Happy 75th to the Dalia Lama!

Today’s the 75th birthday of the Dalai Lama. All our best wishes go out to him – and thanks to the activist organization Avaaz, we can send a personal message on his birthday. Follow this link and sign on the global tribute, and your message will be included in a ‘Wall of Warm Wishes’ inside the main temple at Dharamsala and broadcast around the world.

16 thoughts on “Happy 75th to the Dalia Lama!

  1. Happy birthday.

    I hope you will live a long, healthy and happy life.

    Thank you for helping to bring the teachings of the Buddha to everyone.

  2. Hi Ajahn Sujato,

    Talking about the Dalai Lama, always brings up the Buddhist concept of rebirth.

    Based on my understanding, The Buddha is suppose to have remembered his past lives going back eons. (MN36)


    As such, is there a smoking gun in the 4 Main Nikayas showing that The Buddha knew more than a normal human Teacher in India would know during his time?

    Any hints of the following would be interesting:

    1. People who use 2 small sticks to eat;
    2. Animals with pocket on their body;
    3. Pyramids;
    4. White bears on ice;
    5. Dinosaurs (still within eons);
    6. Others..

    Thanks and regards,

    • Hi Terrance,

      Ha! no smoking guns, I’m afraid. The social, geographical, and cultural knowledge in the Suttas is entirely consistent with someone who had spent all their lives in the Ganges valley. No mention of even South India or Sri Lanka; one or two (accurate) passing references to the Greeks.

      What’s more curious is how in descriptions of past lives the context is always as it was in India in, say 500-900BCE, never anything else. Moreover, when the suttas speak of things distant, they get more and more fabulous, in the manner of ancient maps that say, “here there be monsters…” Check out, say, the description of the inhabitants of the Uttarakuru country (Russia?) in the Atanatiya Sutta.

    • Dear Sujato

      Do you think he was projecting back his contemporary experience of kamma into the past from which it must have come, and imagining and constructing the past circumstances with the only elements at his disposal, his experience during his lifetime?



    • I really don’t know. It is curious that certain modern accounts of past lives avoid this kind of problem. Even children, it seems, are able to accurately recount details of their past lives, including foods and utensils that they have never seen in this life.

      It seems to me, given the few accounts of past lives that are attributed to the Buddha in the early canon, that the Buddha clearly claimed that he could see his past lives, but rarely if ever spoke of them in detail. The vast majority of such tales, possibly even the ones in the Nikayas, stem from the disciples using contemporary folk tales or morality tales to fill in the gaps.

    • Most modern accounts of past lives can be attributed to Dr Ian Stevenson. But his analysis might not be that clean.

      See more in links:


      … For example, in cultures where:

      * They believe that you cannot change sex in a reincarnation, they report no cases of changed sex reincarnation. Where they do believe reincarnates can change sex, this is sometimes reported.

      * They believe that there is no gap between death and rebirth, they always report no gap, usually with the device of a poorly remembered “intermediate life” (see Suleyman Andary in the book review).

      * They believe that there is no gap between death and rebirth there are no “announcing dreams”, because rebirth is instantaneous. These dreams occur regularly where they believe there can be a gap.

      * They have a matriarchal society, the prior lives are more likely to be linked through the mother’s side of the family. The converse is true in patriarchal societies.

      * They believe the spirits reside in a “discarnate realm” between lives, the children more frequently remember these “discarnate realms”.

      To me, these are indications that the children and/or the adults observing them are (knowingly or subconsciously), applying their pre-learned cultural beliefs to make the stories fit. Stevenson has another view.

    • Hey terrance,

      Thanks for that. Of course, the fact that things are remembered with a bias does not prove that they don’t exist at all…

    • Dear terrance,

      It occurs to me that these objections to Stevenson’s work, which myself and David Conway have responded to already, in fact miss the point more widely than we have noticed. the simple fact is that none of the types of reports that are mentioned in these criticisms are at all central to Stevenson’s main argument. All the objections could be totally true and relevant, and his basic position would remain unchanged.

      This is because the only kinds of evidence that he himself gives substantial weight to are those that can be independently verified. This corrects the kinds of biasses that are claimed by the sceptics to exist in the reports. These kinds of independent evidence are for, example, if someone gives a report of a family, a home, or details of a life that can be determined to be correct; or most characteristically, when there are unmistakeable birthmarks or other physical features that relate to the previous birth, such as a birthmark over the heart, in the same place where person in the remembered previous life was shot, and which can be verified by photographs.

    • Terrance

      It could also be that reincarnation happens differently in different cultures, so that what the quote calls “beliefs” are in fact just reports.

      Apparently the author has a belief system too, which is that reincarnation, if it happens, happens the same in all cultures.

      The evidence, such as it is, doesn’t point either way.


  3. Dear Bhante,

    Re: “What’s more curious is how in descriptions of past lives the context is always as it was in India in, say 500-900BCE, never anything else.”

    Yes… and I’m curious what you make of this. Any thoughts?


  4. Hi Ajahn Sujato, David,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Basically the skeptics are saying that there is no smoking gun there as well in Dr Ian’s cases. Something which is so obvious and air tight that there is no way to wiggle out. I have yet to read the book as I could not find a copy locally.

    One more thing that got me curious about Buddhism is that in Buddhism, the Mind is consider as one of the senses. Hence there are 6 senses in Buddhism instead of the usual 5 senses like what we learn in school.

    Could it be that children and advance mediator with clearer mental processes can use the Mind Sense to detect or pick up these past imprints / mind objects ? Once done they mistakenly assume the mental object to be part of themselves ? Hence their own past life ?

    And if let say a mental object can decay in a few hundred years, that would explain why there is only a 500-900BCE records in the Suttas. And Linda’s question would be answered.

    Just some wild speculations. 😛
    But might make an interesting movie !

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