By: Novanita Sharma
“So long as space remains,
So long as sentient beings suffer and remain,
I will remain in order to serve.”
One of the most beloved and revered Spiritual leaders of the modern time, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso has a unique story. He was born as the 8th child in a peasant family on 6th July 1935, in a small hamlet located in Takste, Amdo in Northeastern Tibet. At the age of two, the child who was named as LhamoDhondup by his family was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. He was soon to follow a life extraordinaire as the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibetans per the religious and cultural tradition of Tibet. He left Amdo, his birthplace to join the rigorous monastic training in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet at the tender age of 6. He was enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet in 1940. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of compassion and patron saint of Tibet. According to the Mahayani Buddhist philosophy, Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity. The present 14th Dalai Lama is an embodiment of this lineage. He grew up amidst a period of intense political upheaval not only in Tibet but the world at large. The world witnessed the second world war from 1939-1945, Tibet remained a neutral ground and refused permission for the Americans or the Chinese nationalists to transport military supplies through Tibetan territory. Later in the year 1949, the world saw the rise of the People’s Republic of China, the surge of communism in Asia; the self-styled Chinese communist supremo, Mao Zedong immediately announced his intention to ‘liberate Tibet from foreign imperialists’. The 14th Dalai Lama, then 15 years old was compelled to take charge as the political leader of Tibet in 1950. The same year, the Chinese crossed the Yangtse River into Central Tibet without any provocation and claimed that Tibet has always been Chinese territory. The People’s Republic of China didn’t hesitate in showing their overt intentions of aggressive expansionist ideology. The Chinese hegemony continued in the polity and social life of Tibet. The following years were marked by well-conceived coercive political ploys by the invading communist Chinese government and violent repression of Tibetans in all across Tibet. The growing angst amongst the Tibetan people led to revolts; the revolts grew in Eastern Tibet when the Chinese begin destroying monasteries and imposition of collectivization. The violent repression of the Tibetans by the communist Chinese government and the palpable threat to their culture and religion brought thousands of Tibetans to the streets of Lhasa on 10th March 1959in the biggest uprising for the freedom of Tibet. The 23 years old 14th Dalai Lama was forced to escape to India on 17th March 1959 amidst brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising by Chinese troops. His Holiness and thousands of Tibetan refugees found asylum in India after a grueling ordeal of physical and emotional trauma. His Holiness reached NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) after crossing the treacherous Himalayan range on foot for 15 days. Since then he has been living in exile in India for the past 62years, continuing his struggle to give justice to 6 million Tibetans who lost their freedom and human rights under the forceful occupation of Tibet by the racist, draconian regime of communist China from 1959 to the present date. The 14th Dalai Lama was followed by 80,000 Tibetan refugees into a life of exile in India in 1959. Many more thousands followed his route in the coming decades. At present India is home to more than 1 lakh Tibetan refugees. This exodus continues till date.
Nestled amidst the snow-clad ranges of the Himalayas, Dharamsala, a remote hill station in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India became the permanent seat of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile for the past 62 years. This small hill station in India undeniably became the nerve center for the non-violent Tibetan movement for freedom and human rights. His Holiness upheld the highest practice of tolerance and non-violence in his 6 decades-long peaceful struggle to give justice to the 6 million Tibetans who bestowed upon him their trust and leadership in one of the most difficult time in the history of Tibet. His message of universal responsibility, the oneness of humankind, religious harmony and dialogue connected our diverse worlds from East to West in a rather unusual human kinship. Dalai Lama calls himself a simple Buddhist monk, who carries the golden words and philosophy of Lord Buddha to the 7 billion human brothers and sisters. True to his words, the 14th Dalai Lama has remained a stringent adherent and advocate of non-violence and peace all through these years of consistent struggle and trials. There can’t be any denying to his merits in spreading the golden words of peace, compassion and kindness of Buddha Dharma across the globe. An embodiment of Buddha of compassion, the 14th Dalai Lama has enabled the world to warm up to the true spirit of humanity through his exemplary service towards the benefit of mankind based on his firm commitment to promote peace and compassion amongst all. Through his words, he awakened the slumbering conscience of humanity towards the significance of altruism. According to him, the basic human nature is compassionate; we are all the same in a fundamental level. We have the similar need of love and all of us want to overcome pain and suffering in our life. In our mental state, we all stand united. We all experience similar feelings and emotions, the human emotions; our minds work in the same way. This fundamental unity of human beings has been most convincingly conveyed to the entire world through the words and actions of His Holiness. His exemplary practice of tolerance against his adversary and his unwavering commitment to solve world problems through dialogue steers future generations on the path to hope and peace. His present lifetime testifies the strength of his Dharma of peace and non-violence to those who were in doubts; his determination to counter the ruthless oppression of Tibet by the communist Chinese regime through non-violence and compassion is the biggest victory of Tibetan culture and civilization. His Holiness received worldwide recognition for his outstanding humanitarian service; he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The 14th Dalai Lama is one of the most prominent flag bearers of peace in the modern human world. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee called the vision of His Holiness as the ‘philosophy of peace’, this embraces the whole drama of the human world, it encompasses interfaith harmony, universal responsibility, peace and reconciliation, human rights, protection of the environment, education and science. The Dalai Lama has played an unequivocal role in showing the world population the most dignified and amicable way of living through every aspect of his life. He renounced his political leadership as the political head of Tibet in 2011, making way for a democratically elected political leadership for the Tibetan people. He set his journey ahead as the spiritual leader of Tibet after setting firm precedence of dialogue and non-violence to follow its course in finding a permanent solution to the Tibetan cause in the future. His able leadership during the time of the worst political, cultural and humanitarian crisis of Tibet saved the Tibetan culture, language and heritage in its best-preserved form in India. The Tibetan diaspora, living as refugees in different countries across the world, command respect and honor from the host Nations because of their cultural integrity and resilience.
His Holiness never fails to reiterate the significance of ancient Indian traditions of Ahimsa, Karuna and Maiytree. He proudly calls himself as the disciple of ancient Indian philosophy; he carried the essence of this ancient tradition all across the world. The roots of Tibetan Buddhism are deeply engraved in India, several renowned Indian Buddhist scholars and philosophers nourished the growth and establishment of Buddha Dharma in Tibet. In similar footings with his predecessors of the great Nalanda lineage of Buddhist philosophy, His Holiness very eloquently delivered, and to a great extent bolstered the core values and philosophy of Buddha Dharma as taught by Lord Buddha two thousand years ago in India. He himself is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, Gelugpa Sect; but His Holiness never fails to draw inspiration from the human values taught by other religions of the world. He successfully drew world attention to the unifying ethical ground of the major world religions to the forefront. When it comes to cultivating love, compassion, patience, contentment, or the observance of self-discipline and ethical principles, most spiritual traditions are more or less the same. The underlying fundamental differences bring to us a wide range of metaphysical views and philosophies which is very important for the diversity of human civilizations and cultures. This pluralistic human existence is but held in unison through the oneness of our minds and according to His Holiness all the major spiritual traditions possess the same potential to train our minds to act with love and compassion. Our paths may differ but the goal is the same. The path towards our own improvement lie in our choices, it is possible through the practice of compassionate thoughts and actions. The 14th Dalai Lama succeeded in translating the mysterious phenomena called ‘mind’ to the western world and along with it he brought to them a plausible understanding of the feeling of ‘compassion’ and the relevance of its practice in the modern world. The ancient wisdom from the East once again pervaded through all sectarian, political and geographical boundaries through the golden words of His Holiness the 14thDalai Lama. He is a world leader in the true sense, a leader who encourages warm-heartedness amongst the 7 billion human beings.
His Holiness considers it his number one commitment to encourage people to be happy – he is concerned with educating people to realize the real cause of happiness. His genuine warmth and compassionate actions truly showed the world the true essence of happiness; it all lies in our mind. Inner peace and happiness resides in a trained compassionate mind, material comforts can’t give us happiness. A disturbed mind could never be at peace, a disturbed mind with physical comforts could never be happy. On the other hand, if the mind is at peace, even physical pain is bearable. So, our happiness depends on the state of our mind. His Holiness advocates the cultivation of warm-heartedness amongst all. He says “our work is to educate people that the ultimate source of the happy individual, happy family, happy community; and finally happy humanity – even happy world- ultimately depends on warm-heartedness”. He encourages human values like forgiveness, compassion, contentment, tolerance and self-discipline amongst all. According to him all human beings are the same in wanting to be happy and do not want suffering. Hence, the purpose of our life is to be happy, but we ought not to confuse it with material gains. His Holiness often insists in his public talks, his popular writing that humankind must engage in inner disarmament, we ought to replace our negative emotions with warm-hearted compassion in order to lead a more healthy and happy life. According to His Holiness, the problems and violence of the 21st century are not only man-made but many a times are made by educated people. This reflects the lack of moral principles in our existing education system. The present education system is more focused on material progress, not much importance been given to inner values. This needs to change, the 21st-century education system must teach the future generations about the inner values, our academic curriculum must include this heart-education to create a happier and more resilient world in the future. His vision of making the inner values an academic subject is beautifully captured in his words, “just as we take for granted the need to acquire proficiency in the basic academic subjects, I am hopeful that a time will come when we can take it for granted that children will learn, as part of their school curriculum, the indispensability of inner values such as love, compassion, justice and forgiveness”.
This tradition of love, compassion, altruism, and wisdom based on logic, which His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama carried forward in his teachings and actions is a priceless treasure for mankind. His Holiness gave hope to the entire world and inspired countless others through his lifelong sadhana of steadfast peaceful endeavor to find permanent solutions to age-old conflicts and problems ailing the human world. The future of our planet, the fate of the millions of other life forms which co-habit this planet with us pins hope in this philosophy for a peaceful co-existence in the future. His vision of the oneness of the human world, a world based on human values, religious harmony, and universal responsibility is the answer to all our problems, his philosophy of compassion and warm-heartedness is the elixir for a happier life in this world and beyond. The world media is throng with the dilemma over the future of the ‘Dalai Lama’ institution. His Holiness himself stated that the decision to continue or discontinue the institution of Dalai Lama solely lies with the people of Tibet and the followers of this institution in the Himalayan region and Mongolia. However, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama never practiced any disparity in spreading his radiant wisdom amongst his brothers and sisters from across the length and breadth of the globe. The essence of his wisdom enriched the entire world, this ancient institution of ‘Dalai Lama’ connects the 7 billion human beings to a tradition of resilience and hope. The fate of 7 billion human beings and the entire planet won’t be the same in its absence. Let our future generations also find direction in their lives from the guiding light of the ‘Dalai Lama’ institution, let this planet and the entire universe continue to benefit from the rich knowledge and wisdom of this ancient tradition of Buddha Dharma. The outstanding repository of knowledge and wisdom represented by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is an indispensable asset for the entire mankind, it must continue in its full glory till this universe remains. The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet very ably enhanced the spiritual and humanitarian role of the ‘Dalai Lama’ institution apart from its political significance. For the world, the institution of ‘Dalai Lama’ literally epitomizes its meaning, ‘ocean of wisdom’.
His Holiness is considered as the Buddha of compassion by his followers; he who has chosen to halt his own enlightenment and have pledged to take rebirths into the samsara till all sentient beings are free of suffering. Such is his commitment to the cause of spreading this message of compassion and kindness amongst all. The 14th Dalai Lama has indeed been successful in his resolute purpose of bringing people closer to lead meaningful lives of altruistic actions and warm-hearted compassion. As he says, the world is getting better; the world leaders are talking about education and the global economy instead of war and nuclear warfare. The 21st century is dedicated to dialogue. More and more people are drawn towards voluntary work, creativity is more focused to benefit mankind, and more people are getting access to education and health facilities. There is no denying that a lot is yet to be done, many more of us are yet to join this revolution but the change is definitely happening. This is the change driven by the spirituality of mind; this is essentially the change of our thoughts, feelings, emotions which find its expression in altruistic actions. This trend was set thousands of years ago by Shakyamuni Buddha, its reflection evident in India and many other countries in the rich Buddhist cultures. His Holiness has done wonders to all of us by reviving this tradition yet again for the benefit of not only his followers but for the sake of entire mankind. As a mark of respect and deep gratitude to his exemplary service towards the benefit of mankind, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, we owe our whole-hearted participation in his mission to bring happiness to every living being. As per his words, let’s empower our minds towards Bodhichitta, the one who seeks enlightenment through the motivation of compassion to benefit others. In other words, let’s rise towards our happier realms through warm-hearted actions to benefit others through compassion and kindness. Make your days meaningful by helping someone every day. Our compassionate actions will be the greatest celebration of his 86th birth anniversary, 6th July 2021. I bow to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet on this special occasion to celebrate his 86th birthday all across the world. Let this celebration be meaningful, let this celebration be a commitment to his values and his teachings.
“Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible.”
- His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama
(The author is a Guwahati-based environment activist who wholeheartedly supports the Tibetan Freedom Movement and is part of a people’s forum, ‘Free Tibet- A voice from Assam. This forum supports the Tibetan cause and works to gather support and create awareness among the people of Northeastern India regarding Tibet, its history, culture, its peaceful freedom movement, and its importance for India. She can be reached at [email protected])