His Holiness the Dalai Lama flew to Leh on July 3rd in order to spend 19 days in Ladakh, which included a celebration of his 83rd birthday on Friday the 6th. Four different local news sources covered the story—The Statesman, The Kashmir Monitor, Phayul.com, and Scoop News—emphasizing in different ways the mutual respect that the Ladakhi people have for the Buddhist leader and that he has for them.
According to the press reports, thousands lined the road from the airport to his official residence in Leh, the Shewatsel Phodrang, welcoming him with flowers and adornments. The Ladakhi men, women and children showed their respect for him by wearing their best clothing and carrying flowers, incense, and khataks, the ceremonial scarves that are traditionally given to lamas to show love and recognition to them. Many tourists were also in the crowds.
For his part, the Dalai Lama told a group of religious and community leaders at his residence about his joy at being able to visit Ladakh once again. He thanked the rinpoches, monks, nuns, and lay people, telling them that he appreciated their show of love and respect. He told his listeners that, along with material development, people need to develop the qualities of love, kindness, peace, forgiveness and compassion. All the religions of the world should develop such values, His Holiness said.
He spoke about a recent conference in Delhi of the Indian Himalayan Buddhist communities, which Buddhist scholars from across India attended. He commended the decision of the Buddhist leaders at the conference to convert monasteries into learning centers. The shift of secular society from a feudal model into a democratic one should inspire the monastic system to make similar progressive changes. The “feudal system garners hate and violence, while democracy gives [the] right to all for developing a peaceful environment,” His Holiness added.
The Dalai Lama is widely loved and respected by the Muslim residents of Ladakh as well as by the Buddhists. After the birthday celebrations at his residence on the 6th, he planned to give teachings on Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisatva’s Way of Life from July 10 to 12. From July 18 to 20, he will participate in the Yarcho Chenmo, the Summer Buddhist Council for philosophical debates and discussions, held annually at the Samstanling Gonpa Sumoor in Nubra. He will also do some teaching at the teaching ground of the Shewatsel in Leh and in Nubra while he is there.