His Holiness the Dalai Lama
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. He was born Lhamo Dhondup on July 6, 1935, in a small village called Taktser in northeastern Tibet. Born to a peasant family, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama, and thus an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who choose to reincarnate in order to serve humanity. Lhamo Dhondup was, as the Dalai Lama, renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso – Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Eloquent, Compassionate, Learned Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom. Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as “Yeshe Norbu”, the Wishfulfilling Gem, or simply “Kundun”, the Presence.
In 1950, at the age of 15, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was called upon to assume full political power as the head of the State when Tibet was threatened by the might of China. In 1954, he went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders. His efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the Sino-Tibetan conflict were thwarted by Beijing’s ruthless policy in Eastern Tibet. In March 1959, the Chinese repression ultimately ignited a popular uprising and resistance in Lhasa. After the brutal suppression of the Lhasa uprising, the Dalai Lama was forced to escape in exile. Since then, he has been living in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGIE).
His Holiness saw that his immediate and urgent task was to save the Tibetan exiles and their culture. He founded 53 large-scale agricultural settlements for Tibetan refugees to live on. He oversaw the creation of an autonomous Tibetan school system to raise refugee children with the full knowledge of their language, history and religion. He inaugurated several cultural institutes to preserve 2,000 years of Tibet’s higher arts and sciences, and helped re-establish more than 200 monasteries to keep alive the vast body of Buddhist teachings, the essence of the Tibetan spirit.
Since the Chinese invasion, His Holiness has appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet. Three resolutions were adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965.
The Dalai Lama's approach to resolving the conflict in Tibet is rooted in a non-violent strategy. It emphasizes dialogue with China with the ultimate objective of initiating a substantive negotiation process. The Dalai Lama has clearly stated on numerous occasions that he is not seeking independence for his homeland, nor is he looking to resolve his personal status. Rather, he has been consistent in the promotion of a "middle path approach" for the benefit of the 6 million Tibetans living inside Tibet today. The middle path approach is elaborated in two formal proposals.
The first, the Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet, was presented in 1987 and contains these basic elements:
- Transformation of Tibet into a zone of ahimsa (peace and non-violence);
- Abandonment of China's population transfer policy;
- Respect for the human rights and democratic freedoms of the Tibetan people;
- Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment, and the abandonment of China's apparent use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste; and
- Commencement of negotiations on the future status of Tibet.
The second proposal, the Strasbourg Proposal of 1998, suggested that China could maintain responsibility for Tibet's foreign policy and a restricted number of military installations in Tibet for defense purposes.
Together these proposals have become the foundation for the Dalai Lama's "Middle Path" approach for genuine autonomy in Tibet.
In 1989, His Holiness was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. Peace, non-violence and service for the happiness of sentient beings are the basic principles of His Holiness’ life. He is also known for his concern for global environmental problems. His Holiness has travelled to over 50 countries and met with presidents, prime ministers, and crowned rulers of major nations. He has held dialogues with the heads of different religions and well-known scientists.
Since 1959, His Holiness has received more than 60 honourary doctorates, awards, and prizes in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion.
His Holiness describes himself as a “simple Buddhist monk.” In his lectures and tours around the world, his simplicity and compassionate nature visibly touches everyone who meets him. His messages are of love, compassion, and forgiveness.
The Dalai Lama's Message
“To meet the challenge of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for his, or her, own self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources, and through concern for future generations, the proper care of the environment.”