New Delhi: “I’m now 85 years. Since I am okay, I am looking forward to another 15, 20 years. If you judge from my voice, it’s quite good. I often ask people, including security persons in the morning when I meet them, what they think of my age. They make a guess of around 70. Then I tell them that I am in the 80s… They say I look very young.” - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The world’s most respected spiritual leader is turning 85 on July 6 and his followers have lined up global virtual celebrations to dedicate him the ‘Year of Gratitude’. ‘‘This year we have planned many big and small events to celebrate his birthday, and also to thank him for his great and compassionate leadership. But because of this Wuhan originated Coronavirus and the global pandemic it has created, all the major events have been downsized. These will be done virtually around the world,’’ Tsewang Gyalpo Arya, Information Secretary at the Department of Information and International Relations of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) told Asianet Newsable. 

‘‘We have already received many video messages from many eminent and common people from different walks of life wishing His Holiness on his birthday. We shall accordingly bring this to his notice. Important thing to remember is that His Holiness usually says that the best gift anybody could give him on his birthday is to do some good and kind work to help others,’’ he added.

Arya further said that in Washington DC, the Office of Tibet-DC will host a virtual celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday on July 6th from 10:00 am – 11:30 am. This celebration will feature special guest speakers, prayers, and music. ‘‘Department of Information and International Relation (DIIR) will release a booklet – ‘Wisdom Mind: sayings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’ on the occasion of his birthday. There are 113 popular quotations of the Dalai Lama in the book,’’ he added.

The Inner World team will share a special 85th birthday celebration for His Holiness on July 6th - the same day that Inner World is released. This dedication will be live streamed twice, at 9am (Delhi) and 1pm (New York). This will also be streamed on both the Inner World YouTube channel and Facebook page.

The program will include an introduction by longtime student and friend of His Holiness, Richard Gere as well as other special guests, birthday messages, and musical performances, including one by Anoushka Shankar, who will debut a performance of Ama La.

Revered by the Tibetans as a ‘living god’ and idolised in the Orient and the West, elderly Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama transcends all barriers of religion, language and even distances. The Nobel laureate spiritual leader said, “At age 16, I took the responsibility. Then Tibet’s situation was very difficult and delicate, so the Regent asked me to take the responsibility. The previous Dalai Lama took the responsibility at the age of 18. I told him that the age of 16 years was too early, but the circumstances forced me to take the responsibility. So, I lost my own freedom. At 24, I lost my country…then there were a lot of problems. Now looking back, I think all my major decisions eventually seem very correct.”

In 1959, the occupying Chinese troops suppressed the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa and forced the Dalai Lama and over 80,000 Tibetans into exile in India and neighbouring countries. On reaching India after a three-week-long treacherous journey, the Dalai Lama first took up residence for about a year in Mussoorie in Uttarakhand.

On March 10, 1960 just before moving to Dharamsala, which also serves as the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan establishment, the Dalai Lama had said: “For those of us in exile, I said that our priority must be resettlement and the continuity of our cultural traditions. We, Tibetans, would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet.” Currently, India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans and the government-in-exile, which has never won recognition from any country.

Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, President, Tibetan government-in-exile said that despite the restrictions imposed by the Wuhan-originated coronavirus pandemic, there will be no shortage of celebrations for the 85th birthday of Tibet’s most esteemed leader and global icon, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The Kashag of Central Tibetan Administration is all geared up to mark the 85th birthday celebration of His Holiness with a series of worldwide virtual events, musical tributes and a yearlong campaign dedicated to His Holiness and his glorious contributions to Tibetan people and worldwide.

The 6th July celebration at the CTA headquarters will be observed through a high-level gathering of senior dignitaries of not more than 50 as per the Home Ministry’s coronavirus guidelines for public gatherings. Likewise, Tibetan settlements throughout India will mark the occasion with official ceremonies all the while ensuring strict adherence to the respective district, state and central guidelines. A series of virtual celebrations and events are already in progress since 1st July and will continue till 30 June 2021 as a yearlong tribute to the Tibetan supreme spiritual leader and his lifelong achievements, Dr Sangay added.

“As His Holiness turns 85, one cannot but marvel at his glorious achievements and the immeasurable contributions to the Tibetan community and the world alike. His Holiness’ legacy will be written in golden words in the annals of Tibetan history. Such is the grand lifework and contribution to the preservation of Tibet’s cultural, religious, historical, and linguistic heritage as well as to the promotion of non-violence, human rights, religious tolerance, environmental awareness, and democracy around the world,” Dr Sangay said.

In appreciation of all his outstanding contributions, the CTA and Tibetans around the world are observing the year from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 as ‘Year of Gratitude’ to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and endeavour to share, promote and celebrate the teachings and the lifework of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan Institute Performing Arts will dedicate this year’s Yarkyi musical tribute to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for the first time broadcast it live via TTV to provide relief and healing for people around the world who are battling the emotional distress and anxieties of COVID-19. Likewise, TTV is broadcasting a series of films and documentaries in tribute to His Holiness the Dalai Lama every Wednesday starting 1st July. With the celebrations right around the corner amidst the ongoing COVID restrictions, Tibetans around the world are ringing in the 85th birthday of their supreme leader and the ‘Year of Gratitude’ with virtual tributes and celebrations planned on a grand scale throughout the year.