(A Portrait of HH the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso; I originally wrote this in Danish...)

The fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet until 1959. He was born in 1935 to a peasant family in the village of Taktser in northeastern Tibet. His parents called him Lhamo Dhondrub. Acting on a vision he had had at the sacred lake of Lham Lhatso at Chokhorgyal, about 90 miles south east of the capital, the Regent, Reting Rinpoché, discovered the boy, and a series of rigourous tests were done to confirm if he was the reincarnation of the XIIIth Dalai Lama. Tibetan Buddhists believe that each Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of his predecessor (in Tibetan, a "tulku") and also of Avalokitesvara (or Chenrezig), the Buddha of Compassion.

The four year old Dalai Lama was enthroned on February 2, 1940, in Lhasa, capital of Tibet. His name was officially changed to Jetsu Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom). Tibetans normally call him Yeshe Norbu (the Wish-fulfilling Jem) or Kundun (the Presence).

On November 17, 1950, the Dalai Lama was asked to take on full powers as head of State and of Government of Tibet, after some 80,000 Peoples' Liberation Army soldiers invaded Tibet. At this time, the Dalai Lama temporarily fled Tibet.

In 1954, he went to Beijing to talk with Mao Tsetung and other Chinese Leaders, including Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping. He wanted to discuss peace with them. In 1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th birthday of the Buddha (or "Buddha Jayanti"), he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and also with Premier Zhou Enlai.

On March 10, 1959, many large demonstrations occurred in Lhasa. These spread to other parts of Tibet. They were caused by Beijing's ruthlessness in Eastern Tibet (Amdo, and in particular, Kham). The Dalai Lama went into exile in India in 1959 in protest against the Chinese invasion and subsequent annexation of Tibet. He journeyed across the Himalayas and set up a Gouvernment-in-Exile at Dharamsala, in the Panjab. Around 80,000 refugees have followed him into exile. Nowadays there are over 120,000 Tibetans in exile. Dharamsala is now known as "little Lhasa".

The people of Tibet continually asked for his return, and the Chinese offered to lift the ban on him returning provided that he did not call for Tibet's Independence. However many others think that the Dalai Lama can better help Tibet regain her independence outside of Tibet. Although the United Nations has made many resolutions about Tibet, and although the Dalai Lama has proposed many plans for a better future for Tibet, the Chinese are unwilling or unable to listen.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989, in recognition of his commitment to the nonviolent liberation of his homeland. China, of course, did not like this. The Nobel Committee's citation read:

"The Committee wants to emphasise the fact that the Dalai Lama, in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet, has consistently opposed the use of violence. Instead he has advocated peaceful solutions, based upon tolerance and mutual respect, in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people".

In May 1996, he addressed a committee of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen. He warned about the dangers of the Tibetan people becoming "sinicised". In July 1999 he stated that his reincarnation would not be found in a country under Chinese control. He has also said that if he returns to Tibet he will only remain spiritual leader. He will not lead them politically.

His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso (1935-)

"For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world."
-- Buddhist saint Shantideva

The 14th Dalai Lama in a nutshell

The spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, born in 1935 in Takster in northeastern Tibet. He assumed full political power as the Head of State and Government in 1950 and graduated with the Geshe Lharampa Degree (Doctorate of Buddhist philosophy) in 1959. He was forced into exile in 1959 after the Chinese military's brutal occupation of Tibet and has resided in Dharamsala (also known as "Little Lhasa"), India, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile since then. The 14th Dalai Lama has actively appealed to United Nations and other, international, political powers on the questions of Tibet, resulting in several resolutions adopted by the U.N. General Assembly. He has met with and been recognized by many eastern and western authorities - both political and religious - and he is still working to resolve the Tibetan issues and to re-establish an independent, democratic state of Tibet.

The discovery

When the 13th Dalai Lama passed away in 1935, the Tibetan government was faced with the task to find and appoint a successor and to search for and discover a child in whom the Buddha of Compassion would incarnate.

In 1935 the regent of Tibet went to the lake of Lhamo Lhatso - considered a sacred lake for the visions that could be seen in it - at Chokhorgyal, about 140 kilometers southeast of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. While there, the regent had a vision of three letters: "Ah", "Ka" and "Ma", followed by a picture of a monastery with roofs of jade green and gold, and a house with turquoise tiles. Two years later, high lamas and dignitaries were sent everywhere in Tibet in search of the place that the regent had seen in the water. When the search party lead by Lama Kewtsang Rinpoche of Sera Monastery arrived in the village of Takster in Amdo, they found a place matching the description of the vision. The Lama and his servants went in the house with the Lama disguised as a servant and wearing a rosary that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama. Inside the house, they found a little boy - no more than two years of age - who immediately recognized the rosary and demanded that it be given to him. Kewtsang Rinpoche promised him the rosary, provided he could tell whose it was, to which the boy replied "Sera aga", which - in the local dialect - means "a lama of Sera". Then Rinpoche asked who the leader was and the boy gave his name correctly. He also knew the name of the real servant. This was followed by a series of tests that included the choosing of articles that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama.

With these tests everyone was convinced that the Incarnation had been found and their conviction was further enhanced by the significance of the three letters: "Ah" could stand for Amdo, the name of the province and the two letters "Ka" and "Ma" together for the monastery of Karma Rolpai Dorje on the mountain above the village where the boy was found.

The child and the student

The 14th Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Dhondrub to a peasant family on 6th of July, 1935. He was enthroned at the age of five, on 22nd of February, 1940 in Lhasa.

Once recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama, Lhamo Dhondrub was 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.

At the age of six, he began his education and finally completed the Geshe Lharampa Degree (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) in 1959, at the age of 25. He took the preliminary examination at all three monastic universities of Tibet (Drepung, Ganden and Sera) conducted in Jokhang, Lhasa during the annual Monlam Festival of Prayer, at the age of 24, and passed the examinations with honours.

The leader

When Tibet was threatened and invaded by China between 1949-1950, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was called upon to assume full political power as the Head of State and Government on November 17th, 1950. At the time, he was only 16 years old. During the 50's he visited China several times, trying to settle the disputes diplomatically by discussing the issues with the Chinese leaders, namely Mao Tse-Tung, Chou En-Lai and Deng Xiaoping. In 1956, while attending the 2500th Buddha Jayanti in India, he had a series of meetings with the Indian Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about the deteriorating conditions in Tibet. On the night of March 17th, 1959, regardless of his efforts and the efforts of the Tibetan resistance movement, he was forced into exile in India where he was given political asylum, followed by some 80,000 refugees.

The 14th Dalai Lama appealed to the United Nations on several occasions on the questions of Tibet during the late 50's and early 60's and his efforts have resulted in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, in 19591, 19612 and 19653. In addition to appealing to the UN, he promulgated a draft constitution of democratic Tibet in 1963, assuring a democratic form of government. He has also largely contributed towards the preservation of Tibetan culture and national identity by formulating and setting up cultural, educational and religious institutions like the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (established in 1959) and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Also, over 200 monasteries have been re-established to preserve the essence of the Tibetan way of life - the Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

He has continued his efforts for the good of the Tibetan people with initiatives like the Five-Point Peace Plan4 presented at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987. This plan calls for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace, an end to the transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, restoration of human rights and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production and the dump site of nuclear waste as well as urging for negotiations on the future of Tibet and its relations with China. He elaborated on this plan in Strasbourg, France, on 15th of June, 1988 and proposed the creation of a self-governing Tibet. Regardless of the outcome of the proposal, his wish was for the Tibetan people to have the ultimate deciding authority.

In 1991, though, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile declared the Strasbourg proposal invalid because of the negative attitude of the Chinese leadership towards the ideas outlined in the proposal.

The 14th Dalai Lama has visited several countries in both east and west, meeting both political and religious leaders including the late Pope Paul VI in 1973 and the Pope John Paul II on several occasions during the 80's and 90's at the Vatican. He has also met with the leaders of the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities during the 80's. During those meetings, he has spoken strongly for better understanding and respect among the different faiths and religions of the world. Towards this end, he has made numerous appearances in interfaith services, imparting the message of universal responsibility, love, compassion and kindness. As he said himself:

"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."

A number of western universities and institutions have awarded the 14th Dalai Lama with several peace awards and honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of his distinguished writings and leadership in interfaith understanding, peaceful resolution of conflicts, human rights issues and global ecological problems.

The teacher

The 14th Dalai Lama's teachings are very clear and simple - just the way to be expected of a humble buddhist monk - he teaches of the fundamental rights of all beings, of love and compassion, of empathy and kindness. "Seeking joy and freedom from suffering is the birthright of all beings"5, he says. The approach is very practical and down to earth, nontheistic. "I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness."6 His teachings are spiritual, but not religious (in the sense the term is usually associated with beliefs related to a Supreme Being of some kind) which makes them easy to adopt and agree on, or at least consider - even for a devout believer of a Deity-centered religion or an atheist.

The Nobel peace prize winner

In 1989, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama the Nobel peace prize, wanting 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".7

On December 10th, 1989, he accepted the prize on behalf of the people of Tibet and everyone oppressed or struggling for freedom or peace.

Bibliography (most likely incomplete, please report any omissions or errors via /msg)

  • My Land and My People, 1962
  • The Opening of the Wisdom Eye, 1966
  • The Buddhism of Tibet and the Key to the Middle Way, 1975
  • Universal Responsibility and the Good Heart, 1977
  • Advice from Buddha Shakyamuni, 1982
  • Collected Statements, Interviews and Articles, 1982
  • Four Essential Buddhist Commentaries, 1982
  • Kindness, Clarity and Insight, 1984
  • A Human Approach to World Peace, 1984
  • Opening of the Eye of New Awareness, 1985
  • Kalachakra: Rite of Initiation, 1985
  • The Union of Bliss and Emptiness, 1988
  • The Bodhgaya Interviews, 1988
  • Transcendent Wisdom, 1988
  • The Dalai Lama at Harvard, 1988
  • Ocean Of Wisdom, 1989
  • The Meaning of Life, 1990
  • Policy of Kindness, 1990
  • The Nobel Peace Prize and the Dalai Lama, 1990
  • My Tibet, 1990
  • The Global Community and the Need for Universal Responsibility, 1990
  • Freedom in Exile, 1991
  • Compassion and the Individual, 1991
  • The Path to Bliss, 1991
  • Cultivating a Daily Meditation, 1991
  • Mind Science - An East-West Dialogue, 1991
  • Words of Truth, 1993
  • The Meaning of Life from a Buddhist Perspective, 1993
  • A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night, 1994
  • The World of Tibetan Buddhism, 1995
  • The Power of Compassion, 1995
  • The Way to Freedom, 1995
  • Commentary on the Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva, 1995
  • Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart, 1995
  • Dialogues on Universal Responsibility and Education, 1995
  • Dimensions of Spirituality, 1995
  • The Path to Enlightenment, 1995
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama - Speeches, Statements, Articles, Interviews from 1987 to June 1995, 1995
  • Essential Teachings, 1995
  • Violence & Compassion / Power of Buddhism, 1995
  • The Spirit of Tibet: Universal Heritage - Selected Speeches and Writings, 1995
  • The Good Heart - A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus, 1996
  • Beyond Dogma, 1996
  • Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective, 1997
  • Love, Kindness and Universal Responsibility, 1997
  • The Heart of Compassion, 1997
  • The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace, 1997
  • The Gelug / Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra, 1997
  • The Art of Happiness, 1998
  • The Path to Tranquillity - Daily Meditations, 1998
  • The Four Noble Truths, 1998
  • The Political Philosophy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama - Selected Speeches and Writings, 1998
  • Ancient Wisdom, Modern World - Ethics for a New Millennium, 1999
  • The Little Book of Buddhism, 1999
  • The Heart of the Buddha's Path, 1999
  • Imagine All the People, 1999
  • Transforming the Mind, 2000
  • A Simple Path, 2000
  • The Compassionate Life, 2001
  • Dalai Lama's Book of Transformation, 2001
  • How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life, 2001
  • An Open Heart, 2001
  • Stages of Meditation, 2001
  • The Essence of the Heart Sutra, 2002
  • Live in a Better Way, 2002

The Dalai Lama's mailing address

Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
P.O. Mcleod Ganj
Dharamsala 176219
Tel: +91 (0)1892 221343
Fax: +91 (0)1892 221813

His Holiness the Dalai-Lama's Religious and Cultural Society

Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala 176215
District Kangra
Himachal Pradesh, India


1: United Nations G.A. Resolution 1353 (XIV) on Tibet - http://www.tibetjustice.org/materials/un/un3.html
2: United Nations G.A. Resolution 1723 (XVI) on Tibet - http://www.tibetjustice.org/materials/un/un5.html
3: United Nations G.A. Resolution 2079 (XX) on Tibet - http://www.tibetjustice.org/materials/un/un6.html
4: The Five-Point Peace Plan - http://www.savetibet.org/Tibet/Tibet.cfm?ID=92&c=20
5: Seeking joy and freedom from suffering is the birthright of all beings - http://lywa.rootr.com/otherteachers/hhdl/sakadawa.shtml
6: Compassion and the Individual - http://lywa.rootr.com/otherteachers/hhdl/compassion.shtml
7: Press Release 1989 - http://www.nobel.se/peace/laureates/1989/press.html


+ various high-school and university books on religions and philosophy

Only 6 days ago, I had the chance to meet the 14th Dalai Lama in Japan and listen to his views on peace. This was the first time that I actually listen to him and I found him very inspirational and a very humble simple funny man. He was so close to people's hearts in his speech that everyone there from all different religions and nationalities admired his vision. He called for peace by action, not just prayers. He answered our questions and called for education which is something that I personally believe is very vital to for world's peace. He wore an open baseball cap and shared some funny personal stories calling himself the lazy Dalai Lama as he was trying to talk the Japanese youth into improving their English skills to benefit the world from their knowledge and to be able to survive outside of Japan since language is another vital thing to development, I believe. He is a man with a true vision. I'm grateful for that opportunity.

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