His Holiness the Dalai Lama is making a social history of sort this year by spending Losar, the Tibetan New Year, period for the first time since 1960 outside of his temporary headquarters in Dharamsala. He is at the Sera Monastic University in south India and will be there till after Losar.
The first day of Losar in Dharamsala used to be a much awaited occasion when everyone would gather at the Tsuglakhang (the main temple there) even before the crack of dawn. The officials of the Tibetan Government would get a pride of place to participate in the roof top Tsetor ceremony, which used to be participated by His Holiness. I remember the occasion being always a solemn and a chilly one. An official of the Tibetan Department of Security would stand at the base of the stairs that would go up to the roof and read the names of the government servants, according to their grades.
This Losar while I do not know whether there would be an equivalent of the Tsetor ceremony in Sera, His Holiness is scheduled to bestow a long life initiation to the public on the first day. That afternoon, it is announced that he will address the public at the main Palace ground.
It is always a moving scene to observe the special bond between His Holiness and the Tibetan people in action. Old people in wheel chairs or just plastic chairs, youngsters in hip dress all seemed to be similar in their show of reverence. On February 21, just before His Holiness bestowed the Hayagriva Initiation he came out of the Sera Jey Assembly Hall to greet the public and there was a rush of people (who had occupied seating areas in the shades) towards the stairs where he walked about.
Of course, when the actual initiation began, I could see the usual scene of children playing and old people gossiping with the scene changing occasionally when some monks would come to distribute blessed cords or tea. But then Tibetan Buddhism is as much a way of life to the Tibetan people as it is a philosophy.