By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, December 30: The exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama today joined thousands of Tibetan exiles in a ceremonial function commemorating the 20th death anniversary of the 10th Panchen Lama, Lhundrup Choekyi Gyaltsen.
Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama releases a book at a commemoration ceremony to mark 20 years since the passing away of the 10th Panchen Lama at Tsunglakhang in Dharamsala, India, December 30, 2009. (Photo by Abhishek Madhukar)
The Dalai Lama presided over a memorial ceremony here at the main Tibetan temple that began with a minute of silence and special prayer offering to pay homage to the late Panchen Lama.
While China lauds the second most influential spiritual figures of Tibet as an enemy of 'separatism', Tibetans today remembered the 10th Panchen Lama as a great martyr and champion of Tibetan people’s rights.
“In person, the 10th Panchen Lama is an extraordinarily fearless Tibetan who showed unwavering courage to work for the general cause of Tibet and its people,” the Dalai Lama said. “Panchen Lama was someone who held firm conviction to fight for the truth," the Tibetan leader said.
“If the 10th Panchen Lama still been alive, he would have certainly made far more contribution to the cause of Tibet,” the Dalai Lama noted, while expressing regret for his untimely death.
The 10th Panchen Lama wrote the famous 70,000-character petition about the Tibetan people’s plight under Chinese rule and was submitted to the Chinese government in 1962. The petition, criticising Chinese government’s Tibet policy, was met with violent and scornful reaction from Mao Zedong and the Communist Party. The Panchen Lama was condemned without trial and spent the following 14 years in prison or under virtual house arrest.
In December 1964, he was taken to Peking under the criminal title of ‘counter-revolutionary’. He was accused of working against the Chinese government and its people and, was said to be subjected to severe beatings and struggle sessions.
In 1978, he was freed after which he traveled extensively throughout Tibet working to preserve the Tibetan culture, and improve the lives of the Tibetan people. During his last visit to Tibet in 1989, the Panchen Lama gave an extraordinary public speech in Shigatse, the seat of the Tashi Lhundup Monastery, where he publicly criticized China’s policies in Tibet and declared his loyalty to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Shortly after the address, on January 28, 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama is said to have breathed his last under mysterious circumstances. He was 51.
“The 10th Panchen Lama was undoubtedly a great being who had especially taken birth at that critical period for the benefit of Buddha Dharma and the Tibetan people,” said Kachen Lobzang Tseten, the abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, which is the traditional seat of the successive Panchen Lamas.
“Even in ordinary parlance he was regarded as an extremely brave person who would not even draw the line at sacrificing his own life,” he added.
Top leaders of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, including the Prime Minister Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche and his cabinet ministers, and speaker Mr Penpa Tsering and other members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile attended today’s commemorative function organised by the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Central Association His Holiness the Panchen Lama.
“The 10th Panchen Lama had shown incredible courage to act and speak on the truth about Tibet even under most difficult and sensitive political circumstances in Tibet,” the Tibetan Prime Minister said in his speech.
Owing to 10th Panchen Lama’s exemplary struggle for the welfare of Tibetan people and Tibet’s cause, Rinpoche said that the Tibetan Government-in-Exile was indebted to make all necessary efforts to free the young 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nima, from Chinese control.
In 1995, the Dalai Lama recognized a young boy Gendun Choekyi Nima as the 11th Panchen Lama, but Beijing abducted him to an unknown location and installed its own choice, Gyaltsen Norbu, who is spurned by most Tibetans.
The whereabouts of the Gendun Choekyi Nima and his parents are still unknown.
As part of the memorial ceremony, the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Central Association His Holiness the Panchen Lama, earlier in the morning, conducted an elaborate long life prayer offering or tenshsug
for the Dalai Lama.
The organisers also launched three books in Tibetan on the 10th Panchen Lama.
The books, the organizers, say, are part of their effort “to create awareness about the struggle that the 10th Panchen Lama encountered while working to promote the welfare of the Tibetan people and revive the Tibetan cultural and religious traditions under Chinese rule”.
The organisers will also hold a concert in memory of the 10th Panchen Lama tomorrow at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in Dharamsala.
The commemorative events are part of the organisers’ year-long campaign activities dedicated to the 10th Panchen Lama starting January 2009.