Dharamshala — Thousands of people – including Tibetans, foreign and Indian supporters – on Sunday gathered in and around the main Tibetan temple to celebrate the birthday of the spiritual leader of Tibet His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.

Special prayer sessions were held for the perfect health and long life of His Holiness early Sunday morning. His Holiness sent a powerful message to Tibetans and supporters around the world and their freedom struggle as he said he would remain healthy at least for 20 years more.

This historic event was organised by the Central Tibetan Administration to mark His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 80th birth anniversary to honour his "remarkable achievements and contribution towards world peace in general and the Tibetan cause in particular."

Among the dignitaries attending June 21 celebrations were Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism; Hon Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs; Mrs Viplove Thakur, MP from Himachal Pradesh; Shri Nabam Tuki, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh; Mr Pema Khandu, Tourism Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, and others.

All the heads of four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the Bon Tradition also attended the celebration. A representative from Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s office read the minister’s greeting message.

In his address, Minister Shri Mahesh Sharma said, “I came here with the best wishes and prayers of 125 Crore Indians. We pray before God today for your long life and to give you more strength, to give you health, to give you courage, to show the path of life and the path of wisdom to the world and to humanity.”

He continued, “We will remember your contribution to peace and for using Satyagraha as a weapon in your struggle for freedom. You have taught your people and all of mankind that losers are those who refuse to rise up after falling down and not those who continue to rise up even after falling down. We salute you for this strength and wisdom.”

Speaking on the relationship of Tibetans and Indians, Minister Kiren Rijiju stated, “The bond shared by Tibet and India is centuries old. The people living on the two opposite sides of Kailash Mansarover have traveled through time together. This time tested relationship is based on culture, mutual trust and affection. Hence, this historic relationship shared by these two peoples can never be set apart.”

The minister then – in reference to His Holiness’ global role and appeal – spoke to the Dalai Lama: “You don’t represent one religion or one community; you represent the entirety of humanity. And it is our bonded duty to ensure that we practice your message of love and kindness in words and in spirit.”

Calling His Holiness the Dalai Lama an apostle of peace and ocean of wisdom, Nobel laureate Mr. Nabam Tuki, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, said, “I am deeply honoured to be a part of the 80th birthday celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with the devotees from all over the world. I pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama who is the most revered spiritual leader of our times.”

The Chief Minister assured his government’s continued support to the Tibetan cause and affirmed that he will formulate the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy 2014 (announced by the central government of India in Arunachal Pradesh). He observed, “I have visited all the Tibetan settlements in the state. I consider it my solemn duty to provide the necessary facilities and solve the problems faced by the Tibetan people residing in Arunachal Pradesh.”

In his address, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his heartfelt appreciation to the crowd for coming to celebrate his birthday. “You all have come here today to greet this old man. Most of you who have come here are also quite old and the fact that you still came here, taking time from your busy schedule, reflects your deep conviction. I am truly thankful to you all,” His Holiness said.

His Holiness said that he is no "super human" and explained that whatever he has learned and achieved in this life is due to his enthusiasm to learn and practice what he preached. “You all praised me a lot today. But 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 practicing the knowledge that I have gained from the Nalanda tradition. And I will continue to practice it as long as I am physically able,” His Holiness said.

Speaking on his lifelong commitments, His Holiness said that he is just one human being among the seven billion in the world. 𠇎very one of us desires happiness and doesn’t want suffering. Yet, if we think about it carefully, most of the sufferings that we endure are of our own making. Therefore, if we practice the love and affection that we derived from our mothers to one another, most of the sufferings will surely diminish,” His Holiness added.

The spiritual leader lauded India for its diversity, and noted India is a prime example of interdependency and mutual harmony. 𠇊ll the major religious traditions exist in India and they have lived peacefully with one another for centuries. This multiculturalism of India is the true beauty of India,” His Holiness said.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate also said that he would remain healthy and continue to work for the promotion of compassion and religious harmony. "I will remain healthy at least for 20 years more and this is what doctors told me," he said, adding, “I hope you will join me again to celebrate my 90th birthday.”

The political leader of Tibet-in-exile, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, in his birthday greeting thanked His Holiness for his leadership and for his commitment to human happiness, as well as the promotion of universal responsibility to foster religious harmony and to safeguard Tibet’s culture and environment.

Sikyong Sangay declared, “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. You are an environmentalist who speaks on global warming, climate change and Tibet as the third pole which is a major source of rivers in Asia. You are an advocate of equality and justice who speaks strongly against the growing gap between rich and the poor.”

His Holiness' 80th birthday is being celebrated today on 21 June, as His Holiness was born on this day according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. There also are several reports that Tibetans within Tibet simultaneously celebrated the happy occasion.