On this occasion of the Third Special General Meeting of Tibetans being held in this year of 2019 under the provisions of Article 59 of the Charter of Tibetans in Exile, I, on behalf of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile extend my greetings to the delegates who have gathered here, including the current and former leading officials of the three pillars of Tibetan democracy and of the autonomous bodies under the Central Tibetan Administration; the representatives of the different religious schools; the Secretaries and Additional Secretaries of the different departments of the Central Tibetan Administration; the representatives of other sections of the Central Tibetan Administration civil service; the delegates representing the Local Tibetan Assemblies in communities in different parts of India, Nepal and Bhutan; the Settlement Representatives; the delegates representing the Local Tibetan Freedom Movement offices; the delegates representing Tibetans living in areas where there are no Local Tibetan Assembly; the delegates from autonomously governed Tibetan institutions; the delegates representing Tibetan associations and organizations in different foreign countries; and, likewise, the delegates from the Tibetan non-governmental organizations community.
There are two items of agenda for which purpose this Third Special General Meeting of Tibetans has been convened: 1) The Five Fifty Vision of the Central Tibetan Administration and 2) The relationship between the lineage of His Holiness the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan people. It is for the purpose of holding discussion on these two themes that this meeting has been convened. In October 2017, the Kashag, the executive branch of the Central Tibetan Administration, convened at Dharamsala an international meeting on ‘Five-Fifty Forum: Shaping Tibet’s Political Future’ under the theme of the Five Fifty Vision. After that a meeting on ‘Five-Fifty Youth Forum: Shaping Tibet’s Future’ was held in August 2018. Likewise, in September 2018, an important conference on ‘Five-Fifty Forum: Towards a Resilient Tibetan Community’ was held, which focused on the development and long-term resiliency of the Central Tibetan Administration’s Five-Fifty Vision. The conference brought together as many experts, advisors, practitioners, donors, community representatives, and friends of Tibet as possible who were deeply engaged with the issues that the Forum sought to address. The themes of that conference were: Sustaining Tibetan Religion and Culture, Economic Development of Tibetan Community, Strengthening Tibetan Education, and A Healthier Tibetan Community. Most recently, from 16 to 19 August 2019, a ‘Second Five-Fifty Youth Forum: Shaping Tibet’s Future’ was held. To sum up, the Kashag has so far convened four meetings in connection with the Five-Fifty Vision. The Kashag, the executive organ of the Central Tibetan Administration, has made compilations of the final suggestions submitted by the participants in those meetings under their respective different themes. These represent a set of opinions of the participants in those meetings. What more is required is that through the delegates participating in this Special General Meeting, opinions and suggestions from the different communities of the general body of the Tibetan public represented by them should be ensured to come up and form part of the general pool of opinions and suggestions. This is of utmost importance. Because it is the general Tibetan public who will be implementing the decisions on these opinions and suggestions in their respective localities, the more of these come in, the better indeed it will be, and this is only to be expected.
With regard to whatever detailed background materials were available relating to the first item on the agenda of this Third Special General Meeting of Tibetans, namely ‘The Five Fifty Vision’ of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan Parliament in Exile made a prior request to the Kashag administration, asking that in order to enable the Tibetan public to gain a clear understanding of them, these be publicized among them in keeping with their demands. Accordingly, during their official tours, the Kalons have continued to educate the Tibetan public in the different localities about the Five-Fifty Vision. The concerned offices of the Central Tibetan Administration under the Kashag have already circulated among the general Tibetan public the different sets of documents of opinions and suggestions compiled from each of the meetings on the Five-Fifty Vision that have been held thus far. Hence, each of the different communities of the monastic and lay Tibetan people alike should, having gained a good understanding of the Five-Fifty Vision. Accordingly, their opinions and suggestions thereon should also be properly put together and the delegates at this forum, being their representatives and having brought them here, should introduce and explain them both orally and in written form in their respective committees and in all their completeness and without any sort of errors of omission and shortcoming.
As you know, the second item on the agenda of this Third Special General Meeting of Tibetans is ‘The relationship between the lineage of His Holiness the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan people’. From all that is revealed in the large body of scriptures and transmissions of the scriptures, let me quote a tiny dewdrop of it here for your consideration in this connection. The Bodhisattva Chenrezig, the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas, had, for many countless aeons attained the trio of accomplishment, maturation, and perfection of accumulation of merit and wisdom. And in that milieu he had tackled the obscurations of delusional mental consciousness to get rid of even a predisposing latency of it as he carried out an endless stream of Bodhisattva deeds of such immense magnitude as to encompass the entire universe. He had thereby already attained complete Buddhahood to enter the stage of nirvana. Nevertheless, in keeping with the disposition, inclination, and temperament of the sentient beings, he performed miracle deeds by unimaginable means to carry out such roles as were appropriate to tame their obscured minds. With regard to his carrying out of such role-play miracles to tame sentient beings to such extent, it is thus stated of him: “The universe is as vast as the unfathomable expanse of the space / And your miracle emanations have numbered as many as the countless number of sentient beings that inhabit it. / Even though having made miracle manifestations of such enormous number, not even the tip of a tiny hair on your body even so much as twitched, / For it was with effortless spontaneity, like that of the condensed clouds giving way to rainfall, that you accomplished your deeds.” As thus stated and the like, the totality of the deeds of the Bodhisattva Chenrezig in his various countless miracle manifestations in the past are immense beyond imagination. However, with regard to such of his inestimable range of deeds as had been carried out within the conception of those to be tamed in the general context of the holy land of India ever since the thirty-six alphabet based system of writing came into being there, and in the particular case of the Snowland of Tibet, which did not constitute an object for taming by other Buddhas and their spiritual heirs, and over which he assumed responsibility as its patron deity, the story is told thus: Long in the distant past, when the Buddha resided in a bamboo grove, a light of great luminosity filled Tibet which brought a smile on his face. The Bodhisattva Sarvanivarana Viskambin asked the Buddha for an explanation of the causes and conditions underlying his act of smiling. And the Buddha replied that the wild and outlying peripheral snowland of Tibet which had failed to be covered by any of the Buddhas of the three time realms for spiritual salvage has, thanks to the benevolence and great kindness of the Bodhisattva Chenrezig, turned into a place where the Buddhist religion will flourish all across with the luminosity like that of a rising sun. And there was a special reason why where all other Buddhas had failed, only Chenrezig succeeded in taming the beings of the wild and outlying peripheral snowland of Tibet. This goes further back in time when in the presence of a gathering of a thousand Buddhas, the Bodhisattva Chenrezig took a vow. He prayed to vouch an undertaking that concerning the entirety of the sentient beings of that wild and outlying peripheral land who present the greatest of challenge for taming, may he succeed in guiding them towards the path to spiritual salvation. Such was the kind of pledge he took, as it has thus been stated. Besides, the Kadham Legbham texts collection thus states: As it was said, “The Dakinis have said in their Vajra songs, that / In the northward direction of the sacred Bodh Gaya, / There is a ghost land called Tibet, / With pillars of mountains so high as to hold up the sky, / With lowland lakes of turquoise mandalas, / With Snow mountains of crystal temples, / With grasslands of yellowness resembling heaps of gold, / And with the aroma of herbal incense wafting the land.” And so on. Likewise, “O! Lord of the Snow Mountains Chenrezig, / In that sacred realm lies your abode, / And in that abode are your disciple-subjects.” Thus, as prophesied in numerous sutra and tantra texts, the Bodhisattva Chenrezig first originated and spread out the human race, then nurtured his offspring with worldly material things in the next stage, and finally brought them to spiritual maturation in the last stage. The lineage began with the ancestry of a Bodhisattva monkey mother. Then in the later stage he came as the first king of Tibet Nyatri Tsenpo. From him, and through successive rulers, including as the trio of the great Buddhist kings Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen and Tri Ralpachen, he also came as Bodhisattva translators and scholars who illuminated the land of Tibet that was otherwise darkened by the obscuration of ignorance with the moonlight of Buddhist religion. The subjects of Tibet were thereby drawn to both immediate and long-term zeniths of welfare, prosperity and bliss.
Then the Bodhisattva Chenrezig made appearance as the principal disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, the omniscient His Holiness the First Dalai Lama Gedhun Drubpa Pal-Zangpo. Regarding him, the Kadham Legbham texts collection thus states: “The Bodhisattva Chenrezig then emanated as Pal Zangpo incarnate.” As thus stated, Gedhun Drubpa Pal-Zangpo made the appearance of being a perseverant observer of the vows of an ordained maroon-robed monk in carrying out his noble deeds. And up to the fourth reincarnate lineage, the Bodhisattva Chenrezig immersed himself mainly in being the principal upholder of the Yellow-hat Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism as well as of the other traditions of Tibetan Buddhism by means of his pure vision perceptions. On that basis he illuminated the entire lands of Tibet and Mongolia with the light of the Buddhist religious teachings.
As regards the timeliness of the appearance of His Holiness, the protector refuge of incomparable kindness, it is thus stated in the Manjushri Root Tantra text: “When the teachings of the Buddha on the earth / Reaches the end of its time and declines, / Then like the kingly observer of precepts, / Shall (he) indubitably appear.” When the whole body of Tibet – its subjects, nationhood, religion, and governance – stood sapped of all its strength and vitality, abandoned in utter helplessness as if by a doctor of an incurable patient, His Holiness the Great Fifth Dalai Lama appeared and established the Ganden (the hundred-fold happiness-characterized) Phodrang under the comforting shade of the white parasol of whose government system the wellbeing of the Tibetan subjects were ensured. Since then, until the period of the incomparable His Holiness the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama, the gratitude for the kindness and care received by the Tibetan nation and people has been immeasurable. In particular, the successive previous Dalai Lamas, all great treasuries of compassion, firmly adhered to their oaths of kindness and continued to care for the Snowland of Tibet as regards both its geographical territory and its natural and human constituents, as well as for the governance of the nation by deliberately assuming earthly manifestations. In that state, each ascended the throne as His Holiness the Dalai Lama without any sort of controversy. They took charge of their state responsibilities as prayed for in both the spiritual and temporal aspects at times when the governance of the nation had dissipated like a butter lamp that had stopped burning because of the complete exhaustion of its fuel of oil.
At the 11th biannual conference of religious leaders and representatives of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon religion which was held on the 23rd of September in 2011, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: “One point I want to make clear is that earlier, in 1996, I made it clear that when the time comes, the question whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should or should not continue should be decided by the concerned Tibetan people at that time. And I have been keeping on saying that before. I remarked at that time that rather than saying this should be decided in the future without specifying when that time will be, I made clear in which year or years this would happen. And I said that when I reach the age of around ninety, or the age up to which the First Dalai Lama Gedhun Drubpa had lived, I will hold consultations with relevant persons for this purpose. That was one thing. After that, I will take a decision on the matter of the final recognition of the reincarnation, I added. These are the two main points. It is for me alone to take a decision on the reincarnation; no one else has the authority to decide on the issue of my reincarnation.”
Then, on the 24th of September in 2011, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said in a speech on the issue of the recognition of his reincarnation: “I have already announced way back in 1969 that on the question whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should or should not continue into the future, the faithful general public should make the decision.” His Holiness also said in that speech, “When I reach about the age topped by Je Gedun Drub, I will consult with the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for a Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, the responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Gaden Phodrang Trust of the Dalai Lama. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with the past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this.”
Likewise, in His March 10 statement in 1988, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “As I have said many times, even the continuation of the institution of the Dalai Lama is for the people to decide.”
Regarding the process for the discovery and recognition of the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there is a well-established, unique historical tradition for the recognition of reincarnations in Tibetan Buddhism which dates back from the very early part of the 13th century and it is fully preserved to this day. In this connection His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “As a Tibetan national subject and on account of the bond established by karma and prayers, there is a unique close relationship between the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan people. Hence, the entire general Tibetan public has faith and trust in me and as long as that tie continues …”
Regarding what His Holiness the Dalai Lama said in His March 10 statement in 1988 as quoted above, this Special General Meeting of Tibetans reiterates the stand that the relationship between successive Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan people has been akin to that between head and neck and is therefore never ever separable. Hence it is only to be expected that the tradition of the continuance of the lineage of the Dalai Lamas through successive reincarnations should remain for the sake of the people of the Snowland of Tibet. And regarding the issue of the discovery and recognition of the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the decision is the prerogative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself personally and the duly empowered trustees of the Gaden Phodang Trust of the Dalai Lama alone. Apart from that, no government, organization, private individual persons and the like can claim to possess that authority. We are reiterating this by taking the opportunity provided by the present occasion as a matter of emphasizing the seriousness of what is of utmost importance. We are emphatic in calling on all the delegates taking part in this Third Special General Meeting to, likewise, concentrate with utmost sincerity through single-minded focus and intensity of feeling to be able to arrive at a clear decision.
In keeping with the agenda that has been finalized for this meeting, the delegates have been equally divided into ten committees which will hold their meeting after this inaugural event. Each committee should focus on the two topics that have been finalized for them without going out of their ambits and the chair of each committee should be strict in exercising control over the proceedings. The reports of each committee should be recorded point-wise in clear terms.
A detailed schedule of programmes from the time of the conclusion of today’s inaugural event until the dispersal of the final session on October 5 to roundup the proceedings of the Special General Meeting is set out in a yellow-coloured sheet of paper that is enclosed in each file distributed among the participating delegates. We urge every delegate to adhere to the timetable set out in it and join their respective committees in a timely manner.
The delegates have been equally divided into ten committees. Regarding the names of the delegates listed for each committee, the place for the meeting of each committee, and the hall/room for holding the different meetings of this event, they are all written on the back of the delegates’ introductory badge and everyone is requested to follow them accordingly. After lunch on the 4th of October, the committees should conclude whatever remaining discussions they had on the two topics assigned to them and complete the recording of the final report thereon. These should be proceeded with on the basis that by 3:50 pm that day, all delegates must assemble in the plenary meeting hall and each committee should make a presentation of its background report. The next day, on the 5th of October at 10:30 am, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, along with the chairmen of the ten committees, and the Secretaries of the Departments of the Central Tibetan Administration, will hold a joint session to summarise the committee reports. Then at 3:30 pm on the same day, the delegates will meet in a plenary session again in the main meeting hall at which the final report to be approved by the Special General Meeting will be presented point-by-point by the chairperson of the meeting for endorsement. After that, the concluding session of the Special General Meeting will be held. Regarding all these and other programmes of the event, a detailed table of schedules has already been distributed to each delegate and they are requested to ensure the completion of the programmes within the times fixed for each of them. It is important that during the session of the committees it should be ensured that the delegates speak to offer opinions and suggestion specifically on the topics under discussion in each of them instead of wasting time by referring to matters unrelated to them. The main consideration is that the delegates should ensure that they are able to fully bring to the table with clarity and without any omission or deletion all the items of opinions and suggestions that had been entrusted to them by the specific communities of the general Tibetan public they represent here.
The three days of the Special General Meeting this time will be held in the meeting hall of the Central Tibetan Administration at Gangchen Kyishong. The entire fiscal expenses of the secretariat of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile for the financial year 2019-20 is shown to have been arranged for by the executive organ of the Central Tibetan Administration in keeping with the budget rules thereof. In keeping with it, the entire expenses met by budgetary allocation for this Special General Meeting has been charged to the consolidated fund of the Central Tibetan Administration. This part of the year at Dharamshala happens to be a period when the place sees many visitors from both within and outside India. We therefore offer our apologies to those who have faced difficulty in getting proper accommodation during the Special General Meeting. The secretariat of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile has supposedly made every possible effort to oversee the preparations and arrangements for all the three days of the meeting but still remain hopeful that the delegates will face no problems. Finally, we pray that His Holiness the Dalai Lama may live for a hundred aeons, with all his wishes being seen spontaneously fulfilled. As a way to bring this about, everyone should make utmost efforts to bring out the best in them of their acumen to thereby pool their capabilities. This is the request we wish to make while hoping that this Special General Meeting held under the provisions of the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile will serve such meaningful purpose as to make ourselves happy and others admiring of us, as the Tibetan saying goes.
By the Tibetan Parliament in Exile on this the 3rd of October 2019
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* In case of any discrepancy between this English translation and its Tibetan original, the latter should be considered authoritative and final for all purposes