Tibetans Celebrate Obama Meeting with Sangsol and Fireworks in Tibet

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is greeted by members of the Tibetan community as he arrives at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington on 17 February  2010/REUTERS
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is greeted by members of the Tibetan community as he arrives at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington on 17 February 2010/REUTERS

Dharamshala: Tibetans living near the birthplace of His Holiness of the Dalai Lama in Tibet’s Amdo Province welcomed Thursday’s scheduled meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and US President Barack Obama with incense burning ceremony (Sangsol) and fireworks, Reuters news agency reported Wednesday.

Reuters reported of “midnight display of fireworks along a valley dotted with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Rebgong”.

“My heart is filled with joy,” said Johkang, showing off an enormous smile, standing at his monastery. “It is so important for us that this is happening, that the US has not given in to threats and will meet our leader,” added the monk.

Tibetans set off fireworks at this time of year anyway to mark the start of their traditional lunar new year.

But many Tibetan monks in Rebgong told Reuters that this year they were also marking His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s scheduled meeting in the White House.

“We do this whenever something big, and good happens,” said Losan, swathed in the vermillion robes of a Buddhist holy man, standing on a hillside above a monastery where monks were lighting fireworks in the early hours of Thursday.

“He’s really going to meet Obama?” interrupted a monk standing next to him, sounding somewhat incredulous.

“I heard it on Voice Of America,” Losan told him confidently.

The sound of conch shells being blown echoed around the valley as a group of monks burned an offering of flour and a ceremonial Tibetan scarf on a fire.

“I’m very excited about who the Dalai Lama is going to meet,” said one Tibetan woman, who declined to be identified citing the sensitive nature of the topic. “But I worry about what measures the government could take against us in retaliation.”

Word of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s meeting with Obama has filtered through to Amdo through Tibetan-language foreign radio broadcasts, monks told Reuters.

Some spoke proudly of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1989.

“That the 1.3 billion Han Chinese have never had one of their number win a Nobel prize and that we have, with just 6 million people, says something powerful,” said a monk named Tedan. “Now you understand why we love him so much.”

While technically Tibetan monasteries are not permitted to show pictures of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many in Amdo do.

Still, a sense of wariness pervades Rebgong.

A large new paramilitary police headquarters is being built outside the county seat, and monks mutter about occasional fines if their public devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama becomes too much.

“CCTV is always saying this and that about His Holiness and about us Tibetans,” said monk Tarkey, referring to China’s main state-run television network. “The world will get a better idea about who he is once he meets Obama.”