REMARKABLE PEOPLE, H.H. the Dalai Lama
from 1993 Thresholds Quarterly
A Human Approach to Global Peace
| His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of the Tibetan government in exile in India and also the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. He was born Lhamo Thondrup in a small village in northeastern Tibet in 1935. He met his destiny when at the age of two a search team of monks came to his village seeking the reincarnation of the deceased 13th Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom and according to Buddhist tradition the Dalai Lamas are incarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A Bodhisattva, one on the path to enlightenment or Buddhahood, lives a life dedicated to service. |
Led by a series of signs, the monks arrived at Lhamos home. Their leader pretended to be a servant, but the child recognized the monk and demanded to be given a set of beads the monk wore, saying, Its mine. Its mine. The beads had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama, who had died in 1933. Given similar objects -- rosaries, walking sticks, drums -- young Lhamo chose the objects which had belonged to the previous Tibetan leader. The precocious young boy also had eight bodily marks that traditionally distinguish Dalai Lamas from others, including long eyes, large ears and streaks somewhat resembling a tiger skin on his legs. The child was enthroned at the Potala palace in Lhasa at the age of four.
Raised as a Buddhist monk, His Holiness assumed full religious and political leadership of Tibet in 1950 at the age of fifteen. This was during a time of crisis, when China invaded Tibet threatening their independence and culture. The Dalai Lama entered into peace negotiations with Chinese leaders Mao Tse-Tung, Chou En-Lai and Deng Ziaoping, relying upon his firm belief in non-violence as the means for responsible change.
As Chinese oppression of the Tibetan culture, religion, and people increased, His Holiness fled to India in 1959 with 100,000 Tibetans, seeking refuge. While the Dalai Lama established a democratic Tibetan government there for Tibetan refugees, providing schooling and religious training to keep Tibetan traditions alive, the Chinese in Tibet proceeded to destroy most of the thousands of monasteries and deny the native's freedoms of religion, assembly and press. The Chinese made worshipping the Dalai Lama a virtual crime -- though the mere mention of his name in Tibet even today elicits worship.
In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his compassion and dedication to humanity. Today he travels worldwide to educate the international community about the needs of the Tibetan people and to spread the universal message and teaching of compassion. In his own words, In Tibet we say that many illnesses can be cured by the one medicine of Love and Compassion. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness, and our need for them lies at the very core of our being.
It was a great honor for Senior Editor Laurel Fuller to be chosen as one of a small group of reporters who interviewed the Dalai Lama during his recent visit to St. Louis, Missouri. In keeping with the simplicity and genuine frankness of His Holiness, we have published his words verbatim.
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