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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

We call him Kundun

July 8, 2010

Tsering Dolma
Sify (India)
July 6, 2010

Every day think as you wake up
Today I’m fortunate to have woken
I am alive
I have a precious human life
I am not going to waste it
I am going to use all my energies
To develop myself
To expand my heart out to others.

--  His Holiness The Dalai Lama

I took his portrait and sat down, complaining
about numerous things to a seemingly inanimate
image of Kundun. I was only ten years old. At
that tender age, I felt, deep within my heart, that Kundun was listening to me.

When my friends and relatives asked me about my
ambition, I used to get on my feet and say, "I
want to become Kundun's Secretary ".

Tibetans like me affectionately call His Holiness
the Dalai Lama, "Kundun", meaning Presence.
However, different scholars derive their own
meaning for "Kundun". I'm not a scholar by any
stretch of the imagination, but for me, "Kundun" is Joy.

Millions of Tibetans revere him as the embodiment
of Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshwara.
Tibetans celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama's
birthday with pomp, more or less like the New Year.

I used to run after my brothers to visit the
small hill where all the villagers would assemble
for the grand ceremony. We would each carry a
handful of rice, corn flour, incense, black tea
and Katha (the Tibetan scarf, believed to be
auspicious) as offerings, to pray for his long life.

But despite all this, Kundun would insist, "I am a simple monk."

Like any other child, I was inquisitive enough to
pester my father with countless hard-to-answer questions.

Once, my father was sitting amidst portraits of
various Buddhas in our prayer room.

"Dad, why does Kundun say that he is a simple
Buddhist monk? We know that he is a living Buddha!"

His bespectacled face, engrossed in prayer,
turned to me and he halted for a minute.

Carefully, in a voice like a flowing river that
manoeuvres its way through rocks, he said, "Dola,
however great a person might be, he should always
be modest and Kundun does not want people to
believe that he is the ultimate Buddha. Then the
comparison stops then and there."

I shrugged with an uncomprehending smile and ran off to play with my friends.

Now, I understand what my father meant at that time.

Kundun never acknowledges himself as the Buddha
or the god as millions call him.

In all his interviews, he laughs in his trademark
style when this predicable question pops up: "Kundun, are you a god?"

While I always saw him as a god, I realised how
central Kundun has been to our lives rather late.

I grew up in a settlement of nine villages near
Bangalore. There are four Kendriya Vidyalaya
Schools run by the Central Tibetan Schools
Administration with the help of the Indian
Government. There were hardly any non-Tibetan
students in our school. I always felt that I was
in Tibet, in a Tibetan School, with my Tibetan friends.

Until my protective days at school drew to an
end, I was cocooned in my own mini Tibet. I never
felt the need to stress on my identity until then.

It was in my first year of college that an Indian
classmate asked me, curiously, "Which country do
you belong to? China -- no, Japan ...right?"

I proudly interrupted any further predictions, "I’m from Tibet."

She continued, "where is Tibet ?"

The question was a common one, one which I had
faced since my childhood, when I travelled to other places.

But now I sensed that the very fact of being a
Tibetan was almost a silent revolution, a
constant battle to resolve my identity crisis.

It was Kundun who gave us this resolve.

Kundun won the Nobel Peace Prize on 10th December
1989, and several honorary accolades followed thereafter.

His popularity as an international figure
campaigning for World Peace has gained momentum
-- even more so in the recent past.

"I am from Tibet. You know "Dalai Lama?"

Random strangers whom I meet in buses or trains
or libraries now nod with great understanding.
Sometimes, they know more about Tibet and the
predominant issues there. Again, because of Kundun.

Throughout his struggle to appease the Chinese
government and steer them towards his middle
approach policies, Kundun’s vision of an
Autonomous Tibet and peaceful world has won millions of hearts.

It might sound cliched. But after many years, I’m
truly relishing his popularity.

The Chinese Government is believed to be waiting
for his last breath, so that the Tibetan issue
dies along with him. But to typecast the Tibetan
issue as Dalai Lama’s issue is catastrophic.

As a Tibetan, I read our history in school and
heard a lot of first-hand accounts of incidents
that occurred during the escape into exile. My
own parents have told me how my grandmother was
among those who died as thousands of Tibetans
crossed the cold mountains to reach India. My
mother was hardly five years old at the time.

Kundun met Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime
Minister of India, to ensure the safety and
security of tens of thousands of his people.

His first priority was to provide education to
Tibetan children once they arrived. Now there are
85 Tibetan Kendriya Vidyalaya Schools across
India and Nepal. It is to Kundun that we owe our awareness of our identities.

The very presence of His Holiness brings tears to
my eyes. Probably, it is his undiminished
spiritual aura that beams heavenly around him.
Like many Tibetans, I have undying faith in him.

However, I am preparing each day to make myself
strong enough to withstand that tragic news all
Tibetans dread. Kundun is aging.

He has been my guide. He made me realise and
continues to remind me that being a good human
being is first and foremost, before becoming anything else.

His spirit will always be alive in the sanctum of
my heart and I will always call him "Kundun " with utmost love and devotion.

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