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The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of previous Dalai Lamas, who are in turn the human representation of Chenrezig, the bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The position is highly revered by all Tibetan Buddhists; followers refer to the current Dalai Lama, his shortened Buddhist name Tenzin Gyatso, as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (referred to from here on as HH14DL, to prevent confusion with other Dalai Lamas).

Traditionally, the Dalai Lama is both the religious leader and the head of state; however, in March 2011, HH14DL renounced his position as head of state, stating his intention to turn power over to a democratically elected administration. In an age where violent lifelong dictators, like Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi, are often in the limelight, HH14DL’s choice to peacefully pass his power to the Tibetan people is highly unusual, if not unique.

This instance has definitely not been the only noteworthy occurrence in the HH14DL’s life. Though his 76 years could be and have been the subject of many books, due to his importance to many Tibetans and his influence on the world, a brief biography will have to suffice here. He was born Lhamo Dondrub to a farming family in a small village. Recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama at age 2, he was prevented from journeying to Lhasa, the capital, by Chinese officials until he was six.

HH14DL became head of state in 1950 at age 15 after studying in the Jokhang Temple for nine years. For another nine years, he engaged in peace talks and treaty negotiations with PRC officials, including Mao Zedong, who HH14DL has mentioned in his books and autobiographies.

After a rather clumsy abduction attempt by China in 1959, he fled to exile in Dharamsala, India, where he currently resides. On his website, the 14th Dalai Lama names his three major commitments as “the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness, the fostering of inter-religious harmony and the welfare of the Tibetan people, focusing on the survival of their identity, culture and religion” (www.dalailama.com). An author of more than 72 books, many of them bestsellers, HH14DL has spent much effort in spreading his ideas for tolerance along with awareness about Tibet.

Having also conferred with many heads of state in the 62 countries he has visited, including U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, he has been a highly influential advocate for Tibet, as well as for the environment and global cooperation. The 14th Dalai Lama is widely acknowledged as the main reason Tibet and Tibetan culture first began to wield influence in the Western world. Here is the link to his official website: www.dalailama.com .

U.S. President Barack Obama with the 14th Dalai Lama on July 16, 2011.

Source: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza at Wikimedia

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