The premises of the Tsuglagkhang and the yard before it were packed with people this morning for the first of two days celebrations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. The Tibetans included many monks and nuns, as well as laypeople in their best clothes and students from Tibetan schools. At 8 o’clock His Holiness was escorted from the gates of his residence up to the Tsuglagkhang, where he greeted the assembled guests and took his seat on the throne. Seated before him on a line of thrones were the leaders of the Tibetan spiritual traditions: to the right, Sakya Daktri Rinpoche, Menri Khen Rinpoche, Gyalwang Karmapa, Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, Taglung Shabdrung Rinpoche, and to the left Ganden Tri Rinpoche, Katok Getse Rinpoche and a representative of the Drukchen Rinpoche. Behind them sat abbots and retired abbots of the great monasteries.
Several prayers, among them Praises to the Buddha, the ‘Invocation of the Seventeen Sagacious Adepts of Glorious Nalanda’ and an invocation of the Series of Reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas, preceded the Long-Life Offering. This was presented by the Central Tibetan Administration, the Domay Community and the Gelug International Foundation and presided over by Sakya Dagtri Rinpoche. During the ceremony the Tse-ring Che-nga and Nechung Oracles appeared separately in trance. They each paid their respects to His Holiness and gathered spiritual and political leaders together in front of him to say prayers. Sakya Dagtri proclaimed the long Eulogy and Request to live long in conjunction with the offering of the mandala of the universe. He, the Sikyong and the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament together offered the mandala to His Holiness. Symbolic offerings of the 8 Auspicious Symbols, the 7 Emblems of Royalty and the 8 Auspicious Substances were presented, while a procession of other offerings was carried through the temple.
The ‘Song Accomplishing Longevity’ composed by His Holiness’s two Tutors, another Long-Life prayer by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro and a prayer to Guru Rinpoche for the fulfilment of wishes were recited to complete the ceremony.
His Holiness briefly addressed the congregation. He explained that according to the Tibetan reckoning his birthday was the 5th of the 5th month, which falls today. Because of the variations of the Tibetan lunar calendar 6th July had been accepted as his birthday according to the regular conventional calendar. He continued:
“The CTA, Domay Community and Gelug International Foundation initiated this offering. My living siblings, Gyalo Thondup, Jetsun Pema and Tenzin Choegyal have gathered here along with many of my nieces and nephews. Sakya Dagtri Rinpoche has presided over the ceremony in the presence of the leaders of Tibet’s spiritual traditions. You’ve all made fervent prayers and I’d like to thank you.
“As far as the Gelug Foundation is concerned, monks, abbots and retired abbots are here in addition to the Ganden Tri Rinpoche who has been conducting a week long rite in conjunction with this Long-Life Ceremony. It follows instructions contained in the 5th Dalai Lama’s ‘Secret Visions’. The 5th Dalai Lama had two statues made of Chenresig, one of which remained in Lhasa, while the other was in Kyirong. They were regarded like brothers. He conducted meditation retreats in their presence and experienced a series of visions. The cycle of teachings deriving from them has been a practice of all the Dalai Lamas since and the text for this Longevity Ritual is taken from them.
“I received the empowerments and transmission of these teachings from Tagdrag Rinpoche in Tibet. While I was receiving them I experienced dreams that I didn’t pay much attention to at the time. However, I’ve since realised they were propitious. Today, the people and deities of Tibet have made prayers for my long life. Doctors also suggest I could live another 20 years or so. I’m 80 now; let’s plan to celebrate again when I’m 90.”
“Although there is no freedom in Tibet, people there too are praying for my long life, even if they can’t do so openly, but they have faith, devotion and a special connection with me. I’d like to thank you all.”
His Holiness said that he has been asked what he’d like as a birthday gift and he has replied that as a Buddhist monk he has no particular wishes. However, he urged people to try and engage in spiritual transformation. He said we all have the potential to do good in the world, but that we need to take action rather than just talk about it.