US reports severe suppression of religious freedom in Tibet

DHARAMSHALA: The Chinese government imposed severe repression on the religious freedom of Tibetans across Tibet, the US said in its 2013 International Religious Freedom Report.

The report said the Chinese government’s respect for and protection of religious freedom in the Tibetan areas were poor, with widespread official interference in religious practice, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.

Repression was severe and increased around politically sensitive events and religious anniversaries, the report said, adding that official interference in the practice of Tibetan Buddhist religious traditions continued to generate profound grievances.

“They (Chinese authorities) arrest Tibetan Buddhists simply for possessing the Dalai Lama’s photograph,” the Press Trust of India quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after releasing the report.

There were reports of detention, sentencing (including two death sentences, one with a two-year reprieve), three deaths attributed to police, and other government-initiated violence related to religious issues. According to reports by journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 26 Tibetans, including monks, nuns, and laypersons, self-immolated, it said.

Tibetans face societal discrimination in employment, while engaging in business or when traveling, but because Tibetan Buddhists’ ethnic identity is closely linked with religion, it can be difficult to categorize incidents of intolerance as purely ethnic or religious, the report said.

“Tibetans, particularly those who wore traditional and religious attire, regularly reported incidents in which they were denied hotel rooms, avoided by taxis, and/or discriminated against in employment opportunities or business transactions,”it said.

“Many ethnic Han Buddhists were interested in Tibetan Buddhism and donated money to Tibetan monasteries and nunneries. Tibetan Buddhist monks frequently visited Chinese cities to provide religious instruction to ethnic Han Buddhists. In addition, a growing number of ethnic Han Buddhists visited Tibetan monasteries, although officials sometimes imposed restrictions that made it difficult for ethnic Han Buddhists to conduct long-term study at many monasteries in ethnic Tibetan areas,” the report said.

The report said “the US government repeatedly urged authorities at multiple levels to respect religious freedom for all faiths and to allow Tibetans to preserve, practice, teach, and develop their religious traditions. The US government raised individual cases and incidents with the Chinese government. US officials urged the Chinese government to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, as well as to address the policies that threaten Tibet’s distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity; such policies are a primary cause of grievances among Tibetans.”

The report said the ability of US diplomatic personnel to speak openly with Tibetan residents and members of the monastic community was severely restricted during their visits to Tibet.

Secretary Kerry submitted the 2013 International Religious Freedom Report to the US Congress. Mandated by Congress, the International Religious Freedom Reports help inform US government policy and foreign assistance. They also serve as a reference for other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organisations, legal professionals, scholars, interested citizens, and journalists.

(View full report on Tibet)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama returns to Dharamshala

DHARAMSHALA: His Holiness the Dalai Lama returned to Dharamshala today from Delhi after successfully concluding the 33rd Kalachakra teachings at Ladakh.

Around 200,000 devotees from over 73 countries attended the Kalachakra teachings from 03-14 July.

Speaking at the concluding ceremony of the teachings, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Mr. Omar Abdullah expressed his happiness for the successful 33rd Kalachakra Empowerment in Ladakh, whose blessings he said would go a long way towards restoring peace and confidence in the population. He mentioned his own great respect and affection for His Holiness, saying that it was a matter of great personal satisfaction to him that he had met him on the occasion of the first Kalachakra in Ladakh in 1976 when his grandfather was Chief Minister, during the region’s second Kalachakra in Zanskar in 1988 when his father was CM and now on the third occasion when he was himself Chief Minister. He offered thanks to His Holiness for his presence personally and on behalf of the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

During the course of the teachings, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has called for religious and social harmony among different communities in Ladakh.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s upcoming schedule include a visit to Germany in August where he will lead a discussion on ‘Secular Ethics – Human Values In Our Lives’ at Hamburg on 23 August.

His Holiness will also give teachings on Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (chodjug) on August 24 and 25; and will confer an Avalokiteshvera Initiation (chenresig wang jigten wangchuk) on the morning of August 26.

Kalachakra Empowerment – the Offering Dance


Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India   9 July 2014

Today saw the culmination of activities that began a week ago as the preparatory prayers and rituals for the 33rd Kalachakra Empowerment came to a conclusion.  The sand mandala was completed yesterday and this morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama participated in rituals for four and a half hours.

After lunch, to the low rumble of long horns and the crash of cymbals, twelve monks of Namgyal Monastery processed onto the platform under His Holiness’s watchful eye. Representing Skyfarers or Dakinis they wore bone ornaments over elaborate silk brocade robes with red topknots and 5-leafed lotus crowns on their heads. Each dancer held a vajra and bell, representing the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness. They formed a circle within the pavilion where they performed a stately meditative dance, their faces revealing a quiet absorption. The Namgyal Monastery Chant-Master led a steady, resonant, deep voiced chant in which the dancers also joined.

Meanwhile, on the steps below the platform, groups of local dancers took turns to perform their own traditional dances in sometimes elaborate traditional costumes. Among the first group of nine from Wanla Village were masked dancers and one singer. The second group of ten women from Nubra were resplendent in their perak headdresses bearing lines of turquoise stones and were followed by eleven women from Western Ladakh, who in addition to the perak wore white yak-tail shawls across their backs. From Nepal came a group representing the Tibetan Töpa community. Another group of eleven Ladakhis, five men and six women, were followed by four men from Tibet, who danced shaking a belt of horse bells slung across one shoulder,

There were more groups, predominantly of women, from Leh, Sakti and from Chang Thang in Eastern Ladakh. A larger group of both men and women came from Lahaul & Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. There were two more exuberant groups of women one from Zanskar and another from Kuksh in Kargil District dancing with steel plates in their hands. Many of the singers and dancers were accompanied by the local drummers and surna players. Towards the end, a much larger group of artistes from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala played, sang and danced with impressive panache. The final offering was made by dancers from Mongolia, who seemed particularly proud to be taking part.

Not long after the guest performances were concluded, the monks of Namgyal Monastery reached the end of their dance and were escorted off the stage in great dignity by a monk with incense in his hands.

Tomorrow morning His Holiness will come to the site early to perform a Kalachakra self-empowerment prior to leading the disciples through the preparatory procedures for the main Kalachakra Empowerment.

14th Kashag dedicates 2014 as Year of HH the Great 14th Dalai Lama

DHARAMSHALA: As the 14th Kashag of the Central Tibetan Administration dedicated 2014 as the year of His Holiness the Great Fourteenth Dalai Lama, thousands of Tibetans, the state government’s top Indian officials and local Indians celebrated His Holiness’s 79th birthday with elation and festivity.

Addressing the gathering, Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay said: “On this joyous and special occasion of the 79th birthday of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama, the Kashag would like to express our deepest reverence and respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama on behalf of all Tibetans in and outside Tibet. We join millions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s admirers across the globe in wishing him good health and long life.”

“The 14th Kashag is observing 2014 as the “Year of the Great 14th Dalai Lama” to express our boundless appreciation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s great accomplishments for the cause of Tibet and the promotion of peace, inter-faith harmony and humane values throughout the world,” Sikyong said. 

Under this year-long program, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) will organize 21 major events, which include some 300 smaller activities. Looking further ahead, the Kashag will mark His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday by the Tibetan calendar—the fifth day of the fifth Tibetan month, falling on the 21st of June 2015—with an elaborate long life offering to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Sikyong said the fact that the Tibetan people today are united like an iron ball regardless of their regional or religious affiliations and in spite of the Chinese occupation is mainly due to the enlightened leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 

Sikyong said His Holiness the Dalai Lama laid a strong foundation for the sustenance of Tibetan people as well as the preservation of the Tibetan identity by establishing Tibetan settlements across India, Nepal and Bhutan. Read the rest

Live Webcasts: Kalachakra Teachings from Ladakh


There will be live webcasts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra Teachings in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India on July 3-13, 2014. His Holiness will speak in Tibetan followed by Ladakhi, English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Hindi language translations.

All times Indian Standard Time (IST = GMT+5.30)
Live English language webcast can be viewed here.
Live Tibetan and Ladakhi language webcast can be viewed here.
Live Chinese language webcast can be viewed here.
Live Vietnamese language webcast can be viewed here.
Live Russian language webcast can be viewed here.
Live Hindi language webcast can be viewed here

July 3rd – Teaching for Disciples
His Holiness the Dalai Lama will give introductory teachings for the main disciples of the Kalachakra Empowerment.
Time: 10:00am – 11:00am IST

July 6th – His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 79th Birthday Celebrations
Time: 8:00am – 8:45am IST

June 6th to 8th – Preliminary Teachings
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s three day teaching on Nagarjuna’s “Precious Garland of the Middle Way” and “Letter to a Friend”
July 6: 8:45am -1 1:15am IST
July 7: 8:00am – 11:15am IST
July 8: 8:00am – 11:15am IST

July 9th – Kalachakra Ritual Offering Dance
Time: 12:30pm – 1:30pm IST

July 13th: Long Life Empowerment and Offering
His Holiness will bestow a Long Life Empowerment followed by a Long Life Offering Ceremony for His Holiness
Time: 8:00am – 11:30am IST

For time in your region 10:00am IST on July 3rd in Ladakh, India is the same as 5:30am BST  on July 3rd in London, England; and 9:30pm PDT on July 2nd in Los Angeles, California, USA.