“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”(The Office of Tibet).
He often cites this favourite verse, found in the writings of the renowned eighth-century Buddhist saint Shantideva, to explain his greatest source of inspiration. He is the 14th Dalai Lama.
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His Holiness Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He was born on 6 July 1935 by the name of Lhamo Dhondrub, in a small village, Taktser in the northeastern part of Tibet, to a peasant family. His Holiness was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. He began his religious education at six and completed the Geshe Lharampa Degree, the Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy when he was twenty-five.
His enthronement ceremony took place on 22 February 1940 in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. At 24, he took the preliminary examinations at each of the three monastic universities, Drepung, Sera and Ganden. He took the final examination in the Jokhang at Lhasa during the annual Monlam Festival of Prayer, held during the first month of every year in the Tibetan calendar.
The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Bodhisattva or Buddha of Compassion, who reincarnate, to serve the Tibetan people. As Dalai Lama, Lhamo Dhondrub was given the name Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso that means Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith and Ocean of Wisdom. People call His Holiness, Yeshe Norbu which means the Wish-fulfilling Gem or simply Kundun, The Presence (The Office of Tibet).
In 1950 His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power after China’s invasion of Tibet in 1949. In 1954 he went for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping, in Beijing, which ended in disaster. But finally, in 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, the Dalai Lama was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala in northern India (ABC News).
Over the decades the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner continued to seek autonomy for Tibet that China considers to be a part of its territory. According to CNN, “the Chinese believe communism liberated the Tibetans from a feudal theocracy led by the Dalai Lamas and that Tibet has developed considerably under their rule. Others have claimed human rights abuses, as well as cultural and ecological destruction. This “simple Buddhist monk” is considered by some to be one of the world’s enduring figures of struggle and compassion against oppression.”
His Holiness met with the late Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. His Holiness met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990. He talked with Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie and with other leaders of the Anglican Church in London in 1981. During his years in exile, His Holiness has visited a number of countries like Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Japan, the United States of America and Switzerland just to name a few. In each of the countries, he met with the dignitaries such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Mr. Viktor Orban of Hungary and His Majesty King Harold of Norway. In 1991, he was invited to the Baltic States by the Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis and became the first foreign leader to address the Lithuanian Parliament (The Office of Tibet).
His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on Tibet’s plight. This resulted in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965, asking China to respect the human rights of Tibetans and their request for self-rule.
India provided the Tibetan refugees rehabilitation on agricultural settlements. The Tibetan exiles initiated economic development and established a Tibetan educational system to educate the Tibetan children in their own language, history, religion and culture. They also established in India, The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in 1959 and a University, The Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Again to preserve the vast corpus of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings that are the essence of the Tibetan way of life, 200 plus monasteries have been re-established.
His Holiness promulgated a democratic constitution in 1963, as a model for a future free and independent Tibet, based on Buddhist principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Presently the members of the Tibetan Parliament are elected directly by the people and members of the Cabinet are elected by the parliament thus making the Cabinet answerable to Parliament. His Holiness has consistently emphasized the need for further democratization of the Tibetan administration and has also publicly declared his intention not to hold political office once Tibet regains its independence and to exclusively assume the role of the Spiritual Leader of the Tibetan People.
At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held in Washington, D.C., the U.S.A. in 1987, His Holiness put forward a proposal for a Five-Point Peace Plan as an initial step towards resolving the future status of Tibet. The plan proposed Tibet to be designated as a zone of peace, with an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, restoration of fundamental human rights and democratic freedom in Tibet, cease to use Tibet for nuclear weapons production and the dumping of nuclear waste, as well as urging for earnest negotiations on the future of Tibet (The Office of Tibet, London).
On 15 June 1988, His Holiness elaborated on the Five-Point Peace Plan in Strasbourg, France and went a step further in proposing the creation of a self-governing democratic Tibet, in association with the People’s Republic of China. However, due to the negative attitude of the Chinese leadership towards the ideas expressed in the proposal by His Holiness, on 2 September 1991, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile declared the Strasbourg proposals as invalid.
During his address at the Yale University in the United States of America on 9 October 1991, His Holiness indicated that he would like to visit Tibet to personally assess the political situation down there. 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”(The Office of Tibet).
The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the 14th Dalai Lama because, in his struggle to liberate Tibet, he consistently opposed the use of violence. He has instead used peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people. The Dalai Lama developed this philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all living things and embraces all mankind as well as nature (The Office of Tibet, London).
His Holiness has also achieved a number of other awards such as the Life Achievement Award from the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization, Jerusalem, Israel in 1999, World Security Annual Peace Award in 1994, First Prize For Humanity by the Sartorius Foundation, Germany in 1993 and The Wheel of Life Award by the Temple of Understanding in 1991.
During his travels abroad, His Holiness has spoken for better understanding and respect among different religions. His Holiness has made appearances in interfaith services, spreading the message of universal responsibility, love and compassion.
“The need for simple human-to-human relationships is becoming increasingly urgent . . . Today the world is smaller and more interdependent. One nation’s problems can no longer be solved by itself completely. Thus, without a sense of universal responsibility, our very survival becomes threatened. Basically, universal responsibility is feeling for other people’s suffering just as we feel our own. It is the realization that even our enemy is entirely motivated by the quest for happiness. We must recognize that all beings want the same thing that we want. This is the way to achieve a true understanding, unfettered by artificial consideration.”(Les Prix Nobel)
In depth specials.” The Dalai Lama: A spiritual Leader in exile”. CNN. < http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/dalai.lama/>
Les Prix Nobel. “The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) – Biography”. Nobel e Museum. 1989 <http://www.nobel.se/peace/laureates /1989/lama-bio.html>.
Newsmaker Bios Index.” Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso”. ABC News. 19 Oct 2001. <http://abcnews.go.com/reference/bios/dalai.html>.
The Office of Tibet. “ His Holiness the Dalai Lama”. Govt. of Tibet in exile. 2 August 1999. <http://www.tibet.com/>
The Office of Tibet, London. His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet. <http://www.s2f.com/fistick/dalailama.html>
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