Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India, 5 April 2023: This morning, an elaborate prayer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s long life was offered to him at the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple, by students, staff and former students of the Tibetan Homes Foundation and the Central School for Tibetans (CST) Mussoorie, as well as former students and vocational trainees of CST Panchmari, Madhya Pradesh.
The temple, and the path through the yard, were bedecked with flowers and, after several days of rain and cold weather, the sun shone brightly in a clear blue sky. As His Holiness stepped through the gate into the yard he was welcomed by richly costumed dancers, staff and students of the schools making the offering, who sang and danced for him. His Holiness beamed with joy as he waved to well-wishers on his way to the temple.
Having taken his seat on the throne, as a mark of auspiciousness, he recited a verse from end of Tsongkhapa’s ‘Great Treatise on the Stages to the Path to Enlightenment’:
Wherever the Buddha’s teaching has not spread
And wherever it has spread but has declined
May I, moved by great compassion, clearly elucidate
This treasury of excellent benefit and happiness for all.
Facing His Holiness and presiding over the ceremony were Tatsak Kundeling Rinpoché, Osel Dorjé Rinpoché, Namgyal Tratsang Löbpön Rinpoché and Gyutö Khensur Lawa Rinpoché.
As the ceremony got underway, the congregation recited the ‘Seven-line Prayer to Guru Rinpoché’, a ‘Prayer Invoking Guru Rinpoché’ by His Holiness and ‘Clouds of Ambrosial Blessings’, which, composed by Trulshik Rinpoché, invokes His Holiness previous lives in India and Tibet.
While tea and sweet rice were served, His Holiness addressed the assembly.
“Today, those of you gathered here are offering me this Long-life Prayer,” he observed, “but those of us in exile are few in number. On the other hand, people in Tibet, China and Mongolia also wish that I live long. In places where the teaching has spread but declined there are people who admire me, while throughout the Himalayan region are many who show me respect.
“I am someone who cultivates bodhichitta and I think it’s that that people admire. In China, I gather there are even party members who think highly of what I stand for. Meanwhile, people across the three provinces of Tibet place their hopes in me. So, if I am able to live long it will be of some benefit.
“Those of you in exile and in Tibet as well as concerned people elsewhere, please pray from the depths of your hearts that I may have a long life. I will pray too. Apart from the trouble in my knees, my health is good. I am determined to live to be more than 100 years old to continue to do what I can to help beings.”
Five monks dressed as Skyfarers or dakinis gathered before the throne and complex prayers and offerings were conducted to dissuade them from inviting the Lama to their respective pure lands. One by one they were dispatched to their abodes.
Prayers were conducted invoking the various aspects of Guru Rinpoché followed by a prayer for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Supreme Victor and Omniscient One by Jamyang Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö.
Next, in conjunction with a mandala offering Tatsak Rinpoché intoned an appreciation of His Holiness’s kindness along with a request that he live long.
“You are the friend of all sentient beings in the three realms of existence, the Helmsman of World Peace, the unexcelled protector and refuge of the beings of Tibet, the Land of Cool Snow Mountains, and the lord and master of the complete teaching of the Victorious One (Shakyamuni Buddha) on this earth.
“We, the alumni, current students and staff of the Tibetan Homes Foundation (Mussoorie), of the Central School for Tibetans (CST, Mussoorie) as well as the alumni members of the CST Panchmahri and the Vocational Training Centre, Pachmahri (Madhya Pradesh) pay our respects to Your Holiness.
“We are grateful for the light of kindness and compassion you have shone on us, As the ‘Book of Kadam’ mentions, you appeared in India in a series of amazing manifestations such as Radiant Child and led your disciples to the goals of happiness and enlightenment. In order to subdue the wild and difficult-to-tame beings of Tibet, you gradually made them receptive to the Holy Dharma and then appeared as Dharma Kings, translators and learned masters. Thus, you introduced the Dharma to the Land of Snows. Manifesting as monastics observing their precepts you preserved and promoted the precious teaching of the Buddha, causing the traditions of the Seventeen Scholar-adepts of the glorious Nalanda University to spread and flourish widely.
“You took birth in Taktser and began your education, which you pursued through a combination of listening, reflection and meditation. You took ordination as a novice and then as a fully-ordained monk and, having perfected ethical discipline, you sat for the final Geshé Examination at the Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa and became renowned for your scholarship
“In order to bring about the welfare of Tibetan people, you dealt skillfully with the Chinese government and tried to introduce reforms. However, when our collective karma became irreversible and the situation in Tibet became critical, you were able to escape to India. There you built our community in exile, setting up the Central Tibetan Administration and introducing a fully functioning democratic system of governance.
“You established settlements, schools, research and educational institutions for Tibetans, as well as homes for elderly people, hospitals and clinics. By re-establishing monastic institutions in exile, the study and practice of all the religious traditions of Tibet—Sakya, Nyingma, Kagyu, Gelug and Bön-have flourished. We owe all these successes to Your Holiness. You have caused us to enjoy immediate and lasting happiness
“You have travelled to many countries and explained your four main commitments.
We Tibetans are indebted to you for your kindness but would be unable to repay it even if we were to make material offerings for aeons and aeons. And yet, here today, we have organized this long-life prayer based on ‘Amitayus’s Blessing of the Pure Essence of Life’.
“Your Holiness, we offer everything to you—our bodies, our resources and our merits collected through the three times—without expecting any reward. We pledge to follow your words with regard to the mutually beneficial Middle Way Approach and we accept your guidance concerning the protector deities and the ‘perfidious spirit’. We devote our body, speech and mind to following your flawless instructions unflinchingly and without hesitation.
In the land surrounded by a fence of snow mountains
You are the source of all good and happiness
Tenzin Gyatso, Lord Chenrezig
May you live until the cycle of existence comes to an end.
“With this ‘Melodious Offering of Truth-accomplished Sages’ we pray that Your Holiness remain with us. We pray that Tibetans inside and outside Tibet may soon be reunited and that Your Holiness may set foot in the Potala once more. May you care for us, your subjects, throughout all our lives.
“We offer you the seven royal emblems that represent the vast ocean of Buddhafields; we offer representations of the body, speech and mind of the buddhas, along with the eight auspicious symbols and the eight auspicious substances. We also wish to make an offering of our practice.”
Delegates from the various communities of patrons came forward to offer representations of the body, speech and mind of the enlightened ones. His Holiness gave each a silk scarf and a red protective ribbon, patting them on the head as they passed the throne. At the same time a long procession of women and men, young and old, filed through the temple bearing offerings, many of them glancing up at His Holiness with a winning smile.
A large group of student musicians gathered at the back of the temple where they played and sang for His Holiness, wishing that he lives long. When they were done, he called them up to the throne and greeted each one individually.
The ceremony came to an end with recitations of the ‘Prayer for the Flourishing of the Dharma’ and the ‘Prayer of the Words of Truth’.
As he left the temple, His Holiness engaged with members of the public, waving and smiling at them. Here and there he would stop and run his eyes over the upturned faces before him. Where there was an elderly person at the edge of the crowd, he would pat them on the head. Where there were young children, he encouraged one of his attendants to reach into his pocket and give them sweets.
Finally, back in the temple yard, His Holiness boarded a golf-cart that quietly and smoothly carried him home.