Washington, DC: Over 6,000 Tibetans and Tibet supporters flocked to the Verizon Centre in Washington, DC to wish His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his 76th birthday, Wednesday.
The day also being the first day of the Kalachakra teachings began with Kalachakra ritual preparation prayers. The actual program to celebrate His Holiness’s birthday started 10 am with younger members of the Capital Area Tibetan Association (CATA) performing a Tibetan song to welcome His Holiness on stage.
Mr Martin Luther King III, son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mr Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, accompanied His Holiness on to the stage.
Representatives of various communities including Indians, Kalmyks, Mongolians, Japanese, Chinese, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, Americans and Tibetans led a traditional greeting procession to honour the Dalai Lama. His Holiness was also presented the first copy of a book titled Jigten Migpe, which showcases photos from His Holiness’s life.
A personal video message from His Holiness’ long-time friend and supporter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was screened. The Archbishop gave his best wishes to His Holiness and praised him for being an ‘unparalleled force of positivity and compassion’ in the world.
Mr Arun Gandhi in his address invited everyone to take a pledge to commit themselves to non-violence as a birthday gift for His Holiness.
Mr. Martin Luther King III called the Dalai Lama a ‘gigantic spiritual leader’ and said, “Today we celebrate the luminous example of courage and dedication to peace and goodwill you have provided, and we draw hope and inspiration from your continued visionary leadership.”
His Holiness in his address thanked Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mr Arun Gandhi, Mr Martin Luther King III and everyone in the audience. His Holiness reiterated the importance of religious harmony and reminded the audience that the real source of happiness ‘lies within ourselves’.
His Holiness also spoke in Tibetan to address Tibetans in Tibet and those gathered at the Verizon Centre. The Tibetan spiritual leader emphasised the importance of preserving the Tibetan language, remarking that it is the ‘only language retaining the most comprehensive documentation of Buddha’s teachings’. He also encouraged Tibetan students to pursue higher education and specialisation in various fields.
Addressing the recent devolution of his political authority, His Holiness assured that it was ‘not an act of submission or lack of hope’. Instead, calling the changes a ‘positive development’, His Holiness said that the successful devolution of political authority has not only added more legitimacy to the Tibetan government in exile, but also ‘solidified the foundation for the long term sustenance of the Tibetan administration’.
“China has repeatedly claimed that the issue of Tibet is dependent on just one person,” His Holiness said. “This devolution of political power has rendered that assumption completely baseless.”
The program concluded with a happy birthday song joyously sung by Kalacharka attendees followed by a parade to the National Mall to celebrate His Holiness’ life and achievements.
This is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 31st Kalachakra empowerment. The event is organised by Capital Area Tibetan Association.