the truth about Tibet emerged, what was learned was that Tibet was
made up of hardy people and had also developed a unique interpretation
of the teachings of Buddha. While the rest of the world was defining
itself externally with bigger and better machines and weapons, the
Tibetan Buddhists had devoted their efforts to advancement the definition
and purpose of life by developing inwards.
the top, the position of the Dalai Lama was revered and it held
all the human intrigue that hierarchies are bound to possess. Nevertheless,
much of what made Tibet unique in the world was built on the mystical
practices, divination's and in the vast remoteness and great mountain
came to know and understand the array of spiritual deities that
defined their rules of existence.
In 1932, the world was not fully mapped and a team of western mountain
climbers went on a nine month expedition through China to the Chinese
-Tibetan Border to find a mountain that many believed might be taller
than Everest. Richard Burdsall, Arthur Emmons, Terris Moore and
Jack Young sought to locate, and if possible, climb Mount Minya
2000, after meeting a group of Tibetan Monks and being introduced
to a sponsorship program for monks living in exile in southern India.
As a photographer, we began sending cameras to the monks and requested
glimpses of their daily lives.
image to enlarge
knew how to read the voices of the gods in the thunder and the deities
in the lightening storms and the voices of 100- mile-per-hour mountain
the American climbers of Minya Konka only had brief visions of the
spiritual lessons of Tibet, the experience traveled with them their
entire lives, the way things do when they touch the heart and if
there is one... the soul. The Americans captured glimpses on film
of unique people that lived in another world The photographic images,
while they may not show an understanding of their subject, there
is not doubt that the Americans came to respect the Tibetans.
then, Tibet forced them to look deeper into themselves. It is that
ability that Tibet still can hold for the world if the Chinese would
let it be what it is supposed to be. China offers a great deal of
technological advancement , the development of transportation and
perhaps more creature comforts to Tibet. The problem is that China,
like the Americans who climbed Mount Minya Konka, see a need to
conquer and to rule over Tibet, instead of allowing it to be a place
of majesty where the human soul soars, touches and hears the gods
of all religions.
the Chinese rule continues on its current path, the human race knows
how this story will end. Europeans and the new Americans destroyed
the Indians. Australia nearly annihilated the Aborigines and all
they have to offer. White minority rule created utter desecration
of the human condition in south Africa before its defeat created
a hero for the world. People increasingly look to the external for
satisfaction. Solutions to a growing number of problems are believed
to be at hand with faster computers, smarter weapons and more money.
Saving Tibet will be the last chance the world has to save itself
from a place that matters most — To be saved from the heart and
image to enlarge
The Tibetan Photo Project note: The following is a post script by Katrina Smathers. Smathers kindly donated the 1932 Photos to The Tibetan Photo Project following an article by San Francisco Chronicle Art Critic Kenneth Baker on The Tibetan Photo Project in 2003.
Audience with the Dalai Lama , New York City, May 5, 2009, Katrina Smathers
The interplay of chance, coincidence, and reaching out by e-mail form the background of my reminiscence as I present it here. This story stems from the mountaineering expedition made by my father, Terris Moore, with two other American climbers to China in 1932. They succeeded in the truly amazing feat of climbing Mt. Minya Kongka , 24,900 feet, while mapping and exploring in a then largely unknown region of western China that is culturally part of Tibet.
Their ascent (made known by their book Men Against the Clouds) was widely heralded in mountaineering circles, but little appreciated by me (born two years after the expedition). I just knew we had various Tibetan artifacts around the house.
After my father’s death, my mother unknowingly discarded the actual photographic negatives of Tibet as she prepared to move to a retirement home. Amazingly, they were rescued by a neighbor hauling out the trash who passed them on to me. I had a CD made to preserve the photographs for the family and then wondered what to do with the actual negatives. Time passed, the negatives languished, but on a trip with Dave, browsing in a bookstore in Mendocino, I saw an announcement that local photographer Joe Mickey was putting together an exhibit on Tibet prior to its takeover by the Chinese in 1950. Acting on a whim, I e-mailed him offering him the negatives, which he gratefully accepted and incorporated some of them into his Tibetan Photo Project, an exhibit that has circulated in widely in the US. In recent years all this went to the back of my mind, but in early April this year I received an e-mail from Joe forwarding to me an e-mail from one Roger Croston in England seeking information on Americans and Canadians who had traveled in Tibet prior to 1950. Again acting on a whim, I responded to Mr. Croston, telling him of my father’s expedition. He responded that he was familiar with it, and invited me to the event he was organizing, an “audience” with the Dalai Lama for pre 1950 travelers and (since they would be deceased or very elderly) their descendants, modeled on a similar event held in Oxford last summer for British travelers and descendants.
I was overjoyed at the enthusiasm of my daughter Mary when I shared this news. She efficiently made arrangements, and we set out for New York City, leaving SFO at 6:30 am May 4 on a Delta non-stop to JFK airport. Mr. Croston had suggested that we bring items from old Tibet to present to His Holiness. Our choice was a stone with a carved prayer on it (that garnered us some attention from airport security!) and a photograph of a huge Buddha, nicely enlarged, printed and framed by my friend Pat McQuade. An easy bus ride then brought us to Grand Central Station, a thrill to see, neither of us having been in New York for years (a great many years in my case!). Our nearby hotel was in walking distance from the Waldorf-Astoria, the site of the event which we had been told we must keep confidential beforehand, (that was fun, teasing my friends with the mystery). We had a delightful Indian dinner and an early bedtime, and then proceeded the next morning, as instructed, to the Waldorf’s 18th floor where security was in evidence.
After showing ID and being “wanded” with electronic devices, we (80-90 guests) were ushered into a meeting room where we located our place to stand (this was a stand-up event, not sitting in an auditorium) by a card on the floor with the date of the trip we were representing. This put us immediately in touch with Julia Emmons, the daughter of one of the other climbers, with whom I had had a brief phone contact but never met. Next to us were young Theodore Roosevelt V (the great-great grandson of Teddy) and his wife and mother. Kermit and Theodore Roosevelt II had explored Tibet in the 1920. Their reports were a major influence in my father choosing to go there; his party was guided by one of the Roosevelt party’s guides. Some prior Google homework with the guest list revealed that Theodore and Serena Roosevelt were married on Martha’s Vineyard last fall, as my son David and Kim were in 2004. Chatting with them was delightful; further mingling time followed. The brother of a CIA agent killed in Tibet in 1950 during a brief US attempt to foil the Chinese takeover was an interesting guest, as was a group of cousins, some meeting each other for the first time apparently, whose forefather had got into Lhasa in a disguised way (no official permission) in 1923.
Our host-organizer Roger Croston, in classic British accent, announced “His Holiness will enter in two minutes” and he did, looking exactly like his pictures, flanked by a group of six or so aides, Asian men in business suits (one we later talked to had worked for the Dalai Lama for 25 years). The Dalai Lama’s speech, for perhaps 20 minutes, was definitely political rather than spiritual. He has been the force behind an immense public relations campaign for the Tibetan Government in Exile for the last 50 years; this event was clearly part of that effort. He spoke, (in rather inarticulate English, sometimes helped by a staff member) of his consistent efforts to gain respect and consideration from the Chinese conquerors. He made clear his belief in persistence, always defined by calmness, positive optimism, lack of vengeance, refusal to be defeated, while recognizing that a military effort, throwing the Chinese out, would be impossible. I was glad that I’d just read his autobiography, which so vividly describes his lifework, starting as a youth of fifteen, then fleeing Tibet to set up the government in exile and the refugee settlements, nine years later. To me, his devotion to his people and their welfare forms an impressive backdrop to his spiritual insights.
We then were directed to form a circle behind him, in our groups, and come forward for a minute (time was carefully monitored, his entire presence was clearly limited to one hour total). Mary, Julia, and I grasped his hands (not quite hand-shaking, not bowing either) at which time a picture was taken (only official photography was permitted), we presented the prayer stone in its labeled box, the framed Buddha photograph, and a copy of the book about the expedition. He said “thank you”, aides immediately took the items, and we moved on, all literally in about one minute. When everyone had completed this process, the entire group was assembled behind him for an official group portrait, Roger Croston proclaimed “This meeting is now over” and the Dalai Lama swept out with his entourage.
Mary and I went to lunch with Julia Emmons, an interesting person a few years younger than me (former history professor and then manager of a track club in Atlanta) who had actually, with her sister, gone to the Minya Konka area (traveling with a guide) and retraced our fathers’ steps up to their base camp. In e-mail since, she and I have agreed that it’s like discovering a cousin you didn’t know (her father died in his fifties and I never met him). After her departure, Mary and I had a New York afternoon (Metropolitan Art Museum, Guggenheim Museum, taste of Central Park) and then Mary’s incredible birthday treat to me: dinner and a Broadway show “Wicked”, followed by a walk back to our hotel, and a smooth trip home the next day.