Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
The Dalai Lama Celebrates His 86th Birthday
On his 86th birthday, the Dalai Lama released a message in which he thanked people for their wishes and made special commitments to the environment and to preserving Indian heritage.
For the rest of my life I am committed to serving humanity and working to protect the climate condition. Since I became a refugee and now settled in India, I have taken full advantage of India’s freedom and religious harmony. I want to assure you that for the rest of my life I am committed to reviving ancient Indian knowledge. I really appreciate the Indian concept of secular values, not dependent on religion, such as honesty, karuna (compassion) and ahimsa (non-violence).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished His Holiness a happy birthday via a personal phone call, which he then announced on Twitter, despite potential backlash from China. Meanwhile, Sikyong Penpa Tsering, leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile, asked that China invite the Dalai Lama to Tibet and China “on pilgrimage without any precondition” during a ceremony honoring His Holiness. Tsering also called for unity within the Tibetan community.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent birthday wishes, as did Tibetan communities and supporters all across Europe. In Switzerland, prayers were offered at Tibet-Institut Rikon; in Italy, copies of four of the Dalai Lama’s books were gifted to public libraries; and in Lithuania, supporters gathered in Tibet Square in Vilnius, the capital, and handed out leaflets containing quotes from the Dalai Lama printed in Lithuanian, English, and Russian.
Nepal Rejects Some UN Recommendations to Protect Tibetan Refugees
In response to a United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, the Nepali government says it “noted” but does not “accept” a number of protections for Tibetan refugees in the country, the International Federation of Human Rights said in a press release on Wednesday. Nepal is part of China’s massive infrastructure and trade network known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which leaves the country vulnerable to pressure from China to restrict the activity and freedom of Tibetan refugees. Closer relations with China have resulted in worse protections for the more than 20,000 Tibetan refugees who live in Nepal, the International Campaign for Tibet and the International Federation for Human Rights told the UN in 2018. Tibetans have been forbidden from freely expressing their religious beliefs and cultural identity, denied formal documentation, and faced with the fear of deportation back to China.
As of July 8, Nepal will not commit to registering and verifying the identity of refugees, which could impede access to education, employment, and medical services. The government will also not commit to the principle of non-refoulement, or allowing refugees to remain in a country when they face violence or persecution at home. They will, however, accept the recommendations to ensure freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, two issues for which Tibetan refugees have been arrested in the past. They also committed to protecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.
New Study of Religion in India Reveals Wide Range of Practices and Beliefs
The Pew Research Center just released a new study that reveals the diversity of religions practiced in India, and also that popular opinion supports tolerance, but not integration. “Respecting other religions is seen as a key part of being Indian,” Neha Saghal, Pew’s associate director of research, says, “but Indians do not conceive of tolerance as crossing religious lines. They live their lives in segregated religious bubbles.” Read more about the study here.
Tibetan Monks Tour Colorado Creating Sand Mandalas
This week, monks from the Ganden Monastery—one of the largest monasteries within the Tibetan Gelug tradition—will conclude their 15-day stay in Aspen, Colorado. Ganden monks have been touring the United States since 1992, arranging a variety of Buddhist ceremonies and cultural activities that spread awareness of Tibetan culture and raise funds for their monastery. The monks’ next destination is Carbondale, Colorado, where they will continue their free exhibitions at the Way of Compassion Dharma Center between July 15—the day of the center’s grand reopening—and July 19. Over the course of their four-day stay, the Ganden monks will construct a sand mandala depicting the bodhisattva of compassion Chenrezig (Skt., Avalokitesvara), which will be open for public viewing. For more information, visit the Way of Compassion’s event schedule.