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US Special Coordinator Uzra Zeya visits Dharamshala, meets Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama

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US Special Coordinator Uzra Zeya and fellow delegates during the audience with H.H. the Dalai Lama at the latter’s residence in Dharamshala on Thursday (Photo/OHHDL)

By Choekyi Lhamo

The US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Uzra Zeya met with Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamshala on Thursday. “It is quite clear that changing Tibetan minds [has] completely failed by the Chinese Communist [Party]. Meanwhile, China themselves thinking [is] rapidly changing; now socialism, Marxism [has] gone,” the exiled leader told the dignitaries. The US official’s two-day visit to Dharamshala comes weeks after the Washington visit of CTA President Penpa Tsering last month.

“Your Holiness, it is my great honour to have this audience with you. I am Uzra Zeya; I am President Biden’s Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues and it is my greatest honour to be received by you. I bring greetings from our President and the American people. Best wishes to your good health and our gratitude for your message of peace for the world,” Zeya said, emphasizing the US’ support for the Tibetan cause.

The octogenarian leader also said that both the United States of America and India are great nations where “democracy ensures complete freedom” for the people. The Dalai Lama noted that India is a noted example of flourishing democracy since all religious traditions live together in India. “That’s unity,” he remarked.

ICT Interim Vice-President Tencho Gyatso, who also accompanied the delegation, in a report prior to the visit said, “We believe this trip can and must translate President Biden’s statements of support into proactive initiatives needed to build on global support for Tibet, including lifting the veil that the CCP’s 70-year occupation is an ‘internal matter’. Negotiations between Chinese and Tibetan representatives must be started.” The State Department announced Monday that she will “travel May 17- 22 to India and Nepal to deepen cooperation on human rights and democratic governance goals, and to advance humanitarian priorities.”

US diplomat Zeya presented the religious leader with a Native American dream catcher, as a mark of solidarity among oppressed groups across borders. As an Under Secretary of State, she is a higher-ranking official than the former Special Coordinator Robert Destro who served in the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, Zeya visited the offices of the CTA including the Kashag secretariat, Supreme Justice Commission, Tibet Museum and Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, after she was welcomed by hundreds of Tibetans.

The CTA official spokesperson Tenzin Lekshay told the press that Under Secretary Zeya’s official visit to Dharamshala is of utmost significance to the cause, “Biden administration’s swift appointment of the position of Special coordinator for Tibet was in itself a notable move. Her visit ensures her will to support the cause, as it is evident by her planned interaction with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and meeting with the CTA official staff. This is indeed the first step through which the coordinator would pave the way for the US government to help the Tibetan cause.”

The US President Joe Biden had earlier promised to appoint a Special Coordinator for Tibet and meet with the revered Dalai Lama. “I’ll work with our allies in pressing Beijing to return to direct dialogue with the representatives of the Tibetan people to achieve meaningful autonomy, respect for human rights, and the preservation of Tibet’s environment as well as its unique cultural, linguistic and religious traditions,” US President Biden had said in September 2020 during his election campaign.

Tibetans hail PM Modi’s visit to Lumbini, warn Nepal to be wary of Chinese manoeuvres

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba at the sacred Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini. (Photo | AP)Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba at the sacred Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini. (Photo | AP)

By   —  Shyamal Sinha

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has announced the development of a Buddhist circuit to enhance cooperation in the field of culture and tourism by further strengthening the historical ties between Nepal and India.

Speaking at a function held to mark the 2566th Buddha Jayanti on Monday, May 15 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Chief Guest, Prime Minister Deuba said that Nepal and India were committed to developing a Buddhist circuit connecting important places related to the life of Lord Gautam Buddha.

He said that such a circuit to connect Lumbini of Nepal with Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar of India would make a positive contribution to the promotion of cultural tourism between Nepal and India. “Buddhists from all over the world will be motivated to visit important places connected with the life of Lord Gautam Buddha in Nepal and India,” he said adding that Nepal was eager to welcome a large number of tourists and pilgrims from India and all over the world to Lumbini, after the inauguration of the recently completed Gautam Buddha International Airport.

The goal he stated was to develop Lumbini as an important heritage of the world and as a center of motivation for world peace. “It is our commitment to developing Lumbini as a world center of Buddhism and philosophy. We appreciate the cooperation and solidarity of all to achieve this sacred goal,” the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Deuba said that the teachings of Lord Buddha are more relevant and meaningful because human beings are facing violence, hostility, and war in different parts of the world today, and the journey towards world peace is becoming more difficult and challenging day by day due to terrorism, arms race, and conflict.

Appreciating the generous and cordial assistance extended by the Government of India in extremely difficult times as well as in good times, Prime Minister Deuba thanked India for its continued support of Nepal’s economic development endeavors.

India and Nepal are deepening cooperation in many spheres, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his first visit to the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini, on Monday. Besides India and Nepal, Tibetans too were upbeat about PM Modi’s visit to Nepal.

“China uses Buddhism for political reasons and we are glad that India and Nepal are strengthening ties again.

 

UN High Commissioner warned of “propaganda minefield” ahead of China

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (Photo/Getty Images)

By Choekyi Lhamo

Over 200 activist and human rights groups have urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to either postpone her official visit to China or “risk walking into a propaganda minefield laid out by the CCP” in a joint letter last week. “During her time in office, the current High Commissioner has failed to raise any concern about the situation in occupied Tibet, which has not been mentioned as a visit location, despite being ranked as the least free place in the world for the second year in a row,” it said, adding that the commissioner’s selective visit to China would be further dampened by what Chain wants her to see.

The letter also noted how the current head for UNHRC has ignored all calls to meet with Tibetan political prisoners, survivors of camps in Uyghur, and Chinese democracy activists ahead of her visit to China. The rights organizations warned against the risk of the High Commissioner being subjected to Beijing’s propaganda efforts to whitewash these numerous struggles and movements. The approval for the visit by a UN representative, granted only after the Winter Olympics, was on the condition that the trip should be “friendly” and not framed as an investigation, according to reports earlier this year.

“There is no doubt that the UN urgently needs to investigate human rights abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese human rights defenders. This includes such investigative trips by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights but such trips must not take place at any price if there is a significant risk that the government involved will prevent free and independent access in the country and exploit the trip for propaganda purposes,” ICT Germany Executive Director Kai Mueller said in a press release.

The lack of transparency in the travel arrangements of the commissioner is another factor for concern, although Bachelet is scheduled to visit China later this month. Tibetan rights groups have raised concerns about her not visiting Tibet, although the region has been voted as the least free country around the globe in the Freedom House 2022 report tying South Sudan and Syria. “In the long term, the visit may even embolden China’s leaders in their efforts to assimilate all non-Han cultures and identities. China may also use the High Commissioner’s visit to reject future requests for access for at least another decade or two,” ICT warned last month.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama attends Mahakala Puja and Gelong Ordination

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama looking out at Mcleod Ganj as he arrives at the main temple for Mahakala Puja. Photo: Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has earlier this morning attended Mahakala Puja and  Gelong Ordination (fully ordained monks vows) held at the main temple and his residence respectively.

The Gelong ordination in the context of Tibetan Buddhism is essentially taking vows not yet taken and the practice supplementing the regeneration of vows to avoid them from degeneration. The monks who are ordained undergo rigorous study and practice Vinaya. They also participate in the bi-monthly confession and restoration ceremony, etc.

Addressing the gathering of ordained monks, His Holiness remarked, “You must feel fortunate for this momentous opportunity to render your service to the Dharma by becoming an ordained Gelong. Before his great renunciation, Buddha being a renowned prince was living a luxurious life but he renounced the world of luxury to live an ascetic life in the service of all sentient beings”.

Around 630 Tibetan and non-Tibetan monks from Drepung, Gaden, Sera and other monasteries across India and some from USA, Belgium Spain, Germany, Ireland, France, Australia, Vietnam, Nepal, Russia, and Mongolia will receive ordination from His Holiness this week and the next.

Before bestowing the ordination, His Holiness visited the main temple to attend the Mahakala puja, a ritual which involves eliminating the obstacles through recitations and the creation of a sand mandala etc.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama looking at the Kalachakra sand mandala under construction at the Kalachakra temple. Photo:Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL.

His Holiness attending Mahakala Puja with monks from Namgyal Monastery. Photo: Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL.

Namgyal monastery chant master leading the prayers during Makala Puja at the main temple. Photo:Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama departing the main temple. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL.

Candidates for Gelong ordination bowing as His Holiness enters the room. Photo/Ven. Tenzin Jamphel/OHHDL.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the candidates for Gelong ordination. Photo:  Ven. Tenzin Jamphel/OHHDL.

His Holiness offering a Buddha statue to the ordained monks. Photo: Ven.Tenzin Jamphel/OHHDL.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the newly ordained Gelong monks. Photo: Ven. Tenzin Jamphel/OHHDL.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama congratulates Professor Lia Diskin on receiving the Padma Shri Award

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Delivery of the Padma Shri Award to Professor Lia Diskin in São Paulo by the Ambassador of India on May 6, 2022.

São Paulo: His Holiness the Dalai Lama congratulates Professor Lia Diskin on receiving the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in recognition of her outstanding service in the field of Social Works. The Padma Shri Awards is one of India’s highest civil honours and seeks to recognise achievements in every field of activity or discipline in which a public service space is involved. Exceptionally, it is granted to non-Indian citizens. The prize was awarded to Professor Lia in January 2020, but the award was handed over today on May 6, 2022, at the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Center in São Paulo. Representative Jigme Tsering and most of board members of Tibet House Brasil were also invited to the ceremony.

Professor Lia Diskin, writer and co-founder of Associação Palas Athena Palas, is also a distinguished member of the board of directors of Tibet House Brasil and coordinator of the visits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Brazil. Her other awards include the Prize for her contribution in the area of ​​Human Rights and Culture of Peace received at the reception of the 60th anniversary of UNESCO; the International Award from the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation of India for her contribution to the promotion of Gandhian values; the 2010 Trip Transformadores Award. She is the editor of more than 50 works by renowned authors, author and co-author of a dozen books, the most recent being: “Vamos Ubuntar? An Invitation to Cultivate Peace” (UNESCO) and “Culture of Peace – Networks of Coexistence” (SENAC). Coordinator of the Culture of Peace Committee, a Palas Athena and UNESCO partnership.

Graduated in Journalism with a specialisation in Literary Criticism from Instituto Superior de Periodismo José Hernandez, in Buenos Aires, she also studied the Upanishads at the Vedanta Society in Uttar Pradesh, India and specialised in the philosophers Nagarjuna and Kamala Shila at the Center for Tibetan Studies and Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India.

-Report filed by Tibet House Brasil

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Brazil. In the photo, HH Dalai Lama autographs his autobiography (Minha Terra e Meu Povo) for Lia, São Paulo – SP, Brazil in 1992 (Photo: museumdapessoa.org).

Prof Lia Diskin from Palas Athena, Brazil welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to an Educating the Heart conversation online from his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on November 24, 2021. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel.

PM Modi to visit Nepal for Buddha anniversary celebrations in mid-May

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File Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepal counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba, in Delhi. (Image: Twitter/Narendra Modi)

PM Nepal  Sher Bahadur Deuba with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File | Photo Credit: MOORTHY RV

By   — Shyamal Sinha

Ahead of Buddha Purnima (birth anniversary) on May 16, the government is planning a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lumbini in Nepal, the Buddha’s birthplace recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site, sources confirmed. Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is also expected to be in Lumbini to mark the occasion, the sources added.

The visit, which comes a month after Mr. Deuba travelled to India for a bilateral visit, is not expected to include a stop to Kathmandu at present.

The visit to Nepal will be one of three trips the Prime Minister will undertake in May, since he restarted international travel after the last Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic spread. He is currently touring Europe, and is expected to travel east for the Quad summit in Japan, expected to be held on May 23 and 24.

While there are no formal bilateral discussions expected during the Nepal visit, the government is moving quickly to announce the next Ambassador to Nepal, to take over after Vinay Kwatra assumed office on Sunday as Foreign Secretary, to be in place before the visit.

According to an official aware of the decision-making, South Block has considered a number of senior IFS officers who have served in Kathmandu or at the “North” desk that oversees ties with Nepal and Bhutan, and are fluent in Nepali, but eventually could choose an official with knowledge of regional dynamics, especially China, to head the mission in Nepal.

The Prime Minister’s visit to Nepal will only last a few hours, and he is expected to pay his respects at the Mayadevi temple, which marks the birthplace of the Buddha, born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama, more than 2,500 years ago.

The focal point for pilgrims is a sandstone carving of the birth of the Buddha, reputedly left here by the Malla king, Ripu Malla, in the 14th century, when Maya Devi was worshipped as an incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess. The carving has been worn almost flat by centuries of veneration, but you can just discern the shape of Maya Devi grasping a tree branch and giving birth to the Buddha, with Indra and Brahma looking on. Directly beneath this is a marker stone encased within bulletproof glass, which pinpoints the spot where the Buddha was born.The focal point for pilgrims is a sandstone carving of the birth of the Buddha, reputedly left here by the Malla king, Ripu Malla, in the 14th century, when Maya Devi was worshipped as an incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess. The carving has been worn almost flat by centuries of veneration, but you can just discern the shape of Maya Devi grasping a tree branch and giving birth to the Buddha, with Indra and Brahma looking on. Directly beneath this is a marker stone encased within bulletproof glass, which pinpoints the spot where the Buddha was born.Maya Devi Temple is located right next to the sacred pool called Pushkarini and a sacred garden.Maya Devi Temple is located right next to the sacred pool called Pushkarini and a sacred garden.

Mr. Deuba is also expected to attend the May 16 ceremonies, which are a part of a special three-day event planned for the first year Buddha Purnima being celebrated since the pandemic broke out in 2020.

Temple trustees have told local media that the two Prime Ministers will take part in the lamp-lighting ceremony at the Mayadevi temple. According to the sources, the Ministry of External Affairs and security officials have already conducted a reconnaissance of the arrangements for the visit, as have Nepali government officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Culture. Mr. Modi will fly from Delhi to the recently inaugurated Kushinagar International airport, and then fly by helicopter to Lumbini, which is a short distance from the India-Nepal border.

This would mark Mr. Modi’s first visit to Nepal since he was re-elected in 2019. In his previous term, he visited Nepal on four occasions, including twice in 2014 and twice in 2018. Plans to visit Lumbini in the past, something he had announced he would do in 2014, have been put off on several occasions, owing to different circumstances. Ties between the two countries underwent a strain over the truck blockade in 2015, and subsequently over the Kalapani border dispute with the KP Sharma Oli government in 2019. In May 2018, Mr. Modi had undertaken similarly religious and cultural visits when he visited Janakpur and Muktinath along with Mr. Oli, but the visit to Lumbini was shelved due to scheduling constraints.

The visit to Lumbini at this time would follow a re-energisation of ties after Mr. Deuba’s visit to Delhi in April 2022, when four agreements and a number of infrastructure projects were launched.

JNU VC urged to exempt Tibetan students from exorbitant fee hike

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Image representational (Photo/IANS)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, May 2: The fee hike imposed on foreign nationals (FN) including Tibetan students at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi since 2019 saw a new development on Monday as the CTA Education minister (Sherig Kalon) Tharlam Dolma met with the recently appointed JNU Vice-Chancellor Prof. Santishree D Pandit to discuss the plight of young Tibetan students.

“There has been mounting concern among Tibetan aspirants regarding the fee hike since many have been unable to pay the necessary amount. JNU VC said that she would look into the matter as we told her how these Tibetans, mostly third or fourth generation, are coming from CBSE affiliated schools and cannot afford the same amount foreign nationals are subjected to,” Secretary Jigme Namgyal, who accompanied Sherig Kalon on the visit, told Phayul. However, he also noted that this issue cannot immediately be resolved but hoped that the JNU administration finds a mechanism to work through the current fee structure to accommodate young Tibetans.

The exorbitant hike in tuition fees was raised in 2019 from $200 per year to $2400 for Humanities (INR 1, 82,400) and $3400 for Sciences (INR 2, 58,400) per year excluding food and lodging charges. Tibetan aspirants have since struggled to enrol themselves in the one of the foremost educational institutions in India due to the financial difficulties faced by families from lower-income backgrounds.

“Personally, I have tried to look for various scholarships in order to meet the required amount. I also noticed some withdrawing from the prospect of enrolment after I told them about the tuition fees,” a student currently enrolled at the university, who wanted to remain anonymous told Phayul. The rising concern, many students say, is the debilitating number of Tibetans in the JNU campus which is known for its unique discursive academic space in India.

PhD candidate Kalsang Nyima from JNU in an op-ed published in Tibetan Review last year said that the new fee structure has created a “tall wall” against the aspirants and urged the CTA leaders to resolve the issue immediately. “The JNU campus is in fact a microcosm of India at large. It reflects all the social problems and a functioning and participatory democracy to find solutions, which makes it the best training ground for “ma ‘ong bod kyi son rtsa” (seed of future Tibet)who would have to hold up the precious democratic exile community,” he further argued.

The exorbitant fee hike was first implemented in 2019, the same year a total of 42 Tibetan students passed the entrance through foreign quota but only 10 students were able to pay the increased fee. Three students dropped out from their respective programs in the following semester as they could not pay the hiked fee.

Roundtable explores media’s role in strengthening democracy in exile

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Panelists discuss ‘Role of Media in Advancing Democracy’ hosted by TCHRD in Dharamshala (Phayul photo)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, May 3: On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, a roundtable with a diverse panel discussed the role of media in strengthening democracy on Tuesday, hosted by the research organization Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamshala. The panel discussed the challenges and the drawbacks faced by the media community in exile, by noting risks and opportunities that could help further strengthen the novice democracy.

Digital Security expert Lobsang Gyatso Sither, Tibet Times editor Pema Tso, former editor of Phayul.com Sherab Woeser, independent researcher Tenzin Nyinjey, and activist & poet Tenzin Tsundue took part in the panel discussion. The experts revised the dominant structure to answer how Tibetan media could effectively challenge Chinese narrative in Tibet, and simultaneously tackle polarisation in the current political scenario.

MP Pema Tso noted how social messaging apps have become sources of information from inside Tibet, which then presents both opportunity and risk to report on certain news. “We cannot possibly go to a sensitive region in Tibet to gather information. But what we can do is work with a sense of duty for both the struggle and the people inside Tibet,” she told the gathering.

The emergence of social media has made possible both rapid flow of information and platform for hate speech against a community or an individual in the last decade. Deputy Program Director at Tibet Fund Sherab Woeser listed down his experiences to explain certain rigidities that stem from being in the exile setup whilst also criticising CCP and its policies. “My work in the field of media mostly focussed on news inside Tibet and that should still be the primary subject of concern for the Tibetan public. However, we need to be more resilient in choosing the right kind of material for our readers, and weigh different consequences whether it is in the context of foreign media or to curb online disinformation in exile,” he said while responding to a query from the crowd.

Parliamentarian Lobsang Gyatso highlighted the risks of digital security in the age of social media. “In the past decade, with the growing online presence, more platforms are created for the public to engage in producing news content. So there needs to be a fundamental change in the structure of news media,” he said in his opening remarks, adding that the media has an added responsibility of indulging in “aggressive” reporting when it comes to issues of justice.

The question of assertive reporting was also raised by former TCHRD researcher Tenzin Nyinjey with regards to holding people in positions of power accountable even in the Tibetan diaspora. “Issues faced by the ordinary public must be at the forefront of discussion in the media. Holding accountable the elected government, organizations and individuals in power that can use their positions for personal gain; that is the work of a journalist,” he said noting that journalists should indulge in research to report on pertinent issues.

The question of reviving media in the changing world of online news production was also posed by the poet Tenzin Tsundue. He pointed out that coverage of the CTA-run Tibet TV and Tibet.net tends to focus on events more than pressing issues. “The news from CTA mostly focuses on reporting visits by Tibetan leaders or about undertaken initiatives. It sometimes seems that the elected head is more important than the public. Here, I am talking about both the current and previous Sikyong[s],” he further said.

US special coordinator for Tibet set to visit India in mid-May to meet Dalai Lama

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It will be the first high-level contact between the US and the Tibetan leadership after Joe Biden became President in January last year

US special coordinator for Tibet set to visit India in mid-May to meet Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama- File photo

By  — Shyamal Sinha

US Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues, Uzra Zeya, is set to visit India next month to hold talks with Dalai Lama and other senior leaders of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, signalling the Biden administration’s commitment to the Tibetan cause.

It will be the first high-level contact between the US and the Tibetan leadership after Joe Biden became President in January last year.

Zeya, the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, is expected to visit Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh from May 18 to 19 to meet the Tibetan leadership, people familiar with the development said on Friday.

It is learnt that the Zeya’s visit is being finalised in consultation with India. However, it is not clear whether she will meet any Indian official.

The US government is yet to officially announce the visit.

The people cited above said key issues relating to the Tibetan cause are likely to figure in the talks.

As the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues, Zeya has been coordinating the Biden administration’s policies, programmes and projects relating to the Tibetan cause.

Zeya was sworn as the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on July 14 last year.

On December 20, she was concurrently appointed as the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues.

The US has been consistently supporting the Tibetan cause notwithstanding China’s strong objection.

In 2020, the US came out with legislation reaffirming the absolute right of Tibetan people to choose a successor to the Dalai Lama and the preservation of Tibet’s environment.


After the US Congress passed the legislation, China had accused Washington of meddling in its internal affairs.

China has been insisting that the selection of the next Dalai Lama has to be decided within Chinese territory and that it has to have a say in the matter.

The issue of a successor to the 14th Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in Dharamsala since 1959, gained traction as he turned 86 in July last year.

Blinken had met a representative of the Dalai Lama during his visit to New Delhi last year.In January, the Chinese embassy in India wrote to several Indian lawmakers after they attended an event hosted by the Tibetan Parliament- in-exile in Delhi. The Chinese embassy, in the letter to the MPs of the All-Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet, expressed concern over their attendance at the reception and asked them not to provide support to the Tibetan forces.

Days later, India asked the embassy to refrain from such actions and said the substance, tone and tenor of the letter are “inappropriate”.

The Chinese government officials and the Dalai Lama or his representatives have not met in formal negotiations since 2010.

Beijing has in the past accused the Dalai Lama of indulging in “separatist” activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him as a divisive figure.

However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but “genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet” under the “Middle-Way approach”.

source  — PTI

Lotus lantern festival lights up after two-year break

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UNESCO-listed cultural heritage makes colorful return, marking Buddha’s birthday

A visitor at Cheonggye Stream takes a photo of the traditional lanterns on display on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
A visitor at Cheonggye Stream takes a photo of the traditional lanterns on display on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
In celebration of Buddha’s 2,566th birthday which falls on May 8 this year, major Buddhist temples and the Cheonggye Stream area in central Seoul have been lit up with thousands of lotus lanterns.

Although the official Yeondeunghoe, the lantern lighting festival, will be held for three days starting Friday, the festive mood will continue on with most lanterns staying lit through May 10.

In December 2020, Yeondeunghoe was officially inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This year marks the first Yeondeunghoe after the UNESCO listing, since the Buddhist community canceled the parade for two years due to the pandemic.

“Exhibition of Traditional Lanterns” at Cheonggye Stream, central Seoul, is seen on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
“Exhibition of Traditional Lanterns” at Cheonggye Stream, central Seoul, is seen on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
Yeondeunghoe, which was first recorded during the Silla Kingdom (57 BC – AD 935), has been maintained through the Joseon era even as Confucianism prevailed.

“Exhibition of Traditional Lanterns” showcases lotus lanterns made of hanji, traditional paper made from mulberry trees, as well as lanterns in various shapes and figures that symbolize the spirit of Buddhism. The exhibitions are taking place at two Buddhist temples — Jogyesa in downtown Seoul and Bongeunsa in southern Seoul — and along the Cheonggye Stream, which courses through central Seoul. The lanterns at Cheonggye Stream will stay lit from 5:30 p.m. to midnight daily.

The main events will be held on Saturday.

People make lotus lanterns for Yeondeunghoe on Wednesday at Jogyesa. (Yonhap)
People make lotus lanterns for Yeondeunghoe on Wednesday at Jogyesa. (Yonhap)
“Eoulim Madang,” a Buddhist cheer rally, will be held at the Dongguk University Stadium from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

One of the highlights of the celebrations, “Lantern Parade,” will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., starting at Heunginjimun near Dongdaemun Station and make its way through the central downtown area of Jongno-gu before ending at Jogyesa. Those hoping to catch the parade can get off the subway at Jongno 3-ga, Jongno 5-ga and Jonggak stations.

Saturday’s events will come to a close with “Hoehyang Hanmadang,” a post-parade celebration, which will be held at the Jonggak intersection from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

“Exhibition of Traditional Lanterns” at Cheonggye Stream, central Seoul, is seen on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
“Exhibition of Traditional Lanterns” at Cheonggye Stream, central Seoul, is seen on Tuesday evening. (Yonhap)
Anyone can participate in the parade march, both in person and online as avatars, by registering through the Yeondeunghoe website or at Jogyesa.

Events on Saturday will be broadcast live for seven hours on two Buddhist television channels, BTN and BBS, and their respective YouTube channels.

Traditional cultural events and performances, such as lantern-making sessions and “madangnori” — outdoor theatrical performances that actively engages the audience — will be held around Jogyesa on Sunday, from noon to 7 p.m.

The final celebration, “Yeondeungnori” will be held in front of Jogyesa from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

On May 8, all temples throughout the country will be holding ceremonies to celebrate Buddha’s birthday.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)