By Lobsang Wangyal
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 20 June 2015
Exile Tibetans are gearing up to celebrate the 80th birthday of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday, weeks earlier than the usual 6 July. The Dalai Lama’s birth on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar in 1935 corresponds to 21 June in the Western calendar this year.
The Central Tibetan Administration has organised the Dalai Lama’s official 80th Birthday Celebration in McLeod Ganj starting Sunday for three days.
The Dalai Lama will celebrate his 80th birthday according to the western calendar on 6 July in California, US. He will participate in various talks, events and panel discussions for three days as part of the celebrations. More birthday celebrations will then take place in New York starting on 10 July.
On Sunday 21 June in Mcleod Ganj, a long-life prayer will be offered to the Dalai Lama. Dignitaries and guests from around the world are expected to attended the event, which is to be marked by cultural dance, exhibitions, and book launches.
The chief of the organising committe of the celebration, Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations of CTA Tashi Phuntsok, said on Saturday, “The preparations are almost complete. The highlight of the celebration will be a long-life prayer offering to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which will start at 8am.”
There will be dignitaries from Canada, Italy, Czech Republic, and the US, along with Indian and Tibetan guests, he added.
The Dalai Lama, originally born Lhamo Dhondup, was recognised as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama at age two. In order to confirm his identity, Tibetan monks tested the boy by asking him to identify certain articles that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama. Lhamo Dhondup passed the test, which convinced the monks searching for the reincarnation. He was then taken to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, to be enthroned at age four, and his name changed to Tenzin Gyatso.
At age 15, while still completing his education, he was accorded full authority as the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet.
In 1959 he fled to India following the Chinese invasion of his country, and established the Central Tibetan Administration in McLeod Ganj, from where he campaigned for a non-violent settlement of the Tibetan issue.
He changed his call for an independent Tibet to autonomy for Tibetan areas through the “Middle-way” policy, by which Tibetans would have internal freedom but the country would remain a part of China.
In 2011, the Dalai Lama gave up his political powers to an elected Tibetan leader. He has since devoted his time to what he calls his three main commitments: Promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, and self-discipline; Harmony and understanding among the world’s major religious traditions; and Preservation of Tibet’s Buddhist culture, a culture of peace and non-violence.
However, in Tibet, where even the display of the Dalai Lama’s photo is severely punished by the Chinese government, Tibetans will be restricted from any celebratory moods or events. Over the years, 140 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet in protest against their treatment by the Chinese government: Most have called for China to allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. Many have died in their fiery protest.
The Chinese government has described the Dalai Lama as “a monk in wolf’s clothing,” and a “dangerous splittist” intent on cleaving the Chinese nation. China says it will decide who the next Dalai Lama will be after he dies.
However, the Dalai Lama has said that whether the institution of the Dalai Lama remains or not depends entirely on the wishes of the Tibetan people.
“The very purpose of a reincarnation is to continue the unfinished work of the previous incarnation. Thus if the Tibetan situation still remains unsolved it is logical I will be born in exile to continue my unfinished work. Of course the Chinese will still choose their own Dalai Lama and we Tibetans will choose our own according to tradition,” the Dalai Lama has said on his website.