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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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Home > Approaching Buddhism > Modern Adaptation of Buddhism > Proposal for a Memorial for the Tibetan Holocaust

Proposal for a Memorial for the Tibetan Holocaust

Alexander Berzin
Dharamsala, India, January 15, 1996

In Jerusalem, Israel, the Yad Veshem Holocaust Museum commemorates the persecution and death of six million Jews in Europe at the hands of Nazi Germany. The museum contains a large number of photographs of the Jewish ghettoes, police roundups of the Jews, the trains in which they were transported to prison, concentration camp life and the gas chambers and crematoriums in which the Jews were slaughtered. It exhibits many items from the period, such as anti-Jewish propaganda notices, prison uniforms and objects of daily use in the concentration camps, shoes, glasses and hair of the executed Jews, and so forth. It also has large, abstract, modernistic outdoor sculptures as a memorial to honor those who have died. One of the main purposes of the museum is to remind young Israelis to always be ready militarily to defend themselves so that such destruction will never happen again. They are encouraged neither to forgive nor forget the horrors done to their people.

A sufficient number of photographs and items are not available for making a similar memorial museum for the Tibetan holocaust. Furthermore, abstract sculptures will not have any meaning for Tibetans, and reminders to be militarily prepared and never to forgive one's enemies are not in keeping with the Buddhist teachings. Therefore, inspired by the idea of Yad Veshem, but without copying its form, it is recommended that a replica of the Bakhorli Chorten gate, destroyed by the Chinese, be constructed at the entrance of Gangchen Kyishong. This is a symbol of the destruction of traditional Tibet and one-fifth of its people that will be much more meaningful to the Tibetan people and can be instructive for the children. In order for it to serve as a focus for commemorating the dead in a manner that is more in keeping with Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is suggested that the Chorten have a small facility for lighting butter lamps and that monks from the Nechung and Gadong Monasteries keep the lamps eternally burning. A plaque in Tibetan, Hindi and English on the side of the Chorten gate can explain its significance as a holocaust memorial. Furthermore, such a memorial will not require the purchase of land or the construction and daily maintenance of a huge building, and thus will be economically more feasible than trying to duplicate Yad Veshem in Dharamsala. It will also be politically less sensitive to the Government of India.