At 76, Dalai Lama remains hopeful on Tibet

July 5th, 2011 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Dharamsala, July 5 (IANS) He wakes up before the crack of dawn, has a punishing work schedule, tunes into the radio to stay connected, hits the treadmill sometimes and yet manages to devote 80 percent of time to spiritual activities. And as the Dalai Lama turns 76 Wednesday, the exiled leader still desires to return to Tibet some day.

Born July 6, 1935, to a farming family in a small hamlet in Taktser in Amdo province of northeastern Tibet, the two-year-old child was recognised as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, in 1937.

He fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, following which his Tibetan government-in-exile has been based in this Indian town.

Over here his day begins at 3.30 a.m. and ends at 8.30 p.m. In between, he studies texts written by the great Buddhist masters to quench his thirst about spiritual and Tibetan issues.

Officials of the Tibetan government-in-exile say the spiritual guru is an ordained monk.

“When at home in Dharamsala, His Holiness begins the day with prayers and meditation until 5 a.m. After that he takes a short morning walk around his residential premises. If it’s raining outside, he even uses a treadmill,” the spiritual leader’s private secretary Chimme Choekyappa told IANS.

Breakfast is served to him at 5.30 a.m.

During breakfast, the Nobel laureate regularly tunes his radio to the BBC World News in English. From 6 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. he meditates and prays. From 9 a.m. to 11.30 a.m., he studies Buddhist texts written by the great masters.

“His Holiness is a vegetarian. He has his lunch at around 12 noon and drinks a cup of tea at 6 p.m. He does not have dinner,” he said.

He holds regular interactions with his staff and meets guests at his office from 12.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. Upon his return to his official palace, his evening prayers and meditation begin at 6.30 p.m. He retires to bed at 8.30 p.m.

Choekyappa said his daily routine changes when he travels out of Dharamsala. The Buddhist monk in his trademark maroon robes is also a globetrotter.

For starters, he’s made six trips in the last six months. He’s been to places within India and outside to speak on peace, non-violence, Buddhism and even environmental concerns despite China forewarning the countries he plans to visit.

Last year the Dalai Lama made six foreign trips which saw him visiting the US, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Japan, Britain and Canada. He is in the US till July 16.

“The Dalai Lama is in Washington where he will attend celebrations to mark his 76th birthday,” Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary at the Dalai Lama’s office, told IANS.

According to the Dalai Lama’s official website, the Nobel laureate, since coming into exile in 1959, made his first trip abroad by visiting Japan and Thailand in 1967. In 1973, he made his first trip to the West, visiting 12 European countries in a record 75 days.

“During his foreign visits, he has a very hectic schedule. Sometimes, he has more than 15 appointments in a day,” Choekyappa said.

Thubten Samphel, a Tibetan official, said the spiritual leader has met all the US presidents since George Bush (1991), including Barack Obama (on Feb 18, 2010.).

He also met French President Nicolas Sarkozy Dec 6, 2008, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown May 23, 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Oct 29, 2007, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Sep 23, 2007.

The Dalai Lama desires to return to Tibet one day. While replying to a question, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said on his website: “Yes, I remain optimistic that I will be able to return to Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama has favoured “greater autonomy” for Tibetans rather than complete independence.

Chinese leaders have, in fact, called him a separatist — one who wants Tibet to secede from China.

In 1989, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for Tibet. He got the US Congressional Gold Medal in October 2007 even in the face of protests by China. He was also listed by Time magazine among the world’s top 25 political icons this year.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at

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