DHARAMSHALA: Revered by the Tibetans as a ‘living god’ and idolised in the Orient and the West, elderly Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama transcends all barriers of religion, language and even distances. The world’s most respected spiritual leader is turning 85 on July 6 and his followers have lined up global virtual celebrations to dedicate him the ‘Year of Gratitude’.
Despite the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, Lobsang Sangay-headed Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), headquartered in this northern Indian hill station, on Friday said there will be no shortage of celebrations for the birthday of Tibet’s most esteemed leader.
“We are all geared up to mark the 85th birthday celebrations with a series of worldwide virtual events, musical tributes and a yearlong campaign dedicated to the Dalai Lama and his glorious contributions to the Tibetan people and worldwide,” the CTA said in a statement.
CTA President Sangay said the July 6 celebrations here would be observed through a high-level gathering of senior dignitaries of not more than 50 as per the coronavirus guidelines for the public gathering.
Likewise, Tibetan settlements throughout India will mark the occasion with official ceremonies all the while ensuring strict adherence to the respective district, state and Central guidelines.
Under the banner of ‘Year of Gratitude’, he announced a series of virtual celebrations and events expected to begin from July 1 through June 30, 2021 as a yearlong tribute to the Tibetan supreme spiritual leader and his lifelong achievements.
“As His Holiness turns 85, one cannot but marvel at his glorious achievements and the immeasurable contributions to the Tibetan community and the world alike. His Holiness’ legacy will be written in golden words in the annals of Tibetan history.
“Such is the grand lifework and contribution to the preservation of Tibet’s cultural, religious, historical, and linguistic heritage as well as to the promotion of non-violence, human rights, religious tolerance, environmental awareness, and democracy around the world,” Sangay said.
In appreciation of all his outstanding contributions, the CTA and Tibetans around the world will observe the year as ‘Year of Gratitude’ and endeavour to share, promote and celebrate the teachings and the lifework of the Dalai Lama.
Starting July 1, the CTA has lined up a series of virtual events to celebrate the birthday.
The Tibetan Institute Performing Arts will dedicate this year’s Yarkyi musical tribute to the Dalai Lama and for the first time, broadcast it live via TTV to provide relief and healing for people around the world who are battling the emotional distress and anxieties of COVID-19.
Likewise, TTV will broadcast a series of films and documentaries in tribute to His Holiness every Wednesday starting July 1. With the celebrations right around the corner amid the ongoing COVID restrictions, Tibetans around the world are ringing in the 85th birthday of their supreme leader and the ‘Year of Gratitude’ with virtual tributes and celebrations planned on a grand scale throughout the year.
Replying to Mind & Life Institute President Susan Bauer-Wu in a virtual conversation on June 20, the spiritual leader said, “You’ll have to judge from my face. I’m 85 and physically very healthy. I feel this is because my mind is peaceful as a result of my cultivating altruism, the awakening mind of ‘bodhichitta’.”
“This illness is serious,” His Holiness responded to a question on the global pandemic.
“Many experts are paying attention to it, so I have nothing to add. I appreciate their efforts and the help they are giving so many people — both those who are doing research and those who are giving treatment and care. So many doctors and nurses are putting themselves at risk.
“I believe that when there is fear it makes the effect of the illness worse. We need a stable mind. An eighth century Nalanda Master, Shantideva advised that we examine the situation we find ourselves in. If a problem has a solution, we must work to find it; if it does not, we need not waste time thinking about it. This is a practical approach. It’s helpful to reduce our fear and anxiety. In the context of evolving worlds and galaxies, one human life is tiny, but when it ends, the end is not permanent. Something goes on, life after life.”
In 1959, the occupying Chinese troops suppressed the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa and forced the Dalai Lama and over 80,000 Tibetans into exile in India and neighbouring countries.
On reaching India after a three-week-long treacherous journey, the Dalai Lama first took up residence for about a year in Mussoorie in Uttarakhand.
On March 10, 1960 just before moving to Dharamsala, which also serves as the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan establishment, the Dalai Lama had said: “For those of us in exile, I said that our priority must be resettlement and the continuity of our cultural traditions. We, Tibetans, would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet.”
Currently, India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans and the government-in-exile, which has never won recognition from any country.