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Dalai Lama

A Brief Biography

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on July 6, 1935 to a farming family in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the age of two the child, who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time, was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who choose to take rebirth in the world in order to serve humanity.
Education in Tibet
His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. The curriculum consisted of five major and five minor subjects. The major subjects are logic, Tibetan art and cultural studies, Sanskrit, medicine, and Buddhist philosophy. The latter was further divided into five subjects: Prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the Middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology. The five minor subjects are poetry, music and drama, astrology, meter and phrasing, and synonyms. At age 23, in 1959, His Holiness sat for his final examination in the Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, during the annual Monlam (Prayer) Festival. He passed with honors and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest-level degree, equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.

Leadership Responsibilities
In 1950 His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power after China's invasion of Tibet in 1949. In 1954, he went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. But in 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala, northern India, the seat of the Tibetan political administration in exile. During his time in exile His Holiness has implimented a series of measures that have transformed the exile Tibetan administration into a true representative democracy with a constitution, elected Assembly, prime minister (Kalon Tripa), and a cabinet appointed by the Kalon Tripa. Various peace initiatives put forward by His Holiness to the People’s Repubic of China – including the “Five Point Peace Plan” and the “Strasbourg Proposal” – have to date resulted in no resolution to the political crises in Tibet.

Universal Recognition
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a man of peace. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. Click here to read his Nobel lecture, delivered on December 11, 1989. His Holiness has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.

The Dalai Lama has traveled to more than sixty-two countries spanning six continents. He has met with presidents, prime ministers and crowned rulers of major nations. He has held dialogues with the heads of different religions and many well-known scientists.

Since 1959 His Holiness has received over eighty-four awards, honorary doctorates, and various prizes in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. He has also authored more than seventy-two books.
His Holiness describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.

For a more detailed biography of the Dalai Lama, click here.

For a list of His Holiness’s publications, click here.

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