Dalai Lama birthday celebrations draw thousands

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com  |  July 7, 2013 at 1:06 PM
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While he may be celebrating more than three-quarters of a century of living, the Dalai Lama spent his 78th birthday calling on young people to build toward the future.

The revered Tibetan monk, who fled Chinese rule to India in 1959, spoke Saturday to some 40,000 who gathered in Bylakuppe, the southern Indian home to the largest camp of exiled Tibetans.

"The present-day generation can create better conditions and build a world where everyone can live in harmony and in a spirit of coexistence," he said. "Youngsters of today have an opportunity to build a happier century. For those of us from the 20th century, there is nothing we can do now."

The festive atmosphere was reflected by the elderly spiritual leader, who laughed as he was given a Mysore Peta, a traditional turban worn by traditional kings of the region, and then complained it was too hot to wear the garment.

He spoke for nearly an hour, calling on the gathered crowd to practice tolerance with different religious beliefs.

"It is our common responsibility to work together and not to divide people," he said. "I never try to propagate Buddhism."

"All religions teach virtues of tolerance and denounce greed as it creates problems," he said. "It is important to lead a simple life. We should include them in our prayers to achieve love and compassion."

But even as exiled Tibetans gathered to celebrate his birthday, those who remained under Chinese rule were forced to remember him in secret.

"We'll celebrate his birthday at our homes privately but we'll never do it in the open," said Khedroob, 40, a monk at the Kumbum monastery in Xining, close to the capitol of Qinghai. "But we don't have to wait for a special day to celebrate, we celebrate him every day."

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