Monks!

From the Canby Herald – The journey of Lobang Yeshi began with one step, then another and another. Two-and-a-half months of walking across his native Tibet toward Nepal to escape Chinese oppression and find freedom to practice Buddhism.

The journey that he began in 1989 has now carried him on his first visit to the United States and a stay in Canby as party of a fundraising tour by a group of Buddhist monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery in southern India.

The seven monks have been guests during their visit to the Northwest at the Canby home of Gary Alan Spanovich, executive director of the Wholistic Peace Institute in Portland.

Speaking through interpreter Chhyamba Nupu Lama, the 42-year-old Yeshi related how he set out on his journey with a group of 18 people with the same desire to escape Chinese rule of their homeland.

They traveled by night and during the day, hid in the forests and slept.

Had their intent been discovered, they would have been imprisoned, Yeshi said through Lama. So would anyone helping them, including the Tibetan businessman who hid them beneath the cargo in his truck.

For food, they carried only Chura, a hard, rock-like cheese and Tsampa, roasted barley flour. When that ran out, their nourishment was rotten bread or cookies. Some days, they had only water.

They waded and swam across rivers in the early morning hours to evade Chinese sentries.

The danger did not end when they reached the Nepalese border. Nepalese guards were just as likely to arrest them and turn them over to the Chinese. Finally, they reached a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal. From there, he made his way to the Gaden Shartse Monastery in Southern India, which is his home today.

During 2008, he and six other monks, including three who made the same harrowing journey to freedom, are visiting the United States to raise money to equip a new hospital at the monastery and Tibetan refugee center in India. The hospital is available to everyone at the center, including 6,000 monks, 300 nuns and about 7,000 lay Tibetans, said the group’s manager, Lobsang Wangchuk.

More refugees make their way to the monastery each month, Wangchuk said. “They risk their lives walking out of Tibet.”

The delegation from Gaden Shartse Monastery has been in this country about two months, speaking before groups, churches and schools. In ceremonies dedicated to world peace at Portland State University and the John Ross building in Portland’s South Waterfront district, the visiting monks created mandala sand paintings.

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