By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
Jigme Norbu, the nephew of His Holiness the Dalai Lama was on his first 2011 Walk for Tibet in Florida, which began in Jacksonville a few days ago. He had completed about 60 miles of the trek when Associated Press reported that he was hit and killed by a vehicle after sundown near Palm Coast on Feb. 14.
Hundreds of people have expressed condolences and words of support on the Facebook page, “Thank you Jigme Norbu la” created in his memory. There will also be a prayer service for Jigme Norbu on Friday, 6:00 p.m. at the Gyuto Wheel of Dharma Tibetan Buddhist Monastery (www.gyuto.us), 2601 Taylor Street NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418.
Jigme Ugen, president, Tibetan American Youth Congress – Minnesota Chapter, stated that Norbula was an inspiration to all Tibetans and that he is heartbroken at the news of his tragic death.
“I lost a hero and a very good friend today,” he said. “It is just shocking. Normally he walks against traffic. This is a sad and tragic closure.”
Ugen received a call about 10:30 p.m. the night of the accident from the group. Af first he said it wasn’t clear if the news was true. Then he learned that Norbu had been hit around 7:30 p.m., and declared dead at the scene by officers, his body apparently remained at a wayside for more than an hour.
Ugen said it is important to put the details of this horrific accident aside for the moment to remember and honor Norbu’s life and legacy. In keeping with his spirit to bring Tibetan awareness and inspire mobilization of expatriate communities on behalf of Tibetans who do not have a voice, Ugen said the worldwide outpour of grief is also channeling support for the cause – from the very many people who have encountered Norbu on his walks.
“Like everyone, we mourn, but we are also organizing positively to get out the message that he believed – that every Tibetan is an ambassador for Tibet,” said Ugen. “He walked to educate and to inspire because the people in Tibet can’t do that.”
Norbu’s walkers and coordinators, Wangchuk Dorjee la, Donna Brand, Brian Scrone, Jim Sheils and Tashi Khongtsotsangla, have dedicated the remainder of the walk in his honor. They resumed the Walk for Tibet on Thursday morning from the docks along Ocean Shore Blvd near where Norbula was hit.
Norbu is the son of the late Takster Rinpoche, the elder brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Rinpoche also walked for the cause of Tibet, and inspired Norbu to continue the effort – stopping in towns and cities along the way, talking to residents and media about Tibet and its crisis.
In 2010 Norbu walked from Indianapolis to Minneapolis; from Indianapolis to Toronto; from Philadelphia to Washington, DC; and also a Walk for Tibet in Taiwan. When he completed a 600 mile walk to reach the Minnesota State Capitol on May 31, 2010, Norbu and his companion Tenzin Jamyang were greeted by Tibetan youth and community and continued the last six miles with them for a rally at the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota.
The two walked an average of 28 to 30 miles a day, sleeping in a rented RV at night, which had Internet service to upload the photos and journals from the people and places they visited each day. People could follow their journey day-to-day – with resources on the topics and background of the issues they speak about regarding Tibet.
“It was not a walk for Tenzin and I,” said Norbu to the crowd that greeted his arrival. “It was a walk for Tibet. It was a walk for human rights and peace.”
Norbu said he continued the walks because he found that most Americans were aware and supportive of the Tibet cause. He in turn brought the words of encouragement to Tibetan communities around the country and the world.
- Jigme Norbu
Norbu said no matter whether Tibetans support full Tibetan independence or the “middle path” of some autonomy within the Chinese system – he said that expressing concern for Tibet would in some way keep the cause alive in the new American born generations.
“Never give up who you are and what you stand for,” Norbu said to the crowd of mostly young people in St. Paul last May. His walks and bike rides for Tibet compiled thousands of miles in the United States and overseas.
The walk is a nonprofit activity as Ambassadors for World Peace (www.ambassadorsforworldpeace.org) with a current focus on Tibetan freedom and peace walks.
Jigme Ugen said this direct, non-violent action embarrasses the Chinese government which is in turn an extremely empowering experience for Tibetans. He said the dedication and determination of Norbu and Jamyang has lifted the spirits of locals and especially youth.
The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet went to exile to India in 1959 and established the Tibetan government in exile with more than 100,000 refugees. In 1989 he was awarded the Noble Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for Tibet. Currently he travels around the world, preaching the message of peace, nonviolence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion.