The 14th Dalai Lama (religious name: Tenzin Gyatso, born Lhamo Dondrub, 6 July 1935) is the 14th and current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are the most influential figures in the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, although the 14th has consolidated control over the other lineages in recent years.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and is also well known for his lifelong advocacy for Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. Tibetans traditionally believe him to be the reincarnation of his predecessors and a manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion…
The Dalai Lama was born in Taktser, Qinghai, and was selected as the rebirth of the 13th Dalai Lama two years later, although he was only formally recognized as the 14th on 17 November 1950, at the age of 15. He inherited control over a government controlling an area roughly corresponding to the Tibet Autonomous Region just as the nascent People’s Republic of China wished to reassert central control over it. There is a dispute over whether the respective governments reached an agreement for a joint Communist-Lamaist 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 abortion, economics, firearms, and sexuality, and has attracted controversy for his treatment of Dorje Shugden followers, his relationship with the CIA, and other issues.
Early Life & 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 incorporated 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. 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’s first language was, in his own words, “a broken Xining language which was (a dialect of) the Chinese language” as his family did not speak the local Tibetan language.
The Dalai Lama and his family spoke a dialect of Xining Chinese as their primary language prior to 1939 when they relocated to Lhasa.
Tibetans traditionally believe Dalai Lamas to be the reincarnation of their predecessors, each of whom is believed to be a human emanation of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. 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 thirteenth 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.
Thondup was presented with various relics, including toys, some of which had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama and some of which had not. It was reported that he had correctly identified all the items owned by the previous Dalai Lama, exclaiming, “That’s mine! That’s mine!”
House where the 14th Dalai Lama was born
The Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang did not want the 14th Dalai Lama to succeed his predecessor. Ma Bufang stationed his men to place the Dalai Lama under effective house arrest, saying it was needed for “protection”, refusing to permit his leaving to Tibet. He did all he could to delay the transport of the Dalai Lama from Qinghai to Tibet, by demanding massive sums of money in silver. The demanded payment by Ma Bufang was 100,000 Chinese silver dollars.
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; instead, the regent acted as the head of the Kashag until that time. Tibetan Buddhists normally refer to him as Yishin Norbu (Wish-Fulfilling Gem), Kyabgon (Saviour), or just Kundun (Presence). His devotees often call him His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the style employed on the Dalai Lama’s website.
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. Harrer effectively became one of the young Dalai Lama’s tutors, teaching him about the outside world. The two remained friends until Harrer’s death in 2006.
During 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.
(more at Wikipedia)