The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, writes in his book The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace, “the more we care for the welfare of the majority, the more we work for social welfare, the greater will be our own peace and happiness. Just as the citizens of a particular country have certain obligations as well as enjoy certain benefits, our obligation as followers of the Buddha and bodhisattvas is to benefit all sentient beings.” The Dalai Lama is a pivotal figure on the topic of spiritualism, politics and the oppressed people of the world. Learn more facts about the Dalai Lama.
Top 15 facts About the Dalai Lama
- The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6, 1935, and was originally named Lhamo Dhondup. He was one of five children born to a peasant family in Taktser, a village northeast of Tibet.
- Gyatso grew up in Tibet’s ancient Potala Palace in Lhasa after being found at age two to be the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. In 1939, he took the throne in Potala, and two years later, at the age of six, he became a monk.
- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Dalai Lamas are the reincarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate in order to serve people.
- Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom. This was put to the test for Tenzin Gyatso, as in 1950, the Dalai Lama was asked to assume full political power as Head of the Tibetan Government while the country was being threatened by China.
- One of the more unique facts about the Dalai Lama is that he was forced into exile in 1959 following China’s military occupation of Tibet. His official residence was moved to Dharamsala in northern India. Dharamsala is now the seat of the Tibetan Government.
- In 1987, the Dalai Lama presented a five-point peace plan at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington, D.C., as a first step toward resolving the future status of Tibet. This plan called to designate a Tibetan zone of peace, end the massive influx of Chinese into Tibet, restore fundamental human rights, end China’s dumping of nuclear waste in the country and urge negotiation on the relations between Tibetan and Chinese people.
- Of the 15 facts about the Dalai Lama, his dedication to preserving the lives of his people is perhaps the most recognized. On Dec. 11, 1989, the Dalai Lama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize due to his ceaseless goodwill and desire for communication with China as opposed to conflict, as well as his humanitarian work.
- The institution of the Dalai Lama is relatively young. There have been thirteen previous Dalai Lamas, and the first two were given their titles posthumously. Buddhists believe the first reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion was Gedun Drub, who lived from 1391 to 1474.
- Following the death of a Dalai Lama, it has traditionally been the responsibility of the High Lamas and the Tibetan government to find the reincarnation. The search for the 14th Dalai Lama took four years.
- The current Dalai Lama is extremely interested in the sciences. He has a particular fondness for ecology and believes that working toward the preservation of the planet embodies the ideals of Buddha.
- The fourteenth Dalai Lama is unique in that he is the first Dalai Lama to have visited the U.S. and traveled the western world.
- He is also unique in that he has suggested the line of reincarnation may cease entirely. In 2015, he made comments to the New York Times to that effect, fearing that the Chinese government will use the issue of succession to split Tibetan Buddhism, with one successor named by the exiles and one by the Chinese government.
- China regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. Chinese police in Tibet urge locals to report suspected supporters of the Dalai Lama and his “evil forces” in Tibet. China has become increasingly worried about how Tibet is portrayed throughout the world and are attempting to dissolve Tibetan culture. Tashi Wangchuk, an activist, could face 15 years in jail for promoting the use of the Tibetan language in schools.
- Mercedes-Benz issued an apology to Chinese consumers on Feb. 6, 2018 for an Instagram post showing one of its luxury cars along with a quote from the Dalai Lama. The quote: “Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open.” Instagram has been blocked in China since 2014.
- In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. Upon learning this, China put the boy under house arrest and installed another in his place.
These 15 facts about the Dalai Lama showcase the plight of Tibet and the tenacious tenderness of its spiritual leader. Tenzin Gyatso is the only Dalai Lama to have been exiled from his own country. He is no longer allowed to freely visit his own place of birth. Even though the people of Tibet support him and would gladly start an uprising to take back their country, he has urged them not to in order to maintain peace and preserve the lives of his people. He holds true to his teachings of openness and communication, as well as his dedication as a follower of the Buddha to benefit all sentient beings.
– Sam Bramlett