There is spiritual force, which we could say is unchanging, and then there is the often shifting perception of social necessity. As humans, we have a generalized view of such matters suggesting one concern belongs to the heavens, while the other belongs to earth.
Still, this is the water planet.
In his valuable but now sadly overlooked work, The Geography Behind History, London University's William Gordon East (1902 - 1998) writes, "The conception of regions forms the main citadel of geography." He tells us that these regions are history's stage, and condition, though they do not determine the activities of man. Through the millennia, man himself has become the principal agent of geographical change. Over time, it is not the land but man's efforts that establish the very regions themselves.
We may well argue that the archetype of the process is China's epic relationship with its rivers. There are in fact more than 50,000 rivers in China, of which ten are regarded as important. Among these are several rivers considered as "great," as compared to all the world's rivers.
- Changjiang (Yangtze River). This is longest river in China, and the third longest in the world. It originates in the glaciers of Geladaindong Peak, in the Tanggula Mountain Range of the Tibetan Plateau. It enters the sea at Shanghai. Its catchment area is equivalent to one-fifth the entire land area of China. The Yangtse is now notable for the Three Gorges Dam.
- Huanghe (Yellow River). This is the second longest river in China, and is regarded as the cradle of Chinese civilization. It originates in the basin of Yueguzonglie, in the Bayan Har range of the Kunlun Mountains of the Tibetan Plateau. It enters the sea at Kenli, in Shandong Province.
- Heilongjiang (Amur River). Sometimes known as the "Dragon River." This is the eleventh largest river in the world. It is China's northernmost major river, forming the majority of the northeastern boundary with Russia. It originates in Mongolia and empties into the sea at Okhostsk.
- Songhuajiang (Sungari River). This is the largest tributary of the Heilongjiang, in northeast China.
- Zhujiang (Pearl River). This is the third longest river in China, after the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, and the second largest in volume. Actually a river system, it originates at the confluence of three rivers, the Xijiang (west) Beijiang (north), and Dongjiang (east), generally in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, and Guangdong Provinces. It enters the sea between Hong Kong and Macau.
- Yaluzangbujiang (Tsangpo-Brahmaputra River). For a thousand miles, this is the highest river in the world. This river originates in southwestern Tibet, in the Jima Yangzong glacier, near Mount Kailish. It first flows east and then turns south to merge with the Ganges and empty into the Indian Ocean. Along its length is found the largest canyon in the world.
- Lancangjiang (Mekong River). This is the longest river is Southeast Asia, It originates in the Tanggula Mountain Range of the Tibetan Plateau. It empties into the Pacific Ocean in southern Viet-Nam.
- Nujiang (Salween River). This river originates from the southern slope of the Tanggula Mountain Range, flows north to south through Tibet and Yunnan Province, enters Burma, and empties into the Andaman Sea.
- Hanjiang (Hanshui River). This is the left tributary of the Yangtze River. It rises in southwestern Shaanxi and joins the Yangtze at Wuhan.
- Liaohe (Liao River). This river originates in Mongolia and enters the Yellow Sea at the Bohai Gulf to the east of Beijing.
So, what I would have you understand at this point, is that the most important of these all-important rivers originate in and significantly pass through regions that have, for roughly the past twelve centuries, been under the spiritual influence of the keepers of Padmasambhava's legacy. Indeed, the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Yellow River, Yangtze, Mekong and Salween all have their sources on the Tibetan plateau.
The pure waters of the glaciers flowing from Tibetan Buddhism's sacred places have given life, linkages, logistics, and livelihood to the largest concentration of human beings on planet earth.
Understanding this will help you understand the reason why, during the last half of the twentieth century, forces set in motion to conquer the Tibetan region. To conquer the Tibetan region meant not only to take its lands, but to destroy its very culture. To destroy its culture meant to break its spirit. To break its spirit meant to destroy Padmasambhava's legacy.
Understanding this will help you understand why the human manifestation of Chenrezigs was exiled from his homeland, to a patch of ground in India even the Indians considered spare.
Understanding this will help you understand why the Tibetans are now, themselves, considered spare. Who controls those rivers -- who controls the watersheds, and the lands upon which dams are built -- can become lord of South and South-East Asia.
If you examine the above map, you can see the effect of China's Mekong River dams upon South-East Asia. In particular, you can see that the two existing dams are being supplemented by three under construction, and three more are proposed. It is difficult to find justification -- other than geopolitical justification -- for eight dams in the upper Mekong.
The above map is from the excellent Tibetan Plateau Blog. You can click and download this map at higher resolution to examine the details. You will see the existing Chinese dams, proposed dams, and dams under construction along the Yarlung Tsangpo-Brahamaputra, with an inset of the Great Bend region.
By studying these maps and photographs, and the supporting articles in the various websites and journals, you will come to realize the extent of the power, the political will, and the collective effort that traded Guru Rinpoche's rivers for geopolitical dominance in Asia.
These are the ruins of Drepung Monastery. This photograph is symbolic of the thousands of other monasteries and temples that were destroyed. Below, is a photograph of what may be said to have become of the destruction. On one scale of value, this is what replaced the shattered Tibetan Buddhist institutional infrastructure. It is important to understand that this is not the decision of one person, or even one generation, but the result of collective will.
I was just finishing this article when there was a knock at the door...