Offering Prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Long Life
Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India – Heavy rain that had fallen through much of the night eased up as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s car brought him to the gate of his residence this morning. He was met and greeted by board members of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), who then escorted him to the Tsuglagkhang. A red carpet up the middle of the temple yard was scattered with flower petals. At the top of the aisle His Holiness was welcomed by monks and nuns offering bouquets of flowers. As is his custom, he stopped several times on the way to greet members of the public.
Entering the temple His Holiness saluted Sikyong Penpa Tsering, Speaker Khenpo Sonam Temphel and Chief Justice Commissioner (acting) Karma Dadul, who were guests of the occasion. Facing His Holiness after he had taken his seat were Thamthog Rinpoché, Abbot of Namgyal Monastery, Abbot of Kopan Monastery, Geshé Chonyi, newly appointed Lobpön of Namgyal Monastery, Lobsang Dhargyey and Yangsi Rinpoché. Behind them, the Kopan Chant-master, Geshé Losang Sherab led the proceedings.
Three hundred and fifty members of the FPMT, 150 of them from abroad, took part in today’s ceremonies. This Long-Life Offering was based on the ritual of the ‘Offering to the Spiritual Master’ known as ‘Indivisible Bliss and Emptiness: The Ritual of the Profound Path of Lama Chöpa’. Tea and ceremonial sweet rice were served and during a break in the ritual to make offerings of them, His Holiness addressed the assembly.
“Today, you are offering prayers for my long life. In this world, people who have faith in the teachings of the Buddha, particularly people from the Himalayan region who feel a special connection to Avalokiteshvara also consider they have a link to me. If I am able to live long, there is the benefit that I will be able to serve the teaching and sentient beings.
“Buddhism originated in India, but eventually its circumstances changed. In due course the Buddha’s teaching spread to Tibet and the circumstances have changed there too. Although Buddhist traditions were not widely known in the West, these days there is growing interest in them there.
“I am determined to work for the flourishing of the Buddha’s teachings and welfare of all sentient beings, as Jé Tsongkhapa wrote in a verse at the end of his ‘Great Treatise on the Stages to the Path to Enlightenment’:
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.
“So, if these prayers today are effective, everyone will benefit. Tibet and the neighbouring lands of the Himalayan region have a long-standing connection to the Dalai Lamas. I am determined to work for the benefit of the people who live in these places, but in addition there are now scientists across the world who are interested in what the Buddha’s teaching have to say about the workings of the mind and emotions. I would like to help them as much as I can too.
“For these purposes, supported by your prayers and dedication, I feel I may be able to live another twenty years or so. I’m keen to let people, especially those who have no religious allegiance or interest in spiritual affairs, know the importance of cultivating love and compassion and achieving peace of mind.
“However, it is also good to remind ourselves of what the Arhat Sagala says in the Vinaya scriptures— ”Do not be contented merely to wear monastic robes. Study the content of the Three Baskets and engage in the Three Trainings in ethics, meditative concentration and wisdom. Practise the teaching with enthusiasm.”
His Holiness observed that the situation in Tibet remains tense, but in Mongolia Buddhism is being revived. He repeated Jé Tsongkhapa’s aspiration, ‘May I, moved by great compassion, clearly elucidate this treasury of excellent benefit and happiness for all.’ He encouraged those listening to him to do their best to practise the Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. He reiterated the importance of practice, noting that those who teach without the support of personal practice are seldom effective. Serving the Dharma and sentient beings needs to be rooted in study and practice.
“These long-life prayers,” His Holiness went on, “are being offered today by the FPMT, an organization with many centres around the world that has for quite some time been led by the late Zopa Rinpoché. A very trustworthy person, Rinpoché has recently passed away and I pray that his reincarnation will be able to serve the Dharma and sentient beings in his next life.
“If we all practise, Buddhism will not vanish soon, but will survive for several centuries more. We follow great and learned masters like Nagarjuna who upheld the teachings of the Buddha not merely on the basis of faith, but by relying on reason. This is the unique quality of the Nalanda Tradition. We examine the words of the teaching in the light of reason and accept them accordingly.
“Zopa Rinpoché really did his best. He worked immensely hard for the teaching and to benefit sentient beings. I hope his reincarnation will also be a proper custodian of the Dharma and pray that that may be so. You should do the same.”
The ceremony continued with a ‘tsog’ offering. FPMT board members took part in offering a mandala, as well as the threefold representations of enlightenment, presenting a statue of the Buddha, a scripture and a reliquary object to His Holiness. In addition, there were offerings of a monk’s staff, symbolic of the 37 factors of enlightenment, monastic robes, and other accoutrements of a monk, the seven royal emblems, the eight auspicious symbols and the eight auspicious substances. Meanwhile, a procession of FPMT members, monastics and lay-people, filed through the temple bearing offerings.
The ceremony was concluded with dedication prayers, a ‘Prayer for the Flourishing of Je Tsongkhapa’s Teachings’, a prayer entitled ‘Causing the Teachings of
Buddha to Flourish’, a ‘Prayer for the Spreading of Ecumenical Buddha’s Teachings’ and finally ‘The Prayer of the Words of Truth’.
As he left the temple, His Holiness made a point of catching the eye of as many members of the crowd as he could. He waved to those who were further away. Down in the temple yard he climbed into a car in which he drove slowly back to his residence, smiling and waving as he went.