Dalai Lama turns 88 with life, legacy at crossroads

By Indira Guerrero

New Delhi, Jul 6 (EFE).- The 14th Dalai Lama celebrated his 88th birthday on Thursday at his residence in the Indian city of Dharamshala, spreading his message of peace, even as his image as one of the world’s most important religious figures is recovering from a recent scandal and the idea of a Free Tibet seems to grow old with him.

“By showing their approval for what I am trying to do, my friends have given me their unconditional support, for which I would like to thank them,” the religious leader said in a video message to mark his birthday from his official residence, situated on a hill station in the Indian Himalayas.

It has been nearly a decade since the Dalai Lama was named the world’s most popular religious leader, after he appeared at the Glastonbury Festival to celebrate his 80th birthday and with his charming smile eclipsed even a memorable act by Kanye West the night before, when the latter had declared himself to be “the greatest living rock star on the planet.”

Lhamo Dhondup, the birthname of the supreme leader of Tibetan Buddhism, turned 88 on Thursday with his popularity having taken a severe hit, after the video of one of his audiences with devotees triggered a storm of outrage in April after being shared widely on social media.

The images showed the leader kissing a child on the lips before asking him if he could “suck” his tongue, during the public act.

The office of the Dalai Lama issued a public apology after a public outcry, but insisted that “His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras,” even as leaders of the Tibetan government in-exile came out in his defense and alleged a defamatory campaign against him driven by China.

“Many people in different parts of the world have heard my name and appreciate what I have to say. What’s more, I have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On my part, I pray to be able to bring peace to the world by spreading an understanding of the oneness of humanity,” the holy man proclaimed on Thursday in a message to “his friends.”

Without referring to the April incident or the Tibetan cause, the spiritual leader insisted that he was simply a “human being.”

To the friends, who were defined in the message as those in search of peace and committed to work for it, his appeal consisted of adopting a brave resolution, just like he had done.

The Buddhist leader, who walked across the Himalayas in 1959 to self-exile after a failed popular revolt in Lhasa against Chinese rule, represents the hopes of millions of Tibetans against China, which remains in full control of Tibet.

However, his decision to renounce political power and devote himself to spiritual leadership has triggered criticism among Tibetans, especially the community in exile which had hoped he would continue to use his influence to pose a powerful challenge to Beijing.

The Dalai Lama was born on Jul. 6, 1935 in Taktser, eastern Tibet, and was appointed the leader of his people at the age of two after being recognized as the reincarnation of his predecessor.

Although the monk has said he hopes to live for more than 100 years, the big question mark over his successor, who should be born in Tibet as a reincarnation according to the Buddhist tradition, has continued to loom large over his legacy in recent years. EFE


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