14th Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama (religious name: Tenzin Gyatso, shortened from Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso; born Lhamo Dhondup; 6 July 1935) is the current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are important monks of the Gelug school, the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism, which was formally headed by the Ganden Tripas. From the time of the 5th Dalai Lama to 1959, the central government of Tibet, the Ganden Phodrang, invested the position of Dalai Lama with temporal duties.

The 14th Dalai Lama was born in Taktser, Qinghai, Republic of China. He was selected as the tulku of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1937 and formally recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama in a public declaration near the town of Bumchen in 1939. On 26 January 1940, the Regent Reting Rinpoche requested the Central Government to exempt Tenzin Gyatso from the lot-drawing process of the Golden Urn to become the 14th Dalai Lama. The request was approved by the Central Government. His enthronement ceremony as the Dalai Lama was held in Lhasa on 22 February 1940 and he eventually assumed full temporal (political) duties on 17 November 1950, at the age of 15, after the People's Republic of China's occupation of Tibet. The Gelug school's government administered an area roughly corresponding to the Tibet Autonomous Region, just as the nascent PRC wished to assert control over it.

During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he currently lives as a refugee. He has traveled the world and has spoken about the welfare of Tibetans, environment, economics, women's rights, nonviolence, interfaith dialogue, physics, astronomy, Buddhism and science, cognitive neuroscience, reproductive health, and sexuality, along with various topics of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist teachings. A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2006, Time magazine named him one of the "Children of Mahatma Gandhi" and Gandhi's spiritual heir to nonviolence.

Early life and background

Lhamo Dhondup was born on 6 July 1935 to a farming and horse trading family in the small hamlet of Taktser, or Chija Tagtser (Chinese: 红崖村; pinyin: Hóngyá Cūn; literally: 'Redcliff Village'), at the edge of the traditional Tibetan region of Amdo in Qinghai province. His family was of Monguor extraction. He was one of seven siblings to survive childhood. The eldest was his sister Tsering Dolma, eighteen years his senior. His eldest brother, Thupten Jigme Norbu, had been recognised at the age of eight as the reincarnation of the high Lama Taktser Rinpoche. His sister, Jetsun Pema, spent most of her adult life on the Tibetan Children's Villages project. The Dalai Lama has said that his first language was "a broken Xining language which was (a dialect of) the Chinese language", a form of Central Plains Mandarin, and his family did not speak the Tibetan language.

The Dalai Lama as a child

Following reported signs and visions, three search teams were sent out to the north-east, the east, and the south-east to locate the new incarnation when the boy who was to become the 14th Dalai Lama was about two years old. Sir Basil Gould, British delegate to Lhasa in 1936, related his account of the north-eastern team to Sir Charles Alfred Bell, former British resident in Lhasa and friend of the 13th Dalai Lama. Amongst other omens, the head of the embalmed body of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, at first facing south-east, had turned to face the north-east, indicating, it was interpreted, the direction in which his successor would be found. The Regent, Reting Rinpoche, shortly afterwards had a vision at the sacred lake of Lhamo La-tso which he interpreted as Amdo being the region to search. This vision was also interpreted to refer to a large monastery with a gilded roof and turquoise tiles, and a twisting path from it to a hill to the east, opposite which stood a small house with distinctive eaves. The team, led by Kewtsang Rinpoche, went first to meet the Panchen Lama, who had been stuck in Jyekundo, in northern Kham. The Panchen Lama had been investigating births of unusual children in the area ever since the death of the 13th Dalai Lama. He gave Kewtsang the names of three boys whom he had discovered and identified as candidates. Within a year the Panchen Lama had died. Two of his three candidates were crossed off the list but the third, a "fearless" child, the most promising, was from Taktser village, which, as in the vision, was on a hill, at the end of a trail leading to Taktser from the great Kumbum Monastery with its gilded, turquoise roof. There they found a house, as interpreted from the vision—the house where Lhamo Dhondup lived.

The 14th Dalai Lama claims that at the time, the village of Taktser stood right on the "real border" between the region of Amdo and China. When the team visited, posing as pilgrims, its leader, a Sera Lama, pretended to be the servant and sat separately in the kitchen. He held an old mala that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama, and the boy Lhamo Dhondup, aged two, approached and asked for it. The monk said "if you know who I am, you can have it." The child said "Sera Lama, Sera Lama" and spoke with him in a Lhasa accent, in a dialect the boy's mother could not understand. The next time the party returned to the house, they revealed their real purpose and asked permission to subject the boy to certain tests. One test consisted of showing him various pairs of objects, one of which had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama and one which had not. In every case, he chose the Dalai Lama's own objects and rejected the others. Thus, it was the Panchen Lama who first discovered and identified the 14th Dalai Lama.

House where the 14th Dalai Lama was born in Taktser, Amdo

From 1936 the Hui 'Ma Clique' Muslim warlord Ma Bufang ruled Qinghai as its governor under the nominal authority of the Republic of China central government. According to an interview with the 14th Dalai Lama, in the 1930s, Ma Bufang had seized this north-east corner of Amdo in the name of Chiang Kai-shek's weak government and incorporated it into the Chinese province of Qinghai. Before going to Taktser, Kewtsang had gone to Ma Bufang to pay his respects. When Ma Bufang heard a candidate had been found in Taktser, he had the family brought to him in Xining. He first demanded proof that the boy was the Dalai Lama, but the Lhasa government, though informed by Kewtsang that this was the one, told Kewtsang to say he had to go to Lhasa for further tests with other candidates. They knew that if he was declared to be the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government would insist on sending a large army escort with him, which would then stay in Lhasa and refuse to budge. Ma Bufang, together with Kumbum Monastery, then refused to allow him to depart unless he was declared to be the Dalai Lama, but withdrew this demand in return for 100,000 Chinese dollars ransom in silver to be shared amongst them, to let them go to Lhasa. Kewtsang managed to raise this, but the family was only allowed to move from Xining to Kumbum when a further demand was made for another 330,000 dollars ransom: one hundred thousand each for government officials, the commander-in-chief, and the Kumbum Monastery; twenty thousand for the escort; and only ten thousand for Ma Bufang himself, he said.

Two years of diplomatic wrangling followed before it was accepted by Lhasa that the ransom had to be paid to avoid the Chinese getting involved and escorting him to Lhasa with a large army. Meanwhile, the boy was kept at Kumbum where two of his brothers were already studying as monks and recognised incarnate lamas. The payment of 300,000 silver dollars was then advanced by Muslim traders en route to Mecca in a large caravan via Lhasa. They paid Ma Bufang on behalf of the Tibetan government against promissory notes to be redeemed, with interest, in Lhasa. The 20,000-dollar fee for an escort was dropped, since the Muslim merchants invited them to join their caravan for protection; Ma Bufang sent 20 of his soldiers with them and was paid from both sides since the Chinese government granted him another 50,000 dollars for the expenses of the journey. Furthermore, the Indian government helped the Tibetans raise the ransom funds by affording them import concessions.

Released from Kumbum, on 21 July 1939 the party travelled across Tibet in an epic journey to Lhasa in the large Muslim caravan with Lhamo Thondup, now 4 years old, riding with his brother Lobsang in a special palanquin carried by two mules, two years after being discovered. As soon as they were out of Ma Bufang's area, he was officially declared to be the 14th Dalai Lama by the Central Government of Tibet, and after ten weeks of travel he arrived in Lhasa on 8 October 1939. The ordination (pabbajja) and giving of the monastic name of Tenzin Gyatso were handled by Reting Rinpoche. There was very limited Chinese involvement at this time.

Tibetan Buddhists normally refer to him as Yishin Norbu (Wish-Fulfilling Gem), Kyabgon (Saviour), or just Kundun (Presence). His devotees, as well as much of the Western world, often call him His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the style employed on the Dalai Lama's website. According to the Dalai Lama, he had a succession of tutors in Tibet including Reting Rinpoche, Tathag Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche and lastly Trijang Rinpoche, who became junior tutor when he was nineteen. At the age of 11 he met the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, who became his videographer and tutor about the world outside Lhasa. The two remained friends until Harrer's death in 2006.

In 1959, at the age of 23, he took his final examination at Lhasa's Jokhang Temple during the annual Monlam or Prayer Festival. He passed with honours and was awarded the Lharampa degree, the highest-level geshe degree, roughly equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.

Life as the Dalai Lama

Lhasa's Potala Palace, today a UNESCO World Heritage site, pictured in 2006

Historically the Dalai Lamas or their regents held political and religious leadership over Tibet from Lhasa with varying degrees of influence depending on the regions of Tibet and periods of history. This began with the 5th Dalai Lama's rule in 1642 and lasted until the 1950s (except for 1705–1750), during which period the Dalai Lamas headed the Tibetan government or Ganden Phodrang. Until 1912 however, when the 13th Dalai Lama declared the complete independence of Tibet, their rule was generally subject to patronage and protection of firstly Mongol kings (1642–1720) and then the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1720–1912). In 1939, at the age of four, the present Dalai Lama was taken in a procession of lamas to Lhasa. The Dalai Lama's childhood was then spent between the Potala Palace and Norbulingka, his summer residence, both of which are now UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Kuomintang government ratified the 14th Dalai Lama and a Kuomintang representative, General Wu Zhongxin, presided over the ceremony. The British Representative Sir Basil Gould, who was also at the ceremony, disputes the Chinese claim to have presided over it. He criticised the Chinese account as follows:

Tibetan scholar Nyima Gyaincain wrote that based on Tibetan tradition, there was no such thing as presiding over an event, but two things are clear, first, the word "主持 (preside or organize)" was used in many places in communication documents. The meaning of the word was different than what we understand today. Second, Wu Zhongxin spent a lot of time and energy on the event, his effect of presiding over or organizing the event was very obvious. However, according to Goldstein:

Chiang Kai Shek ordered Ma Bufang to put his Muslim soldiers on alert for an invasion of Tibet in 1942. Ma Bufang complied, and moved several thousand troops to the border with Tibet. Chiang also threatened the Tibetans with aerial bombardment if they worked with the Japanese. Ma Bufang attacked the Tibetan Buddhist Tsang monastery in 1941. He also constantly attacked the Labrang monastery.

In October 1950 the army of the People's Republic of China marched to the edge of the Dalai Lama's territory and sent a delegation after defeating a legion of the Tibetan army in warlord-controlled Kham. On 17 November 1950, at the age of 15, the 14th Dalai Lama was enthroned formally as the temporal ruler of Tibet.

Cooperation and conflicts with the People's Republic of China

14th Dalai Lama arrives at Beijing railway station with the 10th Panchen Lama, 1954
Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai meeting with Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama to celebrate Tibetan New Year, 1955

The Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama had many conflicts throughout Tibetan history. Dalai Lama's formal rule was brief. He sent a delegation to Beijing, which ratified the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. He would later claim that the delegation did so without his authorization. He worked with the Chinese government: in September 1954, together with the 10th Panchen Lama he went to the Chinese capital to meet Mao Zedong and attend the first session of the National People's Congress as a delegate, primarily discussing China's constitution. On 27 September 1954, the Dalai Lama was selected as a Vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, a post he officially held until 1964.

In 1956, on a trip to India to celebrate the Buddha's Birthday, the Dalai Lama asked the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, if he would allow him political asylum should he choose to stay. Nehru discouraged this as a provocation against peace, and reminded him of the Indian Government's non-interventionist stance agreed upon with its 1954 treaty with China.

Long called a "splitist" and "traitor" by China, the Dalai Lama has attempted formal talks over Tibet's status in China. In 2019, after the United States passed a law requiring the US to deny visas to Chinese officials in charge of implementing policies that restrict foreigners access to Tibet, the US Ambassador to China "encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves differences".

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned the US and other countries to "shun" the Dalai Lama during visits and often uses trade negotiations and human rights talks as an incentive to do so. China sporadically bans images of the Dalai Lama and arrests citizens for owning photos of him in Tibet. Tibet Autonomous Region government job candidates must strongly denounce the Dalai Lama, as announced on the Tibet Autonomous Region government's online education platform, "Support the (Communist) Party’s leadership, resolutely implement the [Chinese Communist] Party’s line, line of approach, policies, and the guiding ideology of Tibet work in the new era; align ideologically, politically, and in action with the Party Central Committee; oppose any splittist tendencies; expose and criticize the Dalai Lama; safeguard the unity of the motherland and ethnic unity and take a firm stand on political issues, taking a clear and distinct stand".

The Dalai Lama is a target of Chinese state sponsored hacking. Security experts claim "targeting Tibetan activists is a strong indicator of official Chinese government involvement" since economic information is the primary goal of private Chinese hackers. In 2009 the personal office of the Dalai Lama asked researchers at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto to check its computers for malicious software. This led to uncovering GhostNet, a large-scale cyber spying operation which infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including embassies, foreign ministries, other government offices, and organizations affiliated with the Dalai Lama in India, Brussels, London and New York, and believed to be focusing on the governments of South and Southeast Asia. A second cyberspy network, Shadow Network, was discovered by the same researchers in 2010. Stolen documents included a years worth of the Dalai Lama's personal email, and classified government material relating to Indian, West Africa, the Russian Federation, the Middle East, and NATO. "Sophisticated" hackers were linked to universities in China, Beijing again denied involvement. Chinese hackers posing as The New York Times, Amnesty International and other organization's reporters targeted the private office of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Parliament members, and Tibetan nongovernmental organizations, among others, in 2019.

Exile to India

Abandoned former quarters of the Dalai Lama at the Potala. The empty vestment placed on the throne symbolises his absence

At the outset of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, fearing for his life, the Dalai Lama and his retinue fled Tibet with the help of the CIA's Special Activities Division, crossing into India on 30 March 1959, reaching Tezpur in Assam on 18 April. Some time later he set up the Government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamshala, India, which is often referred to as "Little Lhasa". After the founding of the government in exile he re-established the approximately 80,000 Tibetan refugees who followed him into exile in agricultural settlements. He created a Tibetan educational system in order to teach the Tibetan children the language, history, religion, and culture. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in 1959 and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies became the primary university for Tibetans in India in 1967. He supported the refounding of 200 monasteries and nunneries in an attempt to preserve Tibetan Buddhist teachings and the Tibetan way of life.

The Dalai Lama appealed to the United Nations on the rights of Tibetans. This appeal resulted in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965, all before the People's Republic was allowed representation at the United Nations. The resolutions called on China to respect the human rights of Tibetans. In 1963, he promulgated a democratic constitution which is based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, creating an elected parliament and an administration to champion his cause. In 1970, he opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamshala which houses over 80,000 manuscripts and important knowledge resources related to Tibetan history, politics and culture. It is considered one of the most important institutions for Tibetology in the world.

In 2016, there were demands from Indian citizens and politicians of different political parties to confer the Dalai Lama the prestigious Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour of India, which has only been awarded to a non-Indian citizen twice in its history.

International advocacy

The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
The flag of Tibet (designed by the 13th Dalai Lama) shares the stage with Kundun on 10 April 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland

At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987 in Washington, D.C., the Dalai Lama gave a speech outlining his ideas for the future status of Tibet. The plan called for Tibet to become a democratic "zone of peace" without nuclear weapons, and with support for human rights. The plan would come to be known as the "Strasbourg proposal", because the Dalai Lama expanded on the plan at Strasbourg on 15 June 1988. There, he proposed the creation of a self-governing Tibet "in association with the People's Republic of China." This would have been pursued by negotiations with the PRC government, but the plan was rejected by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in 1991. The Dalai Lama has indicated that he wishes to return to Tibet only if the People's Republic of China agrees not to make any precondition for his return. In the 1970s, the then-Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping set China's sole return requirement to the Dalai Lama as that he "must [come back] as a Chinese citizen ... that is, patriotism".

The Dalai Lama celebrated his seventieth birthday on 6 July 2005. About 10,000 Tibetan refugees, monks and foreign tourists gathered outside his home. Patriarch Alexius II of the Russian Orthodox Church alleged positive relations with Buddhists. However, later that year, the Russian state prevented the Dalai Lama from fulfilling an invitation to the traditionally Buddhist republic of Kalmykia. Then President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Chen Shui-bian, attended an evening celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei. In October 2008 in Japan, the Dalai Lama addressed the 2008 Tibetan violence that had erupted and that the Chinese government accused him of fomenting. He responded that he had "lost faith" in efforts to negotiate with the Chinese government, and that it was "up to the Tibetan people" to decide what to do.

Thirty Taiwanese indigenous peoples protested against the Dalai Lama during his visit to Taiwan after Typhoon Morakot and denounced it as politically motivated.

The Dalai Lama is an advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons, and currently serves on the Advisory Council of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

The Dalai Lama has voiced his support for the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which campaigns for democratic reformation of the United Nations, and the creation of a more accountable international political system. 

Teaching activities, public talks

Gyatso during a visit to Washington, D.C. in 1997

Giving public talks for non-Buddhist audiences and interviews and teaching Buddhism to large public audiences all over the world, as well as to private groups at his residence in India, appears to be the Dalai Lama's main activity. Despite becoming 80 years old in 2015 he maintains a busy international lectures and teaching schedule. His public talks and teachings are usually webcast live in multiple languages, via an inviting organisation's website, or on the Dalai Lama's own website. Scores of his past teaching videos can be viewed there, as well as public talks, conferences, interviews, dialogues and panel discussions.

The Dalai Lama's best known teaching subject is the Kalachakra tantra which, as of 2014, he had conferred a total of 33 times, most often in India's upper Himalayan regions but also in western venues like Madison Square Garden in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Barcelona, Graz, Sydney and Toronto. The Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) is one of the most complex teachings of Buddhism, sometimes taking two weeks to confer, and he often confers it on very large audiences, up to 200,000 students and disciples at a time.

The Dalai Lama is the author of numerous books on Buddhism, many of them on general Buddhist subjects but also including books on particular topics like Dzogchen, a Nyingma practice.

In Dalai Lama's essay, "The Ethic of Compassion" (1999), he expresses his belief that if we only reserve compassion for those that we love, we are ignoring the responsibility of sharing these characteristics of respect and empathy with those we do not have relationships with, which cannot allow us to "cultivate love." He elaborates upon this idea by writing that although it takes time to develop a higher level of compassion, eventually we will recognize that the quality of empathy will become a part of life and promote our quality as humans and inner strength.

He frequently accepts requests from students to visit various countries worldwide in order to give teachings to large Buddhist audiences, teachings that are usually based on classical Buddhist texts and commentaries, and most often those written by the 17 pandits or great masters of the Nalanda tradition, such as Nagarjuna, Kamalashila, Shantideva, Atisha, Ayradeva and so on.

The Dalai Lama's main teaching room at Dharamshala
Dalai Lama conferring Kalachakra initiation at Bodh Gaya, India, December 1985
Overview of teaching venue at Bodh Gaya Kalachakra, 1985

The Dalai Lama refers to himself as a follower of these Nalanda masters, in fact he often asserts that 'Tibetan Buddhism' is based on the Buddhist tradition of Nalanda monastery in ancient India, since the texts written by those 17 Nalanda pandits or masters, to whom he has composed a poem of invocation, were brought to Tibet and translated into Tibetan when Buddhism was first established there and have remained central to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism ever since.

As examples of other teachings, in London in 1984 he was invited to give teachings on the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, and on Dzogchen, which he gave at Camden Town Hall; in 1988 he was in London once more to give a series of lectures on Tibetan Buddhism in general, called 'A Survey of the Paths of Tibetan Buddhism'. Again in London in 1996 he taught the Four Noble Truths, the basis and foundation of Buddhism accepted by all Buddhists, at the combined invitation of 27 different Buddhist organisations of all schools and traditions belonging to the Network of Buddhist Organisations UK.

In India, the Dalai Lama gives religious teachings and talks in Dharamsala and numerous other locations including the monasteries in the Tibetan refugee settlements, in response to specific requests from Tibetan monastic institutions, Indian academic, religious and business associations, groups of students and individual/private/lay devotees. In India, no fees are charged to attend these teachings since costs are covered by requesting sponsors. When he travels abroad to give teachings there is usually a ticket fee calculated by the inviting organization to cover the costs involved and any surplus is normally to be donated to recognised charities.

On his frequent tours of India, Asia and the west he is also often invited to give, alongside his Buddhist teachings, public talks for non-Buddhist audiences. His talks and teaching activities in the U.S., for example, have included the following: on his April 2008 U.S. tour, he gave lectures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, at Rutgers University (New Jersey) and Colgate University (New York) Later in July, the Dalai Lama gave a public lecture and conducted a series of teachings at Lehigh University (Pennsylvania). On 8 May 2011, the University of Minnesota bestowed upon him their highest award, an Honorary Doctor of Letters. and during a return trip to Minnesota on 2 March 2014, he spoke at Macalester College which awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Dozens of videos of recorded webcasts of the Dalai Lama's public talks on general subjects for non-Buddhists like peace, happiness and compassion, modern ethics, the environment, economic and social issues, gender, the empowerment of women and so forth can be viewed in his office's archive.

Interfaith dialogue

The Dalai Lama met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. He met Pope John Paul II in 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990, and 2003. In 1990, he met a delegation of Jewish teachers in Dharamshala for an extensive interfaith dialogue. He has since visited Israel three times, and in 2006 met the Chief Rabbi of Israel. In 2006, he met Pope Benedict XVI privately. He has met the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie, and other leaders of the Anglican Church in London, Gordon B. Hinckley, who at the time was the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), as well as senior Eastern Orthodox Church, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Sikh officials. The Dalai Lama is also currently a member of the Board of World Religious Leaders as part of The Elijah Interfaith Institute and participated in the Third Meeting of the Board of World Religious Leaders in Amritsar, India, on 26 November 2007 to discuss the topic of Love and Forgiveness.

On 6 January 2009, the Dalai Lama inaugurated an interfaith "World Religions-Dialogue and Symphony" conference at Gujarat's Mahuva religions", according to Morari Bapu.

On 12 May 2010, the Dalai Lama, joined by a panel of select scholars, officially launched the Common Ground Project, in Bloomington, Indiana (USA), which was planned by himself and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan during several years of personal conversations. The project is based on the book Common Ground between Islam and Buddhism.

Interest in science, and Mind and Life Institute

The Dalai Lama's lifelong interest in science and technology dates from his childhood in Lhasa, Tibet, when he was fascinated by mechanical objects like clocks, watches, telescopes, film projectors, clockwork soldiers and motor cars, and loved to repair, disassemble and reassemble them. Once, observing the Moon through a telescope as a child, he realised it was a crater-pocked lump of rock and not a heavenly body emitting its own light as Tibetan cosmologists had taught him. He has also said that had he not been brought up as a monk he would probably have been an engineer. On his first trip to the west in 1973 he asked to visit Cambridge University's astrophysics department in the UK and he sought out renowned scientists such as Sir Karl Popper, David Bohm and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, who taught him the basics of science.

The Dalai Lama sees important common ground between science and Buddhism in having the same approach to challenge dogma on the basis of empirical evidence that comes from observation and analysis of phenomena.

His growing wish to develop meaningful scientific dialogue to explore the Buddhism and science interface led to invitations for him to attend relevant conferences on his visits to the west, including the Alpbach Symposia on Consciousness in 1983 where he met and had discussions with the late Chilean neuroscientist Francisco J. Varela. Also in 1983, the American social entrepreneur and innovator R. Adam Engle, who had become aware of the Dalai Lama's deep interest in science, was already considering the idea of facilitating for him a serious dialogue with a selection of appropriate scientists. In 1984 Engle formally offered to the Dalai Lama's office to organise a week-long, formal dialogue for him with a suitable team of scientists, provided that the Dalai Lama would wish to fully participate in such a dialogue. Within 48 hours the Dalai Lama confirmed to Engle that he was "truly interested in participating in something substantial about science" so Engle proceeded with launching the project. Francisco Varela, having heard about Engle's proposal, then called him to tell him of his earlier discussions with the Dalai Lama and to offer his scientific collaboration to the project. Engle accepted, and Varela assisted him to assemble his team of six specialist scientists for the first 'Mind and Life' dialogue on the cognitive sciences, which was eventually held with the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala in 1987. This five-day event was so successful that at the end the Dalai Lama told Engle he would very much like to repeat it again in the future. Engle then started work on arranging a second dialogue, this time with neuroscientists in California, and the discussions from the first event were edited and published as Mind and Life's first book, "Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind".

As Mind and Life Institute's remit expanded, Engle formalised the organisation as a non-profit foundation after the third dialogue, held in 1990, which initiated the undertaking of neurobiological research programmes in the United States under scientific conditions. Over the ensuing decades, as of 2014 at least 28 dialogues between the Dalai Lama and panels of various world-renowned scientists have followed, held in various countries and covering diverse themes, from the nature of consciousness to cosmology and from quantum mechanics to the neuroplasticity of the brain. Sponsors and partners in these dialogues have included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, the Mayo Clinic, and Zurich University.

Apart from time spent teaching Buddhism and fulfilling responsibilities to his Tibetan followers, the Dalai Lama has probably spent, and continues to spend, more of his time and resources investigating the interface between Buddhism and science through the ongoing series of Mind and Life dialogues and its spin-offs than on any other single activity. As the Institute's Cofounder and the Honorary chairman he has personally presided over and participated in all its dialogues, which continue to expand worldwide.

These activities have given rise to dozens of DVD sets of the dialogues and books he has authored on them such as Ethics for the New Millennium and The Universe in a Single Atom, as well as scientific papers and university research programmes. On the Tibetan and Buddhist side, science subjects have been added to the curriculum for Tibetan monastic educational institutions and scholarship. On the Western side, university and research programmes initiated by these dialogues and funded with millions of dollars in grants from the Dalai Lama Trust include the Emory-Tibet Partnership, Stanford School of Medicine's Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARES) and the Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds, amongst others.

Emory University, in partnership with The Dalai Lama Trust and the Vana Foundation of India, launched the Emory's international SEE Learning (Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning) program in New Delhi, India, 4–6 April. The SEE learning (social, emotional and ethical learning) — described as an education of the heart and mind – is a school curriculum for all classes from kindergarten to Std XII, developed by Emory University's Center for Contemplative Sciences and Compassion-Based Ethics in the US, in association with the Dalai Lama Trust. Building on psychologist Daniel Goleman's work on emotional intelligence in the early 1990s, SEE learning focuses on developing critical thinking, ethical reasoning and compassion and stresses on commonalities rather than on the differences.

In particular, the Mind and Life Education Humanities & Social Sciences initiatives have been instrumental in developing the emerging field of Contemplative Science, by researching, for example, the effects of contemplative practice on the human brain, behaviour and biology.

In his 2005 book The Universe in a Single Atom and elsewhere, and to mark his commitment to scientific truth and its ultimate ascendancy over religious belief, unusually for a major religious leader the Dalai Lama advises his Buddhist followers: "If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims." He has also cited examples of archaic Buddhist ideas he has abandoned himself on this basis.

These activities have even had an impact in the Chinese capital. In 2013 an 'academic dialogue' with a Chinese scientist, a Tibetan 'living Buddha' and a Professor of Religion took place in Beijing. Entitled "High-end dialogue: ancient Buddhism and modern science" it addressed the same considerations that interest the Dalai Lama, described as 'discussing about the similarities between Buddhism and modern science'.

Personal meditation practice

The Dalai Lama uses various meditation techniques, including analytic meditation. He has said that the aim of meditation is "to maintain a very full state of alertness and mindfulness, and then try to see the natural state of your consciousness."

Social instances

Abortion

The Dalai Lama has said that, from the perspective of the Buddhist precepts, abortion is an act of killing. He has also clarified that in certain cases abortion could be considered ethically acceptable "if the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent", which could only be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Democracy, nonviolence, religious harmony, and Tibet's relationship with India

Tenzin Gyatso in Vienna, Austria, in 2012

The Dalai Lama says that he is active in spreading India's message of nonviolence and religious harmony throughout the world. "I am the messenger of India's ancient thoughts the world over." He has said that democracy has deep roots in India. He says he considers India the master and Tibet its disciple, as great scholars went from India to Tibet to teach Buddhism. He has noted that millions of people lost their lives in violence and the economies of many countries were ruined due to conflicts in the 20th century. "Let the 21st century be a century of tolerance and dialogue."

In 1993, the Dalai Lama attended the World Conference on Human Rights and made a speech titled "Human Rights and Universal Responsibility".

In 2001, he answered the question of a girl in a Seattle school by saying that it is permissible to shoot someone with a gun in self-defense if that person was "trying to kill you," and he emphasized that the shot should not be fatal.

In April 2013, the Dalai Lama openly criticised Buddhist monks' attacks on Muslims in Myanmar "Buddha always teaches us about forgiveness, tolerance, compassion. If from one corner of your mind, some emotion makes you want to hit, or want to kill, then please remember Buddha's faith. We are followers of Buddha." He said that "All problems must be solved through dialogue, through talk. The use of violence is outdated, and never solves problems." In May 2013, he said "Really, killing people in the name of religion is unthinkable, very sad." In May 2015, the Dalai Lama publicly called on Myanmar's Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to help the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, claiming that he had previously urged her to address the plight of the Rohingya in private during two separate meetings and that she had resisted his urging.

In response to the death of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died of organ failure while in government custody, the Dalai Lama issued the following statement on 14 July 2017, "I am deeply saddened to learn that fellow Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo has passed away while undergoing a lengthy prison sentence ... It is my belief that Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo's unceasing efforts in the cause of freedom will bear fruit before long."

Diet and animal welfare

The Dalai Lama advocates compassion for animals and frequently urges people to try vegetarianism or at least reduce their consumption of meat. In Tibet, where historically meat was the most common food, most monks historically have been omnivores, including the Dalai Lamas. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama was raised in a meat-eating family but converted to vegetarianism after arriving in India, where vegetables are much more easily available and vegetarianism is widespread. He spent many years as a vegetarian, but after contracting hepatitis in India and suffering from weakness, his doctors told him to return to eating meat which he now does twice a week. This attracted public attention when, during a visit to the White House, he was offered a vegetarian menu but declined by replying, as he is known to do on occasion when dining in the company of non-vegetarians, "I'm a Tibetan monk, not a vegetarian". His own home kitchen, however, is completely vegetarian.

Economics

The Dalai Lama has referred to himself as a Marxist and has articulated criticisms of capitalism.

He reports hearing of communism when he was very young, but only in the context of the destruction of Communist Mongolia. It was only when he went on his trip to Beijing that he learned about Marxist theory from his interpreter Baba Phuntsog Wangyal. At that time, he reports, "I was so attracted to Marxism, I even expressed my wish to become a Communist Party member", citing his favorite concepts of self-sufficiency and equal distribution of wealth. He does not believe that China implemented "true Marxist policy", and thinks the historical communist states such as the Soviet Union "were far more concerned with their narrow national interests than with the Workers' International". Moreover, he believes one flaw of historically "Marxist regimes" is that they place too much emphasis on destroying the ruling class, and not enough on compassion. Despite this, he finds Marxism superior to capitalism, believing the latter is only concerned with "how to make profits", whereas the former has "moral ethics". Stating in 1993:

Environment

The Dalai Lama is outspoken in his concerns about environmental problems, frequently giving public talks on themes related to the environment. He has pointed out that many rivers in Asia originate in Tibet, and that the melting of Himalayan glaciers could affect the countries in which the rivers flow. He acknowledged official Chinese laws against deforestation in Tibet, but lamented they can be ignored due to possible corruption. He was quoted as saying "ecology should be part of our daily life"; personally, he takes showers instead of baths, and turns lights off when he leaves a room. Around 2005, he started campaigning for wildlife conservation, including by issuing a religious ruling against wearing tiger and leopard skins as garments. The Dalai Lama supports the anti-whaling position in the whaling controversy, but has criticized the activities of groups such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (which carries out acts of what it calls aggressive nonviolence against property). Before the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, he urged national leaders to put aside domestic concerns and take collective action against climate change.

Sexuality

A monk since childhood, the Dalai Lama has said that sex offers fleeting satisfaction and leads to trouble later, while chastity offers a better life and "more independence, more freedom". He has said that problems arising from conjugal life sometimes even lead to suicide or murder. He has asserted that all religions have the same view about adultery.

In his discussions of the traditional Buddhist view on appropriate sexual behavior, he explains the concept of "right organ in the right object at the right time", which historically has been interpreted as indicating that oral, manual and anal sex (both homosexual and heterosexual) are not appropriate in Buddhism or for Buddhists. However, he also says that in modern times all common, consensual sexual practices that do not cause harm to others are ethically acceptable and that society should accept and respect people who are gay or transgender from a secular point of view. In a 1994 interview with OUT Magazine, the Dalai Lama clarified his personal opinion on the matter by saying, "If someone comes to me and asks whether homosexuality is okay or not, I will ask 'What is your companion's opinion?' If you both agree, then I think I would say, 'If two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay.'" However, when interviewed by Canadian TV news anchor Evan Solomon on CBC News: Sunday about whether homosexuality is acceptable in Buddhism, the Dalai Lama responded that "it is sexual misconduct".

In his 1996 book Beyond Dogma, he described a traditional Buddhist definition of an appropriate sexual act as follows: "A sexual act is deemed proper when the couples use the organs intended for sexual intercourse and nothing else ... Homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact." He elaborated in 1997, explaining that the basis of that teaching was unknown to him. He also conveyed his own "willingness to consider the possibility that some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context".

The Dalai Lama has expressed concern at "reports of violence and discrimination against gay, bisexual, and transgender people" and "urges respect, tolerance and the full recognition of human rights for all".

Women's rights

In 2007, he said that the next Dalai Lama could possibly be a woman, remarking "If a woman reveals herself as more useful the lama could very well be reincarnated in this form."

In 2009, on gender equality and sexism, the Dalai Lama proclaimed at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee: "I call myself a feminist. Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?" He also said that by nature, women are more compassionate "based on their biology and ability to nurture and birth children". He called on women to "lead and create a more compassionate world", citing the good works of nurses and mothers.

In 2014, the Dalai Lama attended the inauguration of the Secular Ethics for Higher Education Course at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, where he was reported to have stated that, "Since women have been shown to be more sensitive to others' suffering, their leadership may be more effective. His Holiness suggested it's time for men to withdraw and for women to step forward."

In 2015, he said in a BBC interview that if a female succeeded him, "that female must be attractive, otherwise it is not much use," and when asked if he was joking, replied, "No. True!" He followed with a joke about his current success being due to his own appearance.

Health

In April 2013, at the Culture of Compassion event in Ebrington Square in Derry, Northern Ireland, the Dalai Lama asserted, stressing the importance of peace of mind: "Warm-heartedness is a key factor for healthy individuals, healthy families and healthy communities [ ... ] Scientists say that a healthy mind is a major factor for a healthy body. If you're serious about your health, think and take most concern for your peace of mind. That's very, very important."

Immigration

In September 2018, speaking at a conference in Sweden's third-largest city, Malmö, home to a large immigrant population, the Dalai Lama said "I think Europe belongs to the Europeans", adding that it should make clear to refugees that "they ultimately should rebuild their own country".

Speaking to German reporters in 2016, the Dalai Lama said there are "too many" refugees in Europe, adding that "Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country." He also said that "Germany is Germany".

Retirement and succession plans

On 29 May 2011, the Dalai Lama retired from the Central Tibetan Administration.

On 24 September 2011, the Dalai Lama issued the following statement concerning his reincarnation:

On 3 October 2011, the Dalai Lama repeated his statement in an interview with Canadian CTV News. He added that Chinese laws banning the selection of successors based on reincarnation will not impact his decisions. "Naturally my next life is entirely up to me. No one else. And also this is not a political matter," he said in the interview. The Dalai Lama also added that he was not decided on whether he would reincarnate or be the last Dalai Lama.

In an interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag published on 7 September 2014 the Dalai Lama stated "the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose", and that "We had a Dalai Lama for almost five centuries. The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular. Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama."

Gyatso has also expressed fear that the Chinese government would manipulate any reincarnation selection in order to choose a successor that would go along with their political goals. In response the Chinese government implied that it would select another Dalai Lama regardless of his decision.

CIA Tibetan program

In October 1998, the Dalai Lama's administration acknowledged that it received $1.7 million a year in the 1960s from the U.S. government through a Central Intelligence Agency program. When asked by CIA officer John Kenneth Knaus in 1995 to comment on the CIA Tibetan program, the Dalai Lama replied that though it helped the morale of those resisting the Chinese, "thousands of lives were lost in the resistance" and further, that "the U.S. Government had involved itself in his country's affairs not to help Tibet but only as a Cold War tactic to challenge the Chinese."

His administration's reception of CIA funding has become one of the grounds for some Chinese newspapers and Western scholars to discredit him along with the Tibetan independence movement.

In his autobiography Freedom in Exile, the Dalai Lama criticized the CIA again for supporting the Tibetan independence movement "not because they (the CIA) cared about Tibetan independence, but as part of their worldwide efforts to destabilize all communist governments".

In 1999, the Dalai Lama said that the CIA Tibetan program had been harmful for Tibet because it was primarily aimed at serving American interests, and "once the American policy toward China changed, they stopped their help."

Chinese criticisms

Ties to India

Stone Plaque at a plantation by Tenzin in Amaravathi

The Chinese press has criticized the Dalai Lama for his close ties with India. His 2010 remarks at the International Buddhist Conference in Gujarat saying that he was "Tibetan in appearance, but an Indian in spirituality" and referral to himself as a "son of India" in particular led the People's Daily to opine, "Since the Dalai Lama deems himself an Indian rather than Chinese, then why is he entitled to represent the voice of the Tibetan people?" Dhundup Gyalpo of the Tibet Sun replied that Tibetan religion could be traced back to Nalanda in India, and that Tibetans have no connection to Chinese "apart ... from a handful of culinary dishes". The People's Daily stressed the links between Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism and accused the Dalai Lama of "betraying southern Tibet to India". In 2008, the Dalai Lama said for the first time that the territory India claims and administers as part of Arunachal Pradesh is part of India, citing the disputed 1914 Simla Accord.

Shugden controversy

The Dorje Shugden Controversy reappeared in the Gelug school by the publication of the Yellow Book in 1976, containing stories about wrathful acts of Dorje Shugden against Gelugpas who also practiced Nyingma teachings. In response, the 14th Dalai Lama, a Gelugpa himself and advocate of an "inclusive" approach to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, started to speak out against the practice of Dorje Shugden in 1978.

The controversy has attracted attention in the West because of demonstrations held in 2008 and 2014 by Dorje Shugden practitioners. A 2015 Reuters investigation determined "that the religious sect behind the protests has the backing of the Communist Party" and that the "group has emerged as an instrument in Beijing's long campaign to undermine support for the Dalai Lama". After the Reuters investigation revealed that China backs it, the Shugden group halted operations and disbanded.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

In April 2018, the Dalai Lama confirmed the official Chinese claims about Gedhun Choekyi Nyima by saying that he knew from "reliable sources" that the Panchen Lama he had recognized was alive and receiving normal education. He said he hoped that the Chinese-recognised Panchen Lama (Gyaincain Norbu) studied well under the guidance of a good teacher, adding that there were instances in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, of a reincarnated lama taking more than one manifestation.

Public image

The Dalai Lama meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014
Buddhist temple in Kalmykia, Russia

In a May 2013 Harris Poll of 7,245 adults across the five largest European countries and the United States, the Dalai Lama was tied with President Barack Obama with the highest levels of popularity, 78%, of all world leaders. Pope Francis was the only leader that came close to the two of them, and in the United States alone the Dalai Lama topped the poll over Obama by 13 percentage points.

The Dalai Lama's appeal is variously ascribed to his charismatic personality, international fascination with Buddhism, his universalist values, international sympathy for the Tibetans, and western sinophobia. In the 1990s, many films were released by the American film industry about Tibet, including biopics of the Dalai Lama. This is attributed to both the Dalai Lama's 1989 Nobel Peace Prize as well as to the euphoria following the Fall of Communism. The most notable films, Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet (both released in 1997), portrayed "an idyllic pre-1950 Tibet, with a smiling, soft-spoken Dalai Lama at the helm – a Dalai Lama sworn to non-violence": portrayals the Chinese government decried as ahistorical.

The Dalai Lama has his own pages on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The Dalai Lama meeting with Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner in 2011

The Dalai Lama has tried to mobilize international support for Tibetan activities. The Dalai Lama has been successful in gaining Western support for himself and the cause of greater Tibetan autonomy, including vocal support from numerous Hollywood celebrities, most notably the actors Richard Gere and Steven Seagal, as well as lawmakers from several major countries. Photos of the Dalai Lama were banned after March 1959 Lhasa protests until after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. In 1996 the Chinese Communist Party once again reinstated the total prohibition of any photo of the 14th Dalai Lama. According to the Tibet Information Network, "authorities in Tibet have begun banning photographs of the exiled Dalai Lama in monasteries and public places, according to reports from a monitoring group and a Tibetan newspaper. Plainclothes police went to hotels and restaurants in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, on 22 and 23 April and ordered Tibetans to remove pictures of the Dalai Lama ..." The ban continues in many locations throughout Tibet today.

In the media

The 14th Dalai Lama has appeared in several non-fiction films including:

He has been depicted as a character in various other movies and television programs including:

Two characters in the animation series' Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra were named after him. Avatar Aang's mentor Monk Gyatso (The Last Airbender) and Aang's youngest son Tenzin (The Legend of Korra).

The Dalai Lama was featured on 5 March 2017, episode of the HBO late-night talk show Last Week Tonight, in which host John Oliver conducted a comedic interview with the Dalai Lama, focusing on the topics of Tibetan sovereignty, Tibetan self-immolations, and his succession plans.[relevant? ]

A biographical graphic novel, Man of Peace, also envisaging his return to Tibet, was published by Tibet House US.

Awards and honours

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to Tenzin Gyatso in 2007
The Dalai Lama receiving a Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. From left: Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Senate President pro tempore Robert Byrd and U.S. President George W. Bush

The Dalai Lama has received numerous awards over his spiritual and political career. In 1959, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.

On 16 June 1988 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Dr Leopold Lucas Prize on behalf of the Protestant faculty of the University of Tübingen by Professor Hans-Jürgen Hermisson who stated that the prize was awarded because of the Dalai Lama's important contribution to the promotion of dialogue between different religions and peoples as well as to his commitment to Tolerance and non-violence. The Dalai Lama donated the 50,000 DM prizefund to a German Charity active in Tibet.

After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Dalai Lama the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. The Committee officially gave the prize to the Dalai Lama for "the struggle of the liberation of Tibet and the efforts for a peaceful resolution" and "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi" although the President of the Committee also said that the prize was intended to put pressure on China, which was reportedly infuriated that the award was given to a separatist.

In 1994, he received the Freedom Medal from the Roosevelt Institute.

On 28 May 2005, the Dalai Lama received the Christmas Humphreys Award from the Buddhist Society in the United Kingdom. On 22 June 2006, he became one of only six people ever to be recognised with Honorary Citizenship by the Governor General of Canada. In February 2007, the Dalai Lama was named Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia; it was the first time that he accepted a university appointment.

The Dalai Lama was a 2007 recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by American lawmakers, The Chinese government declared this would have "an extremely serious impact" on relations with the United States. In 2012, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Templeton Prize. He later donated the entire prize money to the charity Save the Children.

Publications

See also

References

Sources

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article "14th Dalai Lama", released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.