Middlebury

Student symposium March 2-4 examines 'The Changing Face of Tibet'

February 17, 2006

Event features film, dance, music, discussions

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-From Thursday through Saturday, March 2-4, the Middlebury College International Students' Organization (ISO) will host its 2006 symposium, titled "The Changing Face of Tibet: The Past, Present and Future of the Tibetan Culture and Identity." The event will feature guest lecturers, film screenings, panel discussions, workshops and a cultural show including Tibetan dance, music and food. All events are free and open to the public.

The symposium will address the past, present and future struggles that Tibetans are facing in attempting to preserve their culture, religion and identity while maintaining a peaceful environment. By focusing on the changes that Tibetans have encountered in the last few decades, the symposium will explore how a culture as rich and unique as Tibet's is struggling to survive, due to the Chinese presence as well as pressures from the West. Some questions that the symposium sponsors hope to raise and answer include: How have recent changes benefited or harmed the lives of the Tibetan people? What does it mean to be a Tibetan now? How will Tibetan children identify with their heritage and culture? What effect can political change have on a culture? Can a cultural identity be preserved outside the borders of a country?

Preceding the symposium, there will be a screening of the film "Seven Years in Tibet" at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, in Room 220 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall, located on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Rte. 125). The 1997 film is based on the book by the same name in which author Heinrich Harrer, played by actor Brad Pitt, journeys to the Himalayas to climb mountains, leaving his wife behind in Austria. War breaks out while he is gone and he becomes a prisoner of war. Harrer escapes to Tibet, where he befriends a young Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, and witnesses the Tibetan-Chinese confrontation of 1950. Through the screening of this film, the ISO hopes to introduce students and the wider Middlebury community to the history of Tibet, as well as how Tibetan culture and tradition are portrayed in the West.

Beginning on Thursday, March 2, and continuing through Saturday, March 4, an ongoing event will take place in the Great Hall of McCardell Bicentennial Hall. Two Tibetan monks from Namgyal Monastery, a Buddhist Monastery in Ithaca, N.Y., will construct a 3-foot square sand mandala and work on it over the course of the three-day symposium. Mandalas are sacred compositions created in sand to depict the landscape of the "Buddha land," or enlightened vision of a Buddha, and represent more than 3,000 years of Buddhist tradition. Created by monks and nuns, mandalas are a part of secret initiation ceremonies that have been recently opened for public viewing as a cultural offering and also as a means to preserve Tibetan culture. The sand mandala to be constructed at Middlebury College will be of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Great Compassion, and will be based on a traditional iconography that includes geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbols. On Friday, March 3, there will be a workshop at 12 p.m. in which the monks will demonstrate and describe how to make a mandala while explaining its religious meanings and significance.

At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, keynote speaker Rinchin Dharlo will offer an opening address titled "An Introduction to Tibet: Historical and Modern Perspectives on Tibetan Culture and Identity." This event will take place in the conference room of the Robert A. Jones '59 House, located on Hillcrest Road off College Street (Rte. 125). Dharlo is president of the Tibet Fund, a nonprofit organization that assists exiled Tibetan communities in India and Nepal by providing and administrating financial and other support for education, health, economic and community development, emergency relief, and cultural preservation and exchange. He began working for the Tibetan government-in-exile in 1972, and from 1978-1987 was director of the Office of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama's representative in Nepal. From 1987-1997, Dharlo headed the Office of Tibet in New York City, which is the official agent for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. His lecture will focus on the Tibetan struggle to preserve its culture and identity.

At 7 p.m. that evening, the symposium will screen the film "Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion," in Room 220 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall. This award-winning, feature-length documentary was filmed during nine journeys throughout Tibet, India and Nepal. Through rich images of rarely seen rituals in remote monasteries to magnificent Himalayan peaks still traveled by nomadic yak caravans, the dark secrets of Tibet's recent past are powerfully chronicled through personal stories, interviews, and a collection of undercover and archival images.

On Friday, March 3, at 4:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Robert A. Jones '59 House, Robert Barnett will deliver a lecture on the current economic situation in Tibet and how it has been altered by the Chinese presence, including the effect of the newly completed Qinghai Tibet Railway Project. Barnett is a lecturer in modern Tibetan studies at Columbia University and taught at Tibet University. He has edited and authored "Resistance and Reform in Tibet" and "A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Petition of the 10th Panchen Lama." He is also a former journalist for the BBC and two British newspapers, the Observer and the Independent.

At 7 p.m., visitors can enjoy a Tibetan Cultural Show in the Juice Bar of McCullough Student Center, on Chapel Road off College Street (Rte. 125). The event will introduce the audience to traditional Tibetan dances and music performed by the Tibetan community of Burlington, and traditional Tibetan food will be served.

On Saturday, March 4, a roundtable discussion will take place at 1 p.m. in Room 104 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall. The focus will be on future prospects for the Tibetan society, should China democratize. Participants will include Middlebury College Professor of Political Science David Rosenberg, who helped establish the Tarshi Palkhiel Tibetan community in Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1960s; Middlebury College Associate Professor of Religion William Waldron, who is chair of the religion department and teaches courses on the South Asian religious traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, and Tibetan religion and history; Middlebury College Instructor of Political Science Ashley Esarey, whose current research focuses on Tibet; and several Tibetan refugees and Chinese students who attend Middlebury College.

The symposium will conclude with a final look at the completed mandala in the Great Hall of McCardell Bicentennial Hall at 3:30 p.m., followed by a closing address at 4:30 p.m. in Room 220. The speaker will be Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan novelist, political commentator and a leading campaigner for rangzen (independence) in the Tibetan community. He was the director of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts from 1979-1984, and editor of Mangtso, the largest independent Tibetan-language newspaper, from 1993-1996. His books include "Do-Gar," "Buying the Dragon's Teeth," and "The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes," which won the Crossword Award for English Fiction in 2000, India's equivalent of the Booker Prize. Norbu's closing address, titled "Tibetan Identity Today," will highlight the ways in which Tibetans identify themselves both within and outside of Tibet as refugees, and how Tibetans are viewed by the western world.

This event is co-sponsored by the following Middlebury College campus organizations: Brainerd Commons; the department of economics through the Christian A. Johnson Fund; the religion department; the Office of Institutional Diversity; the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs; the Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life; and International Student and Scholar Services.

Here's a list of the events. You can also view and or download a PDF version of the symposium program.


SPRING 2006 SYMPOSIUM

The Changing Face of Tibet

The Past, Present and Future
of the Tibetan Culture and Identity

Thursday, March 2, through Saturday, March 4

Pre-Symposium Event:
Wednesday, March 1, 7 p.m.
Screening of "Seven Years in Tibet"
Based on the book of the same name by Austrian climber Heinrich Harrer, who traveled to Tibet, became a prisoner of war and witnessed the Tibetan/Chinese confrontation of 1950.
Room 220, McCardell Bicentennial Hall

THURSDAY, MARCH 2

Ongoing Event: Mandala
Tibetan monks from Namgyal monastery in Ithaca, N.Y., will construct a mandala and continue working on it throughout the symposium.
Great Hall, McCardell Bicentennial Hall

4:30 p.m.
Keynote Opening Address
Rinchin Dharlo
will offer an opening address titled "An Introduction to Tibet: Historical and Modern Perspectives on Tibetan Culture and Identity."
Robert A. Jones '59 House Conference Room

7 p.m.
Screening of "Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion"

An award-winning feature-length documentary filmed during nine journeys throughout Tibet, India and Nepal.
Room 220, McCardell Bicentennial Hall

FRIDAY, MARCH 3

12 p.m.
Workshop on the Mandala
The workshop will be held by the Monks themselves and they will demonstrate and describe how to make a mandala while explaining its religious meanings and significance.
Great Hall, McCardell Bicentennial Hall

4:30 p.m.
Lecture and Panel Discussion
Robert Barnett
will deliver a lecture titled "Shifting the Battleground: Using Economics for Political Control in Tibet"
Robert A. Jones '59 House Conference Room

7 p.m.
Tibetan Cultural Show

The show will introduce the audience to traditional Tibetan dances and music performed by the Tibetan community in Burlington, and traditional Tibetan food will be served.
Juice Bar, McCullough Student Center

SATURDAY, MARCH 4

1 p.m.
Round Table Discussion

The focus will be on future prospects for the Tibetan society should China democratize, and Participants will include Middlebury College professors of political science and religion as well as Tibetan refugee students and Chinese students.
Room 104, McCardell Bicentennial Hall

3:30 p.m.
Closing View of the Mandala
The mandala will be complete and the monks will explain the various elements. The mandala will be dismantled to cast the sand into a body of water to symbolize the transience of life and the ideal of nonattachment to the material world.
Great Hall, McCardell Bicentennial Hall

4:30 p.m.
Keynote Closing Address

Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan novelist, political commentator and a leading campaigner for rangzen (independence) in the Tibetan community, will speak about what it means to be a Tibetan today.
Room 220, McCardell Bicentennial Hall

Organized by the International Students' Organization (ISO)
  Symposium Committee:
        Pema Tshomo
        Cheryl McClurg
        Monica Balan