By Lobsang Wangyal
BODH GAYA, India, 10 January 2017
Actor and human rights activist Richard Gere was among thousands of devotees at a religious event of the Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya, a small village in eastern India where the Buddha is believed to have achieved enlightenment more than 2,500 years ago.
Gere and his Spanish girlfriend Alejandra Silva are among nearly 8,000 foreigners attending the religious event. There are in addition about 2,000 devotees from mainland China and Hong Kong.
Security Secretary of the Central Tibetan Administration Wangchuk Phasur told Tibet Sun that there are about 200,000 devotees attending the event. The main Kalachakra began today, after preliminary teachings which have been held since 3 January. The event will end on the 14th.
Earlier during a press conference on Sunday, Lobsang Sangay, Sikyong (Prime Minister) of the Central Tibetan Administration, criticised the Chinese government for recalling Tibetans from Tibet to return.
The Chinese government had recalled Tibetan pilgrims, asking their family members to call them back, failing which they have been warned of severe punishments.
Since then a few thousand have gone back.
Phasur added that the Bihar state has provided “a foolproof security system” for the Dalai Lama, and the event has been going on smoothly as planned.
Sakya Trizin, the head lama of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, has been attending the event. The Karmapa Lama is likely to join the event from tomorrow.
Gere told Tibet Sun that he has been coming to Bodh Gaya sine 1985. “My friend Khen Rinpoche was ordained the first time we came here in 1985. I have a lot of memories here. I have been here many times since then.”
Speaking about the Kalachakra, he added, “Obviously His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) is getting stronger and stronger. Usually it’s the other way round. So many devotees. We couldn’t get more people [into the venue]. It’s impossible.”
When asked what changes he would make after attending the Kalachakra, he said, “I take all the vows but of course I can’t keep them. Especially the one that’s everything is a dream.”
The Kalachakra Empowerment is an intricate Buddhist ritual given by a lama (master) that helps transform disciples to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
The Dalai Lama said that he has no blessing to offer. “The real blessing will come from serving the poor and the needy,” he said, as he readied those who wished to be initiated into the practice of the Kalachakra tantra by asking them to pledge to have compassion toward all beings, and to work for the benefit of others.