On Dalai Lama’s 83rd birthday, Minnesota Tibetan community celebrates

July 7, 2018

Plumes of scented smoke wafted above the swaying crowd. A monk in robes of burgundy and saffron chanted over the praying of 100 seated Tibetans, words that translated to:

In the land covered by snow mountains

Is the source of all happiness and benefits.

But as people prayed on Saturday morning, the snowcapped mountains of East Asia were far away.

Instead, the Twin Cities Tibetan community celebrated the Dalai Lamas 83rd birthday under a cloudless sky in Minneapolis Boom Island Park. The annual event featured prayers, reiterations of the spiritual leaders teachings and speeches. The Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota hosted the event, which featured music, dance and food, including two large birthday cakes.

Much of the holiday, one of Tibets largest, has remained unchanged in the Twin Cities, said Thupten Dadak, 66, who hosted the first celebration in his back yard in 1992. What has changed is its scale.

Minnesotas Tibetan population has swelled to thousands, making it the second-largest such community in the United States. With that comes challenges.

Some of [the children] have completely lost their language skills, he said. But then there are pluses. We have immigration lawyers, we have doctors, nurses and people on a very professional ... level. So that is the uniqueness about America.

For many young Tibetan-Americans, Tibet exists only in stories. Instead of traditional satiny chupas on Saturday, many kids wore T-shirts as they tossed frisbees or played tag. Teenagers in dark sunglasses flicked through smartphones.

Thats why this event is so important said Tendor Norbu, co-founder of Youth for Umaylam, an organization that educates people on the Dalai Lama-sanctioned Middle Way Approach, a plan advocating an autonomous rather than independent Tibet.

Traditional music, dancing and prayer strengthen the connection for young people, he said. For them, this is Tibet, he said.

Some said they came to hear messages of peace, compassion and healing. Nancy Dadak, Thuptens wife, said that in a time of political and cultural division, events like Saturdays provide hope. To be around Tibetans is like medicine, she said.

For others, seeing the community come together is whats most gratifying. Thats how it felt for Samten Khangkyi, secretary for the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota.

Its a reminder of our past, she said. Where we came from, what it represents. What were looking for as a community.

Chris Bowling 612-673-4434

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