Tibetans celebrate Dalai Lama meeting with President Obama despite crackdown

In a second day of celebration, on February 18, Tibetans defied intense security by chanting prayers and setting off fireworks in the Amdo area of Tibet, where the Dalai Lama was born, marking his meeting with President Obama that day.

In the Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) area of Sichuan province (within the Tibetan area of Amdo), monks and laypeople gathered to pray for the long life of the Dalai Lama and make offerings, according to Tibetan exile sources with contacts in the area. The sources said that the atmosphere was celebratory, compared to the commemoration of the first day of Tibetan New Year (Losar) on Sunday, February 14, when security in the area was stepped up after Tibetans prayed for those killed in demonstrations across Tibet beginning in March 2008. (ICT report, Tension in Tibet as Tibetans mark New Year with prayers for the dead).

The Tibetan source said: “It was a completely different atmosphere to the solemnity of Losar, when people were remembering the dead. People started letting off fire-crackers at around 8-9 pm. In villages and towns in the area, Tibetan families were praying and burning tsampa (roasted barley flour), a traditional offering. Some people traveled to Kirti monastery to celebrate with the monks, who chanted long life prayers for His Holiness.”

The same source said that while security appeared to be stepped up in an area already under crackdown, there were no detentions. He said: “The purpose of the ceremony was to mark the meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama in the hopes that it will bring a productive outcome for Tibet¹s future. We are very happy about the meeting and we are praying and making offerings to ensure there is justice and truth for this cause.”

On the eve of the White House meeting, Buddhist monks in the town of Rebgong (Chinese: Tongren), Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Qinghai province, held a ceremony at their monastery, while laypeople marked the event by setting off fireworks. (Footage by Reuters, Chinese react to Dalai Lama-Obama).

Celebrations appear to have taken place in Lhasa, too, but took a more muted, religious form with particular offerings being given. Tibetans made offerings of traditional homemade wine at the Jokhang temple in lieu of purchased offerings of Chinese spirits that have been used in recent years.

Tibetans in Tibet celebrated in October 2007 when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington despite restrictions on religious practice. One of the major monasteries in Lhasa, Drepung, was sealed off and surrounded by armed troops after police stopped an attempt by monks to peacefully mark the honor to the Dalai Lama, which was presented to him by President Bush. (ICT report, Crackdown on celebrations in Tibet as Dalai Lama receives Gold Medal award in week of Party Congress).

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