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Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso

Tenzin Gyatso (b. July 6, 1935) is the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama.


Early years

The Dalai Lama was born to a farming family as Lhamo Dhondrub on July 6, 1935, in the village of Taktser in the northeastern region of Tibet. At the age of two the child passed tests as the sought-out reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. Lhamo Dhondrub was elevated to the status of Dalai Lama and renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso ("Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom"). Tibetan Buddhists normally refer to him as Yeshe Norbu, the "Wish-fulfilling Gem", or just Kundun, "the Presence". In the West he is often called "His Holiness the Dalai Lama".

Tenzin Gyatso began his monastic education at the age of six. At 25 he sat for his final examination in the Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, during the annual Monlam (prayer) Festival in 1959. He passed with honours and was awarded the Lharampa degree, the highest level geshe degree (a doctorate of Buddhist philosophy).

Tenzin Gyatso at 22 years old
Tenzin Gyatso at 22 years old

Political career

As well as being the most influential spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is traditionally also Tibet's Head of State and sole political ruler. At the age of fifteen, Tenzin Gyatso was on November 17 1950 enthroned as the temporal leader of Tibet. He was only able to govern the country for a brief time. In October of that year a People's Republic of China army entered Tibet. In 1954 the Dalai Lama travelled to Beijing to negotiate with Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping, but the talks were not fruitful. After a failed, U.S.-assisted uprising of Tibetans against the PRC in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, on March 17 of that year, entering India on March 31.

Mao Zedong (center) with the Dalai Lama (right), early 1950s
Mao Zedong (center) with the Dalai Lama (right), early 1950s

In 1989 Tenzin Gyatso was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with the chairman of the Nobel committee saying that this was "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi."

On May 14, 1995 the Dalai Lama proclaimed 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the eleventh reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, but the PRC named another child, Gyancain Norbu.

International influence

The Dalai Lama speaks English as a second language and has been successful in gaining Western sympathy for Tibetan self-determination, including vocal support from a number of Hollywood actors and other celebrities, as well as lawmakers from several major countries.

Conversations with President in the
Conversations with President George W. Bush in the White House

Tenzin Gyatso has on occasion been denounced by the Chinese government as a supporter of Tibetan independence. Over time he has developed a public position stating that he is not necessarily in favour of Tibetan independence and would not object to a status in which Tibet has internal autonomy while the PRC manages defense and foreign affairs.

There have been intermittent and quiet negotiations between the Tibetan government in exile and the government of the People's Republic of China. The Dalai Lama has generally wished to discuss the issue of the status of Tibet within China, while the Chinese government has insisted that negotiations be limited to the conditions of the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet.

Writings of the Dalai Lama

  • The Art of Happiness, coauthored with Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
  • Ethics for the New Millennium
  • A Simple Path
  • . Translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.
  • , London: Little, Brown and Co, 1990 ISBN 034910462x
  • An Open Heart , edited by Nicholas Vreeland.
  • H.H. the Dalai Lama and Alexander Berzin. The Gelug/Kagyü Tradition of Mahamudra, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1997, ISBN 1559390727
  • , coauthored with Victor Chan, Riverbed Books, 2004, ISBN 1573222771

Films about the Dalai Lama

Among the films that have been recently made about the 14th Dalai Lama are Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet.

See also

External links

Last updated: 05-06-2005 15:06:41