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Reaction from Dharamshala

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017
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Julia Thomas in DHARAMSHALA

dalai lama

Before moving from Bhaktapur to work in his uncle’s business in Dharamshala one year and a half ago, Shishan says that he did not know about the Dalai Lama. He knew about Buddha’s birth place and the practices of Buddhism, and today identifies as both a Buddhist and Hindu, but was not aware of the figurehead of Mahayana Buddhism as a leading figure.

Mani Rajthapa, a Nepali born and raised in Dharamshala, is going with his wife in the coming days to receive a blessing from the Dalai Lama.

“I am very excited, I feel very lucky,” he said. “When I see the Dalai Lama, I feel very good.”

The slogan ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ appears widely across Nepal as car stickers and signage on walls, and is a strong point of pride for the many Nepalis. The Dalai Lama’s remarks about Buddha’s enlightenment to a group of children in Meerut in India on 16 October were interpreted by many Nepalis to mean that he was born in India rather than Nepal, eliciting outrage on social media.

Some even responded with strong rhetoric and images expressing violence against the Dalai Lama, while others saw the incident as one created by lack of clarity and listening carefully to the actual recording of the Dalai Lama’s statement. Some Nepalis and Tibetans living in Dharamshala, the residence of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile, saw the strong response as one exacerbated by distance.

“People posted this video on Facebook without listening carefully,” Lhakpa Dolma, a Tibetan living here, “I saw some very horrible pictures of the Dalai Lama, but some people didn’t listen well to the video and commented very bad things. But they don’t know what the Dalai Lama actually said.”

According to a recording in circulation on YouTube, the Dalai Lama answered a student’s question with a nod to Buddha’s influence across Asia.

“Buddha was born in Lumbini,” he said, “so Buddha was Nepalese, not Indian. That’s nonsense I think. He is born of a small kingdom there, big dharma. In any way, Buddha, in India, he’s teaching. Eventually he’s teaching whole Asia, his teaching reaches whole Asia. Firstly China, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos. Through China, Korea, Japan, then to north, Tibet, Mongolia, some republics in Russia … So Buddha is not Tibetan, not Chinese, not Indian. Ancient time, I think [he was] one great Indian master of teaching that reached all of Asia.”

The Central Tibetan Administration issued a statement on Tibet.net to clarify that the Dalai Lama was referring to Buddha reaching enlightenment and giving some of his most profound teachings in the land today labeled as India.
‘We are concerned to know there was misunderstanding of the intent of his answer, and would like to clarify that His Holiness meant no disrespect towards his Nepalese brothers and sisters,’ reads the statement, which also clarified the Dalai Lama’s acceptance of Lumbini as the birth place of Buddha. ‘What he wanted to emphasize in contemporary terms is the importance of understanding what the Buddha taught and the scope of his influence throughout Asia.’

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4 Responses to “Reaction from Dharamshala”

  1. Hurray on Says:

    The author needs to listen to Dalai Lama’s statement and rewrite what he actually said. Please follow the link you posted and do your job better.

    You have purposefully omitted parts of Dalai Lama’s speech thus taking off some context and you seem to have a hearing problem. Listen carefully to what he actually said. To help you, there is a sub-title on the video :)

  2. Retards on Says:

    Buddha wasn’t born in Nepal. There was no Nepal and No India either in 325bc. He didn’t have a Nepali or Indian passport.

  3. Paul Brunning on Says:

    I was in Nepal when this story hit the headlines, and I was shocked, and saddened, at the reaction it provoked, from previously very passive Nepalese people. He obviously did not intend to hurt or insult anyone, and as you say, if you listen carefully, he does not directly say anything controversial. I hope that the statement from HH helps to calm things down

  4. D. D. Rai on Says:

    It is sad to see both Tibetan and Nepalese with many similarities in religion and culture to have this bitter discussion. Yes, it is undeniable that Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, which is an important historical fact and pride for all the Nepalese. However, even if H.H. Dalai Lama has mistakenly provided misinformation of Buddha’s birth place, he should be forgiven based on true principle of Buddhism with compassion as Nepalese, protectors and guardians of Buddha’s birth place.

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