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Dalai Lama likely to extend stay in Ladakh

14th Dalai Lama

Octogenarian Buddhist spiritual leader and 14th Dalai Lama is likely to extend his stay in Ladakh where he has received an overwhelming response  from the people with mammoth gatherings turning out to greet him.

He has remained focused on religious harmony and confined himself to Leh and Padum towns, without planning any visit to Panging Tso and other forward areas bordering China during his month-long visit to the Union Territory of Ladakh.

Senior Ladakh Buddhist leader and former Member of Parliament Thupstan Chhewang, said that due to his knee pain, Dalai Lama did not move much during his month-long visit in Ladakh even as he remained in total isolation to acclimatize himself for the first week of his visit in Leh which began on 15 July. His first visit was to a church in Leh where he interacted with the representatives of the Christian community. Thereafter, he also paid visits to Jamia Masjid of the Sunni Muslims and Imambargah of the Shia Muslims at Leh.

Mr Chhewang ,who for years headed the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), however, told India Narrative that Dalai Lama was expected to extend his visit to 31 August. On 16th of August, he is scheduled to visit and attend a luncheon meeting at the historic Shah-e-Hamadan mosque at Shay where he will be meeting senior representatives of Sunni, Shia and Noorbakhshi Muslims", Mr Chhewang said.

Knowledgeable sources said that the Dalai Lama would deliver a sermon to the gathering with emphasis of universal brotherhood and religious harmony. Sources said that the Dalai Lama had already cancelled his scheduled visit to Lahul and Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh. He was initially scheduled to visit Lahul and Spiti after the end of his two-month-long visit to Jammu and Ladakh.

On Sunday, 14 August, Dalai Lama completed his three-day visit to Lingshed and Padum towns in Zanskar, in the Kargil district, and returned to the capital city of Leh. He was escorted by thousands of his followers and devotees.

Contrary to speculation, Dalai Lama, who received his 87th birthday greetings from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 6 July, chose to completely skip politics and any developments related to Tibet and China. He looked unconcerned to Beijing's reaction to his Ladakh visit.

Addressing his followers in Zanaskar Dalai Lama said that he had the responsibility to help the residents whatever way possible. He emphasized that the teachings would only benefit if the listeners were receptive. "The people of Ladakh and Zanskar have placed their faith and trust in me", Dalai Lama said.

Member of Parliament Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Deputy Commissioner and CEO, LAHDC, Kargil Santosh Sukhadeve, SSP Kargil Anayat Ali Chowdhary, SDM Zanskar besides Councilors in LAHDC Kargil from Zanskar, representatives of all major religious and social organizations of Zanskar  and a massive public gathering attended Dalai Lama's programme.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Sheikh Junaid Mehmood, maintained that the Tibetan spiritual leader had not communicated any extension to his visit which was scheduled to end on 18 August, till Sunday afternoon. "He reached back from Padum by a helicopter this morning. All we know is that his visit is ending as per schedule on 18 August. On 16 and 17 August, he is visiting some religious places of the Buddhists and Muslims and meeting the community leaders before his departure to Jammu", Mehmood said. 

On 28, 29 and 30 July, Dalai Lama delivered a series of sermons to the Buddhist community members at Shewatsel which according to official and independent estimates was attended by over 60,000 people. Mr Chhewang maintained that a gathering of 100,000 Buddhists listened to His Holiness.

Even in the last leg of his visit– for the first time after the Covid pandemic and his first to the Buddhist-dominated UT after 2017– Dalai Lama visited and interacted with the representatives of all the communities in Zanskar. He also met representatives from Kargil district administration.

Before his journey to Ladakh, Dalai Lama stayed in Jammu for about four weeks.

“Because the people of Zanskar and Ladakh have placed their faith and trust in me,” he told them, “I have a responsibility to do whatever I can to help them. And the best way I can do that is by giving teachings for their benefit. However, listening to teachings is only helpful if we also try to put them into practice, which is what I have tried to do throughout my life. The key point is to cultivate a warm heart and achieve peace of mind.”

Dalai Lama gave Bodhisattva vows to all those present and led them through the visualisations of the all-encompassing yoga mind, which focuses on combining a warm heart and the awakening mind of Bodhichitta with insight into emptiness. He emphasised the importance of acquiring a good understanding of what the Buddha taught by examining it in the light of reasoning.

The Dalai Lama said that Buddhism does not accept segregation in terms of race, caste or gender. He declared that in terms of Buddha nature and our potential to become a Buddha, we are all equal. As human beings we have the wherewithal to cultivate a good heart and an understanding that being dependent on other factors everything is empty of inherent existence.

His Holiness advised the audience again to practise as he has taught. He mentioned how pleased he was to be back in Zanskar and acknowledged the presence of benevolent protector deities. He stated that his principal advice was to be warm-hearted and of benefit to others.