By: Katherine Brooks,
What would you die for?
The idea started in March of 2013 when I met a woman while traveling on a remote island in Mexico. I saw her prayer beads and kind face and we had an immediate connection.
I know very little of history because I dropped out of high school and what I learn, I learn from my travels around the world. I learn what I am lead to learn and on this trip it would be the history of China and Tibet.
To be honest, I don’t read the news. I can’t. It makes me really sad. So, even as a supporter and believer in Buddhism, I did not know the detailed and grim history of Tibet.
Just like when I traveled to Cambodia for the first time – it was only then I learned of their genocide. I enjoy educating myself hands on, not through books.
Back to Mexico, my new friend, Tibet and China.
After a few days of connecting, she shared her affiliation with the Dalai Lama and began to teach me about the history of Tibet and China.
Most of you know, but for those that don’t — here’s the cliff notes.
China wanted Tibet. It destroyed monasteries, murdered Tibetans and drove out the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader and made Tibet China. I would go into horrific detail of what my friend told me, but China will not let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet and most of the people have lost hope.
I was horrified by one story she told me of Chinese soldiers forcing the monks to rape the nuns. Truly grim stuff, but for me it was a pure reflection of what is happening in our world today.
Greed, the thirst for power and technology taking over our world.
I know I am not good at writing about politics or their details, but now that I’ve met these people first hand….I wanted to do something to help.
My friend who lives in London and works with the people representing the Lama was equally passionate about our need to do something “drastic” to gain attention for what continues to happen in Tibet.
And thus the seed was planted with the idea.
We would do a hunger strike.
It would happen in London at the Tate and we would bring over two Tibetan monks and for 40 days we would do a displayed hunger strike in protest to demand China bring the Dalai Lama back to his home in Tibet and provide the people hope and restore a sense of peace.
I was “in”.
I returned to the states in preparation and was eager and excited. I had fasted 28 days before and felt confident I could do 40. I have no fear of death after having my near death experience and was willing to die for something I felt strongly about no matter how much opposition I would face from concerned family and friends.
I started to prepare in June when I returned to Los Angeles by beginning with small fasts to build up my body. And while I had this time to get physically and mentally prepared…I thought came into my mind that my friend told me the Dalai Lama had said….”what motivates you”.
And I began to question WHY I was doing the fast.
Why did it need to be in a museum? Yes, I know hunger strikes are to bring attention to as issue, but I began to ask myself how truly committed was I to this cause and was I truly doing it for Tibet or for myself?
And then it became clear. This wasn’t about doing it in a museum…it wasn’t about getting press — it was about my true commitment to something I felt compelled to do and a true change I wanted to see happen in the world. And I was willing to die for something that meant more to me than my single little life.
So…I decided then and there I would start the hunger strike in Los Angeles and I would start right away.
And so, I did.
It became something personal between me and God and my belief that what is happening in Tibet was truly a reflection of what is happening inside many of us.
The struggle between being a spiritual being and also being lured by money, power and all of those “desires” we have. Do we spend more time with God and our family than we do on the internet? Trying to make money? When you’re on your death bed will you be wishing you had a bigger house? Wishing you had texted more? Facebooked more?
What’s important is not the money or the house or the car — it’s our relationship with God and what we are willing to do to help others in need.
Word got out to one of my friends about my strike who showed up at my door truly concerned that I was “starving myself”. She is a dear friend, but not a spiritual radical like myself. For days she tried to stop me and truly felt I had lost my mind.
But, I was clear. I wanted to stand up for something I believed in.
Almost everything is MADE IN CHINA. Check your labels. And America is in partnership with China. So, we are supporting a country that continues to brutalize Tibet and its people who stand for pure peace. I was fighting for something I had never believed in so strongly and no matter how many of my friends tried to stop me…it wasn’t going to happen.
The drama thickened. I just wanted to be left in peace. I had made my decision.
Sadly, a week later I was in the hospital with shock and paralysis and truly felt I had failed on my mission to use my life to try and do something good.
I still haven’t recovered fully and feel I let Tibetans down, myself and left only my friends thinking I had lost my mind.
I knew what I was doing and stand by it 100% no matter how extreme it seems to people. 113 Tibetans recently lit themselves on fire to protest. This is a real issue and I know I am not the only person in the world willing to stand up and help. To fight with peace.
I feel very judged by many people for my strike — but no one judges a soldier who dies for their country. What’s the difference? My life. My choice.
I admire those who strike in peace. I am not ashamed of what I did.
I am only sad it didn’t help.
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