Source: The Standard/The Washington Post
On July 10, 2006 The Washington Post reported, "The solemn circumambulation - wrinkled peasants parading slowly alongside fresh-faced monks in maroon robes - has been a fixture of life in central Lhasa for uncounted years. But the spectacle held special meaning last Thursday morning; it was the 71st birthday of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan religious and temporal leader who still holds the hearts of many among Tibet's 2.7 million people. Chinese authorities have facilitated the pilgrims' worship, saying they have nothing against Buddhism or any other religion as long as it does not spill over into politics. Beijing has allocated millions of dollars for maintenance of Jokhang Temple and nearby Potala Palace, Lama Buddhism's holiest shrines. But for many Tibetans, particularly the elderly and the monks who make Buddhism their lives, the Dalai Lama has remained the symbol not only of their spiritual world but also of their ethnic identity and national aspirations. The intermingling of Buddhism's hold on the Tibetan spirit and the Dalai Lama's role as a political as well as religious leader has confronted Chinese authorities with a difficult situation. Reluctant to be seen stifling religious sentiment or local culture, they have opened up space for worship and pilgrimages, but at the same time they have taken tough measures to prevent Tibetans from coalescing around the Dalai Lama into an organized separatist movement."