The gathering at the Ballroom, The Oberoi, on Monday evening couldn’t but let out sporadic bursts of laughter every now and then. The person on the dais was no stand-up comedian. But his sense of humour, supplemented by generous helpings of life lessons, found more appreciation than that of a seasoned jester. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader known equally well for his answers as well as his gags, was in the Capital on Monday as a small group of dignitaries and various personalities got together to commemorate the leader’s 80th birthday. His birthday, which falls on July 6, 2015, on Monday, was celebrated with equal jest.
Several speakers took the podium to express their gratitude to the spiritual leader’s words of wisdom and the calm he evokes. Some of them included former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, BJP veteran LK Advani, Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, Rajya Sabha MP Karan Singh, social activist Aruna Roy, historian Ramchandra Guha, and actor Sharmila Tagore, among others. The evening was punctuated with a tribute performance by sarod maestro Ut Amjad Ali Khan with sons Ayaan and Amaan. “A major portion of my life, which I think comprised some of the best years, was spent in this country. As a Buddhist monk and a practitioner of Buddhist message, when many people praise you, you remind yourself that you are but a simple Buddhist monk. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of that practice,” said the Dalai Lama. Speaking about compassion and ahimsa, the leader spoke about using ancient knowledge, along with contemporary learnings, to tackle the larger problem of a moral crisis. “God created us and gave us the teachings. But that’s not just it. You should use your common sense too. This will help you create a fuller knowledge which combines common sense as well as scientific research,” he said. Having been in exile in India since 1959, the Dalai Lama expressed responsibility towards all the Tibetans outside their homeland. “I have a moral and political responsibility towards my people. If 20th century was a century about violence, the 21st century should be about dialogue,” he said, “The preservation of the ecology and Tibetan culture is my commitment. Over one billion of Tibetans have so far kept our knowledge of Nalanda tradition alive. But monks and scholars should not simply follow me out of faith,” he said.