A Tibetan Pilgrimage Guide to India, 1942

Translated from Tibetan by Paul Hackett

The first long-running Tibetan-language newspaper, the Me long  (The Mirror), was published and edited by Gegen Dorje Tharchin (1890-1976), also known as “Tharchin Babu” in Kalimpong in Northern India from 1925 to 1963. The paper is believed to have been widely circulated within Tibet and included frequent articles from Tibetan scholars or politicians who had traveled or been exiled to India.

This article, published in the Mirror on its front page in November 1942, introduces India to Tibetan readers, describes its religious significance, and gives the writer’s view of the colonial situation in the midst of the Second World War.

For details about the Me long, see the Me long and  The Tharchin Collection at the Columbia University Library. For introductory articles to the Me long, see also Paul Hackett,  Kalimpong, Gergan Dorje Tharchin, and his MIRROR newspaper” and Isrun Engelhardt, “Reflections in The Tibet Mirror: News of the World, 1937-1946”.  

Source: “Rgya gar ‘phags pa’i yul du nang pa sangs rgyas pa’i gnas mchog dpal rdo rje gdan gyi gtso bcas gnas chen khag gi gnas tshul mdor bsdus,” Yul phyogs so so’i gsar ’gyur me long (The Mirror of News from All Sides of the World), vol. 11, no. 4 [Nov. 1, 1942], pp. 1,4.

A Brief Account of Some of the Great Places in India, the Land of the Āryas, such as the Holy Buddhist Site of Vajrāsana [Bodh Gaya]

Tibet, the Land of Snows cannot be compared to any other country in the world.  From the time of the precious teachings of the Dharma of the great, glorious, and perfect Buddha until now, Tibet has been unequalled in terms of abiding in and increasing those teachings, and in general, is a country that is lacking in any sign of the faults of ignorance, and through the power of the flourishing of these teachings, all living beings there experience happiness.

By comparison, the womb of the Dharma, India, the land of the Āryas, was like this: before it came under the sovereignty of the British, the excellent Buddhist teachings had degenerated without even a mere remnant remaining. The great assembly halls of the monks, as well, had become dens full of dogs and pigs, and even the names of what had been taught about there was lost.  That special place, that is like the blood of the heart to us Buddhists, the supreme Vajrāsana [Bodhgaya], had degenerated as well, and at any one time was filled with a hundred flying vultures and its foundations were lost in a great forest. It was in such a state that Great Britain, being unable to tolerate it, expended more than 200,000 rupees, and it has now been forty years since its restoration.  Moreover, [Sarnath] Varanasi—which is among the foremost holy places of the Teacher, the Lord Śākyamuni—and the great holy places of the Buddhists, such as the Glorious Nalendra and others—where the famous Dharma teachings were compiled by the bodhisattvas, such as the Two Jewels [Nāgārjuna and Asaṅga] and the Six Ornaments [Āryadeva, Vasubandhu, Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, Guṇaprabha, and Śākyaprabha]—were mostly lost underground, and it was difficult to even confirm the regions of where they had been.  Nowadays, Bodhgaya receives funding from the British Government, and having excavating the ground, the original pathways have been revealed for all to see and it is a cause of great enjoyment. In addition, the statues that came from that ancient place, and that had previously been protected there, as well, were moved to near-by clean locations and placed in newly built temples that almost look like they came down from a heaven. The faithful who wish to visit these locations, such as pilgrims from far away are completely and utterly supported in their travels, and need no longer experience the hardship of the heat and cold, since both railway and motor car service have begun and it is now possible travel a month’s journey in a single day.

Moreover, Buddhist communities—whether great or small, from neighboring countries, such as Burma and others—are engaged in new projects for the benefit of others, and are doing so without any sectarian bias whatsoever.  This, furthermore, since it is in accordance with the dictates of civil law, will not change. Hence, there is no restriction placed on pilgrims, and they are under the protection of this system which dictates both mild and harsh penalties for violating them, otherwise, whoever arrived there would be trampled upon by idiosyncratic and severe restrictions.  As a result, no one will be allowed to gouge out the heart of such powerless people, and each and every official who serves the nation in this way, knows this. In regard to this valuable and special work, everyone is there voluntarily and of their own free will, without being compelled to do so, being merely given the opportunity to do work of service. They are there acting honestly and with consideration in accordance with the law.  Thus, one can see the exceptional qualities of following British law.

In contrast, however, nowadays, some very powerful kingdoms seek to lay waste to others through force of might and are acting with harmful intent — such as Germany, Japan, and others.  They are like enemies who destroy the power of religious persons. They are corrupting groups of people throughout the country who call themselves religious communities, attacking them even at the root, barring the ordination of monks and nuns, forbidding parents to even speak of religious doctrines to their children, and have passed new laws to this effect.  In this and various other ways they are constantly engaged in actions to destroy others, and so on. They are the enemies of the Dharma, and it is necessary for all of us to know what has transpired; therefore, be sure to read next month’s issue [on the ongoing war in Europe].