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THE GREATEST BLESSING

On this very special day, the sixty-seventh anniversary of the birth of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, we Tibetans take the opportunity to recall that in spite of the continued occupation of Tibet and the many difficulties that result, we are the most fortunate of peoples. While there is no question that His Holiness, the manifestation of Chenrezig, Buddha of Compassion, looks upon the suffering of every being throughout the universe with great compassion and offers incomparable advice to all who come to him seeking greater peace of mind and happiness, of all the nations of the world, only Tibetans are constantly blessed with the wisdom of his leadership as our Head of State, with the unparalleled generosity of his spiritual guidance in teaching Buddhadharma, and with the supreme inspiration of his presence which exemplifies for each of us the limitless extent to which the potential for goodness within the hearts of everyone may be developed.

While his present incarnation is the fourteenth in the line of Dalai Lamas, these fourteen were preceded by sixty lifetimes the deeds of which are recorded and innumerable others, of course, lost to the memory of the world. These sixty chronicled incarnations in which Chenrezig took birth prior to assuming the role of Dalai Lama include thirty-six Indian adepts, ten early Tibetan kings and fourteen great Tibetan lamas. From the time before recorded history when, it is told, Chenrisig assumed a physical form to become the father of the first Tibetans, he has demonstrated a special concern for us.

The First Dalai Lama was born in 1391. From that time until the present, in an unbroken succession of rebirths, His Holiness has continually cared for Tibet with kindness and compassion greater than that of a mother for her only child, and for the past 300 years has served not only as Tibet's spiritual leader but as her Head of State as well. One is reminded of images of Thousand-Armed Chenrezig. In light of His Holiness's kindness, it seems that nothing less could represent the manner in which he continuously offers help to all those suffering beings upon whom he gazes with eyes of compassion.

His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama was renowned for his great wisdom and the efforts he made to improve the lives of ordinary Tibetans. Following his passing away in August of 1933, the people of Lhasa witnessed many miraculous signs that his reincarnation would take place in the northeastern part of the country in corroboration of indications given by the Great Thirteenth during his lifetime.

One of the most striking examples of these indications occurred during his return from China in 1906 as he passed through the Amdo region visiting monasteries and giving teachings. He paused for a few weeks at Kumbum Monastery which had been established by the third Great Being in the line of Dalai Lamas on the site of the birthplace of Lama Tsongkhapa. While there, he was entertained with an excursion to a mountainside famous for its lovely view. Looking over the valley, he remarked that he would like to visit a small village just visible in the distance. Of course he was taken there, and although his party expected that he would remain only briefly, he walked through the entire village remarking on its charm. When he reached the front of a particular house, he said that he would like to see inside. Thus it happened that the Thirteenth Dalai Lama visited the home in which he would take rebirth almost thirty years later. At the time His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was identified, elderly monks from the small Karma Kagyu monastery where Lama Tsongkhapa had received the hair-cutting ceremony recalled, also, that on this same visit, the Great Thirteenth left behind a pair of shoes, traditionally an indication that a person hopes to return. The monastery where the shoes were left was the one closest to the village of Takster which he had so greatly honored with his impromptu visit.

In the summer of 1935, all of Tibet was praying for the swift return of their beloved leader. Reting Rinpoche, the regent named when the Thirteenth Dalai Lama passed away, traveled to Lhamo Latso, the oracle lake watched over by Palden Lhamo, to seek spiritual guidance in locating the infant incarnation. His visions included the Tibetan letters "Ah," "Ka" and "Ma" along with a monastery with a particular style of roof, indicating that the child would be found in Amdo in the vicinity of Kumbum Monastery. Within the waters of the lake he was also shown a path leading from the monastery to a small house with unusual raingutters sitting upon a hill shaped like a stupa.

It was in just such a house, the very one the Great Thirteenth had visited, that the search party led by Keutsang Rinpoche found the two-and-a-half year old Fourteenth Dalai Lama, who greeted the visitors with obvious joy and spoke with them in the dialect of Lhasa even though he had never heard it in his present lifetime. When Keutsang Rinpoche asked the child, "Do you know me?" he answered, "You are Sera Lama," which was precisely correct. At that point, it came as no surprise to the members of the search party that the boy was easily able to select from a group of similar objects each of several that had belonged to the previous Dalai Lama. Events were enthusiastically set into motion which led to his formal recognition and subsequent enthronement in 1940.

Unfortunately, His Holiness has lived his entire adult life in the face of unbearable atrocities committed by the Chinese Communists against his nation and his people. Yet, even for these oppressors, he clearly feels only compassion and wishes for them only the same things that we all wish for ourselves - to have happiness and be free from suffering. All who come in contact with His Holiness, regardless of their religious and cultural background, leave that experience knowing that they have encountered something extraordinary. Few have failed to recognize the genuine love and compassion with which he views each and every being. We Tibetans know with certainty that His Holiness truly is the embodiment of Chenrezig, the Buddha or Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the perfect manifestation of the bodhisattva ideal of working without pause for the betterment of civilization and the ultimate happiness of each individual being. It is no coincidence that the world has seen fit to bestow upon him innumerable awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of his efforts in promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

As Buddhists, we aspire to develop our positive qualities to their fullest extent. The qualities for which we strive can be summarized as two: wisdom and compassion. Buddhism offers many different practices and means for developing wisdom and compassion such as study, contemplation, and meditation. But, just as in any situation where we set goals for ourselves, it is especially helpful to have a role model who has already achieved that to which we aspire. We Tibetans are indeed the most fortunate people, because we have had among us throughout our history, the inconceivable blessing of a being who is the very heart of wisdom and who is compassion personified as the human manifestation of Chenrezig. Through both his words and his actions, he shows us that it is possible to face life's most painful and challenging moments with wisdom and compassion.

It is an acknowledgement of our good fortune that, each day, the words of Longlife Prayers for His Holiness are heard wherever Tibetans are found. Whether they are chanted by large assemblies in exile or whispered in secret by worshipers under Communist repression, these prayers are offered with deepest sincerity. And it is with the hope of continuing to receive the benefits of the greatest blessing of all, the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that we also fervently pray that in our next life we may again be born among his followers.

 

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