Dharamshala — The air was thick with incense smoke that filtered through the hundreds of monks who had gathered to partake in the Life Long Ceremony on 21st June,the day that marked the 80th Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The ceremony was attended by the leaders of the Tibetan spiritual traditions - Sakya Daktri Rinpoche, Menri Khen Rinpoche, Gyalwang Karmapa, Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, Taglung Shabdrung Rinpoche,, Ganden Tri Rinpoche, Katok Getse Rinpoche and a representative of the Drukchen Rinpoche.
The five hour event that took place in the main Tibetan temple in Dharamshala, was organized by the Central Tibetan Administration, Domay Community and the Gelugpa School.
"The CTA, Domay Community and Gelug International Foundation initiated this offering. My living siblings, Gyalo Thondup, Jetsun Pema and Tenzin Choegyal have gathered here along with many of my nieces and nephews. Sakya Dagtri Rinpoche has presided over the ceremony in the presence of the leaders of Tibet's spiritual traditions. You've all made fervent prayers and I'd like to thank you," said His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the congregation.
A line of people, consisting of monks and men and women garbed in chupa, carried offerings to His Holiness. The offerings included statues of Buddha Shakyimuni, religious relics like the khalsel and holy scriptures.
His Holiness talked about the Longevity rituals and the Dalai Lamas before him who were a part of similar rituals,"The 5th Dalai Lama had two statues made of Chenresig, one of which remained in Lhasa, while the other was in Kyirong. They were regarded like brothers. He conducted meditation retreats in their presence and experienced a series of visions. The cycle of teachings deriving from them has been a practice of all the Dalai Lamas since and the text for this Longevity Ritual is taken from them."
A program commemorating the His Holiness's birthday, followed the ceremony. The event was presided over by the Prime Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Nabam Tuki, Rajya Sabha Member Mrs. Viplove Thakur, Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President of the Italian Transnational Radical Partythe Marco Panello and Chief Guest Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister for Culture and Tourism, and MoS for Civil Aviation who commended His Holiness for his work and efforts to spread peace and harmony in a world rife with disparities and struggle.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay thanking His Holiness for "his leadership and lifelong commitment and his contribution to human happiness and promotion of universal responsibilty said, "you have helped foster religious harmony worldwide and safeguard Tibet's culture and environment. You are a true democrat deeply loved and respected by the people you have empowered us with democracy and hope, you are an environmentalist who speaks of climate change, you are an advocate of peace and justice. You call yourself a simple Buddhist monk but for people around the world you are a symbol of life and hope."
The program was interspersed with several cultural performances from the three provinces of Tibet. Men and women from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, U-Tsang, Domay and Kham, donning colorful traditional clothes, sang and danced before the dignitaries to the sound of loud claps and cheers.
In an interview with Tibet Post International Ms Sharling Tenzin Dadon remarked, "I think for Tibetans it is not just a moment of celebration but it is something that keeps redefining the hope in us. His Holiness with his good health is rekindling or reiterating the faith in ourselves , our faith in nonviolence, our faith in the 26 years of struggle, our faith in World Peace. All his life, The Dalai Lama hasn't bowed under pressure or failure. He is an embodiment of all the virtues we believe in. There have been times when we questioned our struggle and identity but in moments like these repaint the whole picture. Tibetans are able to give a message to the rest of the world through His Holiness about our persistence. He is our identity, he is our symbol, he is Tibet."