07 September 2008

Dalai Lama's brother dies in US

The Dalai Lama's brother, a Buddhist monk turned CIA translator who helped train Tibetan resistance fighters in a guerrilla war against Chinese rule, has died at his US home. He was 86.

The death of Taktser Rinpoche marked more than the passing of a major figure from the heyday of the Tibetan independence movement because it comes amid growing concern about the Dalai Lama's health, and the diminishing possibility of any negotiated settlement of the Tibet issue.

"His death is likely to add a much-needed sense of urgency and seriousness to the dialogue process between China and the exiles," Tibet expert at Columbia University in New York, Robbie Barnett, said.

Takster Rinpoche, whose given name was Thupten Jigme Norbu, was recognised at the age of three as the reincarnated abbot of Kumbum monastery - one of the most important in Tibetan Buddhism - in Qinghai province.

He left Tibet after the Chinese takeover in 1950, worked as a translator for the CIA in Saipan in 1957 and helped train the first Tibetan resistance fighters who were parachuted into Tibet to fight a guerrilla war against the People's Liberation Army.

"Taktser Rinpoche was deeply mistrustful of the Chinese Communist Party's intentions in Tibet," the International Campaign for Tibet said.

He called for the complete independence of Tibet as opposed to the "middle way" model of autonomy advocated by the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Taktser Rinpoche served as the representative of the Dalai Lama in the United States and later in Japan.

News of his death came days after the 73-year-old Dalai Lama was released from a Mumbai hospital, where he was treated for abdominal pain that stirred alarm about his health among his followers.

Doctors later said there was no reason for concern about the spiritual leader's health.

While the brothers were close, they held different views about Tibet's future.

The Dalai Lama advocates a "middle path" policy that espouses "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet, rather than the full independence that some activists are seeking.

But Rinpoche, a retired professor of Tibetan studies at Indiana University, "wanted nothing but full independence for Tibet. In that, he differed from his brother," Chhoekyapa said.

However, "that did not affect his relations with his brother," he said.

He wrote several academic papers and books on Tibet including his autobiography, Tibet Is My Country, one of the first books on the Tibetan experience to have scholarly credibility, International Campaign for Tibet said.

He went on to serve as a professor of Tibetan studies at Indiana University in the United States, where in 1979 he founded the Tibetan Cultural Centre.

After his retirement, he led a pro-independence group based in Indiana and took part in numerous walks across the United States to raise attention for the pro-independence movement.

He is survived by his wife Kunyang Norbu and three sons, the group said. link

Another link for Indiana Tibetan Freedom news.

Indiana University link.

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