Sadutshang, Rinchen. A Life Unforeseen: A Memoir of Service to Tibet. Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2016. Kesang Lama Abstract Rinchen Sadutshang was born (1928-2015) in Lingtsang village, Karze town of Trehor valley in Kham. His journey to Lhasa and life thereafter unfolds in 1934 at the age of five and covers key moments for him till 2006; from early childhood in Kham to Lhasa, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, China, US, Japan, Thailand, Bhutan. The theme throughout the autobiography, as the title suggests, “A Life Unforeseen”, appears to be that the course of his life was decided for him with the first decision for him to be sent to Lhasa at five, then to India for boarding school and his subsequent role in the Tibetan government. However, he then decides to leave Tibet and his position there. Just as he makes it to India, suddenly the political events lead to the formation of a Tibetan government in exile, but this time out of a sense of responsibility and his own volition, he chooses to serve the Dalai Lama and the people till he retires. He has written his story to share the rare opportunities to witness key moments of Tibet’s history in the 20th century and was encouraged by the Dalai Lama’s general advice for older Tibetans to record their life stories. Early Years Rinchen Sadutshang leaves his village of Lingtsang in Kham at the age of five with his elder brother, Wangchuk Dorji [Wangdor] to study and live with other family members in Lhasa. He is the youngest of eight children and already having lost his father as an infant, it is also the last time he sees his mother. He studies at the Darpoling School in Lhasa for the next two and half years. Then his elder brothers decide one of the younger brothers should go to school in India to help in the family’s trading business in the future and for the other one to become a monk. The author says he found out years later the choice was made by requesting divination from a lama and based on it, he was chosen to attend school in India and Wangdor to become a monk. The author starts his education in Kalimpong at St. Joseph’s Convent in 1937 where he spends two before transferring to St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling. He mentions the first Tibetans he discovers in his new school to be George Taring from the Sikkimese royal family settled in Tibet, and Dondrup Kapshopa also from a noble family. The following year, he mentions Rinzin and Jigme Yuthok from another noble family of the Tenth Dalai Lama, and a Shalo Tashi Norbu. During these years the author mentions his brothers Lo Gedun and Lo Nyendak who frequent their house in Kalimpong for the trading business, the arrival of Lo Gedun’s wife Tseyang, his friendships among others with Shalo Tashi Norbu and the Taring boys; and his elder brother Lo Gedun becoming good friends with Jigme Dorji (who later became the Prime Minister of Bhutan). He goes back to Lhasa for a few weeks after six years in India, and he meets some of his family and mentions two of the older boys from his school, George Taring and Dondrup Kapshopa in Government Service. Transition Time: School to Future in Tibet He goes back to school for another year, then during a school break is asked to accompany a Tibetan government delegation led by Dzasak Kheme Sonam Wangdi, on their way to Delhi to meet Lord Waverly, the British Viceroy, followed by a trip to China to meet General Chiang Kai-shek. Following certain events, the author returns with the delegation from China after a year. Upon his return, though eager to resume school, due to certain political situations in Tibet affecting family members in Lhasa, he is left in charge of managing the business in Kalimpong while his brothers return to Lhasa. During this period, the author and Tseyang develop a relationship and he shares that given the tradition of polyandry in Tibet, his brother is accepting and encourages them to maintain it. The turmoil in Lhasa had involved Reting Rinpoche (Tseyang’s maternal uncle and the lama who recognized the 14th Dalai Lama) thus affecting the Sadutshang family, so as compensation to the family the government offered one member a position as either lay or monk official. This was considered a privilege, as traditionally such officials typically had to come from the nobility. However, upon his family’s decision to enroll him as a lay official, the author relates that he was unhappy with the decision, as he wanted to continue his education in India, yet could not disagree with them as he believed it was customary for elders to make decisions for the family’s welfare. Life in Tibet He moves to Lhasa with his wife and goes on to serve in the foreign affairs ministry. Being a Khampa and not from nobility he relies on friends for help with his etiquette and mentions families such as the Khemes and the Phalas. An interesting point the author mentions is that the youngest Phala son, Wangchuk, was not in government service but looking after the family estates in Gyantse and mentions being impressed with him, saying “Most nobility, both big and small in wealth and status, were typically less than benevolent when it came to their subjects. Phala Wangchuk, on the other hand, was an exception…he had established a school for the children on his estate, taking special interest in seeing that the quality of education imparted was of the highest caliber. At the same time, he also encouraged children to take up sports and physical exercise. In all likelihood, he introduced this emphasis after his visits to India and China” (117). And he mentions that the eldest Phala son was the Dronyer Chenmo, in charge of all government ceremonies involving the Dalai Lama, and was the only person to have daily access to him. After the author’s first year in the government, the Kuomintang started to collapse, the Communist party gained control and Chiang Kai-shek flees to Taiwan followed by the formal installation of the Communist Party of China in October 1949. The Chinese started making claims of Tibet being a part of China and for it to, as he described, “be ‘liberated’ from foreign domination. The foreign power from which we needed to be liberated, however, was a mystery to us” (120). The author goes on to mention the Chinese army entering eastern Tibet and several key events leading to the installation of the sixteen-year-old Dalai Lama to head of the government. The author goes on to be a part of the Tibetan delegation to China in 1951 and relates the conditions of duress under which the signing away of Tibet’s independence with the Seventeen-Point agreement occurred. The author goes on to point out that although the agreement had stated there would be no interference or changes to the authority and administration of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese begin to make demands and relates events that start to unfold, including within his own department and how life, in general, was being affected. The author was also part of the entourage of the Dalai Lama’s visit to China in 1954, with the main purpose stated as the attendance of the National People’s Congress. Then later on the situation begins to get even tenser in Lhasa, and around this time the Dalai Lama visits India for the 2500 anniversary of Lord Buddha’s birth. Back in India By the beginning of 1958, the situation between the Chinese and Tibetans had deteriorated further, and the author sends his wife and children to India. And he also decides to escape and join them, and shortly after his arrival, he finds out about the revolt in Lhasa, and soon after that the Dalai Lama too had left Lhasa. In exile, the author joins the officials in Mussoorie and starts to serve the Dalai Lama thereafter. He seems to be involved in significant events in exile and it is very interesting to read about it through his experience, such as the drafting of the constitution and being a part of the Tibetan delegation to the US for the United Nations, and even taking up the position of financial responsibility for the government. The author also has an interesting experience of accompanying the Dalai Lama on his first trips from exile to Thailand and Japan. The author is also involved in the Tibetan refugee resettlement in Bhutan and has first-hand experiences to share of those events. The author goes on to become a minister in 1978 and takes charge of the bureau of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi for the two-year term and then decides to resign upon its completion. He manages to visit Tibet in 2006 with his wife and upon returning to India, appreciates his freedom. The author seems to have lived a very interesting life and the opportunities he is presented with gave him a very unique perspective on the events of 20th century Tibet. This autobiography offers a unique perspective on events in Tibetan History from the twentieth century. Rinchen Sadutshang was either personally involved or witnessed a lot of the key moments, unlike oral histories or religious auto/biographies, with his rare educational background in Tibet and India his observations and recollections are shared firsthand. It provides insight into this period through its detailed description of certain events, and one may even get a sense of the traditional practices and cultural norms at the time which one may not otherwise.