Dalai Lama is a title given by the Tibetan people for the foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th and current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso, who lives as a refugee in India. The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate to serve the people. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom.
Dalai Lama Early Life
- Lhamo Thondup was born on July 6, 1935 in Taktser, China, northeast of Tibet, to a peasant family. Lhamo Thondup was the fifth of 16 children-seven of whom died at a young age.
- After several months of searching for a successor to the 13th Dalai Lama and following many significant spiritual signs, religious officials located Lhamo Thondup, at age 2, and identified him as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.
- Religious officials renamed Young Lhamo as Tenzin Gyatso and proclaimed the 14th Dalai Lama.
- Tenzin began his religious education at age 6.
- Soon his schooling consisted of logic, Tibetan art and culture, Sanskrit, medicine and Buddhist philosophy, which is divided into five other categories dealing with the perfection of wisdom, monastic discipline, metaphysics and logic.
- At age 11, Tenzin met Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer, who taught him about the outside world. The two remained friends until Harrer’s death in 2006.
Dalai Lama Political Leadership
- In 1950, after China’s invasion of Tibet, Chinese government called him upon to assume full political power.
- Later in 1954, he went to Beijing and met with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai.
- In 1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th Buddha Jayanti, he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about deteriorating conditions in Tibet.
- During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he currently lives as a refugee.
Dalai Lama in Exile
- Since 1960 he has resided in Dharamsala, aptly known as “Little Lhasa”, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
- Soon Dalai Lama appealed to the United Nations on the rights of Tibetans. This appeal resulted in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965. The resolutions called on China to respect the human rights of Tibetans.
- In 1970, he opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamshala. Library houses over 80,000 manuscripts and important knowledge resources related to Tibetan history, politics and culture.
- At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987 he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan as a first step towards resolving the future status of Tibet.
Dalai Lama Legacy
- The Dalai Lama is the author of numerous books on Buddhism. He wrote books on general Buddhist subjects but also including books on particular topics like Dzogchen, a Nyingma practice.
- In his 2005 book The Universe in a Single Atom and elsewhere, and to mark his commitment to scientific truth and its ultimate ascendancy over religious belief.
- He advises his Buddhist followers: “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.
- In 1989, Nobel committee awarded the Dalai Lama the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent efforts for liberation of Tibet.
- In recent years, a number of Western universities and institutions have conferred peace awards and honorary doctorate degrees upon him. The universities recognized him fir his distinguished writings in Buddhist philosophy, as well as his service of freedom and peace.
- On 29 May 2011 His Holiness signed the document formally transferring his temporal authority to the democratically elected leader. This ends 368-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas functioning as both the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.