The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, is celebrating his 88th birthday

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, is celebrating his 88th birthday at his hilltop Indian headquarters in Dharamsala.

ByASHWINI BHATIA Associated Press

Birthday of Dalai Lama of India

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama presides over his 88th birthday celebrations at the Tsuglakhang Temple in Dharamshala, India on Thursday, July 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

The Associated Press

DHARMSALA, India — The Dalai Lama celebrated his 88th birthday on Thursday as hundreds of supporters and exiled Tibetans thronged his hillside Indian headquarters in Dharamsala.

Artists played traditional welcome tunes as the Tibetan spiritual leader arrived in his open mobile van to preside over the festivities in the courtyard of the Tsuglakhang temple, which was decorated with Tibetan and Buddhist flags and portraits.

“We are celebrating my 88th birthday, but look at me, I hardly look 50,” said the Dalai Lama with a smile.

He has made the hilltop town of Dharmsala his headquarters since fleeing Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. India considers Tibet part of China, although it is home to Tibetan exiles.

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The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only supports significant autonomy and protection for Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.

In April, the Dalai Lama was widely criticized after a video circulated online showed him kissing a young boy on the lips and saying “suck my tongue”. The footage sparked a backlash online, with social media users condemning her behavior.

The Dalai Lama later apologized in a statement published on his official website. He said he regretted the incident and wanted to “apologise to the boy and his family and to his many friends around the world for the hurt his words caused.”