The heads of the three pillars of Tibetan democracy listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the long life prayer offering at Gaden Jangtse Monastery in Mundgod, South India, December 22, 2019. Photo/Tenzin Jigme/CTA

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Dharamshala, India — "I’ve had dreams about living long. In one dream I was climbing steps, 13 steps, which I interpreted to relate to the prediction that I could live to the age of 113.” said His Holiness the Dalai Lama, addressing a large gathering of Tibetans, including the senior Buddhist leaders and top government officials, at the Gaden Jangtse Monastic University in Mundgod, Karnataka State, South India, on December 22, 2019.

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama came down to the Ganden Jangtsé Assembly Hall this morning, the Ganden Throne-holder, Sharpa, and Jangtsé Chöjés and the Drepung Throne-holder were there to receive him. They escorted him into the hall where he greeted the audience and guests, lit a lamp before the images of enlightenment and took his seat on the high throne. Auspicious prayers were chanted, including the ‘Praise to the 17 Masters of Nalanda’. Tea and sweet rice were served, according to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's official website.

Seated on thrones facing His Holiness were the Ganden Throne-holder, Sharpa, and Jangtsé Chöjés, as well as the former Ganden Throne-holder, Rizong Rinpoché, and Jonang Gyaltsap. The Jangtsé Chant-master led the chanting from behind them. To His Holiness’s right sat Ling Rinpoché, Taktsak Kundeling Rinpoché, and the Drepung Throne-holder. To his left were the representatives of the Three Pillars of Tibetan Democracy, the Sikyong, Chief Justice and Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile.

Addressing the gathering of the long-life prayer offering at Gaden Jangtse Monastery in Mundgod, December 22, 2019, the spiritual leader of Tibet said: “Today, there are monks from the two monasteries of Ganden, Drepung and Sera here. Monks of the Three Seats of Learning have assembled to offer a Long-Life Ceremony. As I mentioned yesterday, the First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup, prayed to Arya Tara, “May I strive and persevere in preserving the tradition of Buddhism in general and that of Jé Tsongkhapa in particular”.

“We have representatives of the monastic community on the one hand and of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) on the other. Since this is an auspicious occasion, I decided to wear this Dharma cloak blessed during ordination. I also put on all three monk’s robes.

“As long as space remains, I pray that I may help all sentient beings. I pray that like the four great elements, earth, space and so forth, I may provide sustenance for the multitude of beings. I try to be practical in the way I serve humanity and all sentient beings. Just paying lip service to help them is not enough.

“The longer I live, the more I think of benefiting others and fulfilling the highest aim myself. In order to fulfill the interests of self and others, I generate bodhicitta. This altruistic intention to serve others can contribute to longevity. Selfishness is not conducive to living longer. I am determined to serve the 7 billion human beings alive today and some kind of benefit seems to come from it.

“We have members of the monastic community, representatives of the CTA and dharma brothers and sisters from Chinese communities here.

“Just as I cultivate an altruistic intention, I’ve had dreams about living long. In one dream I was climbing steps, 13 steps, which I interpreted to relate to the prediction that I could live to the age of 113”—applause rippled across the audience. “Since the time of Gendun Drup, the Dalai Lamas have had close relations with Palden Lhamo. I had a dream in which she told me I’d live to be 110”—there was more applause. “Meanwhile, Trulshik Rinpoché requested me to live as long as Thangtong Gyalpo. He is said to have lived until he was 125; may I do so too.

“There are many different factors conducive to living long and I am determined to do so. In fact, since I am so determined, there may not much need to conduct this Long-Life Ceremony.

“As part of the proceedings, the Nechung Oracle will go into trance. Since the time of King Trisong Detsen, Shantarakshita and Guru Padmasambhava worldly spirits have been working with people to serve the Dharma and sentient beings. Some of these protectors came from India. Others, like Nyenchen Thangla, were indigenous to Tibet. Since formless spirits have no form, there’s only so much they can do. Those of us who have a physical form can be helpful to others in ways that these spirits cannot.

“On this auspicious occasion, in this auspicious place, since you have a spiritual bond with me, I ask you all to please be at ease.” The Jangtsé Chant Master began to chant the Long-Life Ceremony according to the Offering to the Spiritual Master (lama chö-pa) and many of the guests joined in. At a certain point, the Nechung Oracle entered the Hall through the main door and came loping up to the throne. He paid respect to His Holiness, offering him a mandala and the threefold representations of the Buddha’s body, speech, and mind. After conversing with His Holiness, he circumambulated the throne and rushed down to salute the Ganden Throne-holder, his predecessor and other hierarchs.

Coming before His Holiness again he brought him a small silver vajra attached to a multi-colored thread and distributed similar vajras to other Lamas while keeping one for himself. He then sat on a folding stool, holding the vajra to his heart, while he and the other Lamas recited a prayer His Holiness wrote for the flourishing of all major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. This was a rite that serves to strengthen the bond between guru and disciple. Once the recitation was complete the Oracle got to his feet and left the temple through a side door.

Tsog offerings were conducted. The Ganden Throne-holder made a formal request to His Holiness to live long and offered him a mandala and the threefold representations of the Buddha’s body, speech, and mind, as well as a series of other symbols. A long procession of monastics, laymen and women, Tibetans and people from abroad, carrying offerings, wound through the Hall.

Among the concluding prayers was one composed by Trulshik Rinpoché that recounts the incarnations of Avalokiteshvara in Tibet, culminating in the line of Dalai Lamas. Another was the prayer for His Holiness’s long life composed by his two tutors, Ling Rinpoché and Trijang Rinpoché.

Finally, a ceremony was conducted for 298 Lharampa Geshés, who graduated in 2017, 2018 and 2019, to be awarded their degrees. The Ganden Throne-holder presented each one with his certificate, following which they gathered in groups around His Holiness in order to have their photograph taken with him.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is known throughout the world as a leading advocate for peace-making and non-belligerent. His message is one of kindness and compassion to all sentient beings. Over the last 60 years, he has traveled around the world spreading a message of peace and universal responsibility. He also believes that the common aim of all religions is to foster tolerance, altruism, and love. He retired from politics in 2011 but, as one of six million Tibetans, His Holiness said he will continue to serve Tibet’s cause.

In 1959, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama along with thousands of others escaped to India, where he was given political asylum. The spiritual leader has set up a government and rebuilt monasteries where masters pass on their teachings to young monks. Tibetans in exile have succeeded in gradually rebuilding their monasteries, preserving their culture and restructuring their society, in spite of the extremely difficult circumstances.

The Chinese Communist totalitarian regime (PRC) began their invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since then, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population, have died as a direct result of China's illegal invasion and ruthless occupation. In addition, more than 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines have been looted or decimated, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.