Over 5,000 followers of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama from aborad, including China, reached this mountainous town in Jammu and Kashmir to participate in the highly venerated two-day Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) ceremony beginning Friday.
Event organisers said that around 140,000 people attended the preliminary empowerment ceremony Thursday.
“We are gathered for Buddhist teachings in the land where Buddhism, coming from Tibet, has flourished for a long time,” the Dalai Lama, whose sermons on ethics, non-violence, peace and religious harmony have made him one of the 20th century’s most popular and revered gurus, said Thursday.
“While many of you have come from across Ladakh and the Himalayan region, about 5,000 have come at great cost and hardship from abroad, Chinese and people from other Buddhist countries among them,” he said.
Organisers said over 200 Chinese, to whom the elderly Buddhist monk separately met a few days ago, are among those foreigners who have travelled across abroad to get his teachings.
Hollywood actor Richard Gere is also in Leh, the main town of the mountainous district of Ladakh, to attend the ceremony.
“The relations between Tibet and China are more than 1,000 years old. Historically, Chinese are Buddhists and it is often observed that Chinese are the senior disciples, while Tibetans are junior,” said the Noble Peace laureate.
“But the junior disciples haven’t done so badly. A few years ago, a survey conducted by the University of Beijing revealed that there were 300 million Buddhists in China and since then the number is thought to have grown to 400-500 million,” he said.
Remembering being described by a Chinese official as a demon, the globe-trotting monk told the Chinese that it made no difference to him whether he was called a demon or Chenrezig.
“To me what is much more important is to be a follower of the Buddha.”
Aides of the Dalai Lama said the preliminary empowerment related to the Kalachakra took place Thursday, while the actual empowerment would be given Friday and Saturday.
Octogenarian Lhakpa Dolma, who was part of the Buddhist group from Tibet, said this was the second time she came to India to attend the Kalachakra.
Earlier, she participated in the last Kalachakra ceremony held in Bodh Gaya in Bihar in 2012.
The Dalai Lama’s office in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh says that of late Chinese scholars from Taiwan and mainland China are regularly interacting with the Tibetan spiritual leader to understand his “middle-way” policy for Tibet.
“Over 1.3 billion Chinese people have a right to know the truth. If they know reality, they have the ability and intelligence to judge right from wrong. The censorship imposed in China would be impossible to maintain in India or Japan,” the Dalai Lama told the Chinese devotees in one his interactions here.
The spiritual guru’s teachings are free and open to the public. Even board and lodging is free for the participants, says the Dalai Lama’s office.
The teaching sessions are held at the request of followers and devotees, mostly Westerners and Asians.
The Dalai Lama teaches in Tibetan, and there are simultaneous translations in English, Hindi and Chinese for the participants.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule in 1959.
The government-in-exile is based in Dharamsala that never won recognition from any country.