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Dalai Lama is ultimate symbol of Tibet as a nation, writes Ngodup Dongchung

dalaif Dalai Lama | Reuters

As the world celebrates the 87th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on July 6, it is a bittersweet moment for me. On the one hand, I feel deeply blessed that I have had the opportunity to serve the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan administration in various capacities for 45 years, including during some extremely challenging times. On the other hand, as they say, all good things must come to an end. It is about time I pass down the torch to the younger crops of Tibetan civil servants.

Needless to say, the Dalai Lama today is a world-renowned spiritual and moral leader who has been residing in Dharamshala for over 63 years as an honored guest of India. What was once a remote and desolate hill town, Dharamshala now is a sprawling city in itself, with five, sometimes six, daily direct flights from Delhi. Dharamshala today has, in a way, become a spiritual capital for the world Buddhists and a harbour for those seeking meaning in life and spirituality.

For Tibetans, as well as those from the Himalayan Buddhist belt and beyond, the Dalai Lama would be first and foremost a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion – the patron saint of Tibet. Since 1642, the Dalai Lamas have been the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is as such the ultimate symbol of Tibet as a nation and its people with its own distinct historical, religious and cultural identity.

On his part, His Holiness however has consistently endeavored to modernise by means of genuine democracy what used to be a theocratic system of Tibetan governance. In common Tibetan parlance, our vibrant democracy is often distinguished as “a gift from His Holiness”. Following the complete devolution of the Dalai Lama’s political and administrative responsibilities in 2011, the democratic system of Tibetan administration today is led by an elected leadership, with clear checks and balances in the powers of the executives, legislature and judiciary.

Apart from the promotion of human values and inter-religious harmony, and his active advocacy for the preservation of the global environment, His Holiness has been hailed across the world as a harbinger of peace and non-violence. His Holiness often states that the 21st century should be a century of dialogue and has tirelessly advocated for non-violence and dialogue as the only means for true, lasting reconciliation and resolving all global conflicts. His Holiness was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for consistently opposing the use of violence in his struggle to free Tibet and for advocating peaceful solutions based on tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.

One of His Holiness’ most enduring global contributions is his revival of the ancient Indian knowledge and wisdom of ahimsa and karuna. Distant are those days when some shrugged Tibetan Buddhism as adulterated or exotic “Lamaism”. His years of extensive interactions with scientists and academics from all across the globe has created a deeper understanding of and a clear demarcation between the Buddhist science and philosophy and the Buddhist religious practice. The Buddhist science and philosophy based on the ancient Indian Nalanda tradition, which deals with the intricate functioning of the mind, has therefore already become a secular academic subject taught and researched in various prestigious universities and schools.

As His Holiness often reiterates a prayer saying, "As long as space remains, as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I too remain to help dispel the misery of the world.” I also would like to conclude here with a prayer saying just as in this life I was blessed with an opportunity to serve the Dalai Lama, may the troves of my karmic merit be wholesome enough that I can serve him again, and again, in all my future lives.

The writer is the representative of Dalai Lama, based in New Delhi.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.


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