A new year is upon us. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, we have just entered the year of the Snake. As I write this, Losar – Tibetan New Year – begins.

Tibetans are not celebrating the holiday like their Chinese counterparts. Leaders, including the elected head of Tibet’s government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, once again called on Tibetans worldwide to mark Losar with just customary rituals instead of festivities.

February 13 this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Tibetan declaration of independence, yet they are far from independent and free today.

I am saddened by the ongoing suffering and crisis in Tibet. Since 2009, nearly 100 people have set themselves on fire in protest of China’s political repression and cultural assimilation. Four young people have died in January and a month prior, 16 year old Wanchen Kyi shouted “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama, long live Tibetan people” as she set herself alight. Survivors of self-immolation protests have been detained by Chinese security; their whereabouts are unknown.

Severe conditions, like the Chinese occupation of Tibet, test our commitment and approaches to social change. My heart goes out to those who put their own bodies on the line and all their loved ones left behind. Will their deaths be in vain? At the very least, we must become aware of the situation and see their choices as a potent wake-up call.

There are many echoes of calls from around the world for us to awaken to greater consciousness. How can we bring about change, especially in the face of brutality, without resorting to violence and oppression ourselves? I am impressed that the Tibetan people, leaders and supporters continually commit to nonviolence.

I do know that love is stronger than hate. I find myself seeking inspiration over and over again from leaders like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu who led South Africa out of apartheid. And Martin Luther King who said:

“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear… We will meet your physical force with soul force… We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

Many of us have come to realize, as King explained, that hatred paralyzes, confuses and darkens life; while love releases, harmonizes and illuminates it.

Will we choose love and greater consciousness? As Gandhi acknowledged, “Whether humanity will consciously follow the law of love, I do not know. But that need not disturb me. The law will work just as the law of gravitation works, whether we accept it or not…. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings.”

We are in the dawn of a new era. I appreciate how Morales, President of Bolivia, explained at the UN General Assembly that according to the Mayan calendar, December 21st, 2012 marked:

“…the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha, it is the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood, it is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism… The scientists know very well that this marks the end of an anthropocentric life and the beginning of a bio-centric life.
It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth. It is the end of sadness and the beginning of joy; it is the end of division and the beginning of unity. This is a theme to be developed… to constantly look for economic and social equality among all human persons. This is the time to bring dignity to all inhabitants.”

Yes, now is the time my fellow companions on mother earth.