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TIBET
 
"THE ROOF OF THE WORLD"

TIBET! A country so high that few trees grow; an intriguing land beyond the Himalayas on the high plateau of Central Asia. The altitude of the plateau is between 10,000 in the south, and 15,000 feet in the north, but it is rimmed with high mountains, including Mt Everest and the Himalayas on the south which reach up to 35,000 ft.

Its elevation and its snow-bound mountain ranges have given Tibet a natural isolation, and until the last thirty years, few foreigners had the opportunity to visit the land that has been referred to as "Shangri-la" ("Paradise"). Tibet covers an enormous area - almost one million sq. miles. It is almost a quarter of modern China; and about a quarter the size of the United States.

Ethnic Tibet is a much larger area than the province that China calls the “Tibet Autonomous Region,” which is actually only about one-third of traditional Tibet. The region, except for the snow mountains, is mostly dry, as the ocean's moisture often does not get over the mountains.

The southern and eastern river valleys have not only a milder climate, but also space for irrigated agriculture.

The northern steppes (vast flat plains without trees), are extremely rich areas for pasturing goats, horses, and yaks - those versatile, bison-like creatures that assure considerable wealth for the many nomadic Tibetans. But the steppes are bitterly cold in the winter, causing the herdsmen to head for shelter in the southern valleys.

The dry climate makes it possible to store surplus grains for many years, and so Tibet has never been barren or poverty-stricken. Living has tended to be simple and austere, but there has never been famine in recorded Tibet history, except during the times of occupation by foreign armies.

Most of the major rivers in Asia originate in the Tibetan high­lands, including the Indus and its tributaries, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Yellow rivers.

Tibet may be divided into eight main regions and ethnic groups.

1      LHASA.  south central                5      AMDO.  northeast

2      SHIGATZE.  southwest              6      GOLOG.  northeast

3      WEST TIBET                              7      KHAM.   southeast

4      CHANG.  north                           8      JIARONG.  east

 

LHASA  -  "THE GOD PLACE"

Lhasa is the spectacular capital of Tibet. Hla-sa means "god place." But hla does not mean the Almighty God. A hla is a tutelary (guardian) spirit - a god or goddess. And there are many in Tibetan beliefs!

In the centre of the Lhasa is the imposing Potala Palace - formerly the Winter palace of the Dalai Lama. It is a massive structure, 13 stories high, with over 10,000 rooms. In the past it housed thousands of monks, as well as the Dalai Lamas.

THE POTALA PALACE, LHASA
 

The Potala is one of the "wonders of the world," and for many hundreds of years, it was the largest "skyscraper" in the world. It was the Winter palace of the Dalai Lamas.

A castle existed on this site since the 7th century A.D., but the present building was begun by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th c.

The Potala has now been turned largely into a museum. It is still at­tended to by a number of monks dressed in drab grey garments - not the gold and maroon-robed lamas that are normally seen in the monasteries. The monks collect the "contributions" and "fees" which the Chinese agents gather up at the end of every day.

Statues of lamas, gods, demons and historical figures line the hallways, and colourful brocade tapestries with paint­ings of gods and demons, hang from the ceilings and walls. Hundreds of butter lamps flicker, giving an eerie light to the dark rooms. High up are the throne rooms, and tombs, of various Dalai Lamas.

 

THE TIBETAN PEOPLE

The inhabitants of the high southern valleys appear to be related racially to the peoples on the other side of the high passes, to the Tai, the Burmans, and Yunnanese in the east; to the Nepalis and North Indians in the middle, and to the Dards (Greco-Indo-Scythians) in the west. The northern semi-nomads appear to be related to the Turko-Mongols, and even to the Indo-European Yuezhi. 

The Tibetan stock is an extremely diverse genetic pool, as is amply evidenced upon acquaintance with any community of Tibetans.

Tibet seems to have always been a place for spiritual refugees who went up further and further away from the steppes and river valleys to escape the struggles of traditional territories.

Turning away from the cities, they were willing to live with the wind, the altitude, and the sparseness of the high country in order to avoid the problems posed by violent humanity.

The Tibetans are a hardy breed, strongly individualistic and self-reliant, inclined to think for themselves, tolerant of diversity, and open to new ideas and objects. They're a mixture of warrior toughness, and of fun-loving license that classifies them as among the most relaxed of cultures about hierarchy and sexuality. (They have no castes, and both polyandry and polygamy are practiced in Tibet).

Tibetans are a friendly, lovable people who like rich colours, and who readily laugh at themselves, and at others' misfortunes. They are extremely religious, and Lamaism governs most aspects of their lives. Every family seeks to have at least one son trained as a Buddhist monk; and every mother knows that her son could possibly turn out to be an incarnate lama.

 

A TIBETAN BOY NAMED TSHERING;  A YOUNG KHAMBA LADY;

 AND A YOUNG KHAMBA MAN WITH TYPICAL KHAM HEAD DRESS

 

A BRIEF HISTORY

Tibet has experienced a checkered political history for many centuries. According to Tibetan records, the first Tibetan king was Nyatri Dzenpo, somewhere between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD.

Buddhism, it is thought, first reached Tibet in the 4th century.

The first Tibetan emperor was Songzen Gampo (620-649 AD.) He defeated the previous rulers, the Zhang-zhung empire, unified all Inner Asia, held his own against the Tang emperor Taizong, and put up columns as far away as Bihar in India, Yunnan in China, and the Tarim basin in Inner Asia. He married princesses from the Tang empire and Nepal, built the capital in Lhasa, constructed a Buddhist cathedral, had a new alphabet created, and promulgated the Buddhist "Law of ten virtues" in Tibet.

During Songzen Gampo's dynasty, Buddhism was the state religion. But this was opposed by regional leaders in the name of the previous, Bon religion. Bon was a mixture of animism and the Zhang-zhung religion. This occult religion was a form of shamanism (witchcraft), and it practiced human sacrifice, the worship of the king of hell, and demon-possession.

The rituals of the Bon religion such as the flying of prayer flags and the turning of prayer wheels, were blended together with the esoteric practices of Tantric Buddhism, and evolved into what is now known as "Lamaism."

The first Tibetan Buddhist monastery, Samye, was constructed in about 775 AD, and then a great cultural development began. By the 9th century, Buddhism had spread throughout Tibet.

In 842 AD, however, Tibetan expansion came to a sudden halt with the assassination of the king when the region broke up into independent feuding principalities.

From the 10th to the 13th century, regional rulers sponsored the return of Buddhism and culture to Tibet.

From 1209 to 1260 the hierarchs of the Sakyapa order, Sakya Pandita and Phagspa, represented Tibet to the Mongol emper­ors and were eventually given official rulership by Kublai Khan.

With the fall of the Mongols, a secular Tibetan dynasty was re-established by Jangchub Jazenl, which lasted until the early 17th century. At one time Tibetan armies controlled the 'Silk Road' including the great city of Kashgar and even sacked the imperial city of Chang'an (present day Xian).

In the 1630s and 40s, when Manchu banners rose over China, the Mongolian chief, Gushri Khan, quelled factional struggles emerging from the decline of the secular dynasty, and then gave the rule of Tibet to the leader of the Gelungpa order, the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682). His religious and secular rule of Tibet was respected and supported by the Manchu emperors of China, who looked to his spiritual authority to keep the Mongol nations peaceful. Religion and politics became entwined with the Dalai Lama becoming both spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet.

The 5th and the 7th Dalai Lamas created a unique form of govern­ment with a monastic bureaucracy that in the early 18th century, demilitarized Tibet and used the monastic institutions to mediate between noble and commoner. This government kept the peace within Tibet for 300 years, and served an important diplomatic role in avoiding conflicts throughout Inner Asia.

In the 19th century, with the Mongol nations fully pacified, the Manchu Chinese encroached on Tibet's independence after being called upon to defend against the Gurkhas. After the 1911 fall of the Manchu Qing dynasty, however, the 13th Dalai Lama expelled all Chinese representatives and, with British help, set about trying to modernize his people - with limited success.

Upon coming to power in China in 1949, Mao Tse Dong set the conquest of Tibet, which they regarded as a part of China, as a major priority. In 1950 the Communist Army invaded and occupied Kham and Amdo in eastern Tibet.

In 1953, the young Dalai Lama was forced by the Chinese to sign a 17-point Agreement on the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.

In 1959, an uprising was crushed by the People's Liberation Army. The Dalai Lama and more than 100,000 of his countrymen fled to India that year.

The Chinese saw themselves as 'liberators' overthrowing a sadistic theocracy, and ending 1,300 years of serfdom and feudalism. Monasteries were considered evil. During the dark days of the Cultural Revolution most of the 1,500 monasteries were completely destroyed.

The Chinese administration has built new roads, hospitals and schools to modernize Tibet, and has integrated the region into the Chinese "motherland." The main Tibetan territory is called an "autonomous region of the People's Republic of China."

After the death of Mao Tse Dong and the repudiation of the Gang of Four, Chinese policy in Tibet moderated, and a degree of religious freedom was introduced. Many monasteries were restored and re-opened, and thousands of boys left home to become monks and lamas. Since 1979, the land has been returned to private farmers.

Most major positions in government and commerce are held by Chinese, and the civilian Chinese population in Tibet has dramatically increased as the Chinese government encourages citizens to go to Tibet for business and to develop the country more.

Lhasa, the capital, is serviced by modern planes, and in 2006, an awesome railway line through the rugged high mountains was opened, linking Beijing to Lhasa.

The cities of Shingatse and Gyantze have grown, and like Lhasa, are being beautified with trees and gardens.

Meanwhile, many of the Tibetan refugees and their descendants are now dispersed throughout the nations.

 

THE SPIRITUAL NEED OF TIBET

"Now is 'the well-accepted time'; now is 'The Day of Salvation'."

(2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

The Tibetan people are very religious, and believing in reincarnation, are constantly seeking to accrue merit that will help them attain to a better future life.

In Lhasa, devout Tibetans prostrate themselves before the Jokhang – the main Buddhist temple in the country, and crowds walk clockwise around the temple continuously every day. The older generations, particularly, wield prayer wheels and finger prayers beads wherever they go. Colourful prayer flags flutter from building, bridges and every high place, shrine, temple and monastery. Lamas and monks in maroon garments are evident everywhere.

 
PROSTRATING IN FRONT OF JOKHANG                                  TWO LAMAS IN LHASA
 

Religion is flourishing in Tibet. But the spiritual need of the Tibetans is to hear and understand that salvation is the gift of God, and is not attained through meritorious works of “righteousness” which we do.

YAHWEH THE ALMIGHTY GOD …

so loved the world - including Tibet - that He gave His only begotten Son, Yeshu,

so that any Tibetan believing in Him will not perish by have eternal life.

For God is not willing for any Tibetan (or anyone else) to perish,

but for all of them to come to repentance!

"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear unless someone proclaims the Good News? And how shall they proclaim if they are not sent? As it is written, HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS OF PEACE. WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS! [Isaiah 52:7.  Romans 10:14-17)

Today the opportunities to reach Tibetans with the Gospel are greater than at any time in the past! If you are interested to help the Tibetans, firstly, pray for them. If you know Y’shua the Messiah as your personal Saviour, then exercise the privilege of your priestly ministry by interceding on behalf of these dear people.

 

1. INTERCEDE

If you believe that the Almighty God loves the world, and is not willing that any should perish; if you believe that His Hand is not shortened that it cannot save; and if you are born again and believe God answers prayer, and that the ministry of interces­sion is the ministry of every believer; and if you believe your Master is waiting for the ingathering of the members of His Bride from the uttermost parts of the earth, then believer, pray for the Tibetans. God loves them, and is waiting for an ingathering from amongst these precious people.

Tibet is no longer a Shangri-la; if it ever was! Tibet is modernizing, but it is in great spiritual need, and the people live in the shadow of death.

There is a prophecy of the prophet Isaiah, concerning the people of Zebulun and Naphtali in Galilee, and it will surely be fulfilled also in Central Asia. Let's believe so! ...

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who live in the land of the shadow of death, the light has shone. You (Messiah) shall multiply the nation. You shall increase its joy. They will rejoice before You as with the joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as in the day and battle of Midian."  (Isaiah 9:2-4)

 

2. MAKE FRIENDS WITH TIBETANS

Wherever you are, anywhere in the world, watch for Tibetans and seek to befriend them. You may not speak Tibetan, but it is likely they will know English.

(I met a group of Tibetans in Australia recently. I spoke to a young Tibetan, in Tibetan. He replied; "I'm sorry, I don't speak Tibetan." Very surprising, but there you are!

Indian readers! There are Tibetan traders on street stalls in nearly all major cities of India - especially in Winter. Why not make an effort to bless them?

Sharing the love of God with them. And the message needs to be shared with much care and wisdom, for Tibetan terms have quite different meanings to what we understand from the Bible. The message needs to explained very clearly.

 

TERMS AND BELIEFS

Let's look at some of the beliefs and Tibetan/England terms; and I’ll suggest more suitable terms and give amplifications suitable for Tibetans, in various Bible passages.

The following section will help you understand some of the main differences between Christian and Tibetan Buddhist concepts.

The Christian Gospel is the good news that Yahweh, the Heavenly Father loved the world so much that He sent His one-and-only, unique, eternal Son, to seek and to save the lost who walk in darkness. But here is one first difference. In Buddhist there is no …

PERSONAL GOD

Tibetans do not have a concept of a God who is eternal, unique and unchanging – One who is personal, pure and holy, and who saves sinners. They do not believe in a Creator, or in a personal God who loves them. They believe the universe is eternal.

The Tibetan "God" - Kunchok - is a Buddhist Trinity

i.                   "Buddha" the intangible, enlightened life force

ii.                 the incarnate lamas

iii.              the Buddhist scriptures.

“Kunchok" does not describe the God of the Bible. (See explanation below on Who and What is God?).

Using the name “Kunchok” will not describe the Almighty, Creator, Redemptive God of the Bible. There are other words that do, such as Yahweh the Heavenly Father; the Father of Yeshu; Y'shua/Jesus; the Heavenly Master, the Most High Master; the Eternal Father.

The Bible says:

"In the beginning God, Yahweh the Heavenly Father, created the heavens and the earth."   (Genesis 1:1)

"Lord Yahweh, the Heavenly Father so loved the world, that He gave His one-and-only, unique Son, Y’shua, so that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."  (John 3:16)

SIN

Tibetans, like everyone, are quite aware of right and wrong, but their concept of sin is closer to "offence" or "crime." There is no concept of sin being an offence to a holy God. And their concept of sin can be quite opposite to the Bible.

Idolatry to the Buddhist is not a sin, but is a virtue - an act of "reverence.” But the killing of animals, even insects, is a major sin. Animal or human sacrifice is offensive to the Buddhist, and so the Atonement needs to be presented very carefully. The atoning sacrifice of the Messiah is strange to the Buddhist mind. He needs to know why the sacrifice was required. This means a very definite defining of sin (dikpa) as an offence to the Heavenly Father, and of the penalty for death – separation from the Eternal One.

The Bible says:

"For the wages of sin - of all offences against Yahweh, the Heavenly Father is death, but the free gift of Yahweh is eternal life in Y'shua the Messiah, our Master."  (Romans 6:23)

"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, Yahweh, the one true Heavenly Father, and Y'shua the Messiah whom You have sent."   (John 17.3)

NO FORGIVENESS

There is no concept God’s forgiveness for sins in Tibetan Buddhism. Sin brings de-merit. One cannot be simply forgiven for sins; he must pay the penalty through the circle of rebirth. So one must learn not to sin, even though this process may take 1,000 lives.

The Bible says:

"Of Him (Y'shua) all the prophets bear witness that through His Name, every one who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins and been set free from sin's penalty."   (Acts 10:43)

SALVATION - FREEDOM FROM KARMA (REBIRTH)

To Buddhists, salvation (tharpa) means to be saved from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. All Tibetans know that they are sinners. The very fact they are alive shows that they must be sinners. Otherwise, they would have gone to Nirvana - into a sea of “fulfilment.” Somehow they need to get out of the birth-growth-decay-death-birth "karma-chain."

They believe there are six stages in the circle of life:

i.     in 'heaven'

ii.    as a 'god'

iii.   as a human being

iv.   as a hungry ghost

v.    as an animal

vi.   in hell

They believe they can fall at any time, from one level to an­other. Their future is therefore hopelessly uncertain. They may have another 10,000 lives before reaching Nirvana. No matter how good their life has been, they must go to hell for at least 49 days and nights. Even Buddha had to spend time in hell on his way to enlightenment and deity.

The Circle of Life means that you are trapped in your own karma. Salvation (tharpa) means freedom from your karma - to be released from desire, suffering, and from the cycle of life itself.

To present an offering at home or in the temples, is to appease the gods and evil forces. They make offerings to gain merit, yet they inwardly know that the merit they gain will be lost because they sin while trying to outweigh their past sins. That can be quite depressing!

Instead of talking about “salvation” (tharpa) which to a Tibetan means release from rebirth, we should speak about being saved from the penalty and condemnation of sin; saved from eternal separation from the Heavenly Father – and from the eternal hell).

The Bible says:

"Lord Yahweh, the Heavenly Father saved us, not because of righteous works that we have done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through cleansing our lives and giving us new life, and through the renewing power by His Holy Spirit."   (Titus 3:5)

"For by the grace of Yahweh you have been saved, through faith - and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of the Heavenly Father - it is not as a result of good works, lest anyone should boast."   (Ephesians 2:8-9)

HELL

Tibetans believe everyone must spend a minimum of 49 days in nyella (hell) between each life time. The fierce guardians seen inside temples are there to prepare devotees for the horrors of hell.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that if they give money regularly to monks, it is possible that while in hell, one of the monks will recognize them and pull them out.

Oh the tragedy of souls in hell when they realize that it is not for 49 days! And there's no one to pull them out!

The Bible says:

Y’shua says: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never go to hell: and no-one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:28)

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Y'shua the Messiah died and paid the penalty for our sins, according to the Holy Scriptures, and that His body was place in a tomb, and that He was raised to life on the third day according to the Holy Scriptures."   (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

"These are written that you may believe that Y'shua is the Messiah, the Son of Yahweh the Heavenly Father, and that, through believing, you may have life in His Name." (John 20:31)

FEAR OF DEATH

The Tibetan Buddhists believe in an inferno that is divided into eight hot, eight cold hells, and two additional hells. Each hell has several sub-hells in which sinners are made to suffer until they work off their demerits. There is also a fear that one may be born in hell, in any of his future lives.

The Bible says:

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood (a common physical nature as human beings), Y'shua Himself likewise shared the same humanity so that by His death He might render ineffective and ultimately destroy the one who had the power of death - that is, Satan, the chief devil - and deliver those who through their fear of death, were held in slavery all their lives."  (Hebrews 2:14-15)

PRAYER

Prayer (mernlam), Tibetans believe, is the wish or desire of the mind, and may be directed to Buddhas, saints or spirits. Mernlam is largely the 4-word 'mani’ mantra, which may be constantly voiced, or printed on prayer flags, rocks and other objects.

Prayer flags are strung out at every peak, stupa, home, temple and monastery. Rocks with prayers engraved on them, are seen in many places. The most religious spin hand-held prayer wheels - (printed prayers are inside the wheels) - and spin huge metal prayer drums with prayers engraved on the sides, at temples.

TIBETAN WOMEN, ONE CARRYING A PRAYER WHEEL, THE OTHER, PRAYER BEADS WHILE GOING AROUND A STUPA (SHRINE), FROM WHICH PRAYER FLAGS FLUTTER IN THE WIND
 

The more devout Buddhists continuously finger "mani beads" (similar to rosary beads), and the monks chant mantras and their scriptures. But in all this, there is an absence of personal prayer to the Heavenly Father.

The Bible says:

Y’shua said: "Talk to the Heavenly Father and pray, like this: 'Our Father in heaven, holy is Your Name."    (Matthew 6:9)

PILGRIMAGE

Tibetans frequently go on pilgrimages, to Lhasa, Mt Kailash or to other religious places. They sometimes travel on their knees, falling prostrate all the way for many miles, to earn merit. At the festivals they try to get used to the scary demon masks so they will not be so fearful when they meet devils in hell). The more lamas they see, and the more money they give, the more likely they will be recognized by a lama who can lift them out of hell!

The Bible says:

"... the gospel according to the power of Lord Yahweh, the Heavenly Father, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling - not because of our good works, but because of His own purpose and grace." (2 Timothy 1:8-9)

BREAKING THE CHAINS

Psalm 107 was written specifically concerning ancient Israel. But it could also be a prophecy concerning the Tibetans - except for one main point:

"Some dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death,

prisoners in misery and chains -

because they had rebelled against the words of God,

and despised the counsel of the Most High.

Therefore He humbled their heart with labour.

They stumbled, and there was no one to help.

Then they cried out to Yahweh in their trouble;

and He saved them from their distress.

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,

and broke their chains in pieces.

Let them give thanks to Yahweh for His lovingkindness,

and for His wonders to the sons of men!

For He has broken gates of bronze,

and He has cut through the bars of iron."    (Psalm 107:10-16)

The one main point of exception is that the majority of Tibet­ans have neither rebelled against the words of Yahweh, nor have they called out to Him. They have not despised the counsel of the Most High, for the tragedy is that most have not seen or heard the Word of God. They don't know that there is an Almighty God who loves them. They don't know who the Most High is. They don't know that there is a gift being offered to them by the Heavenly Father - the priceless gift of Eternal Life.

It is written: "WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF YAHWEH-Y'SHUA the LORD WILL BE SAVED."  (Joel 2:32 & Romans 10:13)

But how can they call upon His Name when they have never heard His Name? The apostle Paul also asks this question:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear unless someone proclaims the Good News? And how shall they proclaim if they are not sent?

“As it is written, HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS OF PEACE, WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS! [Isaiah 52:7]. But they did not all obey the Good News; for Isaiah says, 'LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?' [Isaiah. 53:1] So then faith comes from hearing, and the hearing and understanding comes through the Word of God.” (Romans 10:14-17)

In 1885 the first mission base was established amongst Tibet­ans in Ladakh, India, where a church continues today. (Ladakh was called “Little Tibet” because of the Tibetan population living there. They read the Tibetan language, but their pronunciation was quite different to central Tibetan.)

At the beginning of the 20th century, a mission was opened in inland China, and missionaries began to penetrate the Amdo area of eastern Tibet. But they were never able to set up a base in central Tibet. After the communists took over, a number of workers moved from east Tibet to India, and continued their work there.

Over the past 45 years, many Tibetans in India and Nepal, and even some in Tibet, have heard of Yeshu Mashika (Y'shua Messiah). Today, there are several Tibetan churches in India and Nepal, but there’s no visible church in Tibet, and there are still relatively few Tibetan believers worldwide.

Tibetan Christian radio programs are being broadcast into Tibetan areas, and they have brought an encouraging response. The "Jesus" film in Tibetan has also been produced.

So many people are now hearing about Yeshu, but most have never heard the Name of Yahweh the Father! Sadly, most Christian workers and missionaries have been ignorant, indifferent, or hesitant, when it comes to reveal­ing the Name of the Heavenly Father!

BEAUTIFUL TIBETAN LADIES IN LHASA
 

WHO AND WHAT IS “GOD”

The English word “God” can mean anything – it depends on the concept in the mind of the individual. To some, “God” is the Almighty.”  To others, “God is an unknowable Force.”  Others think “God” is a stone, or a creature.

In some languages there is not a suitable word that can be used to convey the Biblical revelation of who God is. Even the English word “God,” in pre-Christian times, was a local deity.  But the word was gradually adapted and became the general title of the Almighty of the Bible.

The Tibetan word Kunchok (pronounced Koonchor, Goonchok or Gernchok in various dialects), has been used to translate our word 'God' in Biblical translations into Tibetan. And for the past 60 years or more, Christians have been seeking to convince Tibetans that Kunchok is the God of the Bible.  But the Tibetan's Kunchok is far from the God revealed in the Bible.

The Tibetan Buddhist concept of Kunchok is complex, but essentially it is a Trinity – “Kunchok Sum.”  The three parts of Kunchok are;

1     The Buddha - The Enlightened, intangible spirit.

2     The Trulgu - That is, the incarnate lamas - not the ordinary monks, but those having already reached Nirvana (enlightenment) and who have returned to earth to help people find release from karma - rebirth - and thus the release from suffering.

3     The Buddhist Scriptures - That is the Kunchok Sum, the Trinity of Tibetan Buddhism. But it is not the God of the Bible!

To quote the late Geoffrey Bull, a missionary in East Tibet in the late 1940’s: "We take up and use a word in Tibetan, unconsciously giving it a Christian content. For them, however, it has a Buddhist content. We speak of God (Kunchok). In our minds this word conveys to us the concept of the Supreme and Eternal Spirit, Creator and Sustainer of all things, whose essence is love, whose Presence is all holy, and whose ways are all righteous. For them, the Tibetan word God means nothing of the kind. We speak  of  prayer, the spiritual com­munion between God our Father and His children. For them prayer is a repetition of abstruse formulae and mystic phrases handed down from time immemorial. We speak of sin. For them the main emphasis is in the condemnation of killing animals."

Another Christian workers says, “The term Kunchok can refer to a vague conception of a supreme deity, but most often is used to mean the Buddha, his teachings, and the body of monks (the so-called Kunchok Sum or triple refuge). While Christian Tibetans use the term Kunchok to refer to God, who is eternal, personal, holy, just and loving, none of these qualities are implied in the Buddhist sense of the term."

Sadly, the word Kunchok has been used by early transla­tors of the Bible for the English word 'God.' A Moravian Tibetan Christian leader explained to me some years ago, ''Our fathers decided to use the word Kunchok for God, with the expectation that in time it would come to have a Christian connotation."

The few Tibetans brought up in a Christian environment apply Kunchok to the God of the Bible. But to the 99% of Tibetans, Kunchok means "Kunchok Sum" – the Buddhist Trinity.

Take John 3:16, as we read it in the Tibetan Bible; "Kunchok so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that who­ever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

What meaning can a Tibetan gather from this? Only that Bud­dha loved the world and sent an incarnate lama so that we might have life through believing in that rimpoche.

Another Tibetan leader told me: “We don't use Kunchok Sum. We use Tsowo Kunchok (Lord Kunchok).” Yet another told me, "We mostly avoid Kunchok and speak of Tsowo Yeshu (Lord Jesus)." Yet another Tibetan said to me, "We don't need to worry about the Father - we just need to talk about Yeshu."

We may accept these explanations, but the fact is that throughout the Tibetan Bible, we read of Kunchok - a term which gives an unclear message. In fact, the Buddhist perceives that we are saying that the Buddhist God and the Christian God is one and the same. But they think Christians have some weird interpre­tations, and that we are distorting the truth about Kunchok!

So is there other Tibetan word that can be used to translate "God"? An early Catholic translation used Namdak - "Sky Master." The term "Creator" is not so good as Tibetans do not believe there is a Creator.

I encourage Tibetan workers to use the Name of the LORD -  Yahweh, and some are doing so now-a-days.  But it is sad that most Tibetans have never ever heard the Name of the Heavenly Father, or even that there is a Heavenly Father.  

I use the phrase, "Tsowo Yawe Namkar Shukpei Yap"  -  Lord Yahweh the Heavenly Father.

Yehowa in the Old Testament

The Old Testament was translated into Tibetan many decades ago, and the complete Bible was published in 1948. The OT uses the term Yehowa Kunchok for “LORD God.” There is, of course, a confusion here. A Tibetan would probably understand from this that there is a Buddha called 'Yehowa.' And he would think that Yehowa is one of the many Buddhas.

The Tibetan O.T., however, is seldom used as it's not a satis­factory translation. A revision has been coming along slowly, on for many years. It is not yet complete.

The Name of Yahweh (or some pronounce it was Yahwah) is known and used by many Christians today. And as we now know, Yehowah and Jehovah are not correct renditions of the Hebrew Name of YHWH, it is important to introduce the correct form of the Name - Yahweh - in our Gospel presentation.  

And as YHWH (Yahweh) is used 6855 times in the Hebrew Bible – far more than any other name in the whole Bible, how can we dismiss that Name, and can we deprive the Tibetans, or anyone else, of that sacred Name? Instead of trying to convince Tibetans that Kunchok is the Christian God, let's teach them about the Lord Yahweh, the Heavenly Father, who sent His Son, Yeshu the Messiah, to redeem the world from the bondage of sin.

Listen to how the message sounds when the Name of God is used, as in this Tibetan translation of John 3:16.:

"Lord Yahweh gave His own and only Son because He loved the world so whoever has faith in Him, should not perish, but receive everlasting life."

Tsowo Yawe khi nyi kyi se chikpo nangwa tsamthu jiktenla champar dzepe suyang

thela thepa chepa mepar mi gyur gyi,  thamepe sok thop’par chao. (Yohanen 3:16)

 

Scriptures in Tibetan often need to be amplified to clarify their meaning. All terms need to be carefully used and clearly clarified.

Another explanatory translation of John 3:16 reads:

Tsowo Yawe jikten di la  shintu champar dzepe, khong khi rang khi jepei se Yeshu Mashika

nang, suang khong la thepa chepa the me par mi gyur gyi, tha mepei sok thoppar chao.

Lord Yahweh, loved this world so much, that He gave His own beloved Son Yeshu Messiah, so whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but will receive eternal life.

This translation makes it very clear who “God” and “the Son” are.  Let us use their Names!

A MONK FOR JESUS

"Who is this Yeshu? I have never heard this story before!" said a young Tibetan monk as we bumped along in the back of the truck heading for Litang (a city 4,000 meters above sea level, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, in Sichuan, China). Later that day my friend Simon and I had the joy of introducing this young man to the Saviour. We knew something had happened. There was light in his eyes and a smile on his face. "Now that I am a Yeshupa (Christian)," he said, "I'll worship Yeshu. "

It was hard to say good-bye. Our new brother in Christ was travelling into a closed area where foreigners are not permit­ted. Would we ever see him again? We had given him a New Testament and a few Christian books which he had hidden at the bottom of his bag. Our hearts ached as we thought of him returning to a monastery with no known believers in the surrounding area. How could he grow in Christ? Is it right we thought, to bring a child to birth and leave him alone to fend for himself? Simon reminded me, "Tsowo Yeshu is with him! And, we can pray!"

YES, WE CAN PRAY!

Many Christians have prayed for Tibet for years, but many have been discouraged when they have not heard reports of a major breakthrough. But things are happening! The Heavenly Father is still seeking intercessors (Isaiah 59:16) to pray for Tibetans. Will you join us in prayer, that this dark corner of the earth may be exposed to the Light of the Gospel?

         Pray that Tibetans everywhere will have an opportunity to hear the Word, and come to know of Yahweh the Heavenly Father, and that they will be saved through faith in His Son.

         Pray that when they hear of the Atonement - the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, that they will not be repulsed, but that the Holy Spirit will bring conviction of sin, and an inner longing for forgiveness, as they realize that Yeshua died on their behalf.

         Pray that the veil of spiritual blindness over their minds will be removed so they will see that God gives only one life after which they will either go to heaven or hell. Pray that they will be set free from the deception of needing to gain merit.

         Pray that workers will have wisdom and understanding in presenting the Gospel, defining the terms they use carefully, and not presuming that listeners understand Bible concepts.

         Pray for the day when there will be true religious freedom in Tibet, and when a strong church will reach out with the Good News that sets people free.

A GOLDEN BOOK

Dave was one of the first Christian foreigners in recent history to visit Tibet. On one occasion he visited the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, armed with a handful of yellow Gospels of John. As he entered the prayer hall he noticed an elderly monk standing on his own at the far left corner of the room. He went over and gave him a booklet.

"I had a vision two years ago" said a Tibetan Buddhist monk with tears in his eyes, "that a foreigner would come and give me a little golden book about the truth. I’ve been praying and watching each day. You are that man!" he said.    

 

 

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