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Tibet-Kashag-Sikyong-Sonam-Topgyal-Khorlatsang-2016Dharamshala — Large crowds gathered at the main Tibetan temple in Dharamshala, on July 6, to participate in the official 81st birthday celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is currently at Mundgod Tibetan settlement in south India, is turning 81 on Wednesday.

As Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel are both in Mundgod, the official statements of the Kashag and Tibetan Parliament were read out by officiating Sikyong Kalon Sonam Topgyal Khorlatsang and Deputy Speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok respectively. The event was attended by top Tibetan officials and representatives of Tibetan NGOs.

The situation in Tibet and the implications of environmental degradation on the Tibetan plateau were among the issues which figured in the talks between US President Barack Obama and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the central Tibetan Administration said on Wednesday.

"Obama in his meeting with His Holiness at the White House on 15 June, discussed the critical political situation of Tibetans inside Tibet and the implications of environmental degradation on the plateau," said a statement by the Tibetan Cabinet to mark the pontiff's 81st birthday.

According to the statement, US President Obama encouraged a meaningful and direct dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives and Chinese government to lower tensions and resolve differences.

"Obama also welcomed His Holiness' leadership on climate change issue and expressed support for his efforts in raising awareness of the importance of limiting global warming, including to protect the Himalayan glaciers and the environment on the Tibetan plateau."

Emphasizing his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions, the Tibetan Cabinet or the Kashag said the US President lauded the Dalai Lama's commitment to peace and non-violence."We remain firmly committed to the 'middle-way' policy and will take concrete measures to ensure that dialogue with China takes place in the near future," said the cabinet, headquartered in this northern hill town Dharamshala.

Over the last few decades, the pontiff has visited 67 countries, spanning six continents, and authored over 100 books, advocating global peace and harmony. Meanwhile, morning prayers for the well being and long life of the Dalai Lama were held here on his birthday on Wednesday.

Expressing warm greetings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kalon Sonam Topgyal Khorlatsang on behalf of Kashag said: "On this joyous occasion of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama's 81st birthday, on behalf of Kashag and Tibetans inside and outside Tibet, I would like to express our deepest reverence to His Holiness the Dalai Lama."

"On this very day in 1935, following numerous auspicious signs and symbols, Lhamo Dhondup was born to father Choekyong Tsering and mother Dekyi Tsering in Taktser village, located in the Amdo region of Tibet. We owe deep gratitude to the great parents for blessing us with their precious son. His Holiness' birth at the fringes of the Tibetan plateau is similar to previous great Lamas and several Dalai Lamas who have chosen specific birthplaces to signify unity in Tibet," he added.

Applauding and paying gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's vision for a democratic Tibetan polity, the officiating Sikyong explained the efforts exerted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the years to democratise the Tibetan administrative system.

"His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama, even at a young age, had the vision of a strong united Tibet. Enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama at the age of five, he had to take over the spiritual and temporal authority of Tibet at the tender age of 16, at a time when the People's Republic of China illegally occupied Tibet. The young Dalai Lama immediately formed the Reform Committee to cater to the welfare of poor Tibetans, irrespective of their provincial or religious affiliations. This committee intrinsically helped strengthen Tibetan unity," he said, reading from the kashag's statement.

"At the age of 24, when His Holiness' efforts for a peaceful resolution with China did not materialize, he declared the continuation of the Gadhen Phodrang government as the legitimate government of Tibet and its temporary establishment at Lhuntsedzong. After His Holiness sought refuge in India, it was in the hilly Indian town of Mussoorie that His Holiness instituted the Kashag of the Tibetan Administration-in-exile affirming their commitment to fostering unity among Tibetans. In May 1960, the Central Tibetan Administration was moved to Dharamsala and to ensure administrative effectiveness, His Holiness announced the portfolio of the Kalons."

"On November 17, 1959 in Mussoorie and on July 1st, 1960 in Dalhousie, His Holiness shared his vision of democracy. He said, "It is wrong and very dangerous to harbor prejudices between U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham. You should continue to develop internal harmony and be as firmly united as an iron ball." With a steadfast commitment to represent unity among Tibetans, leaders of all three provinces, monastic institutions and former staff members of the Gaden Phodrang government in Tibet gathered at Bodhgaya and took the Na-gyen Chenmo (great oath) and pledged iron-like unity under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama," he added.

The Kashag's statement also pointed out the dangers posed by sectarian and regional divisions which came into particular prominence during the recent election campaigns and strongly emphasised the importance of maintaining unity and harmony.

"Our exile history tells us that for the first few decades, there have been instances of regional and sectarian discord but they have been diluted overtime. Since the 90s, for two decades, harmony and unity among Tibetans was widespread and were at its peak. Hence in 2011, His Holiness believing in Tibetan unity and political maturity accordingly devolved his political authority to the elected leadership."

"However, during the final round of the 2016 election of Sikyong and the members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, traits of regionalism was raised. His Holiness was hurt as made clear from his speech during the 2016 swearing-in-ceremony of Sikyong. "I was pained to see the degradation of morality and the overtones of regional biases during the election campaign. It is very unfortunate. The unity of the three traditional provinces of Tibet is of primary importance. Therefore, we should do away with this warped sense of biases to regions and move on as one. If you consider me your friend, please pay attention to what I have said."

"This remark by His Holiness the Dalai Lama bears a disconcerting resemblance to the ones given in 1959 and 1960. Instead of progression, the final elections witnessed regression. Regional biases were not only expressed, but acted upon, thereby creating disharmony. However there is a window of opportunity for us to rectify our mistakes and redefine our destiny. Mahatma Gandhi had said, "Your beliefs become your thoughts, thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become values and values become your destiny." Therefore, we urge Tibetans everywhere to remove their regional and sectarian partisanship from their thoughts, words and actions because we cannot afford to churn them into our destiny."

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