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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Meets Himalayan Community and Foreigners Who Visited Ppre-1959 Tibet

May 8, 2009

Report filed by Bhuchung K Tsering ICT
Central Tibetan Administration
May 6, 2009

New York -- On May 5, 2009, the last day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's stay in New York City, he had four events here that included meeting groups of people who had different but interesting connection with Tibet and the Tibetan people.

In the morning, His Holiness addressed over 100 leaders communities from the Himalayan region, including from Ghyalsumdo, Manang, Mugum, Mustang, Nubri, Sherpas, Tamang, Thakali, Tsum, Walung, Yolmo (all in Nepal), Bhutan, and Tibet, as well as Kalmyk Mongolians.

Speaking on behalf of the representatives of these communities, Mr. Sonam Sherpa, gave a brief report of a meeting, which was held in February, between them and the Office of Tibet to "discuss how to fulfill our common aspirations of preserving and promoting our Buddhist culture in the United States."

Mr. Sherpa said, "Your Holiness has many times expressed concerns about the consequences if the present generation should fail to shoulder their responsibility in preserving our rich religious traditions and as you have advised us time and again to work together to preserve our cultural identity which is deeply entwined with our Buddhist culture." He added that the meeting resolved to take steps, including the joint observation of the Buddha Purnima, promotion of the study of the Tibetan language among community  members, organizing festivals highlighting our common Buddhist culture and traditions, and organizing lectures on Buddhism to our youth.

He then introduced the representatives of the different communities after which a plaque was presented to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on which was inscribed the following citation.

The Buddha of our times;
The ray of light that dispels the darkness from our world;
The beam of hope for peace and a better humanity;
The warmth that soothes millions of hearts and minds;

He who hails from the land of the snows,
In every passing day of our time, grows,
In his magnanimity and his fame

We, members of the Buddhist Communities, bow to you
To express our heartfelt gratitude for your noble deeds
For bearing the torch of Buddhism and bringing light unto this world.

In his address, His Holiness raised three points. The first was the fact that human beings have to face natural problems and that the best way to face them is not by wealth but through spirituality.  His Holiness said that Buddhism is not only an ancient religion, but also a rich one, and from our perspective more humane and realistic.  He referred to the interest in Buddhist thoughts from among the scientific community to emphasise the relevance of the religion in today's world.

Secondly, His Holiness talked about the renewed interest in Tibetan Buddhism among the Himalayan people. He said this is part of our identity as well as our common spiritual heritage. His Holiness talked about the Tibetan monastic institutions.

Thirdly, His Holiness said in order to really understand our common spiritual heritage, it was important that people know the Tibetan language.  He then talked about the critical situation in Tibet, the source of the Tibetan language and culture. He said while the Tibetan people have been able to preserve the language and culture in the past  50 years under Chinese rule, if the present trend continues then the worst case scenario is that it may be impossible for the unique Tibetan culture to survive.  His Holiness said that in the eyes of the Chinese authorities the Tibetan Buddhist culture was a source of separation of Tibet and referred to the statement 15 years ago by the then Part Secretary in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chen Kuiyuan, who said that the ultimate source of threat for Tibet's separation is the Buddhist heritage. His Holiness said the Chinese authorities have been taking action to undermine Tibetan Buddhism accordingly.

His Holiness said that Tibetan Buddhism, which is the Nalanda tradition, is a treasure to the six billion human beings in this world.  He said given the situation of the Tibetan people, the people of the Himalayan region and others who follow the same religious tradition have the responsibility to take care of the preservation of our spiritual heritage. He said that the Tibetan refugees numbered just 150,000 whereas the Himalayan Buddhist population was around two million and said that there was a heavier responsibility on their shoulder to preserve the Tibetan Buddhist culture.

His Holiness said the proper way to preserve this spiritual heritage is not merely by constructing temples or big statues (which are good, but in the case of statues they cannot speak), but by developing living Buddhism for human beings.  In this His Holiness asked the people to organize discussions on different aspects of Buddhism and to invite  experts, not in the form of lamas giving formal teachings, but in the form of lectures.

Following this meeting, His Holiness met a group of Americans and Canadians (and or their family members) who had visited Tibet prior to 1959. His Holiness termed them as witnesses of the kind of Tibet before 1950 and said he himself is a witness, too.  He talked about the Chinese authorities' claim that the Tibetan Government had sought  the permission of the Koumintang Government for his enthronement. He said that in this connection, Ngapo Ngawang Jigme (who was a Minister in the Tibetan Government and later served the People's Republic of China government) had sought permission to research into this claim and spoke about this publicly in the mid-1980s in Lhasa.  His Holiness  said that Ngapo had said he went to Nanjing to look into this and what he found was a letter in Tibetan that was written by an individual. This letter was not on the official Tibetan Government paper nor was it written in the official style.

Talking about another Chinese claim that the Chinese mission had overseen his enthronement, His Holiness said as a witness he can say that on such events, the British Mission representative was always at the head of the line followed by the representative of the Chinese Mission and then by the Nepalese Mission.

His Holiness said this meeting was very moving similar to the one he had in Oxford with some other people who had been to Tibet.

His Holiness then answered a question from one of the attendees on the current state of contact with the leadership in Beijing.  His Holiness said that last year, his envoys had presented the Chinese side with a memorandum on genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people and even before the envoys returned to Dharamsala the Chinese side had rejected it.  His Holiness referred to the demonstrations by Tibetans in Tibet last year. He said he had recently met a Tibetan from Amdo (who had come with his Chinese businessman friend). This person told him that the demonstrations were the outpouring of generations of grievances that the Tibetans had.  His Holiness said he had hoped that the Chinese  Government would see the reality and adopt an appropriate policy towards Tibetans, along the lines of Deng Xiaoping's policy of seeking truth from facts. He said the Chinese have made things difficult.

His Holiness then made a brief appearance at a luncheon hosted by Tibet House.
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