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His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Greatest ambassador of India’s soft power

Editor's ChoiceHis Holiness the Dalai Lama: Greatest ambassador of India’s soft power

NEW DELHI: India, with its inherent soft power, has the unique advantage of being home to the Dalai Lama, a living symbol of Buddhist teachings whose influence extends across the globe.

Yesterday, 6 July, marked the 89th birthday of Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, better known worldwide as “His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama”. This milestone was celebrated with great enthusiasm and reverence not only by Tibetans living in exile, but also by his admirers and followers around the world. Born on 6 July 1935, in the small village of Taktser in the Tibetan province of Amdo, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has resided in India since seeking refuge here in 1959, following the illegal invasion of Tibet by Communist China. As the highest spiritual leader and most revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism, he also served as the political head of Tibet until recently. Originally named Lhamo Thondup, meaning “Wish-Fulfilling Goddess,” he has indeed embodied this title throughout his life.

For the past 65 years that His Holiness has spent in exile, he has almost single-handedly kept the issue of the 7 million Tibetan Freedom Struggle alive during these uncertain times with his steadfastness, peaceful, and principled resistance against the belligerent People’s Republic of China (PRC).

During the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, Egil Aarvik, then chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, delivered a presentation speech in which he equated His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Mahatma Gandhi, stating: “It would be difficult to cite any historical example of a minority’s struggle to secure its rights, in which a more conciliatory attitude to the adversary has been adopted than in the case of the Dalai Lama. It would be natural to compare him with Mahatma Gandhi, one of this century’s greatest protagonists of peace, and the Dalai Lama likes to consider himself one of Gandhi’s successors. People have occasionally wondered why Gandhi himself was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the present Nobel Committee can with impunity share this surprise, while regarding this year’s award of the prize as in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.”

HIS INFLUENCE AND IMPACT IN INDIA

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is globally admired as a symbol of peace, love, compassion, forgiveness, and non-violence. His contributions to humanity are vast, and he is particularly cherished in India, where he has resided for the past six decades. The Dalai Lama often refers to himself as India’s “longest guest,” committed to never causing any trouble to his host nation.

His presence in India has bolstered the country’s contemporary standing as the land of Buddha Shakyamuni and the birthplace of Buddhism. This has revitalized Buddhist practices across the Himalayan region, fostering a deeper and more engaged understanding of its philosophy.

India, with its inherent soft power, has the unique advantage of being home to the Dalai Lama, a living symbol of Buddhist teachings whose influence extends across the globe, not just in the Himalayan belt. The Dalai Lama is India’s greatest advocate for human values, religious harmony, the preservation of Tibetan culture and environment, and the revival of ancient Nalanda traditions. His promotion of dialogue as a means to resolve conflicts aligns with the universal desire for peace and harmony. India must consciously embrace and celebrate the Dalai Lama as a jewel in its crown, extending its influence through his profound legacy.

GLOBAL SYMBOL OF PEACE AND COMPASSION

The Dalai Lama is universally recognized as an emblem of peace, compassion, and non-violence. His status as a global symbol of peace is well-earned through his lifelong commitment to these principles. His teachings, which emphasise kindness, understanding, and forgiveness, resonate with millions around the world. This alignment with India’s ancient traditions of tolerance and moral leadership significantly enhances India’s global image.

The Dalai Lama has consistently promoted non-violence as a means to resolve conflicts. His approach is deeply rooted in the principles of Ahimsa, a concept central to Indian philosophy and notably championed by Mahatma Gandhi. For instance, during the 2008 Tibetan uprisings, the Dalai Lama urged his followers to protest peacefully and avoid violence, even in the face of severe repression.

The Dalai Lama’s teachings often focus on compassion and the interconnectedness of all human beings. This echoes the Indian philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family). His book, “The Art of Happiness,” co-authored with Howard Cutler, has inspired countless people to live with greater compassion and joy. By hosting the Dalai Lama, India showcases its heritage of universal compassion and inclusivity.

CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS AMBASSADORSHIP

The Dalai Lama serves as a significant cultural and religious ambassador, promoting Tibetan Buddhism globally while reinforcing the historical and cultural ties between Tibet and India. This role not only elevates India’s status as a spiritual epicentre, but also attracts scholars, spiritual seekers, and tourists seeking spiritual enrichment. The presence of the Dalai Lama in India has spurred spiritual tourism to Dharamshala and other Tibetan settlements in India. These areas have become hubs for cultural exchange, where visitors can learn about Tibetan art, music, cuisine, and religious practices.

SOFT DIPLOMACY

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s role as an informal ambassador through soft diplomacy significantly contributes to promoting Indian culture and values on the global stage. His interactions with global leaders and participation in international conferences on ethics, education, environmental sustainability, and global peace highlight Indian philosophical thought, particularly Buddhist principles of compassion, mindfulness, and interdependence. These teachings resonate globally and contribute to India’s soft power by showcasing its philosophical heritage as a source of moral guidance and spiritual insight.

Beyond spiritual and cultural matters, the Dalai Lama advocates for global causes such as environmental sustainability, human rights, and social justice. His advocacy aligns with India’s stance on these issues and amplifies India’s soft power by demonstrating shared values and commitments on the international stage. His presence and speeches at these forums amplify India’s voice on global issues and underscore its role as a champion of human rights and democracy.

MEDIATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION

The Dalai Lama’s teachings on dialogue and conflict resolution align with India’s diplomatic stance on various international conflicts. His approach enhances India’s image as a mediator and peacekeeper in the global arena. His advocacy of non-violence and dialogue as means to resolve conflicts resonate with India’s historical commitment to peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution.

His informal diplomacy efforts, often referred to as Track II diplomacy, involve fostering relationships and dialogue between conflicting parties outside formal government channels. His ability to engage with leaders and influencers from diverse backgrounds facilitates trust-building and promotes peaceful resolutions to complex issues. This approach enhances India’s role as a facilitator of peace processes and conflict resolution initiatives.

In essence, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has not only enriched India’s spiritual and cultural landscape, but has also significantly enhanced its soft power worldwide. His presence continues to be a jewel in India’s crown, reflecting the nation’s deep-rooted values and aspirations on the global stage. On this auspicious occasion, I would like to once again call for the Dalai Lama, one of India’s most esteemed guests, to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour. By honouring His Holiness, India would only be honouring itself.

Sujeet Kumar is a Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha and a lawyer.

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