In her compelling memoir of personal transformation, Precious Jewels of Tibet: A Journey to the Roof of the World, Jane Bay takes us on a pilgrimage to India where we meet Tibetans, both exiles and those now suffering under Chinese oppression, and experience with her the liberating lessons of impermanence, compassion, commitment, and love. In this inspiring story, Bay’s own metamorphosis is inextricably linked with the heroic struggle of the Tibetan people, and the Buddhist faith that is the source of their strength–and her own.
On her trip through India, Bay is accompanied by a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Lobsang Samten, through a series of adventures and spiritual passages that will change her life forever. While in Dharamsala, the present home of the Dalai Lama, she becomes the foster mother of a teenage girl at the Tibetan Children’s Village. Unable to have children of her own, Bay becomes deeply involved in the life of her foster daughter, Namgyal, whose own mother had died in Tibet. A strong bond is forged between mother and daughter through many months of correspondence and Jane is devastated when she learns the Chinese government has forced Namgyal and other children studying in India to return to the “motherland.” To refuse would endanger Namgyal’s remaining family in Lhasa; ironically, going back to her homeland will endanger her own identity–the Chinese regime ruthlessly suppresses the study of Tibetan language, culture and religion.
In the hope of finding her foster daughter, Bay embarks on a journey to Tibet, again traveling with her spiritual friend, Lobsang, who returns at great personal risk after thirty-eight years in exile. He hopes to find his older brothers who were unable to escape when the Chinese army swept across the high Tibetan plateau in 1959. Their search takes them from the temples of Lhasa to towns brutalized by Chinese occupation, to destroyed monasteries, and remote nomadic outposts.
The author interweaves her own story with the experiences of the Tibetans she came to know and with Buddhist teachings that have helped to illuminate her contemporary personal odyssey. Her candid observations as well as her informative descriptions of current conditions in Tibet make this book a poignant and emotionally gripping story.