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T. lobsang rampa doctor from lhasa

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When the World was Very Young

IN the early hours of next morning, long before the first streaks of dawn appeared in the sky the cell door was flung open violently, to recoil against the stone wall with a clang. Guards rushed in, I was dragged to my feet, and shaken roughly by three or four men. Then handcuffs were put upon me, and I was marched off to a room which seemed to be a long, long way away. The guards kept prodding me with their rifle butts, not gently either. Each time they did this, which was all too frequent, they yelled, “Answer all questions promptly, you enemy of peace. We will get the truth from you.”

Eventually we reached the Interrogation Room. Here there were a group of officers sitting in a semicircle, looking fierce, or trying to look fierce. Actually, to me, they seemed to be a gang of schoolboys who were out for a sadistic treat. They all bowed ceremoniously as I was brought in. Then a senior officer, a colonel, exhorted me to tell the truth. He assured me that the Japanese people were friendly, and peace-loving. But I, he said, was an enemy of the Japanese people because I was trying to resist their peaceful penetration into China. China, he told me, should have been a colony of the Japanese, because China was without culture! He continued. “We Japanese are true friends of peace. You must tell us all. Tell us of the Chinese movements, and of their strength, and of your talks with Chiang Kai-Shek, so that we may crush the rebellion of China without loss of our own soldiers.” I said, “I am a prisoner-of-war, and demand to be treated as such. I have nothing more to say.” He said, “We have to see that all men live in peace under the Emperor. We are going to have an expanded Japanese Empire. You will tell the truth.” They were not at all gentle in their methods of questioning. They wanted information, and they didn't mind what they did to get that information. I refused to say anything, so they knocked me down with rifle butts—rifle butts dashed brutally against my chest or back, or at my knees. Then I was pulled to my feet again by guards so that I could be knocked down again. After many, many hours, during which time I was burned with cigarette ends, they decided that stronger measures were called for. I was bound hand and foot, and dragged off again to an underground cell. Here I was kept bound hand and foot for several day. The Japanese method of tying prisoners led to excruciating pain. My wrists were tied behind me with my hands pointing to the back of my neck. Then my ankles were tied to my wrists, and legs were folded at the knees, so that the soles of the feet also faced the back of the neck. Then a rope was passed from my left ankle and wrist around my neck, and down to the right ankle and wrist. So that if I tried to ease my position at all I half strangled myself. It was indeed a painful process, being kept like a strong bow. Every so often a guard would come in and kick me just to see what happened.

For several days I was kept like that, being unbound for half-an-hour a day only; for several days they kept me like that, and they kept coming and asking for information. I made no sound or response other than to say, "I am an officer of the Chinese forces, a non-combatant officer. I am a doctor and a prisoner-of-war. I have nothing more to say." Eventually they got tired of asking me questions, so they brought in a hose, and they poured strongly peppered water into my nostrils. I felt as if my whole brain was on fire. It felt as if devils were stoking the flames within me. But I did not speak, and they kept on mixing a stronger solution of pepper and water, adding mustard to it. The pain was quite considerable. Eventually bright blood came out of my mouth. The pepper had burned out the linings of my nostrils. I had managed to survive this for ten days, and I supposed it occurred to them that that method would not make me talk, so, at sight of the bright red blood, they went away.

Two or three days later they came for me again, and carried me to the Interrogation Room. I had to be carried because this time I could not walk in spite of my efforts, in spite of being bludgeoned with gun butts and pricked with bayonets. My hands and legs had been bound for so long that I just could not use them at all. Inside the Interrogation Room I was just dropped to the floor, and the guards—four of them—who had been carrying me stood to attention before the officers who were sitting in a semi-circle. This time they had before them many strange implements which I, from my studies, knew to be instruments of torture. “You will tell us the truth now, and cease to waste our time,” said the colonel. “I have told you the truth. I am an officer of the Chinese forces.” That was all I said in reply.

The Japanese went red in the face with anger, and at a command I was strapped to a board with my arms outstretched as if I was on a cross. Long slivers of bamboo were inserted beneath my nails right down to the little finger joints, then the slivers were rotated. It really was painful, but it still brought no response. So the guards quickly pulled out the slivers, and then slowly, one by one my nails were split off backwards.

The pain was truly devilish. It was worse when the Japanese dropped salt water onto the bleeding finger ends. I knew that I must not talk and betray my comrades, and so I called to mind the advice of my Guide, the Lama Mingyar Dondup. “Do not concentrate on the seat of pain, Lobsang, for if you do you focus all your energies on that spot, and then the pain cannot be borne. Instead think of something else. Control your mind, and think of something else, because if you do that you will still have the pain and the after-effects of pain, but you will be able to bear it. It will seem as something in the background.” So to keep my sanity, and to avoid giving names and information I put my mind to other things. I thought of the past, of my home in Tibet, and of my Guide. I thought of the beginnings of things as we knew them in Tibet.

Beneath the Potala were hidden mysterious tunnels, tunnels which may hold the key to the history of the world. These interested me, they fascinated me, and it may be of interest to recall once again what I saw and learned there, for it is knowledge apparently not possessed by Western peoples.

I remembered how at the time I was a very young monk in training. The Inmost One, the Dalai Lama, had been making use of my services at the Potala as a clairvoyant, and He had been well pleased with me and as a reward had given me the run of the place. My Guide, the Lama Mingyar Dondup, sent for me one day, “Lobsang I have been thinking a lot about your evolution, and I have come to the conclusion that you are now of such an age and have attained such a state of development that you can study with me the writings in the hidden caves. Come!”

He rose to his feet, and with me at his side we went out of his room, down the corridor, down many many steps, past groups of monks working at their daily tasks, attending to the domestic economy of the Potala. Eventually, far down in the gloom of the mountain, we came to a little room branching off to the right of the corridor. Little light came through the windows here. Outside the ceremonial prayer flags flapped in the breeze. “We will enter here, Lobsang, so that we may explore those regions to which only few lamas have access.” In the little room we took lamps from the shelves, and filled them. Then as a precaution, we each took a spare. Our main lamps were lit, and we walked out, and down the corridor, my Guide ahead of me showing me the way. Down we went, down the corridor, ever down. At long last we came to a room at the end. It seemed to be the end of a journey to me. It appeared to be a storeroom. Strange figures were about, images, sacred objects, and foreign gods, gifts from all the world over. Here was where the Dalai Lama kept his overflow of gifts, those for which he had no immediate use.

I looked about me with intense curiosity. There was no sense in being here so far as I could see. I thought we were going exploring, and this was just a storage room. “Illustrious Master,” I said, “surely we have mistaken our path in coming here?” The lama looked at me and smiled benevolently. “Lobsang, Lobsang, do you think I would lose my way?” He smiled as he turned away from me and walked to a far wall. For a moment he looked about him and then did something. As far as I could see he was fiddling about with some pattern on the wall, some plaster protuberance apparently fabricated by some long-dead hand. Eventually there was a rumble as of falling stones and I spun around in alarm, thinking that perhaps the ceiling was caving in or the floor was collapsing. My Guide laughed. “Oh, no, Lobsang, we are quite safe, quite safe. This is where we continue our journey. This is where we step into another world. A world that few have seen. Follow me.”

I looked in awe. The section of the wall had slid aside revealing a dark hole. I could see a dusty path going from the room into the hole, and disappearing into the stygian gloom. The sight rooted me to the spot in astonishment, “But Master!” I exclaimed, “there was no sign of a door at all there. How did it happen so?” My Guide laughed at me, and said, “This is an entry which was made centuries ago. The secret of it has been well preserved. Unless one knows one cannot open this door, and no matter how thoroughly one searches there is no sign of a joint or of a crack. But come, Lobsang, we are not discussing building procedure. We are wasting time. You will see this place often.” With that he turned and led the way into the hole, into the mysterious tunnel reaching far ahead. I followed with considerable trepidation. He allowed me to go past him, then he turned and again manipulated something. Again came the ominous rumbling and creaking and grating, and a whole panel of the living rock slid before my startled eyes and covered the hole. We were now in darkness, lit only by the flickering glimmer of the golden-flamed butter lamps which we carried. My Guide passed me, and marched on. His footsteps, muffled though they were, echoed curiously from the rock sides, echoed, and reechoed. He walked on without speaking. We seemed to cover more than a mile, then suddenly without warning, so suddenly that I bumped into him with an exclamation of astonishment, the lama ahead of me stopped. “Here we replenish our lamps, Lobsang, and put in bigger wicks. We shall need light now. Do as I do, and then we will continue our journey.”

Now we had a somewhat brighter flame to light our way, and we continued for a long, long way, for so long that I was getting tired and fidgety. Then I noticed that the passageway was getting wider and higher. It seemed as if we were walking along the narrow end of a funnel, approaching the wider end. We rounded a corridor and I shouted in amazement. I saw before me a vast cavern. From the roof and sides came innumerable pinpoints of golden light, light reflected from our butter lamps. The cavern appeared to be immense. Our feeble illumination only emphasized the immensity and the darkness of it.

My Guide went to a crevice at the left-side of the path, and with a screech dragged out what appeared to be a large metal cylinder. It seemed to be half as high as a man and certainly as wide as a man at the thickest part. It was round, and there was a device at the top which I did not understand. It seemed to be a small, white net. The Lama Mingyar Dondup fiddled about with the thing, and then touched the top of it with his butter lamp. Immediately there was a bright yellow-white flame which enabled me to see clearly. There was a faint hissing from the light, as it was being forced out under pressure. My Guide extinguished our little lamps then. “We shall have plenty of light with this, Lobsang, we will take it with us. I want you to learn some of the history from aeons of long ago.” He moved ahead pulling this great bright light, this flaming canister, on a thing like a little sledge. It moved easily. We walked on down the path once again, ever down, until I thought that we must be right down in the bowels of the earth. Eventually he stopped. Before me was a black wall, shot with a great panel of gold, and on the gold were engravings, hundreds, thousands of them. I looked at them then I looked away to the other side. I could see the black shimmer of water, as if before me was a great lake.

“Lobsang, pay attention to me. You will know about that later. I want to tell you a little of the origin of Tibet, an origin which in later years you will be able to verify for yourself when you go upon an expedition which I am even now planning,” he said. “When you go away from our land you will find those who know us not, who will say that Tibetans are illiterate savages who worship devils and indulge in unmentionable rites. But Lobsang, we have a culture far older than any in the West, we have records carefully hidden and preserved going back through the ages . . .”

He went across to the inscriptions and pointed out various figures, various symbols. I saw drawings of people, of animals—animals such as we know not now—and then he pointed out a map of the sky, but a map which even I knew was not of the present day because the stars it showed were different and in the wrong places. The lama paused, and turned to me. “I understand this, Lobsang, I was taught this language. Now I will read it to you, read you this age-old story, and then in the days to come I and others will teach you this secret language so that you can come here and make your own notes, keep your own records, and draw your own conclusions. It will mean study, study, study. You will have to come and explore these caverns for there are many of them and they extend for miles beneath us.”

For a moment he stood looking at the inscriptions. Then he read to me part of the past. Much of what he said then, and very much more of what I studied later, simply cannot be given in a book such as this. The average reader would not believe, and if he did and he knew some of the secrets, then he might do as others have done in the past; use the devices which I have seen for self-gain, to obtain mastery over others, and to destroy others as nations are now threatening to destroy each other with the atom bomb. The atom bomb is not a new discovery. It was discovered thousands of years ago, and it brought disaster to the earth then as it will do now if man is not stopped in his folly.

In every religion of the world, in every history of every tribe and nation, there is the story of the Flood, of a catastrophe in which peoples were drowned, in which lands sank and land rose, and the earth was in turmoil. That is in the history of the Incas, the Egyptians, the Christians—everyone. That, so we know, was caused by a bomb; but let me tell you how it happened, according to the inscriptions.

My Guide seated himself in the lotus position, facing the inscriptions on the rock, with the brilliant light at his back shining with a golden glare upon those age-old engravings. He motioned for me to be seated also. I took my place by his side, so that I could see the features to which he pointed. When I had settled myself he started to talk, and this is what he told me.

“In the days of long, long ago earth was a very different place. It revolved much nearer the sun, and in the opposite direction, and there was another planet nearby, a twin of the earth. Days were shorter, and so man seemed to have a longer life. Man seemed to live for hundreds of years. The climate was hotter, and flora was both tropical and luxurious. Fauna grew to huge size and in many diverse forms. The force of gravity was much less than it is at present because of the different rate of rotation of the earth, and man was perhaps twice as large as he is now, but even he was a pigmy compared to another race who lived with him. For upon the earth lived those of a different system who were super-intellectuals. They supervised the earth, and taught men much. Man then was as a colony, a class that is being taught by a kindly teacher. These huge giants taught him much. Often they would get strange craft of gleaming metal and would sweep across the sky. Man, poor ignorant man, still upon the threshold of dawning reason, could not understand it at all, for his intellect was hardly greater than that of the apes.

“For countless ages life on earth followed a placid path. There was peace and harmony between all creatures. Men could converse without speech, by telepathy. They used speech only for local conversations. Then the super-intellectuals, who were so much larger than man, quarreled. Dissentient forces rose up among them. They could not agree on certain issues just as races now cannot agree. One group went off to another part of the world, and tried to rule. There was strife. Some of the super-men killed each other, and they waged fierce wars, and brought much destruction to each other. Man, eager to learn, learned the arts of war; man learned to kill. So the earth which before had been a peaceful place became a troubled spot. For some time, for some years, the super-men worked in secret, one half of them against the other half. One day there was a tremendous explosion, and the whole earth seemed to shake and veer in its course. Lurid flames shot across the sky, and the earth was wreathed in smoke. Eventually the uproar died down, but after many months strange signs were seen in the sky, signs that filled the people of earth with terror. A planet was approaching, and rapidly growing bigger and bigger. It was obvious that it was going to strike the earth. Great tides arose, and the winds with it, and the days and nights were filled with a howling tempestuous fury. A planet appeared to fill the whole sky until at last it seemed that it must crash straight onto the earth. As the planet got closer and closer, immense tidal waves arose and drowned whole tracts of land. Earthquakes shivered the surface of the globe, and continents were swallowed in the twinkling of an eye. The race of supermen forgot the quarrels; they hastened to their gleaming machines, and rose up into the sky, and sped away from the trouble besetting the earth. But on the earth itself earthquakes continued; mountains rose up, and the sea-bed rose with them; lands sank and were inundated with water; people of that time fled in terror, crazed with fear at what they thought was the end of the world, and all the time the winds grew fiercer, and the uproar and the clamour harder to bear, uproar and clamour which seemed to shatter the nerves and drive men to frenzy.

“The invading planet grew closer and larger, until at last it approached to within a certain distance and there was a tremendous crash, and a vivid electric spark shot from it. The skies flamed with continuous discharges, and soot-black clouds formed and turned the days into a continuous night of fearful terror. It seemed that the sun itself stood still with horror at the calamity, for, according to the records, for many, many days the red ball of the sun stood still, blood-red with great tongues of flame shooting from it. Then eventually the black clouds closed, and all was night. The winds grew cold, then hot; thousands died with the change of temperature, and the change again. Food of the Gods, which some called manna, fell from the sky. Without it the people of the earth, and the animals of the world, would have starved through the destruction of the crops, through the deprivation of all other food.

“Men and women wandered from place to place looking for shelter, looking for anywhere where they could rest their weary bodies wracked by the storm, tortured by turmoil; praying for quiet, hoping to be saved. But the earth shook and shivered, the rains poured down, and all the time from the outer space came the splashes and discharges of electricity. With the passage of time, as the heavy black clouds rolled away, the sun was seen to be becoming smaller, and smaller. It seemed to be receding, and the people of the world cried out in fear. They thought the Sun God, the Giver of Life, was running away from them. But stranger still the sun now moved across the sky from east to west, instead of from west to east as before.

“Man had lost all track of time. With the obscuring of the sun there was no method with which they could tell its passage; not even the wisest men knew how long ago these events had taken place. Another strange thing was seen in the sky; a world, quite a large world, yellow, gibbous, which seemed as if it too was going to fall upon the earth. This which we now know as the moon appeared at this time as a relic from the collision of the two planets. Later races were to find a great depression in the earth, in Siberia where perhaps the surface of the earth had been damaged by the close proximity of another world, or even a spot from whence the moon had been wrenched.

“Before the collision there had been cities and tall buildings housing much knowledge of the Greater Race. They had been toppled in the turmoil, and they were just mounds of rubble, concealing all that hidden knowledge. The wise men of the tribes knew that within the mounds were canisters containing specimens and books of engraved metal. They knew that all the knowledge in the world reposed within those piles of rubbish, and so they set to work to dig, and dig, to see what could be saved in the records, so that they could increase their own power by making use of the knowledge of the Greater Race.

“Throughout the years to come the days became longer and longer, until they were almost twice as long as before the calamity, and then the earth settled in its new orbit, accompanied by its moon, the moon, a product of a collision. But still the earth shook and rumbled, and mountains rose and spewed out flames and rocks, and destruction. Great rivers of lava rushed down the mountain sides without warning, destroying all that lay in their path, but often enclosing monuments and sources of knowledge, for the hard metal upon which many of the records had been written was not melted by the lava, but merely protected by it, preserved in a casing of stone, porous stone which in the course of time eroded away, so that the records contained within would be revealed and would fall into the hands of those who would make use of them. But that was not for a long time yet. Gradually, as the earth became more settled in its new orbit, cold crept upon the world, and animals died or moved to the warmer areas. The mammoth and the brontosaurus died for they could not adapt to the new ways of life. Ice fell from the sky, and the winds grew bitter. Now there were many clouds, whereas before there had been almost none. The world was a very different place; the sea had tides; before they had been placid lakes, unruffled except by the passing breeze. Now great waves lashed up at the sky, and for years the tides were immense and threatened to engulf the land and drown the people. The heavens looked different too. At night strange stars were seen in place of the familiar ones and the moon was very close. New religions sprouted as the priests of that time tried to maintain their power and account for the happenings. They forgot much about the Greater Race, they thought only of their own power, of their own importance. But—they could not say how this occurred, or how that happened. They put it down to the wrath of God, and taught that all man was born in sin.

“With the passage of time, with the earth settled in its new orbit, and as the weather became more tranquil, people grew smaller and shorter. The centuries rolled by and lands became more stable. Many races appeared as if experimentally, struggled, failed, and disappeared, to be replaced by others. At last a stronger type evolved, and civilization began anew, civilization which carried from its earliest days a racial memory of some dire calamity, and some of the stronger intellects made search to find out what had really happened. By now the wind and the rain had done their work. The old records were beginning to appear from the crumbling lava stone, and the higher intellect of humans now upon the earth were able to gather these and place them before their wise men, who at long last, with much struggle, were able to decipher some of the writings. As little of the records became legible, and as the scientists of the day began to understand them, they set about frantic searches for other records with which to piece together the complete instructions, and to bridge the gaps. Great excavations were undertaken, and much of interest came to light. Then indeed the new civilization sprouted. Towns and cities were built, and science started its rush to destroy. The emphasis always on destruction, upon gaining power for little groups. It was completely overlooked that man could live in peace and that the lack of peace had caused the calamity before.

“For many centuries science held sway. The priests set up as scientists, and they outlawed all those scientists who were not also priests. They increased their power; they worshipped science, they did all they could to keep power in their own hands, and to crush the ordinary man and stop him from thinking. They set themselves up as Gods; no work could be done without the sanction of the priests. What the priests wanted they took: without hindrance, without opposition, and all the time they were increasing their power until upon earth they were absolutely omnipotent, forgetting that for humans absolute power corrupts.

“Great crafts sailed through the air without wings, without sound, sailed through the air, or hovered motionless not even the birds could hover. The scientists had discovered the secret of mastering gravity, and anti-gravity, and harnessing it to their power. Immense blocks of stone were maneuvered into position where wanted by one man and a very small device which could be held in the palm of one hand. No work was too hard, because man merely manipulated his machines without effort to himself. Huge engines clattered across the surface of the earth, but nothing moved upon the surface of the sea except for pleasure because travel by sea was too slow except for those who wanted the enjoyment of the combination of wind and the waves. Everything traveled by air, or for shorter journeys across the earth. People moved out to different lands, and set up colonies. But now they had lost their telepathic power through the calamity of the collision. Now they no longer spoke a common language; the dialects became more and more acute, until in the end they were completely different, and to each other incomprehensible, languages.

“With the lack of communication, and the failure to understand each other and each other's view points, races quarreled, and began wars. Fearsome weapons were invented. Battles raged everywhere. Men and women were becoming maimed, and the terrible rays which were being produced were making many mutations in the human race. Years rolled by, and the struggle became more intense, and the carnage more terrible. Inventors everywhere, spurred on by their rulers, strove to produce more deadly weapons. Scientists worked to devise even more ghastly devices of offence. Disease germs were bred, and dropped upon the enemy from high-flying aircraft. Bombs wrecked the sewage and plagues raged through the earth blighting people, animals and plants. The earth was set on destruction.

“In a remote district far from all the strife, a group of far-seeing priests who had not been contaminated by the search for power, took thin plates of gold, and engraved upon them the history of their times, engraved upon them maps of the heavens and of the lands. Upon them they revealed the innermost secrets of their science, and gave grave warnings of the dangers which would befall those who misused this knowledge. Years passed during which time these plates were prepared and then, with specimens of the actual weapons, tools, books, and all useful things, they were concealed in stone and were hidden in various places so that those who came after them would know of the past and would, it was hoped, profit from it. For the priests knew of the course of humanity; they knew what was to happen, and as predicted the expected did happen. A fresh weapon was made, and tried. A fantastic cloud swirled up into the stratosphere, and the earth shook, and reeled again, and seemed to rock on its axis. Immense walls of water surged over the land, and swept away many of the races of man. Once again mountains sank beneath the seas, and others rose up to take their place. Some men, women and animals, who had been warned by these priests were saved by being afloat in ships, afloat and sealed against the poisonous gases and germs which ravaged the earth. Other men and women were carried high into the air as the lands upon which they dwelt rose up; others, not so fortunate, were carried down, perhaps beneath the water, perhaps down as the mountains closed over their heads.

“Flood and flames and lethal rays killed people in millions, and very few people only were left on earth now isolated from each other by vagaries of the catastrophe. These were half-crazed by the disaster, shaken out of their senses by the tremendous noise and commotion. For many years they hid in caves and in thick forests. They forgot all the culture, and they went back to the wild stages, in the earliest days of mankind, covering themselves with skin and with the juice of berries, and carrying clubs studded with flint in their hands.

“Eventually new tribes were formed, and they wandered over the new face of the world. Some settled in what is now Egypt, others in China, but those of the pleasant low-lying seaside resort, which had been much favoured by the super-race, suddenly found themselves many thousands feet above the sea, ringed by the eternal mountains, and with the land fast cooling. Thousands died in the bitter rarefied air. Others who survived became the founders of the modern, hardy Tibetan of the land which is now Tibet. That had been the place in which the group of far-seeing priests had taken their thin plates of gold, and engraved upon them all their secrets. Those plates, and all the specimens of their arts and crafts, had been hidden deep in a cavern in a mountain to become accessible to a later race of priests. Others were hidden in a great city which is now in the Chang Tang Highlands of Tibet.

“All culture was not quite extinct, however, although mankind was back in the savage state, in the Black Ages. But there were isolated spots throughout the earth's surface where little groups of men and women struggled on to keep knowledge alive, to keep alight the flickering flame of human intellect, a little group struggling on blindly in the stygian darkness of savagery. Throughout the centuries which followed there were many states of religion, many attempts to find the truth of what had happened, and all the time hidden away in Tibet in deep caves was knowledge. Engraved upon plates of imperishable gold, permanent, incorruptible, waiting for those who could find them, and decipher them.

“Gradually man developed once again. The gloom of ignorance began to dissipate. Savagery turned to semi-civilization. There was actually progress of a sort. Again cities were built and machines flew in the sky. Once more mountains were no bar, man traveled throughout the world, across the seas and over the land. As before, with the increase of knowledge and power, they became arrogant and oppressed weaker peoples. There was unrest, hatred, persecution, and secret research. The stronger people oppressed the weak. The weaker peoples developed machines, and there were wars, wars again lasting years. Ever there were fresh and more terrible weapons being produced. Each side sought to find the most terrible weapons of all, and all the time in caves in Tibet knowledge was lying. All the time in the Chang Tang Highlands a great city lay desolate, unguarded, containing the most precious knowledge in the world, waiting for those who would enter and see, lying, just waiting . . .”

Lying. I was lying on my back in an underground cell in a prison, looking up through a red haze. Blood was pouring from my nose, from my mouth, from the ends of my fingers, and toes. I ached all over. I felt as if I was immersed in a bath of flame. Dimly I heard a Japanese voice say, “You've gone too far this time. He cannot live. He cannot possibly live.” But I did live. I determined that I would live on, and show the Japanese how a man of Tibet conducted himself. I would show them not even the most devilish tortures would make a Tibetan speak.

My nose was broken, was squashed flat against my face by an angry bang from a rifle butt. My mouth was gashed, my jaw bones were broken, my teeth kicked out. But not all the tortures of the Japanese could make me talk. After a time they gave up the attempt, for even the Japanese could realize the futility of trying to make a man talk when he would not. After many weeks I was set to work dealing with the bodies of others who had not survived. The Japanese thought that by giving me such a job they would eventually break my nerve, and perhaps then I would talk. Piling up bodies in the heat of the sun, bodies stinking, bloated, and discoloured, was not pleasant. Bodies would swell up, and burst like pricked balloons. One day I saw a man fall dead. I knew he was dead because I examined him myself, but the guards took no notice; he was just picked up by two men and swung and tossed on to the pile of dead bodies and left, left so that the hot sun and the rats could do the work of scavenging. But it did not matter if a man was dead or not, because if a man was too ill to work he was either bayoneted on the spot and tossed on to the dead pile, or he was tossed on while he was still alive.

I decided that I too would “die,” and would be placed with the other bodies. During the hours of darkness I would escape. So I made my few plans, and for the next three or four days I carefully watched the Japanese and their procedure, and decided on how I would act. For a day or so I staggered and acted as if I were weaker than I really was. On the day on which I planned to “die” I staggered as I walked, staggered as I attended roll-call at the first light of dawn. Throughout the morning I showed every sign of utter weariness, and then, just after noon, I let myself collapse. It was not difficult, not really acting, I could have collapsed with weariness at any time. The tortures I had undergone had weakened me considerably. The poor food I had, had weakened me even more, and I was indeed deadly tired. This time I did collapse, and actually fell asleep through tiredness. I felt my body being crudely lifted and swung, and tossed up. The impact as I landed on the pile of creaking dead bodies awakened me. I felt the pile sway a little and then settle down. The shock of that landing made me open my eyes; a guard was looking halfheartedly in my direction, so I opened my eyes still more as dead man's eyes go, and he looked away, he was too used to seeing dead bodies, one more was of no interest to him. I kept very still, very still indeed, thinking of the past again and planning for the future. I kept still in spite of other bodies being thrown up around me, on top of me.

The day seemed to last years. I thought the light would never fade. But at long last it did, the first signs of night were coming, The stench about me was almost unbearable, the stench of long-dead bodies. Beneath me I could hear the rustling and squeaks of rats going about their gruesome work, eating the bodies. Every now and then the pile would sag as one of the bottom bodies collapsed under the weight of all those above. The pile would sag and sway and I hoped that it would not topple over, as so often it did, for then the bodies would have to be piled again, and who knows—this time I might be found to be alive, or even worse, find myself at the bottom of the pile when my plight would be hopeless.

At last the prisoners working around were marched in to their huts. The guards patrolled the top of the wall, and there was the chill of the night air. Slowly, oh, so slowly, the light began to fade. One by one little yellow lights appeared in windows, in the guardrooms. So slowly as to be almost imperceptible, night came.

For a long, long time I lay still in that stinking bed of dead bodies. Lay still watching as best I could. Then, when the guards were at the far end of their beat, I gingerly pushed aside a body from above me, and pushed away one at my side. It tumbled, and went over the side of the pile and fell upon the ground with a crunch. I held my breath with dismay; I thought that surely now guards would come running and I would be found. It was death indeed to move outside in the darkness, because searchlights would come on, and any unfortunate found by the Japanese would be bayoneted to death, or disemboweled perhaps, or hung over a slow fire, or any devilish death which the distorted Japanese ingenuity could devise, and all this would be in front of a sickened group of prisoners, to teach them that it was not policy to try to escape from the Sons of Heaven.

Nothing moved. The Japanese were too used, apparently, to the creakiness and fallings from the dead pile. I moved experimentally. The whole pile of bodies creaked and shook. I moved a foot at a time, and eventually crept over the edge of the pile, and let myself down, grabbing bodies so that I could climb down ten or twelve feet, because I was too weak to jump and risk a sprain or a broken bone. The slight noises that I made did not attract attention. The Japanese had no idea at all that anyone would hide in such a gruesome place. Upon the ground I moved stealthily and slowly to the shadow of the trees near the wall of the prison camp. For some time I waited. Above my head the guards came together. There was a muttered talk and the flare of a match as a cigarette was lighted. Then the guards parted, one going off up the wall, and the other down, each with a cigarette hidden in his cupped hands, each of them more or less blinded for the time being by the glare of that match in the darkness. I took advantage of that. Quietly and slowly I managed to climb over the wall. This was a camp which had been set up temporarily, and the Japanese had not got around to electrifying their fences. I climbed over, and stealthily made my way into the darkness. All that night I lay along the branch of a tree, almost in sight of the camp. I reasoned that if I had been missed, if I had been seen, the Japanese would rush by, they would not think that a prisoner would stay so close to them.

The whole of the next day I stayed where I was, I was too weak, and ill, to move. Then at the end of the day, as the darkness again fell, I slithered down the trunk of the tree, and made my way on through territory which I new well.

I knew that an old, old Chinese lived nearby. I had brought much help to his wife before she died, and to his house I made my way in the darkness. I tapped gently at his door. There was an air of tenseness, an air of fright. Eventually I whispered who I was. Stealthy movements inside, and then gently and silently the door was opened a few inches, and the old face looked out. “Ah,” he said, “come in quickly.” He opened the door wider, and I crept in beneath his outstretched arm. He put up his shutters, and lit a light, and gasped with horror as he saw me. My left eye was badly damaged. My nose was flattened against my face. My mouth was cut and gashed, and the ends drooped down. He heated water, and washed my hurts, and gave me food. That night and the next day I rested in his hut. He went out and made arrangements whereby I should be conveyed to the Chinese lines. For several days I had to remain in that hut in the Japanese held territory, for several days while fever raged and where I nearly died.

After perhaps ten days I was sufficiently recovered to be able to get up and walk out and make my way along a well planned route to the Chinese headquarters near Shanghai. They looked at me in horror as I went in with my squashed and battered face, and for more than a month I was in hospital while they took bone from a leg to rebuild my nose. Then I was sent off again to Chungking to recuperate before returning as an active medical officer to the Chinese medical forces. Chungking! I thought I would be glad to see it after all my adventures, after all that I had gone through. Chungking! And so I set off with a friend who also was going there to recuperate from illnesses caused in the war.

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