07/06/2010, 00.00
TIBET – INDIA – CHINA

Dalai Lama’s birthday amid celebrations and repression

Nirmala Carvalho
The Buddhist spiritual leader is 75-year-old today. Contrary to rumours that said he was ill, the Dalai Lama met the faithful gathered in front of his monastery. Speaking to AsiaNews, Tibet’s prime minister-in-exile calls on Pope Benedict to pray for his people, adding that Beijing fears the Dalai Lama, which is why it is oppressing Tibet.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and head of the Tibetan Diaspora in India. In Tibet, persecution against the indigenous population continues. In neighbouring Nepal, Tibetan exiles are now victims of repression. Nepali authorities have in fact arrested dozens of Tibetans who rallied on the Dalai Lama’s birthday.

From Australia to Europe, people have come together to show their support for the Dalai Lama. On this occasion, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate was set to speak before an expected crowd of 5,000 supporters. The meeting was held at a temple in McLeod Ganj, a neighbourhood in the city of Dharamsala that has been the spiritual leader’s headquarters since he went into exile in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. Contrary to rumours that he was ill, the 14th reincarnation of the Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of compassion) personally took part in the celebrations and spoke to the faithful.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, spoke to AsiaNews about the event. “We wish out spiritual leader a long and healthy life,” he said, but we also want “Tibetans around the world to try to put into practice His Holiness’ teachings about non-violence, compassion and prayer.” As for us, since “His Holiness is deeply involved in ecology, there is no better way to celebrate his birthday” than in protecting the environment. “During the year, we shall take steps to improve and protect the environment, as Buddhism teaches us.”

Despite these positive elements, the Chinese government has not allowed Tibetans to celebrate the birthday. Tibetans cannot wish the Dalai Lama long life or burn incense for him in accordance with their tradition. Even showing his picture could land people in jail.

For Beijing, the Buddhist leader is a dangerous separatist. Nevertheless, “Each and every Tibetan, both inside and outside the country, will celebrate his Holiness’ birthday,” Rinpoche said.

For those in Tibet, “there will be inner celebrations, in one’s heart. People will pray and accumulate merits by doing good deeds on this day.”

“When Chinese authorities impose ridiculously restrictive measures, they display a deep insecurity and fear, especially about the Dalai Lama’s popularity.” Ultimately, “They may use their power to suppress and oppress Tibetan hearts; they may even control their bodies, but they cannot control their hearts and minds.”

Lastly, this celebration provides an “opportunity to thank all peace-loving people for the support they have shown Tibetans,” the prime minister said. “They continue to encourage us and have not succumbed to pressures.”

“With folded hands, we call on his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to bless the Dalai Lama and pray for him, for the suffering people of Tibet and for peace and harmony in humanity.”

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