It won’t be a small, private affair when the Dalai Lama celebrates his 80th birthday this weekend in Southern California.
Hundreds of well-wishers are expected at a three-day Global Compassion Summit to mark the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader’s big day, with events Sunday through Tuesday at Anaheim’s Honda Center and the University of California, Irvine.
The Dalai Lama himself plans to deliver talks all three days on global compassion, creativity and the arts, youth leadership and climate change. His actual birthday is on Monday.
Plans for the festivities include an 8-foot-tall birthday cake complete with maroon-and-gold frosting – the colors of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan robes.
Volunteer Colleen Johnson and her team at the Art Institute of California are using a Styrofoam base covered in 100 pounds of fondant and more than 400 delicate gum paste flowers. A compartment in the side will hold an edible cake: lemon-vanilla chiffon with strawberry filling.
“I hope to God everything works,” Johnson said Friday.
Johnson said she was honored to create the presentation, especially because the religious leader will be speaking on “the transformative power for creativity and art.”
“He just seems like such a great person, I wanted to meet him,” she said. “I need him to rub off on me. I need some of that goodness.”
Guests at the event can’t bring gifts for security reasons.
Instead, the Dalai Lama wants well-wishers to post quotes, photos and videos of simple acts of compassion on their social media accounts with the hashtag #WithCompassion.
Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the spiritual leader’s celebration.
The International Shugden Community plans protests outside all events similar to ones conducted last month in London when the Dalai Lama opened a Buddhist center there. The group’s members accuse him of preventing them from following their form of Buddhism, which he once practiced but renounced in the 1970s.
The Dalai Lama was born to farmers in a rural and mountainous area of Tibet. He was identified as the 14th reincarnation of the Buddhist nation’s spiritual leader when he was just 2.
He was enthroned in 1940 and assumed full political power in 1950. He fled to India during an uprising against Chinese forces in 1959 and has been in exile ever since.
He is widely revered for his compassionate acts and commitment to the spiritual well-being of fellow Tibetans.