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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Thank You India Address on the Occasion of 50 Years in Exile

April 1, 2009

Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)
March 31, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tibet is the snowy-land located beyond the
Himalayan ranges to the north of India - the Land
of Aryas. Buddha Shakyamuni blessed this land and
prophesied the spread of the Buddhadharma there.
Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar are located
there, both of which are considered sacred by
India’s major religious traditions. Tibet is the
source of the four great rivers that flow into
India and finally reach the great oceans.
Geographically, it is like the Indian highlands,
which many great Indian masters have referred to
as the Heaven of Thirty-three,
(Trayastrimshadeva). Regarding the date at which
the Tibetan race first came about, archaeological
findings suggest it was at least ten thousand
years ago. The Bön scriptures concur. According
to the Bengali scholar Prajna Varma, Tibetans are
descendants of Rupati, king of a south Indian
kingdom, who escaped to Tibet with his subjects
after the Mahabharata War. As for the first King
of Tibet, it is believed that around 150 bce, a
prince of Magadha escaped to Tibet after being
exiled from his kingdom. Tibetans named him
Nya-tri Tsenpo and made him their king. Thus
began the Tibetan royal lineage. Whether we
consider our geography, ancestry, or our royal
dynasty, India and Tibet have long had close ties with each other.

In the 7th and 8th centuries, Tibetan students
were sent to India to study. Once they had
completed their education, these young Tibetans,
such as Thonmi Sambhota, created a Tibetan
alphabet on the basis of the Nagari script that
improved on the Shangshung Maryig, an earlier
Tibetan mode of writing, and a Tibetan grammar
based on Sanskrit. This not only contributed to
the development of Tibetan civilization, but also
allowed for the dissemination of the Buddhadharma
in Tibet. In the 8th century, Shantarakshita, a
Bengali prince turned monk and illustrious
scholar from Nalanda University, visited Tibet
and founded the monastic order there. Guru
Padmasambhava from the west of India was
responsible for the spread of Tantric Buddhism.
Shantarakshita’s student Kamalashila also visited Tibet to uphold Buddhism.

It is through the kindness of these masters who
established Buddhism in Tibet that numerous
teachings of the Buddha such as those concerning
the three vehicles and the four classes of
tantra, which make up the content of the Three
Baskets or Tripitaka, were translated into
Tibetan. Besides these, numerous works of the
great Indian commentators, such as the seventeen
Nalanda masters, Arya Nagarjuna and Arya Asanga
among them, were also translated into Tibetan.
This helped establish in Tibet the complete and
pure tradition of Buddhism that had been fostered
in the great Indian Universities at Taxila,
Nalanda, Vikramashila, and Odantapuri. Also,
because Tibetan scholars constantly referred to
the Indian sources and did not corrupt them with
their own ideas and concepts, today it is
Tibetans who have been able to preserve the
complete and pure Indian Buddhist tradition, which declined in India.

To begin with, Tibetan scholars such as the
translator Thonmi Sambota (7th century ce),
translated many texts like the twenty-one tantras
of Avalokiteshvara, the Dharani of the Crown of
the Precious Collection, and the Hundred Thousand
Verse Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. According to
the History of the Rise of the Dharma by Buton
Rinchen Drub (1290-1364), from the time of the
translator trio Kawa Peltseg, Chogro Lui
Gyaltsen, Shang Yeshe De in the 8th century until
the translator Legpa’i Lodro in the 14th century
there were 192 Tibetan translators and 93 great
Indian masters who supervised and approved their
work. Altogether there have been about 700 translators.

 From the era of Acharya Shantarakshita and
Surendrabodhi, that is the late 8th to early 9th
centuries until Acharya Belbhadra and his
disciples in the 17th century more than 300
volumes were translated into Tibetan from other
languages, such as Sanskrit, of which only 10
volumes were translated from Chinese. Many
volumes written in Indian languages such as
Sanskrit were translated into Tibetan, which now
comprise the Kangyur, the translated words of the
Buddha and the Tengyur, the translated
commentaries of subsequent Indian masters. Today,
it is we Tibetans who preserve the complete and
the pure Indian Buddhist tradition, which
declined in India. Regarding the translation of
texts from Indian languages, the greatest number
is found in Tibetan and they are considered the
most accurate, I think this is because the
creation of the Tibetan written language followed a Sanskrit pattern.

Among the many Indian masters who visited Tibet,
despite the difficulties of travelling at such
high altitudes, in order to teach the
Buddhadharma, some of the most celebrated figures
are Pandit Shakyashree, Pandit Smritijnana and
Dipamkara Atisha. There are also accounts of
thousands of Tibetans visiting India in those
days to study Buddhism. Many of them returned to
Tibet after completing their studies, but some
remained in India. There were cases of Tibetan
scholars renowned for their scholarship like the
translator Tsami Sangye Drak, who later became
abbot of the monastery at Bodhgaya. There were
also instances of Indian masters who escaped to
Tibet when their monasteries fell victim to the Turkic invasions.

These accounts reflect the indisputably strong
ties that have linked Tibetans and Indians in the
fields of religion and culture. In a letter to
me, the late Morarji Desai stated, "India and
Tibet are like two branches of the same Bodhi
tree." I entirely agree, which is why I
wholeheartedly describe Indians as our gurus,
while we Tibetans are chelas or students.

Following the decline of Buddhism in India,
spiritual and cultural ties and social
interaction with Tibet declined too. However,
Tibetans continued to go on pilgrimage to the
sacred Buddhist sites in India and from the
Indian side pilgrims continued to visit Mount
Kailash and Lake Manasarovar freely, without a
need for passports and visas, until 1959. Trade
between the two countries continued along the
border from Ladakh in the west to present day
Arunachal Pradesh in the east. Tibet reached
agreements on important issues with the kingdoms
on its borders. There was also a tradition of
sending donations for religious purposes to the
sacred places in the border areas. In the
twentieth century, Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan
(1893-1963) visited Tibet three times and
retrieved many rare Sanskrit texts, which have
contributed greatly to the revival of interest in Buddhism in India.

Politically, in 1904, Tibet signed an agreement
with British-India. In 1910, the 13th Dalai Lama
fled into exile in India. In 1913/14, the Simla
treaty was signed (between British India and
Tibet), according to which the two sides agreed
to review their agreements every ten years.
Arrangements were made between Tibet and India to
ensure security along their trade routes. Postal
services and telegraph lines were established,
and an Indian Mission was set up in Lhasa. In
March 1947, a few months before India gained
independence, representatives of the Tibetan
government were invited to an Asian relations conference.

In 1956, Panchen Rinpoche and I, accompanied by
other Tibetan lamas, visited independent India
when we were invited to attend the 2500th Buddha
Jayanti Celebrations. All the Tibetan pilgrims
were kindly granted half-fare when they made
pilgrimage to the holy Buddhist sites in India. I
myself had the opportunity not only to make
pilgrimage to many of the Buddhist and
non-Buddhist sacred sites here, but I also saw
many industrial developments in India which
filled me with fresh inspiration. I also had the
chance to meet and receive advice from many
prominent Indian leaders. In particular, the then
Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru’s affectionate
guidance was of far-reaching benefit to Tibetans.

That year, instead of seeking asylum in India, I
decided to return to Tibet. Retrospectively, I am
glad to see that this was the correct decision
from both a temporal and spiritual point of view.
Not only was I able to fulfil many of my
spiritual obligations, such as sitting for my
final Geshe (doctoral) examinations, but I also
left no stone unturned in my efforts to deal with Chinese officials.

Although the local Tibetan government and I made
great efforts to ensure that Tibetans and Chinese
lived together peacefully on the basis of the
Seventeen Point Agreement, they were in vain. The
Tibetan people were left with no alternative but
finally to launch a peaceful uprising on 10th
March, 1959 to oppose Chinese brutality and the
situation became much more serious. I tried my
best to calm the situation and avert a harsh
Chinese response, but failed. Consequently,
accompanied by a small party of Tibetan
government officials including some Kalons
(Cabinet Ministers), I fled to southern Tibet on
17th March. I tried once again to establish
contacts with the Chinese authorities from there.
However, the situation in Lhasa had worsened on
the night of 19th March when Chinese troops
resorted to extreme force and more than twenty
thousand innocent Tibetans were killed, injured,
and imprisoned over a period of twenty-four
hours. This left us helpless, with no option but
to escape to India. Finally, on 31st March, after
many days of hardship, we safely reached India
and the light of freedom. As one of the most
significant days of my life, it also marked a
turning point in the history of the Tibetan people.

Because of the Chinese military’s harsh and
relentless repression of the Tibetan people and
the turmoil that spread throughout Tibet, that
same year about one hundred thousand Tibetans
fled through NEFA, (present day Arunachal
Pradesh) and Bhutan seeking refuge in India. The
Indian government was so generous as to have
immediately set up refugee camps for Tibetans at
Misamari in Assam and Buxa Duar in Bengal. The
generous way in which the Indian government
bestowed aid in the form of food, clothing,
blankets and medical facilities brought Tibetans
tremendous relief. In due course, monks and nuns
were provided opportunities to resume their
spiritual studies, children were provided with
education, the elderly were provided with homes
and suitable employment was found for others. In
short, because Tibetans’ material needs were
addressed, we were able to dedicate ourselves to
preserving our religion, culture and our very Tibetan identity.

It was due particularly to Pandit Nehru’s
far-sightedness and personal concern that we
established Tibetan farming settlements, with the
aim that Tibetans could live together in
communities without being scattered here and
there, and separate schools for Tibetan children
where modern education could be given in addition
to instruction in our own language, culture and
religion. Over the last fifty years, more than
one hundred thousand Tibetan refugees have
enjoyed social benefits similar to those of their
Indian hosts and we have now reached the third
generation. We are deeply grateful to the Indian
Central and the State governments, who, despite
having to deal with their own problems, have
wholeheartedly and consistently supported and
assisted Tibetans. The friendship and sympathy
the Indian people as a whole have shown Tibetans
has made us feel this is truly our second home,
indeed, wherever Tibetans have had skills and
abilities of their own we have been able to
exercise them. Overall India has given us the
greatest moral and material support. Looking back
over the past fifty years, we feel confident that
we made the right choice when we sought refuge in India.

Regardless of their own caste, religious or
political affiliations, a wide variety of Indians
have formed Tibetan support groups such as
Indo-Tibet Friendship Society (ITFS),
Bharat-Tibet Sahyok Manch and Friends of Tibet.
Innumerable Indian individuals have shown great
sympathy for Tibetans and have worked actively
for the Tibetan cause and the welfare of Tibetans
in exile. This reflects the unique Indian
tradition of the guru showing concern for his
chela. India's moral and material generosity to
us during this critical period when our very
identity and the civilization we derived from
India is under severe threat of extinction truly
reflects the English proverb which says, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Considering the differences between Indian and
Tibetan language, habits and social customs, our
presence might initially have caused some unease
and anxiety. However, in general a genuine
harmony and understanding exists between us. This
is a great source of strength and satisfaction.
It is also a reflection of India's valuable
tradition of tolerance and ahimsa. The number of
Tibetan refugees is small compared to that of
other refugee communities in India and yet we
have received the most generous recognition and
assistance from both the government and the people.

In addition to farming the small plots of land
provided by the government of India, Tibetans do
petty business during the winter months selling
woollen garments in the towns and cities across
India. This business is not only an opportunity
to earn a livelihood, but is also an opportunity
for us to interact with the people of this
country and improve our mutual understanding.
Although Tibetan refugees have by and large
become personally self-sufficient, we are still
indebted to the Government of India for its
dedicated support of many of our Tibetan schools
and other Tibetan cultural institutions.

On a personal level, the freedom I enjoy in exile
I owe to India. I am able to practise Buddha
Shakyamuni’s teachings, on the basis of which I
try to make some contribution to the betterment
of humanity. The liberty I enjoy in India is
truly reflected in the title of my autobiography
– Freedom in Exile. It is a great honour for me
to consider India my spiritual home and like a
messenger I have tried to promote the key Indian
principles of ahimsa (non-violence) and karuna (compassion) wherever I go.

As a human being my main commitment is in the
promotion of human values such as
warm-heartedness that are essential to a happy
life. As a religious practitioner, my second
commitment is the promotion of inter-religious
harmony. My third commitment is of course the
issue of Tibet, due on the one hand to my being a
Tibetan with the name of 'Dalai Lama', but more
importantly due to the trust that Tibetans both
inside and outside Tibet have placed in me. The
welfare of Tibetans is my daily concern and I
consider myself only as someone free to speak on
behalf of those Tibetans oppressed by years of
Chinese communist rule, who do not enjoy such freedom.

Over the last fifty years, I have received
generous, affectionate and personal encouragement
on official and personal matters from numerous
leaders as well as social workers and
intellectuals. They have shown me trust and
friendship and offered me valuable advice that I
will always cherish. I am unable to name all of
them now, but if I may mention just a few, they
include C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), Dr. Rajendra
Prasad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Acharya Vinoba
Bhave, Jayaprakash Narayan and Acharya Kripalani.

The support and assistance India has given Tibet
for more than two thousand years, but
particularly over the last fifty years is
incalculable. Words are insufficient to repay the
debt we owe India. However, on this occasion of
the fiftieth year of our living in exile in this
country, to show how greatly indebted I feel, let
me express my deep gratitude to the people of
India and their government through you, my Indian
friends who are personally here with us today.

Buddhism spread to Tibet from India around
fifteen hundred years ago. Although it then
declined in the land of its birth, we were able
to preserve it in Tibet as well as helping others
benefit from the teachings of the Buddha. We feel
we have gone some way towards repaying India's kindness.

We shall be very happy if we are able to
contribute to restoring India’s rich Buddhist
heritage. In order to fulfil this dream, Pandit
Nehru established the Sikkim Research Institute
of Tibetology, Central Institute of Buddhist
Studies, Leh, Ladakh, and the Central University
of Tibetan Studies in Varanasi. In these places,
initiatives have been taken to translate
important texts, whose originals once existed in
Indian languages but have since been lost, from
Tibetan back into Indian languages such as
Sanskrit. This significant project has been both
successful and satisfying. As a token of our
willingness to restore to India the rich culture
we have preserved so far, I would like to tell
you that we plan to offer the Indian nation,
complete sets of the Kangyur (Tibetan
translations of the Buddha's teachings), and
Tengyur (Tibetan translations of commentaries by
subsequent Indian masters), as well as 63 titles
restored from Tibetan into Sanskrit and over 150
translated into Hindi and other languages.

On behalf of all Tibetans, both those inside and
those outside Tibet, I fervently wish to express
our profound gratitude by saying “Thank you” over
and over again to you, the people and Government of India.

At the same time, I would like to recall that our
neighbours Bhutan and Nepal share the same
religion and culture and have long had close ties
with us. Both of these countries have also
provided shelter to Tibetan refugees. We are
grateful to the people and the governments of
these two countries too. Indeed, we also would
like to express our gratitude to all the other
countries in which Tibetans now live.

With my prayers for the happiness of all beings.

Dalai Lama
31st March 2009
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