Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India – Celebrations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 82nd birthday began according to established custom with members of his staff and attendants gathering to recite special prayers with him at his residence. From there he walked to the teaching pavilion on the Shiwatsel ground.
At the gate he encountered groups of Europeans and Indians who wished him a happy birthday. He stopped to talk to them about the need to work for a happier more peaceful world by coming to grips with our disturbing emotions. He told them that clear advice about how to do this can be found in the knowledge of ancient India and that the time has come to revive it.
Reaching the podium of the teaching pavilion, His Holiness greeted the growing crowd and told them that many friends in different parts of the world were celebrating his birthday. “In that spirit of friendship I’d like to thank all of you who have gathered here today.” From the throne he explained that a long-life offering was being made according to the rite of the White Tara Wish-fulfilling Wheel and that from his side he would also pray to live long.
As the prayer progressed, the mandala offering was made by Thiksey Rinpoche, while Ganden Trisur, Rizong Rinpoche took the role of Dorje Löbpön. Towards the end, as the procession of offerings was taking place, out on a platform in the middle of the audience, Tibetans in Ngaripa costume sang a Toepa song, the gist of which was, “the Buddhism of the Land of Snow is not in decline so long as we have His Holiness the Dalai Lama”, followed by verses for auspiciousness.
After a short break celebrations resumed. His Holiness came down to the front of the stage to greet members of the audience and took his seat in an armchair. All stood for the Tibetan and Indian national anthems.
Thinles Tsewang, President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association welcomed His Holiness, thanked him for coming, presented a gift to him to mark the occasion and assured him that all present prayed that he live long. A large iced cake was cut and distributed among the guests.
Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, Khenpo Sonam Tenphel expressed his respect for His Holiness, the Ganden Trisur, President of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) and other guests. Noting that His Holiness was born on the 5th day of the 5th Tibetan month 1935, he explained why His Holiness’s kindness cannot be repaid. He recounted how at the age of 16, following the tradition established by the great Fifth Dalai Lama, His Holiness had taken responsibility for Tibet’s temporal and spiritual affairs. Then, after coming into exile in 1959, he had introduced democracy to the Tibetan community. He thanked him on behalf of all Tibetans and assured him that they would continue to heed his advice.
The Speaker observed that Chinese policies in Tibet are harsh and that many Tibetans have given up their lives for freedom. He said, “I appeal to the world community to bring pressure to bear on China to relieve their oppression and to stop their reckless mining activities that are so spoiling Tibet’s natural environment. The European Parliament, for one, has urged the Chinese authorities to resume dialogue with His Holiness’s representatives. We have been in exile 58 years. I’d like to thank Your Holiness for your kindness and pray that you may live long.”
During a cultural interlude, students from the Leh TCV and then a group of Ladakhi girls gave a rousing performance of singing and dancing.
Dr. Sonam Dawa, Chief Executive Councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, spoke next. On behalf of the Council he offered His Holiness an ornate copper teapot, voicing the wish that His Holiness live until the end of the cycle of existence. He affirmed that whenever His Holiness comes to Ladakh the people listen to his advice and pledge to serve others in whatever way they can.
A group of Zanskari women in traditional attire followed by a group of Tibetan women were next to sing and dance.
Beginning his address, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, respectfully acknowledged His Holiness and other distinguished guests. He too recalled how His Holiness had taken responsibility for Tibet at the age of 16 at the request of the people of Tibet’s three provinces. Aged 23, he came into exile, where one of his first moves was to establish schools for Tibetan children. A mark of the success of this project is that with 94% literacy Tibetan education is ahead of the equivalent in China, India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
“In destroying monasteries and religious institutions in Tibet, as the late Panchen Rinpoche declared in his 70,000 character petition, the Chinese Communists tried to eliminate the Tibetan identity and its Buddhist traditions. They thought they had won. And yet due to His Holiness’s kind efforts the traditions of the Nalanda Mahavihara that were preserved in Tibet continue to flourish. People across the world are now aware of them; even modern scientists take interest in them. Although we lost our country, His Holiness has met many international leaders and made them aware of the Tibetan issue. Today, we should not only pray for His Holiness to live long, but should reaffirm our determination to put what he advises us into effect.
“I hope the People’s Republic of China will consider the merits of our Middle Way Approach, which has potential mutual benefits for Tibetans and Chinese. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a beacon of hope for the world and the life and soul of the Tibetan people—I pray you may live long.”
Children of the Druk Pema Karpo School were next to sing and dance. A student who introduced their performance in excellent English said they were “over the moon” to be able to participate in the celebrations this way.
As a mark of progress in the fulfilment of long-term ongoing project close to His Holiness’s heart the Chinese translation of the two volume ‘Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics’ was released. At His Holiness’s instigation materials from the Kangyur and Tengyur dealing with Buddhist science and philosophy have been gathered and published in Tibetan. The two volumes are being steadily translated into other languages. Today’s release of the Chinese edition was a landmark event.
His Holiness stood to address the crowd, estimated to number more than 20,000.
“Today, we are here in the presence of my learned master, the Ganden Trisur Rinpoche, from whom I have received many teachings, Geshes, and the Sikyong—the democratically leader of the Tibetan people. In exile we set up a parliament and the Speaker is here. I’d also like to welcome the CEC of the LAHDC, local Muslim friends, members of the general public and so many school-children. Seeing your young faces fills me with joy; it makes me feel younger too.
“Time stops for no one, it’s always moving on. What’s past is past, we can’t change it. What we can do is learn from it. The future is dependent on the present. It rests in the hands of the younger generation. Those of you who are young today must harness your innate good human qualities with intelligence and a warm heart to bring about a happier world. It’s possible, but it will take effort.
“On this my 82nd birthday, I’d like to thank you all for coming. You’ve offered a Long-Life ceremony with unwavering faith, for which I thank you. Something else that was worthwhile today was the release of the Chinese edition of the two volume ‘Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics’. The content of the Kangyur and Tengyur scriptural collections can be categorized as dealing with science, philosophy and religion. While the religious materials are only of interest to Buddhists, the science of mind and philosophical discussions of how things really are, as opposed to how they appear, knowledge exercised and upheld in the Nalanda Tradition, can be instructive to anyone who takes an interest.
“Although China has traditionally been a Buddhist country, Buddhism faced destruction there as it did in Tibet, but it remained in people’s minds. Today in China, there is a revival of interest not only in Buddhism, but in Christianity and Islam too. Among the approximately 200 countries of the world, China, with 400 million declaring themselves Buddhists, now has the largest Buddhist population. The publication of this book will surely be of benefit to the Chinese people. I’d like to thank the translator, Jamyang Rinchen, who I’ve known since he was a child, for all his hard work.
“I appreciate your showing your devotion to me today, which many in Tibet share too, but they have to keep their feelings to themselves. If you know me, you should also know how I think and what I am trying to achieve, and if it seems reasonable to you, try to put it into effect where you can. As a human being I consider myself just one of the 7 billion human beings alive today. Like them I too want happiness. Scientists today suggest that basic human nature is compassionate, therefore seeing the negative consequences of giving in to our negative emotions, we should try to be more compassionate to make our families, communities and the world at large happier and more peaceful. My first commitment is to bringing about a more compassionate world.
“As a Buddhist practitioner I see that we have many religious traditions, some theistic and some non-theistic. And among those that are non-theistic are those who accept the existence of an independent self and those who reject it. However, all these traditions convey a common message of love, compassion, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. Despite their philosophical differences they share a common goal of promoting love and compassion.
“In Tibet although we follow the same Buddha, there were disagreements between our traditions, but all of them follow the Nalanda Tradition. Discrimination against this tradition or that is a sign of ignorance. Without the Hinayana there would be no Mahayana, which is why I prefer to refer to the Pali tradition and Sanskrit tradition. So, my second commitment is to work to encourage inter-religious harmony.”
His Holiness went on to say that while the 150,000 Tibetans in exile are few and the majority of six million Tibetans are in Tibet, those in exile have a responsibility to keep the Nalanda Tradition alive. He stressed that it is a tradition that emphasises reason and logic over reliance on mere scriptural authority. It takes an empirical approach like science. He observed that once Nalanda University was destroyed, its traditions declined in India, but were preserved in Tibet. A consequence of this is that today the language most suited to accurately explain this rich philosophical tradition is Tibetan. His Holiness remarked that this legacy is something for Tibetans to be proud of. He added that in China today there is growing regard for Tibetan Buddhist learning.
“However, those of us who live in freedom, including our Ladakhi brothers and sisters have a responsibility to make the effort to keep our traditions and our understanding of science and philosophy, reason and logic alive through rigorous study. Thank you.”
On behalf of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, their Chief Representative offered words of thanks. He congratulated His Holiness again on his 82nd birthday, thanked him for coming and sharing it with the people of Ladakh and once more thanked him for accepting the Long-Life prayers that had been offered to him. He expressed gratitude to everyone who had contributed to making the day’s events a success and concluded with the wish that His Holiness’s noble aspirations be spontaneously fulfilled.
His Holiness drove back to the Shiwatsel Phodrang where he enjoyed lunch with a group of invited guests.