Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dalai Lama's Brother Dies

Sat Sep 6, 9:21
- Taktser Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama's eldest brother who championed independence for Tibet, has died in the United States at the age of 86, a spokesman for the Tibetan spiritual leader said Saturday.

Rinpoche -- whose given name was Thupten Jigme Norbu -- died late Friday at his Indiana home after being unwell for several years, R. Chhoekyapa, secretary to the Dalai Lama, told AFP.
"He passed away last night and we informed His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) this morning," Chhoekyapa said by telephone from Dharamshala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India.
"We are all very saddened by the passing," Chhoekyapa said.
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.
Rinpoche, who is survived by his wife Kunyang Norbu, and three sons, was "devoted" to the Dalai Lama, Chhoekyapa said.
Rinpoche was 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.
As a result, he was already a prominent figure in Tibet's religious hierarchy even before the Dalai Lama was born.
"Taktser Rinpoche was deeply mistrustful of the Chinese Communist Party's intentions in Tibet," said the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.
He also "was a prominent voice advising the Dalai Lama to leave Tibet in the face of what was perceived as direct threats to his own personal safety as well as to the integrity of Tibet itself," the group said.
In 1950, when the Dalai Lama was still in Lhasa, Chinese officials tried to get Rinpoche to travel to Lhasa and persuade the Dalai Lama to accept the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet, according to the group.
Rinpoche agreed to travel to Lhasa to see the Dalai Lama.
But he evaded his Chinese escorts en route and instead conveyed to the Dalai Lama his misgivings about China's influence in Tibet, and urged the Dalai Lama to travel to the border with India, the International Campaign for Tibet said.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 following a failed uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule.
Rinpoche, who in 1979 he founded the Tibetan Cultural Center in Indiana, wrote various academic papers and books on Tibet including an autobiography, "Tibet Is My Country."
The Dalai Lama now has three siblings who are alive -- two brothers and a sister, his secretary said.

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