Dalai Lama Says His Best Birthday Present Would be for People to Practice Compassion

As thousands of people are getting ready to celebrate your 70th birthday in many different ways, do you have any idea about what you would like for your birthday presents?

Because of their unwavering faith and trust in me, people are gathering at different places to celebrate my birthday, and for that I feel thanks and appreciation.

I am just a simple Buddhist monk, and so I really don’t take that much interest in celebrating birthdays. Whenever I begin a new day, I always pray that the day will be a meaningful and beneficial one—that is, in helping and serving others. I feel that this thought is more important than celebrating a birthday. However, since people are celebrating my birthday with joy and happiness and with faith in me, I would like to offer them a few words. I am now seventy years old. During this lifetime, since I was fifteen or sixteen years old, I have taken on the responsibility of Tibet’s temporal and spiritual affairs. It was a responsibility that was too difficult to shoulder, but because of my karmic relations with Tibet, I took the responsibility and have served the country to the best of my ability.

In the past 46 years, I have had to live as a refugee—most of my life has been spent as a refugee. During this time, the most difficult and saddest thing has been hearing endless stories about the sufferings of our Tibetan people inside Tibet: so and so died, a father died, relatives died, imprisonment, death by hunger and so on—endless stories of suffering and torture.

Despite these difficulties, there are two reasons for not losing hope or being discouraged: First is that the people of Tibet have an unwavering faith and trust in me, and secondly, the teachings of the Lord Buddha help me to maintain my mental balance. I never become hopeless or desperate. I always have this thought: whatever I do, I do it for the benefit of others. As Shantideva says in the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

“And now as long as space endures,

As long as there are beings to be found,

May I continue likewise to remain,

In order to drive away the sorrows of the world.”

So when I think these thoughts, they give me courage and determination to face these problems. Because of these, I am not a desperate person, but a happy one.

I now share my thoughts with my friends—both male and female. Every human being desires happiness and desires not to suffer. From my experience, I can say that to have a meaningful and happy life, inner development is more important than life’s external factors. The way one thinks is more important than the accumulation of wealth and external environment. It really makes a big difference. You have to bear this in mind.

To have a compassionate and altruistic mind is the basis for happiness in this life and also the beginning of happiness for your next life. So the best present my friends could give me for my birthday is to be good, compassionate and altruistic people. So if people are celebrating my birthday with joy and happiness, I would like to say thank you.