Articles About Jane Bay


Inter "View" from the Plaza: Jane Bay, Assistant to George Lucas for 35 Years

Jane Bay and I during her recent visit to La Fonda over Indian Market.
Jane Bay and I during her recent visit to La Fonda over Indian Market.

Jane Bay has worked for Lucasfilm for the past three decades. She is the author of Love and Loss: A Story About Life, Death and Rebirth and Precious Jewels of Tibet. Now that she has retired from Lucasfilm, Jane is planning to pursue her career as an author and hopes to finish the current book she's writing Growing Up Southern – Stories from the Attic of Childhood Memories, in the coming year.

Q. You have taken a lot of chances in your life—leaving college to become involved with the civil rights movement, leaving your first job in showbiz to work on Jerry Brown's campaign, meeting the Dalai Lama and traveling to Tibet, and abandoning your initial plans to move to New Mexico to work with George Lucas. What experience has influenced your life the most?

A. The Civil Rights Movement and moving to New York. Growing up in the south, I was just blown away by New York and that there was no segregation. Everyone was together on the streets and they all seemed happy. When working in the city for NBC, I had a political awakening that widened my world.

Q.What's changed for women in the film business since you started your career?

A. Women have made a lot of progress in breaking the glass ceiling but they are still fighting for everything. I mentored many women who have gone on to assume many different roles in the industry.

Q. You know I have to ask this one – what is it like working with George Lucas?

A. He was the most inspiring, generous, kind and dynamic person. He set the bar so high.

Q. Are you are Star Wars fan? Favorite character?

A. Of course! Princess Leah.

Q. If someone were visiting Santa Fe for the first time, what are some of the not-to-miss places you would recommend?

A. La Fonda on the Plaza because it is the quintessential experience of Santa Fe. Whether you stay as a guest in the exquisitely remodeled rooms or come for dinner in La Plazuela Restaurant, you will be enthralled by the authentic art and cultural history of the hotel.

Q. If you could experience someone else's life for one day, whose would it be and why?

A. Georgia O'Keeffe. Her vision was so unique and I would just love walking through her footsteps. When I look up at the mesas that she painted—I could swear the sagebrush is still the same as her paintings.

Q. What is it about New Mexico that made you consider moving here?

A. New Mexico resonated with me—it is a place where I can have a connection to nature and the natural world.

Q. What song gets stuck in your head most often?

A. As I was driving to Santa Fe from the Albuquerque airport, I was listening to Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones. The lyrics speak of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico.

Each time Jane Bay visits La Fonda, she adorns her favorite room with a vibrant collection of serapes, her extraordinary antique bottles topped with crystal crosses, blankets, pillows and throws. See photos below for some examples of her decorative vignettes.







August 11, 2006
"A Daughter Lost, A Mother Found: Love Reincarnate"
Jane Bay, personal assistant to George Lucas, discusses the death of her adopted daughter—and the e-mails that brought rebirth.
by Barbara Tannenbaum, Pacific Sun

Reincarnation is one of Tibetan Buddhism’s key ideas, along with compassion and impermanence.

A few weeks ago, as I drove along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in the midst of Marin’s scorching heat wave, I had no argument with the last two ideas. Compassion? In that furnace-like air, we were suffering as one. Impermanence? Who wasn’t worried he was going to melt into the pavement?

But after talking with local author Jane Bay in her home in San Anselmo and later at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, I wondered how we should define “reincarnation.”
Maybe it’s something that happens while we’re still here. After meeting Bay, that makes sense. You’d be surprised how many different lives one person can pack into her years.

Bay is the author of two books on Tibet. The forthcoming Love & Loss: A Story About Life, Death, and Rebirth details her personal journey into Tibetan life and culture during the past two decades. Her previous book, Precious Jewels of Tibet: A Journey to the Roof of the World, is an account of her visits to Tibet and India in 1994 and 1997 with her spiritual mentor and friend, the Buddhist monk Lobsang Samten, a member of the Dalai Lama’s monastic household.

Upon its publication in 1998, Precious Jewels was reviewed in The New York Times, which described Bay as “the Buddhist pilgrim as Everytourist, with videocam and portable compact-disc player, meeting the ancient verities of the East in the search for enlightenment.”

In her new work, Bay returns to those years, then carries us forward through her third and fourth trips to Tibet in 2003 and 2004 to focus on the story of her adopted daughter, Namgyal Youdon. The book opens with a narrative describing how Bay originally met the girl as a 13-year-old during a visit to the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) in Dharmsala, India. She agrees to sponsor Namgyal financially, for the facility is both a school and an orphanage. We meet Namgyal’s two brothers, her still-living physician father, and witness the growing mother-daughter bond between Bay and Namgyal. It is a bond that survives distance, displacement and a politically motivated disappearance—instigated when the Chinese government swept Namgyal away from TCV, offering no forwarding address.

It’s a bond that survives even death.

For the central theme of this story is grief and its aftermath. Bay covers nine years in one chapter, telling us that Namgyal died suddenly on July 18, 2003, at age 22 from a heart aneurysm on an ordinary morning in Lhasa, Tibet. It was 10 days before she was to make her first journey to visit Bay in America.

“I wrote this book for many reasons,” Bay says. “The first was to look at grief right in the face. How do we grieve? How do women grieve in relation to men? What do we feel safe to express? Can we reach out and ask for help?”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

BAY, IT TURNS out, did ask for help. She told the news of her loss in the form of several lengthy e-mails sent to a wide circle of friends and family.

The responses she got back startled her. “I learned that if you share grief with other people, it does diminish it,” she says. “You couldn’t have told me that at the time. But I wasn’t able to talk about my feelings. The only way I expressed my sadness was through writing.” The immediacy and emotion Bay shared in her e-mails prompted similar responses from the people she contacted. E-mails came back with more stories of loss and healing. Her friends asked whether they could pass on specific instances where Bay described a ritual she performed on behalf of Namgyal. “I realized that these e-mails were much bigger than my own experience.”
Bay shared these observations with me from the country kitchen of her 1910 farmhouse.

Although several oak trees shaded a lovely garden, the air outdoors was as hot as a furnace. She ushered me into her air-conditioned home and filled large glasses with iced tea. With her oversized glasses and gray hair swept into a bun, Bay has a commanding presence. She is 65 and proud of it. But her voice still holds traces of her Florida childhood and there is no mistaking her Southern hospitality. Her lilting laugh, wide-set green eyes and a trusting smile evoke the Southern belle she once was.

A tour of her home reveals several more facts in short order. First there is the dining room table laden with objects and tools Bay has purchased during her trips to Tibet. There are devotional prayer beads, leather tool belts, beaded necklaces, talismans made of wooden blocks, portable shrines, Tibetan bells, brass water bottles and more. There is the shrine she has set up to honor Namgyal. Moving to the living room, there is Native American artwork near the grand piano, a collection of Navajo spoons and a picture of the Dalai Lama over the fireplace. Upstairs is her office and writing room, a remodeled balcony with three walls of windows. It’s groaning with books, mementos and photo albums. “And it was here,” Bay says, “that George wrote his third Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi.”

That would be George, as in George Lucas—producer, director, writer and chairman of Lucasfilm, who built Skywalker Ranch in San Rafael. Bay has served as Lucas’s personal assistant for 29 years, since 1977. (Her official title is executive assistant to the chairman.) She is also the curator of Lucas’s extensive collection of American illustrator art. (In fact, she would break from our interview at 2pm to receive a call from Coeur d’Alene Art Auction to bid by telephone on a 1915 oil panting by N.C. Wyeth titled “Two Boys in a Punt.”)

“This is his house,” Bay laughs. “I’ve lived here for 26 years. He bought this house with the money from American Graffiti. He wrote Stars Wars upstairs. He loves all the memories connected with this house. He’s a good landlord but I don’t expect he’ll ever sell it to me.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

ACCORDING TO BAY’S publishers, Clear Light Press, her new book is the first nonfiction memoir to incorporate e-mails as the bulk of its narrative. Such a development was bound to happen. Biographers rely on letters and diaries to reconstruct the emotional terrain of their subjects’ lives, and e-mails capture the vivid, immediate record of an event or thought process before a certain distance sets in.

If there is one criticism of the book, it is that Bay does not identify the correspondents who reply to her e-mails. We read their names and their responses. But whether someone is her oldest friend, a co-worker or a highly esteemed teacher of Buddhist philosophy is something the reader must divine from context.

“Look,” Bay explains, “I’ve always had a large circle of friends that I’ve considered my extended family. I grew up in the ’60s when the traditional nuclear family fell apart during the hippie movement. I know that e-mail, even three years ago, was considered a second-class way to communicate with your friends, especially about a subject as heavy as death. People wrote back to me, apologizing for sending an e-mail response, because it’s still considered an impersonal medium. But all I can say is that when my daughter Namgyal died, they rallied around the campfire.”

Some names leap out. Most readers will recognize Goldie Hawn, Francis Ford Coppola and Sylvia Boorstein. Perhaps that’s as it should be.

Public awareness of Tibet’s plight, beginning with the invasion by the Chinese military in 1950, and heightened thereafter by the Chinese government’s policy of repression, has been brought to the public consciousness by the work of actors such as Richard Gere.

Of course, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, who fled Tibet in 1959 for safe refuge in Dharamsala, India, advised the monks of his order “to enter the world and spread Tibetan Buddhist culture” as a strategy for survival. And his nation’s plight received the world’s attention when, based on his nonviolent efforts to end the Chinese occupation, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

U.S. cultural institutions (including museums, universities and publishing houses) went a long way toward welcoming Tibetan culture and spreading its precepts and traditions.

In 1988, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart brought the Gyuto monks to the facilities at Skywalker Ranch to record a CD of their chants. Apparently the word spread among their peer group. When the Namgyal monks from the Dalai Lama’s monastery arrived at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History to make a sand mandala in 1989, they asked their hosts if they could visit Skywalker Ranch. “Apparently, ‘skywalker’ is the English translation of a sanskrit word ‘Daikini,’” Bay explains. (Daikinis are female deities who help seekers gain power through visualizations.) “So I arranged for them to come up and have a private meeting with George.”
Bay first met her friend Lobsang—with whom she traveled to Tibet—at that private meeting. But don’t waste a minute thinking that Bay’s personal connections gained through her work at Lucasfilm made her Tibetan relationships possible. Bay has long found herself on the cutting edge of social trends, meeting the right people at the most auspicious moment long before she met George Lucas.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

BORN IN 1941 in the town of Leesburg, Florida, Bay is a few years older than the first crop of baby boomers. But those few years made a big difference. She was old enough to participate—as opposed to watching on TV—nearly every significant cultural drama that unfolded in those tumultuous postwar decades. Take Elvis Presley. Bay met him as a 14-year-old in 1955 a year before his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. She had heard his earliest music after sneaking in the garage at night to turn on the radio in her father’s new car.
“Let’s just say I was moved to the core of my first root chakra,” Bay recalls with a salacious smile. The teenage Bay was determined to see Elvis perform. When he finally came to Florida on tour with the Grand Ole Opry, Bay and her girlfriend waited all day by the gated rear entrance of the local armory. Thus she was able to meet Elvis at the precise moment in his career when he could drive up in a spanking new pink Cadillac, yet still greet his fans individually.

“He got out of his car,” Bay remembers, “and came over to say hello to us. I asked him for his home address, saying I wanted to start a fan club and he gave it to me.” (And for what happened the following year when Elvis returned to town, you’ll have to wait for Bay to complete her next book, Growin’ Up Southern.)

Consider this: The 1994 movie Forrest Gump is a strange fantasy of luck and happenstance where an ordinary guy is present at every postwar landmark moment, thereby influencing the ’60s cultural revolution. In contrast, Bay’s life is certainly about being at the right place at the right time. But she was ready to seize the moment, and often figured out where the right place would be in advance. “I was raised to be Miss Popularity and earn a Mrs. degree,” she says. But fierce willpower and determination lurked beneath that demure persona of a Southern belle.

Consider these moments from Bay’s highlight reel: Transformed by the civil rights movement in the South, she dropped out of college in 1963 to move to New York City. “My friend said, ‘What are we going to do for jobs?’ I said, ‘I want to work in television.’ So we opened the phone book and looked up the numbers for NBC and CBS. I got a job as a receptionist in NBC’s station-relations department and she got hired at the Columbia Records division of CBS. That started our life in the entertainment industry.”

Bay then discovered a way to come to California when she heard that NBC was establishing a political news unit to cover the 1964 elections. “They were going to cover the Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace, where Barry Goldwater won the nomination,” Bay says.

She moved to Los Angeles for good in 1965, having met her first husband, Don Bay, when he was still in law school. “He was a flaming liberal,” she laughs, “who took me to ACLU meetings where they were preparing to defend the singer Pete Seeger from charges of communism.”

Bay’s first (and later second) marriage ended in divorce. But during her Los Angeles sojourn, she met the future governor of California, Jerry Brown, and managed his very first election in 1969 for the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. She dated Warren Beatty, learned Transcendental Meditation from Mike Love and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, and worked at Columbia Pictures for Frank Pierson (the writer/producer/director whose films include Cool Hand Luke and Cat Ballou). She partied with Brown’s friend, attorney Tom Pollock (one of the co-founders of the American Film Institute) at Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe, a landmark Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. “I met all the fabulous Hollywood people who were alive at the time—Spencer Tracy, Audrey Hepburn, Omar Sharif, Burt Lancaster,” she remembers.

Once again, Bay was in the right place at the right time and ready to act. Pollock introduced her to one of his clients, a young filmmaker named George Lucas, who by 1977 had two hits under his belt—American Graffiti and the original Star Wars.

“Tom said his friend was looking for an assistant, someone to help him set up and manage his office in Marin County,” Bay says. “At that point, George was ready to try something new. I met him at his little office at Universal Studios. He asked if I would be happy working in a small town in Northern California. He didn’t know that after years of my own spiritual seeking—trying out Transcendental Meditation, Sufism, feminist consciousness raising, I was already planning to leave the drama of Hollywood behind. George hired me on the spot and I moved to San Anselmo a few weeks later.”

On the one hand, what is significant about this meeting is that Bay has now worked as Lucas’s personal assistant for the past 29 years. Or perhaps it is significant because two years later, in 1979, the Dalai Lama made his first visit to the U.S., including an appearance in San Anselmo.
“I’d already attended a Tibetan event at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A.,” says Bay. “I was seduced by all the bells and incense and the rich fabrics of the Tonka paintings. But hearing the Dalai Lama’s teachings sparked a flame in my heart, leading me to begin exploring the philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

HOW DID A good Southern girl—one raised Methodist, to read the Bible, and attend church every Sunday—become a practicing student of Tibetan Buddhism? For Bay has embraced the concept of reincarnation and practices daily meditation. Her writing reveals a detailed knowledge of Buddhist practices and rituals that she movingly followed in the wake of Namgyal’s death, including the Tibetan memorial rites that last for 49 days from the death of the loved one as his or her soul or consciousness journeys through the Bardo (a period in the afterlife explained in the Tibetan Book of the Dead), until it re-enters its new mother’s womb, beginning anew the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

“There are many milestones on my journey into Tibetan culture,” Bay says. “But the key is how my Southern tradition dealt with death. In my experience growing up, even though everyone was Southern Methodists or Baptists, no one had the skills or the tools or the ability to grieve for the losses of their loved one.” Bay paused for a moment at her kitchen table; tears welled up in her eyes as she described her first experience with death at the age of 12.
Her favorite cousin, Gene Neighbors, jumped off a building at Florida State College, committing suicide in 1953.

“My mother, Ina Blanche Morris, and I went to Eustis, Florida, for the funeral,” she recalls. “Everyone was so distraught and crying. There were hushed whispers and a great deal of speculation, because in a Southern family, suicide was a very shameful thing.

“I was so stunned about it, seeing his body laid in a casket. I didn’t find any solace in my religious practice that helped me deal with Gene’s death. And after he died, why, it became even worse,” Bay says, her voice shading over into tones of indignant anger. “Because all the pictures of him were taken out of the house. It was too painful for my aunt and uncle to see these pictures of their son who had died. He was never spoken of, again.

“What happened in my family with Gene was that everyone shut it down,” Bay says. “No one talked about it. And grief will not let you do that. It will come up in other ways,” she says with emphasis. “It will come up in sickness or through disassociation, disconnection from other people, isolation. And I saw that happen in my family.”

Bay’s face softens for a moment before recounting another story. It’s a more positive story, one she feels should be paired alongside that of her cousin’s. In 1961, the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of college, Bay worked in a hotel in the Catskills in upstate New York. There, she heard that Patty Welch, her best friend from high school, had grown seriously ill from cancer. Although Bay could not arrive in time for a last visit, she did come before the funeral.

“My mother was a hairdresser. She did everyone’s hair—in fact, I never washed or cut my own hair until I left for college. Well, all my friends loved her so much,” Bay remembers. “Her nickname was Billie. So I returned home the day after Patty died. Her grandparents asked my mother if she would wash Patty’s hair and do her makeup. I went along with her to help. Seeing my mother touch the body, and make Patty’s hair beautiful, and put this beautiful makeup on her, it was such a loving thing. I just felt much more at peace about Patty dying, because my mother had been there for her.”

Ina Blanche Morris passed away in 1999 at the age of 88. “Even though I had a good relationship with my mother, and I was with her the week she died, I was pretty undone about her passing for a period of six months. I finally decided I was going to follow the Dali Lama’s suggestion. He said, ‘It behooves us to make a systematic study of the process of dying so we know what will come for us when the time arrives.’ That seemed like a practical idea because death is inevitable for all of us. And I found that daily meditation gives you a place to hold the grief.

“But when Namgyal died,” Bay continues, “it all went right out the window. Because the magnitude of her loss, the timing of her loss—you know, 10 days before she was due to arrive in the United States for the first time—it was more than I could bear. I knew all about the Buddhist practices I needed to do for her, the rituals to help her soul move through the 49 days in the Bardo, and other ceremonies and rituals I detail in the book. But it wasn’t enough.
“As her American mother, I had to find my own way through this grieving process. Without any intentional design, I started sending out these e-mails.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

AS BAY’S READERS know, the author always wanted to have children, yet the circumstances of her two marriages did not allow her wish to be fulfilled, either through biological parenthood or adoption. “When Namgyal died, all my dreams and expectations about what we were going to have together just vanished in the blink of an eye,” she says. “But I realized that by inventing new rituals and sharing this experience with other people, I was creating a process for grieving that was solely mine. I wasn’t just following The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I was taking traditions from Native Americans, Christians, Sufi dancing and Buddhist practice to make my own way through these feelings.”

Today, Bay corresponds regularly by e-mail with Namgyal’s two brothers and continues to offer both emotional and financial support. In the book, a moving narrative thread describes Bay’s growing embrace of Namgyal’s family, which only grew stronger in the wake of her passing. “I’m their mother, too,” Bay explains.

She opens a worn pocket notebook to read off Namgyal’s siblings’ pertinent information:
Namgyal’s younger brother, Tsetan Khensur, 27, is an unmarried student ready to graduate from the Tibet Medical College in October 2006.

Namgyal’s older brother, Tenzin Tsering, now 29, lives in Lhasa, Tibet, with his wife Lhakyi and their young daughter, Tenzin Monkyi.

“I am a grandmother,” Bay smiles brightly. “And in December, Tenzin and Lhakyi are going to have a second child.”

You know what that means? “A fifth trip to Tibet, probably in the spring of 2007.”
But no one will take the place of Namgyal in Bay’s heart. “Namgyal is the person who transformed me. She gave me the opportunity to love her unconditionally. I’m grateful for all the gifts that loving her and losing her afforded me. I learned you could create a sanctuary through ritual. Through ritual, the people we love who have passed on can still participate actively in our lives.”

See Jane Bay’s Tibetan photography on display at the Marin Civic Center September 6 through 9. She is also hosting “The Wheel of Life” featuring sand painting, lectures and music. See for more details.

Barbara Tannenbaum is a freelance writer based in San Rafael. Her work has appeared in ‘The New York Times,’ ‘Los Angeles Times,’ and ‘Sunset’ magazine.


September 7, 2006
Wheel of Life: Former monk illustrates spirituality, impermanence with sand mandala

by Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal

PATIENCE: Former Tibetan monk Losang Samten creates a sand mandala in the Manzanita Room of the Marin Center in San Rafael. Jane Bay of San Anselmo arranged for the visit to help educate the public about Tibetan Buddhism and the plight of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. (IJ photo/Alan Dep )

Former Tibetan monk Losang Samten bent over a circular table at the Marin Center in San Rafael on Wednesday and with one hand wielded his chakpur, a long-nosed metal funnel containing brightly colored sand, with the dexterity of a surgeon.

Samten, attired in a dark gray monk's robe, used his other hand to run a metal rod on the serrated surface of the chakpur, causing vibrations that sent the sand flowing slowly down like liquid onto his sketched mandala.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years before the first Burning Man art festival, Tibetan Buddhists were creating intricate paintings made of sand to illustrate mankind's spiritual dilemma, and then dismantling them to demonstrate life's impermanence.

Samten drew a steady stream of spectators Wednesday as he began the creation of a traditional "Wheel of Life" sand mandala in the Manzanita Room at the Marin Center in San Rafael. Samten will continue working on the mandala through Saturday, when it will be ceremoniously swept away.

"There is a beauty, but beauty never lasts as beauty all the time," Samten said. "Life is impermanent."

Jane Bay of San Anselmo, the woman responsible for bringing Samten to Marin, knows all too well the ramifications of life's impermanence. Bay's Tibetan foster daughter, Namgyal Youdon, died at 22 in 2003 of a brain aneurysm just as she was preparing for a trip to the United States to visit Bay. Bay has written a memoir about her loss of Namgyal, just published by Clear Light Publishing.

Bay said she arranged for Samten to visit Marin as part of a multimedia blitz to educate the public about Tibetan Buddhism and the plight of the Tibetan people, who remain under the political domination of the People's Republic of China.

Photos of Bay's many trips to India, Nepal and Tibet are on display in the Manzanita Room. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Chaksampa, a Tibetan folk music and dance company, will perform at the Marin Center's Showcase Theatre.

Samten, formerly a monk at the Dalai Lama's monastery in India, said the "Wheel of Life" mandala uses symbolic and cosmological imagery to exhibit the psychic struggle within human consciousness. Three animals - a pig, a rooster and a snake - will be at the center of the wheel, Samten said. The pig represents ignorance, the rooster represents greed or attachment, and the snake represents anger.

"These three in the mind are the cause of suffering," Samten said. "If we want individual peace and global peace, we need to deal with these three emotions."

The outer ring of the wheel is divided into six quadrants or realms: heaven, demigods, human, animal, hungry ghost and hell. But rather than think of these realms as metaphysical locations or even stages of karmic development, Samten said he regards them as temporary states of mind.
"I look at it like one individual life," Samten said. "Sometimes we're so happy that we're in heaven, and then an hour later we're not doing well. We're so disappointed it's like a hell."

Bay was in heaven when she met Namgyal in 1994 during a trip to Dharamsala, India with Samten. Bay became fascinated by Tibetan Buddhism after hearing the Dalai Lama speak at the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo in 1978. She met Samten, who served as director Martin Scorsese's religious technical advisor on the film "Kundun," when he visited George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch. Bay has spent the last 29 years working as Lucas' executive assistant.

Namgyal, 13 when Bay met her, was at the Tibetan Children's Village in Dharamsala, an orphanage established by the Dalai Lama. Namgyal's mother died when she was an infant. Her father, a doctor of Tibetan medicine, sent her to India so she could receive a Tibetan education, which was impossible under the Chinese regime.

"She was the girl of my dreams," said Bay, who was unable to have a child during two marriages. "She was a motherless child and I was a childless mother. We had this instant connection."

Namgyal's sudden death nine years later brought her full circle.

"I was angry. I felt cheated. I felt like this was some kind of karmic trick. I didn't deserve this. She didn't deserve this," Bay said.

Bay said it was ultimately the central tenets of Buddhism that allowed her to live with her loss.
"I took it out of myself and opened my heart to the suffering of others. I'm not the only person who has lost a daughter," Bay said. "Death is an inevitable consequence of life. We are all going to lose people that we love - not to mention our own ultimate death."

Samten said that even though Tibet continues to exist under Chinese rule, the Tibet that was his home has ceased to exist. He lives and teaches now in Philadelphia.

©2006 Jane Bay - All Rights Reserved