Concerns for Tibet’s Future as Dalai Lama Celebrates 75th Birthday
Tibetan exiles and Buddhist followers celebrated the Dalai Lama’s 75th birthday on Tuesday in the Himalayan hill town of Dharamsala, amid growing concerns over his health and future of the Tibetan movement.
Carrying colorful umbrellas, hundreds of Tibetans and followers from across the world gathered in amid heavy rains to participate in the birthday celebrations of the Dalai Lama who has been living in exile since he fled Chinese rule in Tibet in 1959.
The Dalai Lama, who usually does not attend his own birthday celebrations, made a rare appearance to accept the greetings of his well-wishers.
[Thupten Samphal, Spokesman, Tibetan Government-in-Exile]:
„Normally, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama does not attend his birthday commemorations, but since he has been requested by the Tibetan Parliament, by the Kashag, he has personally attended this particular 75th birthday commemoration. So, all of us are gathered here to express our deep, deep gratitude to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, for making us survive as one cohesive community in exile.“
It was a bittersweet moment for many of his followers who pondered over the future of their movement after he is gone.
Many Tibetans fear that after the Dalai Lama, who has spearheaded the Tibetan movement, a leadership vacuum would be created that Beijing could exploit to tighten its grip over the restive Himalayan region.
Others also fear that the loss of their most recognized leader could weaken the unity of the Tibetan movement, and potentially trigger widespread unrest in ethnic Tibetan regions across China.
[Lobsang Wangyal, Tibetan Exile]:
„Now because he is coming of age and many people are getting concerned because Dalai Lama has been the face of the Tibetan movement, very charismatic, very able, very benevolent and at the same time he has been a consensus person for Tibetan people – so it because of this reason that what will happen to the Tibetan movement after the Dalai Lama goes away out of the scene.“
However, for most it was a day to celebrate, with Tibetan dancers in traditional costumes performing to the beats of folk music in front of a rain-drenched audience.
Performers from the host nation India also joined in with traditional dances to honor the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Concerns over the 1989 Nobel peace laureate’s frail health have been worrying many of his followers for the past few years.
The Dalai Lama has made several trips to the doctors in the recent years due to his poor health – ranging from surgery for gallbladder stones to pain in his arms.
Many see the Karmapa Lama, the third highest monk in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama.