14th Dalai Lama,Tenzin Gyatso
The 14th Dalai Lama (religious name: Tenzin Gyatso, shortened from Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, born Lhamo Dondrub, 6 July 1935) is the 14th and current Dalai Lama, as well as the longest lived incumbent.
The Dalai Lama was born in Taktser, Qinghai (also known to Tibetans as Amdo), and was selected as the rebirth of the 13th Dalai Lama two years later, although he was only formally recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama on 17 November 1950, at the age of 15.
The Gelug school's government controlled an area roughly corresponding to the Tibet Autonomous Region just as the nascent People's Republic of China wished to assert central control over it. There is a dispute over whether the respective governments reached an agreement for a joint Chinese-Tibetan administration.
During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, which China regards as an uprising of feudal landlords, the Dalai Lama, who regards the uprising as an expression of widespread discontent, fled to India, where he denounced the People's Republic and established a Tibetan government in exile.
A charismatic speaker, he has since traveled the world, advocating for the welfare of Tibetans, teaching Tibetan Buddhism and talking about the importance of compassion as the source of a happy life. Around the world, institutions face pressure from China not to accept him.
He has spoken about such topics as environment, economics, women rights, non-violence, interfaith dialog, reproductive health, and sexuality, and has been the subject of controversy for his alleged treatment of Dorje Shugden followers and his office's receipt of support from the CIA in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Early life and background
Lhamo Döndrub (or Thondup) was born on 6 July 1935 to a farming and horse trading family in the small hamlet of Taktser, in the eastern border of the former Tibetan region of Amdo, then already assimilated into the Chinese province of Qinghai.
He was one of seven siblings to survive childhood.
The eldest was his sister Tsering Dolma, eighteen years older.
A search party was sent to locate the new incarnation when the boy who was to become the 14th was about two years old. It is said that, amongst other omens, the head of the embalmed body of the 13th Dalai Lama, at first facing south-east, had mysteriously turned to face the northeast—indicating 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 indicating Amdo as the region to search—specifically a one-story house with distinctive guttering and tiling. After extensive searching, the Thondup house, with its features resembling those in Reting's vision, was finally found.
It was reported that he had correctly identified all the items owned by the previous Dalai Lama, exclaiming, "That's mine! That's mine!
Lhamo Thondup was recognised formally as the reincarnated Dalai Lama and renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom) although he was not formally enthroned as the temporal ruler of Tibet until the age of 15;
Monastic education commenced at the age of six years, his principal teachers being Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche (senior tutor) and Yongdzin Trijang Rinpoche (junior tutor). 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.
Life as the Dalai Lama
See also : Dalai Lama
Historically the Dalai Lamas had political and religious influence in the Western Tibetan area of Ü-Tsang around Lhasa, where the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism was popular and the Dalai Lamas held land under their jurisdiction.
China asserts that the Kuomintang government ratified the 14th Dalai Lama and that a Kuomintang representative, General Wu Zhongxin, presided over the ceremony. It cites a ratification order dated February 1940, and a documentary film of the ceremony.
- "On 8 July 1949, the Kashag (Tibetan Parliament] called Chen Xizhang, the acting director of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission office in Lhasa.
During his reign, a border crisis erupted with the Republic of China in 1942.
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.
Cooperation and conflicts with the PRC
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 deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, a post he officially held until 1964.
To support the rebels, the CIA launched a covert action campaign against the Communist Chinese. A secret military training camp for the Khampa guerrillas was established at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado, in the U.S. The guerrillas attacked Communist forces in Amdo and Kham but were gradually pushed into Central Tibet.
Exile to India
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 exiled government 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 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.
The plan would later be called the "Strasbourg proposal", because he 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 conducted numerous public initiations in the Kalachakra, and is the author of many books, including books on the topic of Dzogchen, a practice in which he is accomplished. His teaching activities in the U.S. include the following:
On his April 2008 U.S. tour, he gave lectures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and at Colgate University (New York) Later in July, the Dalai Lama gave a public lecture and conducted a series of teachings at Lehigh University (Pennsylvania).
The Dalai Lama met with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. He met with Pope John Paul II in 1980 and also later in 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990, and 2003. In 1990, he met in Dharamshala with a delegation of Jewish teachers for an extensive interfaith dialogue.
In 2006, he met privately with Pope Benedict XVI. He has met with 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.
This conference explored "ways and means to deal with the discord among major religions", according to Morari Bapu. He has stated that modern scientific findings should take precedence where appropriate over disproven religious superstition.
On 12 May 2010, in Bloomington, Indiana (USA) the Dalai Lama, joined by a panel of select scholars, officially launched the Common Ground Project, which he and HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan had planned over the course of several years of personal conversations. The project is based on the book Common Ground between Islam and Buddhism.
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.
The Dalai Lama says that he is active in spreading India's message of non-violence 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 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 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.
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. He spent many years as a vegetarian, but after contracting Hepatitis in India and suffering from weakness, his doctors ordered him to eat meat on alternating days, which he did for several years.
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.
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 studied Marxist theory.
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".
"Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilisation of the means of production.
It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes—that is, the majority—as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair."
The Dalai Lama is outspoken in his concerns abou
t 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 is cynical because of possible official corruption.
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 non-violence 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.
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 observed 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, yet 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 not discriminate against gays and lesbians and should accept and respect them 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?'.
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.
He elaborated in 1997, explaining that the basis of that teaching was unknown to him and acknowledging that "some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context," while clarifying the historical Buddhist position (in contrast with his personal opinion) by saying, "Buddhist sexual proscriptions ban homosexual activity and heterosexual sex through orifices other than the vagina, including masturbation or other sexual activity with the hand...
From a Buddhist point of view, lesbian and gay sex is generally considered sexual misconduct". Nonetheless, he reiterated, Buddhism calls for respect, compassion, and equal treatment for all, including homosexuals.
On gender equality and sexism, the Dalai Lama proclaimed at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in 2009: "I call myself a feminist. Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?"
During a teaching tour of the UK in May 2008, members of the Western Shugden Society came out to demonstrate against the banning of a prayer to Dorje Shugden, which they call religious persecution. Similar protests occurred in Sydney when the Dalai Lama arrived in Australia in June 2008.
The Dalai Lama says he had not banned the practice, but strongly discourages it as he feels it promotes a spirit as being more important than Buddha, and that it may encourage cult-like practices and sectarianism within Tibetan Buddhism.
Recognition of the 17th Karmapa
See also: Karmapa controversy
The Dalai Lama has given his support to Urgyen Trinley Dorje, while supporters of Trinley Thaye Dorje claim that the Dalai Lama has no authority in the matter, nor is there a historical precedent for a Dalai Lama involving himself in an internal Kagyu dispute.
In his 2001 address at the International Karma Kagyu Conference, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche—one of the four Karma Kagyu regents—accused the Dalai Lama of adopting a "divide and conquer" policy to eliminate any potential political rivalry arising from within the Kagyu school.
For his side, the Dalai Lama accepted the prediction letter presented by Tai Situ Rinpoche (another Karma Kagyu regent) as authentic, and therefore Tai Situ Rinpoche's recognition of Urgyen Trinley Dorje, also as correct. Tibet observer Julian Gearing suggests that there might be political motives to the Dalai Lama's decision:
"The Dalai Lama gave his blessing to the recognition of (Urgyen) Trinley, eager to win over the formerly troublesome sect [the Kagyu school], and with the hope that the new Karmapa could play a role in a political solution of the 'Tibet Question.' ...
If the allegations are to be believed, a simple nomad boy was turned into a political and religious pawn." However, according to Tsurphu Labrang, articles by Julian Gearing on this subject are biased, unverified and without crosschecking of basic facts.
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 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and also trained a resistance movement in Colorado.
When asked by CIA officer John Kenneth Knaus in 1995 whether the organisation did a good or bad thing in providing its support, 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.
Ties to India
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 shot back 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 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.
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.
One South African official publicly criticised the Dalai Lama's politics and lamented a taboo on criticism of him, saying "To say anything against the Dalai Lama is, in some quarters, equivalent to trying to shoot Bambi".
His predecessor had banned extreme punishments and the death penalty. And he had started some reforms like removal of debt inheritance during the early years of his government under the People's Republic of China in 1951.
The Dalai Lama has been successful in gaining Western sympathy for himself and the cause of greater Tibetan autonomy or independence, including vocal support from numerous Hollywood celebrities, most notably the actors Richard Gere and Steven Seagal, as well as lawmakers from several major countries.
Awards and honors
In 1959, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. On 22 June 2006, he became one of only five people ever to be recognised with Honorary Citizenship by the Governor General of Canada.
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, who was reportedly infuriated that the award was given to a separatist. In 2012, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Templeton Prize.
In May 2007, Chhime Rigzing, a senior spokesman for his office, stated that the Dalai Lama was moving into "retirement", but in 2008 the Dalai Lama himself ruled out such a move, saying "There is no... question of retirement." Rigzing stated "The political leadership will be transferred over a period of time but he will inevitably continue to be the spiritual leader". The Dalai Lama announced he would like the Tibetan Parliament in Exile to have more responsibility over the Central Tibetan Administration.
In response to the 2008 Tibetan unrest, on 18 March 2008 the Dalai Lama threatened to step down, which would be a first for a Dalai Lama. Aides later clarified that this threat was predicated on a further escalation of violence, and that he did not presently have the intention of leaving his political or spiritual offices.
In the ensuing months, he held meetings aimed at discussing the future institution of the Dalai Lama, including " conclave, like in the Catholic Church, a woman as my successor, no Dalai Lama anymore, or perhaps even two", referring to the possibility of having both his approved successor and China's approved successor both claiming the title.
In a speech given on 10 March 2011, the 14th Dalai Lama stated that he will propose changes to the constitution of the Tibetan government in exile which will remove the Dalai Lama's role as head of state, replacing him with an elected leader.
On May 29, 2011, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama ... ratified the amendment to the charter of Tibetans delegating his administrative and political authorities to the democratically elected leaders of the Central Tibetan Administration."
Succession and reincarnation
When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not.
On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust.
They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition.
I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender, the name Gyatso was used for Avatar Aang's guardian and mentor Monk Gyatso while in the sequel Avatar:
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