This year marks my 30th birthday. Time has passed very quickly. This year is also the 15th year since I left Tibet and came to India. This 30th birthday is considered to mark a special milestone, and many people have been requesting me to celebrate this birthday extensively. However, I have decided not to celebrate my birthday for several reasons that I would like to share with you here.
In all these years since leaving Tibet, I have never seen my parents again, and now they have grown old. This body was created and nurtured by my parents, and therefore my birthday is a day in which I feel their absence keenly.
In these 15 years since I arrived in India, I have been living in a temporary residence at Gyuto Monastery in Dharamsala. Even though Gyuto Monastery has been an exceptionally kind and hospitable host, it is unseemly for a guest to cause such unnecessary inconvenience over their birthday year after year.
Furthermore, each year on my birthday, I recall not only my parents, but also the sparkling beauty of the pristine natural environment in which I was born and raised. This intensifies my sense of urgency for the protection of the fragile ecosystems of the Tibetan plateau as well as the Himalayas. As I have said, the area’s glaciers make it the source of most of Asia’s major rivers, and the Third Pole of the globe itself. For this reason, the Tibetan plateau plays an important role in the well-being and sustenance not only of the people who live within it, but of all of Asia and indeed the entire planet. Because the Tibetan culture and way of life has existed in harmony with that environment for thousands of years, I feel its preservation is urgently needed in order to preserve that crucial environment.
This is true not only of the Tibetan plateau, but also of the entire Himalayan region, including the countries of Bhutan and Nepal, and the states of India located within the Himalayas, such as the State of Sikkim. The country of Bhutan presents an excellent example of the value of retaining the way of life that is uniquely suited to the local Himalayan environment, and its commitment to doing so is truly praiseworthy.
I have yet to visit but have heard from my many friends there that Sikkim is a peaceful and environmentally friendly state. The main seat of the Karmapa reincarnation lineage is Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet, and I have had the wonderful opportunity to experience life there. When the 16th Karmapa left Tibet, he built a monastic seat at Rumtek in Sikkim, which is now a part of India.
Meanwhile, many people in Sikkim have a solemn and sacred bond with the 16th Karmapa and now are deeply devoted to me. Many of them have repeatedly requested me to come to visit them and it is my own heartfelt wish to be able to travel to Sikkim in order to meet with them to honor these sacred bonds and to make a pilgrimage to holy places in Sikkim.
Nepal is still recovering from the terrible destruction and loss of life due to the recent earthquakes. I have asked my monasteries and nunneries to offer not only their prayers but also active and practical aid, and I request again now that they continue unflaggingly, as much rebuilding and healing still lies ahead. This tragic earthquake also shows very clearly the value and importance of the natural environment. We must take that as a lesson, and intensify our efforts to preserve and protect our planet, which has been like a kind, life-giving mother who has nurtured us all.
For all these various reasons, I personally will not be celebrating my birthday. I understand that others may still want to mark this day, and I do not wish to prevent anyone else from holding celebrations if they wish to do so.
From my side, I feel that I have accomplished nothing that I consider worthy of so many years of life; and have done nothing but receive a great deal of support and love from many people. I want to take this occasion to thank all of them from the very bottom of my heart.