Ram Madhav
March 31, 2018

60th Anniversary of the Exile and ‘Thank You India’ Event

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Text of speech at the 60th Anniversary Of the exile and ‘Thank You India’ event organised by HH Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration at Dharamshala on March 31, 2018

  • His Holiness The Dalai Lama, together with his followers, has decided to host a Thank You India event on the eve of the 60th year of his exile into India. It is a natural gesture directed not at any leader or party, but to the age-old civilisational and cultural values of India, which truly deserve a thank you. Life of a refugee in exile is not easy.
  • India has always played an affectionate and endearing host to all those who chose its lands as temporary home and spiritual abode. Jews came, Parsees came and many others too landed in India seeking refuge. India has welcomed them with open arms and with an open heart.
  • Sixty years ago, His Holiness came to India with thousands of followers, escaping the wrath of the invading forces. Prime Minister Nehru, in the true Indian tradition, received them and provided them facilities to lead their lives as India’s guests. We don’t want to call the Tibetans as refugees; you are our guests; we call you exiles. Your motherland is waiting for you; six million fellow Tibetans are waiting for you to return. I have had the fortune of visiting Tibet and the ancestral house of Holiness The Dalai Lama, where he was born. His house was well-decorated; a gaddi – platform has been kept ready for the Holiness to return and occupy.
  • Refugees end up not only as stateless people but even identity-less. They are forced to lead miserable lives. But that has not been the case with the Tibetan refugees, thanks to the care taken by Holiness and his administration right from the beginning. Hundreds of learned Lamas who accompanied Holiness six decades ago into India have ensured a religious, cultural and traditional continuum for Tibetan exiles. Through schools and monasteries the language and literacy were taken care of. Thus the Tibetan exiles today are not paupers or paid workers, but a well-educated and identity-conscious proud citizens. As hosts, India has done its bit to help Holiness in leading his people.
  • Right from Nehru to Modi, the successive governments in India have followed One China Policy at political level. However, our bonds with the Tibetans are least political and intensely religious-cultural. For hundreds of years, we have exchanged trade; India offered spices and essential condiments to Tibet while our traders in return got precious metals and minerals.
  • But the real bonding happened some 1300 years ago when the great ancient seat of learning in India, Nalanda became the meeting ground of the two peoples. Hundreds of Tibetan students and monks came there to study. When Nalanda was destroyed in 12th Century by Bhaktiyar Khilji’s army and around 9 million texts were put to fire that burned for months on, it was the Tibetan monk-students who had surreptitiously carried hundreds of manuscripts away tying them to their bodies and fled to Tibet. Those books contained both spiritual and secular knowledge like medicine, language, grammar, mathematics etc. In fact, India owes a big thank you to Tibet for preserving that ancient Indian wisdom and knowledge and bringing it back to India.
  • Buddhism too went from Eastern India to Tibet. The early Buddhist monks like Mahapadmasambhava to medieval monks like Shakyasri Bhadra had carried with them Buddhism enriched with the imprints of the Eastern Indian Shakta traditions. Modern-day scholars like Rahul Sankrityayan had further enriched it. Tibetan Buddhism, thus has an endearing mix of Buddha and Shakti traditions.
    • We are thus cultural and spiritual cousins. And India is not a land of refuge for you, but your own land of sacred bonds. His Holiness says that the blood of Tibetan exiles in India is made of the rice and dal and roti that they ate all these years. Thus this land belongs as much to you as is it to us. There is a saying in India that a companionship of six months transforms each to the other. Here, we lived together for sixty years. You have become one with us. Between brothers, there is hardly any need for thanking each other.
  • However, the fact remains that you are in exile. We wish that you return to your motherland soon. India was home to refugees who had to wait close to two millennia to return to their homeland. I am sure it won’t take that long for the Tibetans. Yet, the perseverance is needed. The flames of intense desire to return to the motherland should be preserved intact. Out of that intense emotional longing shall come a day very soon when you all realise that dream of the Holiness to be back among your fellow Tibetans.
  • India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. It has also been blessed with the presence of one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders, HH The Dalai Lama. It is the land of peace. Holiness is personification of truth, love and peace. On this 60th annual day of exile, we wish our Tibetan brothers and sisters happiness and peace, and success in all their endeavours through peace, democracy, dialogue and accommodation.

Published by Ram Madhav

Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation

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