Trungla Yarsol, the auspicious birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
By Jamyang Dorjee
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will turn 77 this month and 6th of July will be celebrated all over the world by his followers as Trungla Yarsol, the great summer birthday celebration. The celebration, this year, is historic because this will be the first birthday celebration after the devolution of political power in the previous year. From the first Dalai Lama, Gedun Drubpa (1391-1474) being the direct disciple of Je Tsonkhapa, the founder of Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism till the fourth Dalai Lama were all great scholars and highly realised masters. It was the fifth Dalai Lama,(1617-1682) normally referred as the Great Fifth that became the temporal as well as spiritual ruler of Tibet and the tradition continued till the previous year.
During the time of the Great Fifth, the first Chogyal of Sikkim, Phuntsok Namgyal was crowned at Yuksam Norbugang in 1642. The Chogyal received the regalia of office from the Dalai Lama of Tibet, including a silken scarf with his seal, a mitre of Guru Rimpoche, the ‘phurpa’ and a precious colored sand image of the guru. Tibetwas perhaps the only sovereign nation then that felicitated the coronation ceremony. Therefore,Sikkimhas a special place in His Holiness’s heart because even during his busy international tour schedules, he manages to visitSikkimquite often and blesses the devotees. Construction of meditation Lhakang for His Holiness at Tashiding by the current Honorable Chief Minister ofSikkim, Dr. Pavan Kumar Chamling, is perhaps a continuation of that historical legacy.
Remembering his kindness, in 2010, I sat down for 6 months to hand write in traditional Umed style Tibetan calligraphy. I managed to set a world record by creating the longest calligraphic scroll ever written. The 165 meters long scroll contained long life prayers composed by 34 great spiritual lineage masters of Tibetspanning over almost 70 years from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. As I was copying each word written by the great masters, including Regent Tagdra, Reting Rinpoches, 16th and 17th Gyalwang Karmapas, Sa Ngor Tsar sum masters, Kyabji Dojom Rinpoche and Kyabji Khentse Rinpoche etc., I was entirely immersed in the task and often wondered with deep respect about the state of mind of these great masters that composed the originals. These prayers ooze divine love, respect and devotion in their every word which is composed for the long life of His Holiness. “His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama,” as one master wrote “has surpassed the glorious activities of the great fifth Dalai Lama and Guru Padmasambhava combined”. Kyabji Jamyang Khentse Chokyi Lodoe had in his composition in 1950’s even predicted about the global activities of His Holiness.
International communities, belonging to different faiths and ideologies have received His Holiness with arms wide open, expressing their love and respect. From 1957, when His Holiness was first awarded the doctorate of letter byBanarasHinduUniversitytill today, he has been honored 139 times including 63 Honorary doctorates from prestigious universities across the globe. Honorary citizen from Canada to Paris in France and 47 peace and humanitarian awards including, Ramon Magsaysay Award (Philippines), The Nobel Peace Prize, U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, Democracy Service Medal, NED, Washington, International Acharya Sushil Kumar Peace Award (Canada), Basavashree Award (India), Order of the White Lotus, Kalmykia (Russian Federation), Templeton Prize and many more.
Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism had prophesied in the 7th century “When the iron bird flies, and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world, and the Dharma will come to the land of the red faced people”. Today, His Holiness is a global leader and most of the great spiritual masters are living outside of Tibet in free countries. One of my Nepali Buddhist friend rightly remarked “His Holinesses is like a Buddha, a universal spiritual leader who transcends geographical borders’”. The impact of his personality and devolution of political power could be seen during the Kalachakra Puja in Bodhgaya in December. Almost 60 percent of the attendees who came to the teachings were ‘politically’ non-Tibetans from the Himalayan region ofIndia from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. Others were fromNepal from Drachula toTaplejung,Bhutan,Mongolia. Many people from western countries and people of Chinese origin were also in attendance.
Unfortunately today, Tibet’s 2500 years old Buddhist tradition is facing a renewed threat from the Communist rulers in China. A latest order issued by Chinain March 8, 2010, states “The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid” China has become known as the epicenter for producing a wide variety of fake products and is now working to add one more by making fake ‘living Buddhas’, the communist style. Separating the Dalai Lama from the hearts of Tibetans, which they are enforcing in Tibet today by what is called ‘patriotic re-education campaign’, will be much more difficult task for them than building theGreat Wall of China because His Holiness is in the DNA of Tibetans. Sadly enough, as of today when I am writing this article, 42 monks and nuns have so far already spoken their mind through self-immolation in occupiedTibet.
We are confident that His Holiness, as promised, will live up to 113 years and pray for his health and the continuance of his leadership. Whether communism inChinacan survive that long is another matter but, on this auspicious birthday of His Holiness, we can only pray that Chinese leaders get wisdom, respect the sentiments of Tibetans, before more monks and nuns are forced to speak their minds through self-immolation.
The writer is an editorial consultant to Radio Free Asia, Washington, DC and Regional Coordinator for the Conservancy of Tibetan Art and Culture currently based in Sikkim