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Will remain healthy for 20 years more: Dalai Lama on 80th birthday

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Dharamsala: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said he would remain healthy at least for 20 years more.

“I will remain healthy at least for 20 years more and this is what doctors told me,” he said in his address on his 80th birthday at the hilltop Tsuglagkhang temple close to his official palace at McLeodganj near here.

The remark by the 80-year-old pontiff, the global face of the Tibetan exile movement, is being seen as a dig at China on not to worry about his successor.8091512041_1fcf541c9b_b

The Nobel laureate has already clarified that he would decide at 90 whether or not he should have a successor and will leave “clear written instructions on the succession”.

The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnation is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.

Explaining that he was no superhuman, the Dalai Lama, known for his simplicity and typical jovial style, said: “I am just a simple Buddhist monk. I try to do my best all the time. I am 80 years old now and I have lived my entire life practising the knowledge and I will continue to practise it till I am physically able.”

Thousands of Tibetan exiles, foreigners and Indian dignitaries joined in the birthday celebrations here.

Crowds began to assemble since morning at the temple for the birthday celebrations.

“Special prayer sessions were held for the perfect health and long life of our spiritual leader the Dalai Lama,” Tsering Wangchuk, a spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), told IANS.

The Dalai Lama, revered by the Tibetans as a ‘living god’, attended the prayers.

According to a Tibetan tradition, a person’s 80th anniversary bears special significance and is celebrated as a momentous life milestone.

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Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, who specially came to attend the celebrations, said: “I hope your life will inspire us to make the world a better place.”

He invited the Nobel Peace laureate to visit his state to bless the people.

Two union ministers, Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, and Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, who is also from Arunachal Pradesh, attended the ceremony.

“The bond shared by Tibet and India is centuries old. This time-tested relationship is based on culture, mutual trust and affection,” Rijiju said.

A representative from Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s office read out the chief minister’s greeting.

Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected leader of the Tibetan people, said: “Nobel laureates call Your Holiness as the super laureate. But lesser known are your other contributions. Your Holiness, you are a true democrat. Deeply loved and respected by your people, you have empowered us with democracy and hope.”

The Dalai Lama will be in the US when he turns 80 on July 6, but Sunday was his official birthday, according to the Tibetan lunar calendar.

In 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for Tibet. He was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal in October 2007, even in the face of protests by China.

Born Tenzin Gyatson on July 6, 1935, in Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognised at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama Thubten Gyatso.

He fled Tibet after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule in 1959, and based his Tibetan government-in-exile here in Himachal Pradesh. The government is not recognised by any country.

The Dalai Lama has been following a ‘middle-path’ policy that seeks greater autonomy for Tibet rather than complete independence.

However, the Chinese view him as a hostile element bent on splitting Tibet from China.

India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans. (IANS)

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)