His Holiness the Dalai Lama this month embarked on a itinerary of teachings and public appearances across India that saw him travel from his official residence in Dharamsala to Sikkim for the duration of his visit in 13 years, then to West Bengal, followed by Bodh. Gaya, where he arrived on December 15.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who turned 88 this year, has reduced his public travel schedule in recent years, partly because of COVID-19 and out of caution about his health and advanced age. The Dalai Lama's previous visit to Bodh Gaya, in late December 2022, until January this year, was his first in almost three years due to the pandemic.* His Holiness's only other major public appearance outside the 'Himachal Pradesh this year was held in Ladakh in July/August.
On December 11, the Dalai Lama traveled to the far northeastern state of Sikkim, sandwiched between Nepal and Bhutan, for a three-day visit, his first since 2010. During this visit, he gave a teaching on the “Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas”, in which some 40 people participated. His Holiness had to postpone a planned visit to Sikkim in October due to devastating flash floods.**
From Sikkim, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate flew on December 14 to Salugara, West Bengal, where he gave a public teaching to about 30 people and presided over a ceremony for the Bodhicitta generation in Sed-Gyued monastery.
“These days, I am trying to make people realize that the eight billion human beings living on this planet were nourished by their mothers,” His Holiness observed during his teaching in Salugara. “In that respect, we are all the same. Every human being on this Earth has survived after birth because someone showered them with love and affection: the love of a mother. Remembering this and building on it will help ensure world peace. Indulging in negative emotions like anger and jealousy won't do it. Simply seeing others as the same as you is a step toward peace.
“We may have different cultures, different ways of organizing our lives or different ideologies, but in the context of the unity of humanity, as human beings, we are all the same. » (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The Dalai Lama arrived in Bodh Gaya on December 15 and is expected to stay there until early January.
On December 16, His Holiness made a pilgrimage to Mahabodhi Mahavihara, where he performed a circumambulation around the holy temple, smiling and greeting well-wishers gathered outside. At the Bodhi tree, he greeted devotees leading the Kagyu Monlam ceremony, before paying obeisance at the inner sanctum of the temple.
“I feel very honored to pray in front of this very special Buddha statue in this very sacred place,” the Dalai Lama told media representatives. He also acknowledged that the global climate crisis was becoming a growing problem around the world, emphasizing: “We are fortunate to be able to pray to the Buddha that we can overcome these difficulties. » (Central Tibetan Administration)
Today, the Dalai Lama inaugurated the three-day International Sangha Forum 2023 at the Bodhgaya International Convention Center, which will take place from December 20 to 22 with the theme “Bringing together traditions, embracing modernity: a dialogue on the teaching of the Buddha in today's world. The convocation was organized by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), and brings together many high-ranking monks and heads of Buddhist institutions, as well as delegates and guests from 33 countries.
“The main objective of the conference will be to increase the ongoing dialogue and collaboration between practitioners of the Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist traditions,” the Central Tibetan Administration said. (Central Tibetan Administration)
For the remainder of his stay in Bodh Gaya, the Dalai Lama is expected to participate in a prayer session for world peace at the Mahabodhi Stupa on December 23, followed by three days of public teachings at the Kalachakra Teaching Ground from December 29 to 31. is scheduled to attend a long life prayer offering on January 1, also at the Kalachakra Teaching Ground.
*The Dalai Lama returns to Bodh Gaya for the first time in three years (BDG)
** Dalai Lama expresses solidarity after deadly floods in Sikkim and promises financial support (BDG)