Long-Life Offering Ceremony

December 31, 2018

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India – The concluding event of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to Bodhgaya was an elaborate Long-life Ceremony offered to him this morning. There were three major sponsors—the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Namgyal Monastery and the Shelkar Ngashap. Escorting him from the monastery to the Kalachakra Ground were the Sikyong, Dr Lobsang Sangyé, leader of the CTA, Ven Tenzin Thapkay, Vajra Master of Gaden Phelgyeling, on behalf of Namgyal Monastery, and Ven Chusang Rinpoché, representing the Shelkar Ngashap. Namgyal monks preceded them playing ‘gyaling’—Indian horns—and swinging censers, while another followed His Holiness carrying a bright yellow ornamental umbrella.

Namgyal Monastery monks playing traditional instruments announce His Holiness the Dalai Lama's arrival at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering
Namgyal Monastery monks playing traditional instruments announce His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s arrival at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering

Leading the ceremony, seated directly in front of and facing His Holiness’s throne, were the Ganden Tri Rinpoché, Jetsun Lobsang Tenzin, Ven Thamthog Rinpoché, Abbot of Namgyal Monastery and the Sikyong. To the side, and behind the six Abbots of Ganden, Drepung and Sera Monasteries, the Lama Umzé and musicians of Namgyal Monastery led the chanting. Tri Rinpoché began the ceremony by offering His Holiness a mandala and representations of the body, speech and mind of enlightenment. His Holiness addressed the crowd:

“On this occasion the oracles of Tibetan protectors like Nechung and Nyenchen Thangla will take part in trance. We, people and deities, all have a responsibility to work for the cause of Tibet.

“I sometimes tease Indian friends that their god Shiva’s permanent residence on Mount Kailash is located in Tibet, so he’s one of us, and the River Ganges, so holy to Indians, rises in Tibet. At the same time, Tibetans follow Buddha Shakyamuni, the Great Sage, who was an Indian. What this indicates is the longstanding special connection between Indians and Tibetans.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the crowd during the Long Life Ceremony in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering
His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the crowd during the Long Life Ceremony in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering

“The Dalai Lamas’ special relationship with Nechung Dorje Drakden began with the Second, Gendun Gyatso. The Twelve Tenma protective goddesses have abiding links to Tibet. So this Long Life Ceremony will be offered by humans and gods on behalf not only of Tibetans in exile but also of the millions in Tibet who refer to me as Gyalwa Rinpoché. I feel clear in my mind that I have done some service for the cause of Tibet. I’ll pray that I live long and you, including the many here from the Himalayan region, can pray too.”

Shortly afterwards, the oracle of Tsering Ché-nga appeared in trance. She danced up to the throne and made her obeisances to His Holiness. Turning to the eminent Lamas seated around the throne she invited Ganden Tri Rinpoché, Trisur Rinpoché, Jangling Rinpoché, Sharpa Chojé, Samdhong Rinpoché, Tsawa Özer Rinpoché and the Sikyong to join her before the throne in prayers for His Holiness’s long life.

Members of the crowd watching the proceedings during the Long Life Ceremony for His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering
Members of the crowd watching the proceedings during the Long Life Ceremony for His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering

The next oracle to appear was that of Kharak Khyung Tsün, one of the Twelve Tenma. She danced with arms raised, paid her respects to His Holiness, and left the stage.

She was followed by Nechung Dorje Drakden who approached the throne at a run, making his characteristic hiss and flourishing a bow and arrow. He spoke to His Holiness before also inviting Lamas to join him in prayers before the throne. They included Sakya Trizin, Ganden Tri Rinpoché, Jangling Rinpoché, Tatsak Rinpoché, Wöser Dorjé Rinpoché and the Sikyong. The Lamas returned to their seats and while Nechung was still in trance, the oracle of Nyenchen Thangla appeared and paid extensive respects to His Holiness. Meanwhile, the oracle of Dorje Yamakyong appeared, danced around the stage and offered silk scarves to Lamas including Ling Rinpoché.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Nechung Dorje Drakden with the oracle of Nyenchen Thangla behind during the Long Life Ceremony at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Nechung Dorje Drakden with the oracle of Nyenchen Thangla behind during the Long Life Ceremony at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering

The Long Life ceremony focussed on White Tara proceeded in the meantime. Representatives of the various sponsors made extensive processions of offerings past the foot of the stage. At a point at which Ganden Tri Rinpoché offered freshly empowered long life pills to His Holiness, he took one, ate it and then took another that he gave it to Tri Rinpoché. While offering His Holiness symbols of longevity, Tri Rinpoché made extensive prayers to him to live long.

Ganden Tri Rinpoché, the Abbot of Namgyal Monastery and the Sikyong each offered a mandala and the three representations of enlightenment followed by Sakya Trizin, Pema Jungney, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, Ngawang Rabgyel and other members of the CTA, several elderly monks of Namgyal Monastery, and Zopa Rinpoché who offered a silver Dharmachakra.

Namgyal Monastery monks in the offering procession passing before His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the Long Life Ceremony at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering
Namgyal Monastery monks in the offering procession passing before His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the Long Life Ceremony at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering

Finally, the team of translators who have worked hard in recent days to translate His Holiness’s teachings into Hindi, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish, Japanese, French, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Dzongkar, Mongolian and English, each offered His Holiness a silk scarf.

To bring the proceedings to a proper conclusion, Jamphel Lhundrup, Secretary of the Dalai Lama Trust, which has been a leading member of Teachings Organizing Committee read out a clear financial statement in Tibetan and English. He announced that the surplus funds from this year, about 3 million rupees, would be carried over to next year’s teachings. On behalf of everyone present he offered His Holiness thanks.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama waving to the crowd as he leaves the stage at the conclusion of the Long Life Ceremony at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering
His Holiness the Dalai Lama waving to the crowd as he leaves the stage at the conclusion of the Long Life Ceremony at the Kalachakra Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 31, 2018. Photo by Lobsang Tsering

As he left the stage, His Holiness took time to interact with smiling members of the crowd, exchanging a few words here, shaking a hand or patting a cheek there. Then he drove back to Gaden Phelgyeling Monastery. The day after tomorrow, 2nd January, he will leave Bodhgaya for Delhi and Dharamsala.