This month I may not have anything to say about Zen. Or maybe I do.  Zen is often viewed as non-religious, or compatible with the practitioner's own religion - thus, there are Christians who practice Zen, Jews who practice Zen, and of course, Buddhists who practice Zen.  But Zen is, when all is said and done, rooted in Buddhism as Buddhism traveled from India to China to Japan. Buddhism also traveled to Tibet, where it formed a unique and distinct branch. Tibetan Buddhism is unique in it's emphasis on compassion as a core principle - Tibetans were, and are, a  pacifistic society built around the principles of Tibetan Buddhism - a society with a rich cultural heritage. Fifty years ago, the Chinese Communists invaded Tibet, and began a program of oppression intended to root out and destroy Tibet's rich cultural and religious heritage. In 1949, Tibet was an
independent  nation - it had it's own government, laws, language and culture. Tibet had remained neutral during the Second World War. Tibet maintained diplomatic relations with many nations and was recognized as a sovereign state. Tibet's history stretches back over 2,000 years. China's own history reflects the fact that for most of those 2,000 years China dealt with Tibet as an independent state. China's current absurd claim that Tibet is really a part of China is based on brief periods of influence during the 13th and 19th centuries. Everything changed for Tibet and
Tibetans in 1949. In that year, the "People's Liberation Army" of Communist China invaded Tibet. In 1951 the Chinese forced the Tibetan
government, under threat of force from the tens of thousands of Chinese troops in Tibet, to agree to an "Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet". China's actions were denounced in the United Nations. In response to China's claim of ownership, the UN Delegate from Ireland noted that, "for a couple of thousand years, at any rate, Tibet was as free and as fully in control of it's own affairs as any nation in this assembly, and a
thousand times more free to look after it's own affairs than many of the nations here."The UN has passed several resolutions over the years
condemning China's oppression of Tibet. China has refused to acknowledge these resolutions. Following the 1951 "treaty", China continued to
consolidate control over Tibet, even violating their own "treaty". When the Tibetans protested, the Chinese responded with military force. This
military force and reports of Chinese intentions to imprison him led the Dalai Lama, Tibet's head of state and spiritual leader, to flee the country. He established a government in exile.  The destruction of Tibetan culture has been terrible. Close to 1.5 million Tibetans have died as a result of
Chinese occupation. Many more have been imprisoned or placed in labor camps.  More than 6,000 monasteries and temples have been destroyed. Alexander Solzhenytsin, who survived imprisonment by the Soviets in the Gulag and authored The Gulag Archipelago,  stated that China's
oppression of Tibet is, "more brutal and inhumane than any other communist regime in the world." Today, the Chinese continue these widespread human right violations. They have also begun to flood the country with Chinese immigrants in order to bury the native culture and population. China maintains over 250,000 troops in Tibet. In addition, there are thousands of government bureaucrats. Military force, arrests, imprisonment for
political reasons and torture remain China's way of ruling Tibet. China still places Tibetans in labor camps in order to "re-educate them through
labor." China remains hostile to religion generally, and Tibetan Buddhism in particular. Prior to the Chinese invasion, Tibet was a society woven around it's religious practices. The Chinese have focused on destroying religious belief in Tibet out of fear that such beliefs could form the basis for an opposition movement. Why have the Chinese devoted the effort and resources to enslave Tibet? Like most issues of international politics, the answer is complex. The primary reason appears to be that China gains far more than territory and resources to be exploited - China gains valuable border lands with India, from which the Chinese can continue their lengthy war of aggression against India.
So, what does this have to do with Zen? Or Karate-Do?In practicing Karate-Do as a Way, as something more than a mere physical activity, we talk a lot about principles and values. We recite a Dojo Kun. We repeat over and again that Karate-Do build strong values and a sense of responsibility. If so, how do we respond to tyranny, to evil, to those who use strength to oppress the weak? Do we respond with
denial - it is uncomfortable to think of and to look at, so we pretend it is not happening? Or do we have the courage to really recognize our
responsibility - to speak out, to do what we can to help. China's program of horrible oppression in Tibet explains why Tashi's mother and father cared enough about their children to have them smuggled out of the country. That record of oppression also explains why we, if we really mean what we profess as our values as karateka, should care, too.  The Chinese brutalization of Tibet is surely one of the tremendous injustices of the post-World War II era - and this should matter to each of us.  When we recite our Dojo Kun, what do we mean when we say - "Have a strong sense of Justice"? In his classic 1899 work Bushido - The Warrior's Code, (available in the Dojo library), Inazo Nitobe writes that Justice, or
Rectitude, "has been compared to the firmness of a skeleton. As the skeleton gives shape, firmness, and stature to the body, rectitude forms the core of the samurai. Without such a core no amount of training can convert a human frame into an honorable warrior. . . .Valor is rectitude's twin. Together these two elements provide the courage to right a wrong." Our sense of personal honor and justice are inseparable.  In his manual for