DALAI LAMA Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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His Holiness the 14th the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of state and           
spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He was born Lhamo Dhondrub on 6 July           
1935, in a small village called Taktser in northeastern Tibet. Born to a peasant       
family, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with             
Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama,       
and thus an incarnation Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.                     
The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Bodhisattva (Buddha) of Compassion,     
who chose to reincarnate to serve the people. Lhamo Dhondrub was, as Dalai Lama,       
renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - Holy Lord, Gentle         
Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom. Tibetans normally       
refer to His Holiness as Yeshe Norbu, the Wishfulfilling Gem or simply Kundun -       
The Presence.                                                                         
The enthronement ceremony took place on February 22, 1940 in Lhasa, the capital       
of Tibet.                                                                             
He began his education at the age of six and completed the Geshe Lharampa Degree       
(Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) when he was 25 in 1959. At 24, he took the         
preliminary examinations at each of the three monastic universities: Drepung,         
Sera and Ganden. The final examination was conducted in the Jokhang, Lhasa             
during the annual Monlam Festival of Prayer, held in the first month of every         
year Tibetan calendar.                                                                 
On November 17, 1950, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political           
power (head of the State and Government) after some 80,000 Peoples Liberation         
Army soldiers invaded Tibet. In 1954, he went to Beijing to talk peace with Mao       
Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders, including Chou En-lai and Deng Xiaoping. In       
1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Anniversary, he         
had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about             
deteriorating conditions in Tibet.                                                     
His efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to Sino-Tibetan conflict were           
thwarted by Bejing's ruthless policy in Eastern Tibet, which ignited a popular         
uprising and resistance. This resistance movement spread to other parts of the         
country. On 10 March 1959 the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, exploded with the largest       
demonstration in Tibetan history, calling on China to leave Tibet and                 
reaffirming Tibet's independence. The Tibetan National Uprising was brutally           
crushed by the Chinese army. His Holiness escaped to India where he was given         
political asylum. Some 80,000 Tibetan refugees followed His Holiness into exile.       
Today, there are more than 120,000 Tibetan in exile. Since 1960, he has resided       
in Dharamsala, India, known as "Little Lhasa," the seat of the Tibetan                 
In the early years of exile, His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on the       
question of Tibet, resulting in three resolutions adopted by the General               
Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965, calling on China to respect the human rights         
of Tibetans and their desire for self-determination. With the newly constituted       
Tibetan Government-in-exile, His Holiness saw that his immediate and urgent task       
was to save the both the Tibetan exiles and their culture alike. Tibetan               
refugees were rehabilitated in agricultural settlements. Economic development         
was promoted and the creation of a Tibetan educational system was established to       
raise refugee children with full knowledge of their language, history, religion       
and culture. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in 1959,         
while the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies became a university for         
Tibetans in India. Over 200 monasteries have been re-established to preserve the       
vast corpus of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, the essence of the Tibetan way of           
In 1963, His Holiness promulgated a democratic constitution, based on Buddhist         
principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a model for a future       
free Tibet. Today, members of the Tibetan parliament are elected directly by the       
people. The members of the Tibetan Cabinet are elected by the parliament, making       
the Cabinet answerable to the Parliament. His Holiness has continuously               
emphasized the need to further democratise the Tibetan administration and has         
publicly declared that once Tibet regains her independence he will not hold           
political office.                                                                     
In Washington, D.C., at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987, he             
proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan as a first step toward resolving the future           
status of Tibet. This plan calls for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace,     
an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, restoration of           
fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms, and the abandonment of China's       
use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production and the dumping of nuclear waste, as       
well as urging "earnest negotiations" on the future of Tibet.                         
In Strasbourg, France, on 15 June 1988, he elaborated the Five-Point Peace Plan       
and proposed the creation of a self-governing democratic Tibet, "in association       
with the People's Republic of China."                                                 
On 2 September 1991, the Tibetan Government-in-exile declared the Strasbourg           
Proposal invalid because of the closed and negative attitude of the present           
Chinese leadership towards the ideas expressed in the proposal.                       
On 9 October 1991, during an address at Yale University in the United States,         
His Holiness said that he wanted to visit Tibet to personally assess the               
political situation. He said, "I am extremely anxious that, in this explosive         
situation, violence may break out. I want to do what I can to prevent this....         
My visit would be a new opportunity to promote understanding and create a basis       
for a negotiated solution."                                                           
Since 1967, His Holiness initiated a series of journeys which have taken him to       
some 46 nations. In autumn of 1991, he visited the Baltic States at the               
invitation of Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania and became       
the first foreign leader to address the Lithuanian Parliament. His Holiness met       
with the late Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. At a press conference in Rome       
in 1980, he outlined his hopes for the meeting with John Paul II: "We live in a       
period of great crisis, a period of troubling world developments. It is not           
possible to find peace in the soul without security and harmony between peoples.       
For this reason, I look forward with faith and hope to my meeting with the Holy       
Father; to an exchange of ideas and feelings, and to his suggestions, so as to         
open the door to a progressive pacification between peoples." His Holiness met         
Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990. In 1981,         
His Holiness talked with Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie, and with         
other leaders of the Anglican Church in London. He also met with leaders of the       
Roman Catholic and Jewish communities and spoke at an interfaith service held in       
his honor by the World Congress of Faiths: "I always believe that it is much           
better to have a variety of religions, a variety of philosophies, rather than         
one single religion or philosophy. This is necessary because of the different         
mental dispositions of each human being. Each religion has certain unique ideas       
or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one's own faith."               
Since his first visit to the west in the early 1973, a number of western               
universities and institutions have conferred Peace Awards and honorary Doctorate       
Degrees in recognition of His Holiness' distinguished writings in Buddhist             
philosophy and for his leadership in the solution of international conflicts,         
human rights issues and global environmental problems. In presenting the Raoul         
Wallenberg Congressional Human Rights Award in 1989, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos       
said, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama's courageous struggle has distinguished him         
as a leading proponent of human rights and world peace. His ongoing efforts to         
end the suffering of the Tibetan people through peaceful negotiations and             
reconciliation have required enormous courage and sacrifice."                         
The Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to award the 1989 Peace Prize to His         
Holiness the Dalai Lama won worldwide praise and applause, with exception of           
China. The Committee’s citation read, "The Committee wants to emphasize the fact       
that the Dalai Lama in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet consistently has       
opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based         
upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and             
cultural heritage of his people."                                                     
On 10 December 1989, His Holiness accepted the prize on the behalf of oppressed       
everywhere and all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace and         
the people of Tibet. In his remarks he said, "The prize reaffirms our conviction       
that with truth, courage and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be               
liberated. Our struggle must remain nonviolent and free of hatred."