i Long Life Prayers | Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Long Life Prayers

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India – The temperature was mild, the sun shone and whisps of cloud adorned the sky as His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked through the gate from his residence this morning. He was on his way to attend a ceremony in the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple, consisting of prayers for his long life. The ritual was offered by members of the Toepa Association and the people of Purang, a region of Tibet neighbouring the Indian state of Uttarakhand and Nepal where Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar are located.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama being offered a traditional welcome as he makes his way to the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India to attend a Long Life Prayers on April 3, 2024. Photo by Ven Temzin Jamphel

He was offered the traditionally welcoming ‘Chema Changphu’ and took a pinch of one and a taste of the other. Singers and dancers in traditional costumes sang and danced where they stood. Letting his gaze run over the crowd, His Holiness smiled and waved to them as he passed.

The ceremony, which began with the recitation of a praise to the Buddha, was presided over by Ling Rinpoché. He was joined in the front row by the two reincarnations of Trulshik Rinpoché and to his right, the Abbot of Sera-mé, the Lobpön of Namgyal Monastery and Bodong Rinpoché. To his left were the Abbot of Drepung Loseling and the Abbot of Tawang.

There followed a recitation of ‘Clouds of Ambrosial Blessings’, Trulshik Rinpoché’s invocation of the series of incarnations of Avalokiteshvara in India and Tibet, including the series of Dalai Lamas. The ritual today followed the ‘Long-Life Ceremony of White Tara of the Wish-Fulfilling Wheel’ by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama. It was the culmination of several days’ preparation during which monks, led by Ling Rinpoché, recited prayers and repeated mantras to bless the symbolic substances that would be offered. The text they followed includes repeated offerings and requests that the ‘life of our glorious, sacred Lama’ be prolonged.

As the prayers were chanted representatives of the Toepa Association and people from Purang began to line up in the yard below carrying a variety of offerings that included several hundred sacred statues.

Representatives of the Toepa Association and people from Purang lined up in the courtyard with offerings for His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the Long Life Prayer at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 3, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

At a certain point Ling Rinpoché came forward carrying a cloth-bound arrrow that he offered to His Holiness who accepted it. Next, a small vajra was presented to His Holiness who placed it inside his robe, close to his heart. Tied to it was five coloured thread that was distributed to the Lamas leading the prayers, each of whom held it his hand or tucked it inside his robe. This physical connection symbolized enabling the transfer of the positive energy the Lamas had collected during their recitation of longevity mantras to His Holiness.

Next, a large ritual cake was offered to His Holiness who took a token portion and ate it.

A prayer invoking the protector deities of Tibet that His Holiness wrote in the 1970s was recited. This was followed by a mandala offering requesting His Holiness to live for 100 aeons for the benefit of the doctrine and sentient beings.

Ling Rinpoché approached the throne once more, performed prostrations and offered a mandala to His Holiness. He followed this with a series of offerings beginning with a statue of Amitayus, a scripture and a stupa; a vase; a tray bearing symbols of the five Buddha families; long-life nectar; long-life pills, a tray bearing the seven royal emblems—a golden wheel, a wish-fulfilling jewel, the precious queen, minister, elephant, horse and general; another tray supporting the eight auspicious symbols—the precious parasol, white conch shell, golden fish, eternal knot, vase of great treasure, victory banner, lotus flower and eight spoked wheel. and lastly the eight auspicious substances—a right-coiling conch shell, yogurt, durva grass, vermilion, bilva fruit, a mirror, giwang (a medicine) and white mustard seed.

Ling Rinpoché presenting a series of offerings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the Long Life Prayer at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 3, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

Meanwhile, a Ngagpa, a tantric yogi, from among the audience appeared to go into a spontaneous oracular trance. His Holiness beckoned him forward and blessed him with a scattering of grain.

The procession of people carrying offerings filed briskly through the temple in front of the throne. The Lamas sitting in the front row and representatives of the patrons of the ceremony came up to greet His Holiness and were each given a red protective ribbon. Last in the line were a couple of white-haired old men dressed in white.

A group of women sang:

A good star has appeared in the sky,
The sun shines upon this earth,
How wonderful it is we have the blessings of our spiritual master
—may he live long.

Next was chanted a prayer for His Holiness’s long life composed by his two tutors, followed by a similar longevity prayer by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro.

A view inside the Main Tibetan Temple during the Long Life Prayer offered to His Holiness the dalai Lama in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 3, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

The ceremony was concluded with a thanksgiving mandala offering and recitations of the Prayer for the Flourishing of the Dharma, the Prayer of the Words of Truth, as well as verses of dedication from the Samantabhadra Prayer.

His Holiness had the last word:

“This long-life ceremony offered with sincere hearts has been successful from beginning to end. I pray and am determined to live for more than 100 years.

“This is a time when the Buddhadharma is in decline and yet there have been many causes and conditions for me to be able to serve the teaching of the Buddha. Today, in places where the Dharma had not previously spread people are taking interest in what the Buddha had to say about the workings of the mind and emotions, scientists particularly among them.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the congregation during the Long Life Prayer at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 3, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

“Whether they are religious or not there are growing numbers of people who appreciate that we can bring peace to the world by first achieving peace within. In this context this is my prayer:

Wherever the Buddha’s teaching has not spread
And wherever it has spread but has declined
May I, moved by great compassion, clearly elucidate
This treasury of excellent benefit and happiness for all.

“At the same time, I would like to encourage people to have a keener sense of ethics, to serve humanity and, through understanding the functioning of their minds and emotions, to cultivate peace of mind. The inner and outer conditions exist for me to do this and the Dharma Protectors, who take responsibility for defending and preserving the Dharma, are helping me in what I’m trying to do.

“That’s all I want to say—thank you.”

His Holiness stood up from the throne, walked out of the temple to the lift, and on the level of the yard below boarded the golf cart that then drove him home. He smiled joyfully and waved to well-wishers who squeezed together along the way to see him.