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His Holiness the Dalai Lama Grants Special Audience to Participants of the 27th Shoton Festival

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with participants of the Sho-tön Opera Festival at the Main Tibetan Temple courtyard in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 22, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

By  —  BT NEWSDESK

This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked from his gate to take his seat in the veranda beneath the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple. 353 performers, members of opera groups from several Tibetan settlements, who had taken part in the recent Sho-tön Opera Festival, were gathered in the temple courtyard to meet him.

A lead singer of each group came to the microphone to sing to His Holiness, while members of the group joined in from where they sat. First was a representative of the opera group from Bhandra Tibetan settlement who began by singing the first two lines of the single verse prayer for His Holiness’s long life:

In the land surrounded by a fence of snow mountains
You are the source of all good and happiness

A performer from Chauntra TCV School took up the song singing the last two lines of the same verse.

Tenzin Gyatso, Lord Chenrezig
May you live until the cycle of existence comes to an end.

A singer from the Mainpat group led a prayer of auspiciousness for Tibet, then another from Bylakuppe sang a prayer of good fortune that referred to juniper trees whose leaves are burned as incense. Next came a singer from Mundgod. A group from Odisha sang about ‘Making offerings to the Three Jewels’.

A participant of the Sho-tön Opera Festival performing for His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Main Tibetan Temple courtyard in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 22, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

The Upper TCV group sang, ‘May Your Holiness live a long life…’ Performers from Kollegal sang ‘You elucidate the combined path of emptiness and compassion …’ from a prayer His Holiness wrote as the request of Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoché. Opera singers from Nepal sang for His Holiness. A troupe from Kalimpong sang:

May the omniscient one sit on the golden throne
And may peace prevail on earth.

Finally, artistes from TIPA sang verses from the opera known as Prince of Firm Faith. The performers then filed past His Holiness to receive his blessings.

Addressing the crowd, His Holiness recalled that the Sho-tön Opera Festival used to be one of his favourite holidays when he was living in Lhasa.

“I was always excited by the prospect,” he told them. “The festival took place over four days and I was delighted. Four different groups would perform. I remember that the members of the Gyang-kar-wa sang particularly sweetly. I cannot sing, but I used to nod my head in time to the music. So, it made me happy to listen to all of you sing here this morning.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the crowd during his meeting with participants of the Sho-tön Opera Festival at the Main Tibetan Temple courtyard in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 22, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

“Since we came into exile as refugees, we have made efforts to preserve our cultural heritage. In Tibet there are so many restrictions it’s difficult for our fellow Tibetans there to do so. However, for more than a thousand years we have kept our traditions alive.

“I would like the Tibetans in Tibet to know that in the long run truth will prevail. In the meantime, those of us living in free countries are doing our best to preserve and promote our culture in its many aspects.

“I am glad to know that this Sho-tön has been held here in Dharamshala and I thank you for your spirited performances.

“I’m nearly 90 now but I feel quite confident, as the prayer says: ‘May you live for a hundred years…,’ that I may live to be 110. Tibetans inside Tibet and elsewhere place their trust in me so feel I must live to be 110 or so.

“Tibetans inside Tibet, as well as those of us in exile, including many of us in India, must remain undaunted by the troubles we face. We must remain determined and resilient. We have the support of the people of the Himalayan Region. I too am determined to serve as well as I can.”

Turning to the 175 women who had taken part in the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) meeting, His Holiness mentioned that sometimes women may seem to be undervalued.

President of Tibetan Women’s Association Tenzin Dolma along with delegates to the TWA General Body Meeting listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Main Tibetan Temple courtyard in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 22, 2024. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

“However,” he declared, “women are a source of our survival. Tibetan women in exile have been strong. Indeed, when it comes to preserving our culture of love and compassion women in particular have played a strong and courageous role.

“The communist Chinese have tried to eliminate our culture and traditions, but have failed. We have kept our traditions, including our operatic traditions, alive. As I said, change will come to China, but our courage and determination will not waver. I have done my best so far and will continue to do so in the coming decades. That’s all. Thank you.

Members of the TWA group posed for a photograph with His Holiness followed by each of the various opera groups. Then, as His Holiness left for his residence in a golfcart, the performers joyfully celebrated their audience with him by singing and dancing in the temple courtyard.