks to you, was successfully completed
in three days, and remains the most wonderful experience of our
This is the kind of guide you
were. Our next trip to Kailash will seem lonely and dull, and we
will have to use well all we learned from you to survive and return
successful. We learned from you to survive and return successful.
We were so lucky to know you. Will the child you left behind carry
on the tradition? We fervently pray so
(Obituaries - Mandala July-August
98 - Page 35)