Dalai Lama’s eldest brother dead, Tibetans mourn (Lead)

September 6th, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 6 (IANS) Taktser Rinpoche, the eldest brother of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan leader’s intermediary for dialogues with Chinese officials and later with Americans, died in the US Saturday after a protracted illness.He is survived by his wife Kunyang Norbu, and three sons, the International Campaign For Tibet said in a press release.

Exiled Tibetans in Nepal began mourning the passing away of Taktser, who had played a key role in the political developments after China annexed the Buddhist kingdom of Tibet.

“We lost a pillar of the movement for independent Tibet,” a 63-year-old Tibetan exile in Nepal, who was arrested twice by police for taking part in anti-China demonstrations in the capital, said.

The man, who declined to be named for fear of deportation, said the leader’s death would create a serious vacuum at a time Tibetans are trying to again demand freedom from Chinese control.

Taktser Rinpoche, who was born Thupten Jigme Norbu, played important intermediary roles during the turbulent days of 1949-50 when China invaded Tibet.

When in India he was the intermediary between the US State Department and the Dalai Lama during the protracted negotiations between Beijing and Lhasa surrounding signature of the controversial Seventeen Point Agreement - the document which was intended to give legitimacy to China’s rule of Tibet.

Recognised at the age of three as the reincarnated abbot of Kumbum monastery in modern-day Qinghai, one of the most important monasteries in Tibet, Takster was already a prominent figure in Tibet’s religious hierarchy even before the Dalai Lama was born.

His was a prominent voice advising the Dalai Lama to leave Tibet in the face of what was perceived as direct threats to the latter’s personal safety as well as to the integrity of Tibet.

In 1950, when the Dalai Lama was still in Lhasa, Chinese officials attempted to persuade Taktser Rinpoche to travel to Lhasa and convince the Dalai Lama to accept the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet, even promising to make him the governor of Tibet if he succeeded, according to one account.

Taktser eventually agreed to travel to Lhasa to see the Dalai Lama, but evaded his Chinese escorts en route and instead conveyed to the Dalai Lama his deep misgivings about China’s influence in Tibet, and urged the Dalai Lama to retreat to the border with India.

Although a devout and dedicated follower of the Dalai Lama, Taktser Rinpoche nevertheless took a different stand on Tibet’s status to his brother, calling instead for the complete independence of Tibet as opposed to the model of autonomy put forward by the Dalai Lama.

Taktser Rinpoche has also served as the Dalai Lama’s representative in Japan. Upon leaving Tibet in the 1950s and over a long and prolific writing career, he wrote several academic papers and books on Tibet including his own autobiography, “Tibet Is My Country”, one of the first books on the Tibetan experience to have scholarly credibility.

He went on to serve as professor of Tibetan Studies at Indiana University in the US, where in 1979 he founded the Tibetan Cultural Center.

Taktser Rinpoche was a tireless advocate for the protection of Tibetan culture and the rights of the Tibetan people in Tibet. Each year - including this year prior to the Beijing Olympics - he participated in long walks and cycle rides to raise awareness of the plight of the Tibetan people.

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