Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said he would remain healthy at least for 20 years more."I will remain healthy at least for 20 years more and this is what doctors told me," he said in his address on his 80th birthday at the hilltop Tsuglagkhang temple close to his official palace at McLeodganj near here.
The remark by the 80-year-old pontiff, the global face of the Tibetan exile movement, is being seen as a dig at China on not to worry about his successor.
The Nobel laureate has already clarified that he would decide at 90 whether or not he should have a successor and will leave "clear written instructions on the succession".
The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnation is an authentic mode of investigation based on people's recollection of their past lives.
Explaining that he was no superhuman, the Dalai Lama, known for his simplicity and typical jovial style, said: "I am just a simple Buddhist monk. I try to do my best all the time. I am 80 years old now and I have lived my entire life practising the knowledge and I will continue to practise it till I am physically able."
Thousands of Tibetan exiles, foreigners and Indian dignitaries joined in the birthday celebrations here.
Crowds began to assemble since morning at the temple for the birthday celebrations.
"Special prayer sessions were held for the perfect health and long life of our spiritual leader the Dalai Lama," Tsering Wangchuk, a spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), told IANS.
The Dalai Lama, revered by the Tibetans as a 'living god', attended the prayers.
According to a Tibetan tradition, a person's 80th anniversary bears special significance and is celebrated as a momentous life milestone.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, who specially came to attend the celebrations, said: "I hope your life will inspire us to make the world a better place."
He invited the Nobel Peace laureate to visit his state to bless the people.
Two union ministers, Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, and Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, who is also from Arunachal Pradesh, attended the ceremony.
"The bond shared by Tibet and India is centuries old. This time-tested relationship is based on culture, mutual trust and affection," Rijiju said.
A representative from Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling's office read out the chief minister's greeting.
Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected leader of the Tibetan people, said: "Nobel laureates call Your Holiness as the super laureate. But lesser known are your other contributions. Your Holiness, you are a true democrat. Deeply loved and respected by your people, you have empowered us with democracy and hope."
The Dalai Lama will be in the US when he turns 80 on July 6, but Sunday was his official birthday, according to the Tibetan lunar calendar.
In 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for Tibet. He was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal in October 2007, even in the face of protests by China.
Born Tenzin Gyatson on July 6, 1935, in Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognised at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama Thubten Gyatso.
He fled Tibet after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule in 1959, and based his Tibetan government-in-exile here in Himachal Pradesh. The government is not recognised by any country.
The Dalai Lama has been following a 'middle-path' policy that seeks greater autonomy for Tibet rather than complete independence.
However, the Chinese view him as a hostile element bent on splitting Tibet from China.
India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans.