On the Birthday of My God

Date - 6th of July, 1935. Place – Takster village in the Amdo province of north-eastern Tibet. It was the fifth day of the fifth month in the Wood Pig year as per the Tibetan calendar; a new member joined the big family of Choekyong Tsering and Diki Tsering. It’s a boy this time. The Tserings brought sixteen children to earth, only seven survived. The newest addition to their family was named Lhamo Thondup – Goddess who accomplishes all wishes. Little did the poor farmer family know that this boy was going to be the global icon of peace and humanity during the most vulnerable time period in the history of mankind. That he would be known to the whole world as Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gytaso – His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

One of the most extraordinary traits of Tibetan Buddhism is their deep-rooted faith in the theory of reincarnation – a soul takes multiple births until it reaches the Nirvana. And only a truly enlightened one can achieve Nirvana – the one who has learned what the Void or Shunyata is. However, a Bodhisattva is the one who, despite being enlightened, has voluntarily delayed the Nirvana in order to teach the mankind. A Dalai Lama is a Bodhisattva who also happens to be the manifestation of Lord Avalokiteshvara – the Bodhisattva of compassion, the One who gazes down upon the mankind. Dalai means ocean in Mongolic language, and Lama means teacher. A Dalai Lama is the ‘teacher spiritually as deep as the ocean’. He is the head of the Gelugpa or the Yellow-hat sect of Vajrayana Buddhism. Chronologically, Gelugpa is the youngest of all four prominent sects of Vajrayana – it rose to power not before than 17th century when the Mongol king Ghusri Khan vested the supreme authority to the fifth Dalai Lama in 1642. However the Gelugpa sect was established during the 15th century by Je Tsongkhapa or more popularly known as Je Rinpoche.

His Holiness was only two years old when he was recognised as the reincarnation of his predecessor Thubten Gyatso, HH the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Traditionally, a search party of monks set out in search of the next Dalai Lama following various signs and visions pointing to the possible area where He could be found. One morning the monks observed that the embalmed body of Thubten Gyatso which had been facing south, was facing northeast. Also the Regent, the Fifth Reting Rinpoche had a vision of a monastery with three floors and a turquoise and gold roof and a little house with twisted gutters in front of it. It took them several months to trace the location of the little house and the monastery that later turned out to be the monastery of Kumbum in the Amdo province. Little Thondup passed all the tests with much ease. He seized only the belongings of the Thriteenth Dalai Lama from all the objects offered to him.

In 1940, he was brought to the Potala Palace in Lhasa and his journey as the spiritual king of Tibet began. It was not easy for a little boy to enjoy a life of absolute divinity and solitude. He looked out at the outer world with an insatiable curiosity. The mere spiritual education was not enough for him. He was destined for more. And that’s why probably the gods brought him Heinrich Harrar – the Austrian explorer who would help in shaping the adolescent mind of one of the greatest world leaders of all time. It is quite extraordinary how fate sometimes brings two people close together.

October, 1950 – the darkest time in the history of Tibet. The People’s Republic of China marched into Tibet after defeating the Tibetan army. Amidst the utmost turbulence, HH the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, at the age of 15, was officially enthroned as the temporal ruler of Tibet. The day was 17th November, 1950.

The rest of the history is more political than a spiritual one. In 1959, upon receiving the threat of assassination, His Holiness and his closest followers and advisers fled Tibet with the help of CIA and took refuge in India. India offered him political asylum – he established the Government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. And since then His Holiness’s fight for the freedom and sovereignty of Tibet never stopped for a single day. China has called him a separatist and, well, a terrorist. No wonder China is best friends with Pakistan.

On December 10, 1989, he said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech,
“No matter what part of the world we come from, fundamentally we are all the same human beings. We all seek happiness and want to avoid suffering. We all have essentially the same needs and similar concerns. As human beings, we all want to be free, to have the right to decide our own destiny as individuals as well as the destiny of our people. That is human nature.
.... I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, so that together we can succeed in building a better world through mutual understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.” 

A very happy birthday to His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. May he live a very long, happy and healthy life. In a world as tumultuous as ours, we need him more than ever.

Image courtesy: google images