Our Mission

Geshes Dorjee & Wangchen

Geshe Dorjee & Geshe Wangchen

The TEXT Project (Tibetans in Exile Today) is an oral history program based at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  The project is directed by Professor Sidney Burris, Director of the Fulbright College Honors Program and Professor of English, and Geshe Thupten Dorjee, an instructor in the Humanities Program.

The TEXT Project is dedicated to recording video interviews with the Tibetans currently living in India, many of whom are already very old.  As these elderly Tibetans pass away, so too do their memories of traditional Tibetan culture. There is, accordingly, an increasing urgency that this work be undertaken in a timely fashion.

But we have also learned that the Tibetan voice in exile is a complex one, with many perspectives, and so we intend to include interviews here from all Tibetans, regardless of their age or generation or cultural orientation.  In so doing, we hope to give some indication of how this burgeoning experiment in democratic self-governance is faring.

Our goal ultimately is to create a permanent online archive where these interviews can be housed permanently and viewed by everyone.

One of the unique features of The TEXT Project is that Arkansas students play a central role in all aspects of constructing the oral history:  they master the equipment, they design and carry out the interviews, learning fundamental skills of co-operation as they assume their roles in the production teams, and they assist us in uploading the footage to this site.  It is the hope of the directors that each of our students have the opportunity to sit down with these Tibetans, representatives of one of the few authentically non-violent cultures remaining in the world, to help them preserve their stories, and in the process to better prepare themselves to become citizens of an increasingly inter-connected and global community.

Students at The University of Arkansas who are interested in participating in The TEXT Project should consult the student TEXT site for further information.

The current site is simply a work-in-progress that serves as the predecessor to our on-line archive.

We will add to this page viewer-friendly excerpts from the full-length interviews until we have secured the funding necessary to build the archival website.  Once we have acquired such funding, we will post these interviews in their entirety.  We are also compiling photographs from our trips to India, and these will eventually be posted here as well.

For more information about The TEXT Project, contact Professor Sidney Burris (sburris@uark.edu) or Geshe Dorjee (tdorjee@uark.edu).


Meet Phuntsok Wangchuk: An Interview Exercept

When we interviewed Phuntsok Wangchuk in 2008, he was the General Secretary of The Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet.  Phuntsok was born in Tibet, just south of Lhasa, in 1973, and was arrested on June 15, 1994 when seven Chinese policemen burst into his boarding-school room at 3 a.m.  Two other students and two other teachers were also arrested.  They were charged with posting pro-indpendence flyers in his village, a charge that Wangchuk freely acknowledged.  The two students were held for two weeks, and the two teachers for two months.  Wangchuk was sentenced to five years in Drapchi Prison, the most feared prison in the Chinese penal system.

Like most Tibetan youths, Wangchuk was educated within the Chinese system, and he was forced to learn the Chinese version of Tibetan history.  When he reached the age of sixteen, however, he met a Tibetan teacher who began to instruct him in the accurate version of Tibet and China’s troubled relationship, and this in effect politicized the young Wangchuk and led him to take action in the only way he know how:  by posting flyers advocating for Tibetan independence.

An insight into Wangchuk’s character can be found in his online autobiography. After being in solitary confinement, and interrogated extensively, he was put on reduced rations.  He writes:

After that day, I was only given two tingmos (steamed buns) and one cup of boiled water a day.  The only blanket that I had was also taken away.  This experience made me realize to some degree what Milarepa (Buddhist saint who meditated without any food or clothes in the mountains) must have endured during his meditation, and I felt a deep-rooted faith in Milarepa well up in me.

Clearly a person of strong character, Wangchuk evidenced his resolve and strength in our interview with him, which took place on the roof of the Gu-Chu-Sum Movement’s offices in Dharamsala.

Meet Tenzin Dardon Sharling: An Interview Excerpt

In the following interview excerpt, Tenzin Dardon Sharling, the Research and Media Officer for the Tibetan Women’s Association in Dharamsala, India, discusses her cultural identity as a young Tibetan woman born in India of parents who came from Tibet. She speaks of her devotion to His Holiness, but also acknowledges that Indian culture has had a profound impact on her identity.  At approximately 2:00 into the interview, the interviewer mentions Ling Rinpoche, who has expressed concern about the fact that many younger Tibetans, as they leave the Tibetan settlements, are losing the fundamental traditions of Tibetan culture.  Ling Rinpoche is the current incarnation of the Dalai Lama’s original teacher in Tibet.  He is currently a young monk living in Drepung Loseling monastery in south India, and when the current Dalai Lama passes away, Ling Rinpoche will most likely be one of those responsible for the education of the new Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan Women’s Association was originally founded on March 12, 1959, in Lhasa during the Tibetan Uprising against the Chinese invasion.  The main objective of TWA is to raise awareness of the abuse suffered by Tibetan women in Tibet as a result of the Chinese occupation.  Today, TWA has become one of the vital organizations devoted to the preservation of Tibetan culture in exile, placing Tibetan women at the forefront of charting the future of all Tibetans who are currently living both in exile and in Tibet.

Meet Geshe Wangchen: An Interview Excerpt

In the following interview, Venerable Gelong Namgyal Wangchen, known to most of the world as Geshe Wangchen, speaks of the arrival of Chinese troops in Lhasa, Tibet.  The date was March 10, 1959, and Geshe Wangchen was a young, twenty-five year old monk at Drepung Monastery.  His concerns in this excerpt are two:   for his teacher or guru, Khenshur Rinpoche, who was at that time abbot of Drepung Monastery; and for His Holiness the Dalai Lama who was currently residing at the Norbulingka summer palace outside of Lhasa.  Khensur Rinpoche at first counsels his young monk to remain at the monastery, expressing hope in the 17-Point Agreement that Tibet had signed under duress with the Chinese government eight years earlier in 1951.  Finally, however, Khensur Rinpoche relents, feeling that life in Tibet has become impossible, and decides that they must leave their homeland.  Geshe Wangchen mentions that the route they selected through southern Tibet was relatively safe because of “Tibetan guerillas,” who had taken up arms against the Chinese in that region.

Geshe Wangchen currently lives at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Karnataka, India.  Not only is he one of the most revered teachers within the Tibetan community, but he spent many years teaching in Europe and the West where his deep wisdom and clarity have become legendary.

Meet Tsering Lhondup: An Interview Excerpt

The following excerpt is from a longer interview conducted in June, 2008 at Tara Hotel in Majna Ka Tilla, New Delhi.  The subject’s name is Tsering Dhondup, who currently lives in Bylakuppe, India, the home of the largest Tibetan community in exile.  In this section of the interview, Tsering speaks of his journey out of Tibet in 1959–his mother was pregnant with him at the time and so he made the trip “in her stomach”–and continues by recounting the difficult conditions faced by the Tibetans in the early years of their exile.  They worked on road crews and had little else to sustain them–the sky and the earth alone were their companions.  Tsering also speaks of the relative helplessness of the Dalai Lama to improve their situation.  This interview is one of several dozen collected by students and faculty working in the TEXT Project (Tibetans in Exile Today) at the University of Arkansas.  We are currently attempting to design and implement our on-line archive; accordingly, this initial offering is only an expirement.  For more information on the TEXT Project, contact Sidney Burris (sburris@uark.edu) or Geshe Thupten Dorjee (tdorjee@uark.edu) at the University of Arkansas.

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