ABOUT THE DALAI LAMA
The official website of His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama is online at dalailama.com – it is an authoritative source of information about The Dalai Lama, including his schedule of teachings, lectures, public appearances and travels.
|Chronology of The Dalai Lama’s Life|
|1935||Born Lhamo Thondup; Taktser, Amdo, Northeastern Tibet.|
|1937||Recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama|
|1940||Enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama in Lhasa|
|1950||China invades Tibet. The Dalai Lama Assumes temporal responsibility for Tibet.Tibet appeals to the United Nations. Tibetan representatives in Beijing forced to sign “Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.”|
|1954||Visits China and meets Mao and other Chinese leaders.|
|1956||Visits India for the commemoration of 2,500 years of Buddhism, meets with Nehru and other Indian leaders.Tibetan uprising in Lithang crushed and monastery destroyed.|
|1959||Tibetan uprising against the Chinese begins in Lhasa. March 10: thousands of Tibetans take to the streets in Lhasa.March 17: The Dalai Lama escapes from Lhasa, seeks asylum in India.
March 19: Tibetan troops join the uprising against the Chinese.
March 23: Uprising suppressed. The Chinese dissolve the Tibetan local Government and impose military Government, fronted by the Panchen Lama, and in April begin “democratic reforms.” Thousands of Tibetans are executed, imprisoned, or sent to labor camps. Destruction of monasteries begins.
80,000 other Tibetans follow the Dalai Lama to India.
|1959-1961||The Great Leap Forward leads to widespread famine, with up to 30 million deaths in China and many thousands in Tibet.|
|1960||Establishes a school in Mussoorie, the first Tibetan institution in exile.|
|1961||Assembles first elected Tibetan parliamentary body in exile.|
|1963||Promulgates a democratic constitution for Tibet’s future governance.|
|1964||United Nations General Assembly adopts second resolution calling on China to respect the human rights of the Tibetan people, including their right to self-determination.|
|1965||The Tibet Autonomous Region is formally established.|
|1967||During Chinese Cultural Revolution, Tibetan temples, monasteries, libraries, and scared monuments destroyed or made into state museums.|
|1976||Visits Europe and Japan for first time. The Cultural Revolution ends with the death of Mao. The Chinese acknowledge “past mistakes in Tibet,” blaming them on the Cultural Revolution and on the ultra-leftist policies of the Gang of Four.|
|1979||Visits the United States for the first time. China initiates a policy of opening up to the outside world. They invite the Dalai Lama to return from exile, on condition he remains in Beijing.Responds to Deng Xiaoping’s promises to discuss and resolve everything short of “separation.”
Sends first fact-finding delegation to Tibet and China.
The delegates are greeted by demonstrations calling for independence and the return of the Dalai Lama; many demonstrators are imprisoned.
|1980||Sends second and third fact-finding delegations to Tibet|
|1983||Sends high-level Representatives to Beijing.|
|1984||Tibetan government-in-exile declares that 1.2 million Tibetans died and over 6,500 monasteries destroyed as a direct result of Chinese rule.|
|1987||The Dalai Lama proposes “Five Point Peace Plan” during a visit to the U.S. Congress. First of pro-independence demonstrations take place in Lhasa.|
|1989||Offers “Middle Way Proposal” at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Martial law declared in Tibet.Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel Committee’s announcement states that “The Committee wants to emphasize the fact that the Dalai Lama in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”
|1990||The Kashag, council of ministers, elected by special assembly of the Tibetan Government in Exile.|
|1995||Declares Gendun Chokyi Nima to be the reincarnation of the late 10th Panchen Lama.|
|2004||Envoys of the Dalai Lama return from Beijing after third visit to China in recent years trying to revive discussions with Beijing.|
|2007||United States Congress confers its highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and for the first time ever the event is broadcast live by satellite TV and seen by Tibetans worldwide. [Introduction by President George W. Bush] [Part 1 - YouTube] [Part 2 - YouTube] [Elie Wiesel address]|
|2008||Tibetan protests against Chinese rule erupt in Lhasa in March and spread throughout all Tibetan areas on the Tibetan plateau, contributing to worldwide protests during the Olympic torch relay and culminating with protests during the Beijing Olympics.|
|2011||The Dalai Lama proposes to formally end his role as head of state and head of the Tibetan Government in exile. The parliament of exile Tibetans reluctanly accept his decision and amend the charter of Tibetans in exile accordingly.|
Your Majesty, Members of the Nobel Committee, Brothers and Sisters.
I am very happy to be here with you today to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace. I feel honored, humbled and deeply moved that you should give this important prize to a simple monk from Tibet I am no one special. But I believe the prize is a recognition of the true value of altruism, love, compassion and non-violence which I try to practice, in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha and the great sages of India and Tibet.
I accept the prize with profound gratitude on behalf of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace. I accept it as a tribute to the man who founded the modern tradition of non-violent action for change Mahatma Gandhi whose life taught and inspired me. And, of course, I accept it on behalf of the six million Tibetan people, my brave countrymen and women inside Tibet, who have suffered and continue to suffer so much. They confront a calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of their national and cultural identities. The prize reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated.
No matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have the same basic human needs and concerns. All of us human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals and as peoples. That is human nature. The great changes that are taking place everywhere in the world, from Eastern Europe to Africa are a clear indication of this.
In China the popular movement for democracy was crushed by brutal force in June this year. But I do not believe the demonstrations were in vain, because the spirit of freedom was rekindled among the Chinese people and China cannot escape the impact of this spirit of freedom sweeping many parts of the world. The brave students and their supporters showed the Chinese leadership and the world the human face of that great nation.
Last week a number of Tibetans were once again sentenced to prison terms of up to nineteen years at a mass show trial, possibly intended to frighten the population before today’s event. Their only “crime” was the expression of the widespread desire of Tibetans for the restoration of their beloved country’s independence.
The suffering of our people during the past forty years of occupation is well documented. Ours has been a long struggle. We know our cause is just. Because violence can only breed more violence and suffering, our struggle must remain non-violent and free of hatred. We are trying to end the suffering of our people, not to inflict suffering upon others.
It is with this in mind that I proposed negotiations between Tibet and China on numerous occasions. In 1987, I made specific proposals in a Five-Point plan for the restoration of peace and human rights in Tibet. This included the conversion of the entire Tibetan plateau into a Zone of Ahimsa, a sanctuary of peace and non-violence where human beings and nature can live in peace and harmony.
Last year, I elaborated on that plan in Strasbourg, at the European Parliament I believe the ideas I expressed on those occasions are both realistic and reasonable although they have been criticized by some of my people as being too conciliatory. Unfortunately, China’s leaders have not responded positively to the suggestions we have made, which included important concessions. If this continues we will be compelled to reconsider our position.
Any relationship between Tibet and China will have to be based on the principle of equality, respect, trust and mutual benefit. It will also have to be based on the principle which the wise rulers of Tibet and of China laid down in a treaty as early as 823 AD, carved on the pillar which still stands today in front of the Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest shrine, in Lhasa, that “Tibetans will live happily in the great land of Tibet, and the Chinese will live happily in the great land of China.”
As a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family and, indeed, to all sentient beings who suffer. I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and comˇpassion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.
With the ever-growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into the other. Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things. This understanding is crucial if we are to take positive and decisive action on the pressing global concern with the environment.
I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different the ends are the same.
As we enter the final decade of this century I am optimistic that the ancient values that have sustained mankind are today reaffirming themselves to prepare us for a kinder, happier twenty-first century.
I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.
By Kasur Tenzin N. Tethong*
[This article was written at the request of the organizing committee of the Kalachakra For World Peace in Toronto, Ontario, in May 2004, to introduce The Dalai Lama Foundation to the Kalachakra participants. It originally appeared as the foreword to the program for that event.]
Since His Holiness the Dalai Lama is such an immensely revered and beloved figure, it is not easy to write about him in a casual manner, especially for a Tibetan. No matter what one writes, it may never satisfy those who see him as more than an ordinary being. Even on a conventional level he is not just a leader since he is both temporal and spiritual head of a people and a nation. And for devout Buddhists, he is the manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas, or as some might say, the essence of compassion in the universe.
To simply tell his life’s story is not difficult because it is filled with so many extraordinary events. It begins with his recognition as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet, and is followed by great drama and tragedy early in his life, and later triumphs and successes perhaps not to be expected given the circumstances of his early life.
Born on July 6, 1935, to a farming family in the small village of Takster in northeastern Tibet, he is named Lhamo Thondup. When he is barely able to speak, he utters words in the Lhasa dialect that he needs to go there, far away from his birthplace. When members of the official search party come looking for the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama he recognizes the monk who is disguised in layman’s clothes, and, later when tested, he flawlessly chooses the objects belonging to the previous Dalai Lama laid alongside similar items, some more elaborate and attractive to any child. These stories and more have been written and told by members of the search party, distinguished lamas and senior officials of Tibet, and by members of own his family. All are now part of the lore and myth of the present Dalai Lama.
Soon thereafter, he is taken to Lhasa, but only after the Tibetan government purchases safe passage from the Chinese Muslim warlord Ma Bufang, a man holding considerable sway in the region who threatens to hold him back. Successfully escorted to the Tibetan capital, the young Dalai Lama—now given a much longer new name, the short form of which is Tenzin Gyatso—is officially enthroned in 1940.
He begins his life confined mainly to his spiritual education, and is visited only occasionally by family members. Gradually he is exposed to the intricacies and politics of governance. But this traditional preparation of a future leader is cut short when Tibet is invaded by China in 1950. Barely sixteen years of age, he is rushed to take on the temporal role of head of state. Although Chinese troops are already in the country, the entire Tibetan nation turns to him believing that he will avert the national crisis. But the crisis has already unfolded.
Nevertheless, the young Dalai Lama assumes the role thrust on him without hesitation. He begins to introduce reforms within the Tibetan polity, and he starts to deal with the Chinese. In 1954, when he is invited to China, he goes straight to the Chinese and forthrightly attempts to work with them and the reality on the ground. Just as modern socialist China impresses the Dalai Lama, he too impresses Mao and others with the great potential in him and the Tibetan people.
Next, he travels to India in 1956 as a special guest to commemorate the 2,500th year of Buddhism, where he sees the other Asian giant embarked on a similar journey of modern nation building, but one which, in contrast to China, is committed to greater human freedoms and democracy and in which spirituality and the ancient cultures still seem to have a place.
With exposure to China and India, the young Dalai Lama is thrust into the modern world with all its promises and potential. But the clash between Chinese Communism and traditional Tibetan beliefs stands in his way. No matter how eager the young Dalai Lama is to move ahead and work out the differences with the Chinese, Tibetan ideas of race, religion and society cannot be reconciled with the ideas of international communism.
To make matters worse, these fundamental differences are compounded by the great haste shown by the Chinese, and by their lack of basic respect for the Tibetan people and their views. Despite all the assurances given by Mao, Chinese officials in Tibet become less flexible and begin to push aggressively with their revolutionary “reforms,” especially in parts of eastern Tibet. Such actions lead to the beginning of skirmishes in many parts of the country and the outbreak of the first major clash in Lithang in 1957. The uprising is swiftly and brutally put down by the superior Chinese forces, and the monastery of Lithang, the center of resistance, is destroyed.
Greater resentment and fear of the Chinese quickly spread throughout Tibet. Soon Lhasa is filled with refugees, and public outpourings and demonstrations against the Chinese become commonplace. The Dalai Lama urges patience and cooperation, and counsels against the use of violence, but the situation does not improve. While he remains the great symbol of hope, he also becomes the center around which all the fears and passions of the Tibetan people swirl, pointing to an inevitable clash between the Tibetans and the Chinese, with the final outcome a foregone conclusion.
Finally, when the Chinese drop their veiled pretense and insist that the Dalai Lama visit them in their military camp, without his usual and proper escort, their intentions become clear. When word gets out thousands of Tibetans immediately swarm to the Norbulinkha to protect him and to prevent him from being taken by force. The crowds become volatile and unpredictable, their worst fears and resentment of the Chinese surfacing in an outburst of mob violence. There are no options left for the Dalai Lama but to remove himself from the center of this storm if he is going to prevent chaos and violence, and if there is to be a future to strive for. So on March 17,1959, the Dalai Lama slips out of his summer palace in the middle of the night, disguised as a soldier on a change of guard duty, and escapes from the Chinese. He begins the most important journey of his life, not knowing where he is headed or where his journey will end.
The Dalai Lama is accompanied by his mother and his younger brother, and escorted by government officials and solders, and the Chushi Gandruk, the underground resistance. The party heads south from Lhasa. In the first days, they pass through territories under firm Tibetan control, but with no assurances of holding off any Chinese pursuit, the escape party finally heads towards India. Twenty four days later, exhausted and recovering from an illness, the Dalai Lama reaches the Indian border, welcomed by a cable from the Indian Prime Minster and by the world’s press, eager to report one of the great escape stories of all time.
With the beginning of his exile, the Dalai Lama’s world and that of the Tibetan people—Tibetan polity and Tibetan society, as it has developed from the time of the early kings of Tibet nearly two thousand years ago—comes to a dramatic end. The Tibetan uprising is completely crushed within the next few months. With only limited protest from the outside world, China begins the process of transforming Tibet into its mold.
The Dalai Lama is no longer a monarch but a simple refugee in India, without his court, without his country, and without his people, at a point in history when his future and that of the Tibetan people hang precariously. It is a time of great trial for all, both the majority under Chinese rule and the small band that had followed him into exile. It is a test as challenging as survival on the Tibetan plateau, and as complex as the centuries long pursuit of personal and universal liberation.
As a refugee and a survivor he has to lead his people out from the depths of despair and want. Together with the exile leadership, he rebuilds the communities, takes care of the young and the old, revives key traditions and institutions of Tibet’s cultural heritage, and prepares the next generation for a future Tibet that will be free and democratic. What the Dalai Lama and the exiles have achieved is extraordinary, not only in rebuilding their lives and communities but in saving the essence of Tibet’s rich cultural heritage, and moreover, in establishing its value and relevance both within the community and beyond.
These are no minor achievements, accomplished despite the great suffering of the Tibetan people and the tremendous physical destruction in their homeland. Instead of dwelling in the past, the exiles pulled themselves up, primarily on their own, with only meager resources at their disposal. Today, a Tibetan may be an exile somewhere in the world, or one living under Chinese occupation, but she or he is a proud citizen of a virtual and global Tibetan nation, one far from the ideal but which exists nevertheless.
Even before he left Tibet at the age of 25, the present Dalai Lama had already assumed a secular role for close to a decade, and in the midst of great political turmoil he successfully carried out his Buddhist studies and even completed, with distinction, his doctoral Geshe examinations. The Fifth and Thirteen Dalai Lamas are considered “Great” Dalai Lamas, a “greatness” sparingly assigned by the Tibetan people. While some were great saintly figures, several great scholars or mystics, and others important political figures, only two have been given this special distinction. Because of what he has already done for the Tibetan people, it is certain that the present 14th Dalai Lama will also be considered “great” in this historical sense. And it is possible that he will even be regarded as the greatest of the Dalai Lamas, because he has transcended his traditional role to become a global figure of great repute.
The world now knows the Dalai Lama as a Nobel Laureate and a man of peace, and countless awards and recognitions have been bestowed on him. But many are unaware of his ideas and his work for peace, which extend far beyond his concerns for the Tibetan people and the preservation of Tibet’s unique heritage. His suggestions on how to prevent global inequities and conflicts, his work to promote genuine understanding and sharing among different spiritual traditions, and his efforts to bridge the world of science and spirituality—all are examples of a simple and profound message that points to the future, and to the great potential we all have for the world.
It is true that the Dalai Lama has a tremendous following. Individuals all over the world who identify closely with him support his work, whether by educating a refugee child or a nun, by contributing to the rebuilding of communities, monasteries and health clinics inside and outside Tibet, or by trying to untangle the complicated web of politics, human rights, and law regarding Tibet and its future status.
This coming together of friends and students of the Dalai Lama has contributed immensely to the success of his work and that of the exiles. Clearly, there is still much that needs to be done, as the Tibetan issue is far from resolved, despite the Dalai Lama’s great willingness to discuss and even to compromise with the Chinese on the issues they fear the most. Furthermore, the wellbeing of the Tibetan people, whether those living in terror under Chinese rule or those in exile, will continue to need your support for the immediate future.
However, while each of us remains connected to the Dalai Lama in our own particular way, be it for reasons having to do with Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism, or for personal reasons, we must now find a way to respond to his call to action for a better world. If the Dalai Lama has been helpful and useful to us, then it is appropriate and timely that we respond to his ideas and wishes for a better world, and to find ways to elevate our work to a higher level of concern and action.
A small group of individuals have come together to attempt just that: We have established a foundation in the Dalai Lama’s name with his blessings and his permission to use his name as inspiration and as a rallying point, and to work for world peace. We are happy to extend this opportunity to all who consider themselves a friend or student of the Dalai Lama, who wish to come together and work towards a better world. We believe that this is a wonderful and rare opportunity to work with such a unique person as His Holiness, especially while he is so vigorously engaged and in our midst. He may be a simple monk, dedicated completely to the benefit and enlightenment of all other sentient beings, but he is one who I am sure will welcome your support and one who is worthy of it.
* Kasur Tenzin N. Tethong is a former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and former Kalon Tripa, Chair of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Cabinet. Currently he lives in Palo Alto, California; and serves as Chair of the Committee of 100 for Tibet and President of The Dalai Lama Foundation, and teaches at Stanford University.
There is a large body of works by and about the Dalai Lama. The official website of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has a comprehensive section of information about the Dalai Lama. The Office of Tibet, New York contains news and information on the Dalai Lama and Tibet, along with His Holiness’s worldwide teaching schedule. The official website of His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama is at dalailama.com.
For those wanting to learn more, the book My Land and My People, and the film Kundun, are a good place to start.
My Land and My People, autobiography of His Holiness, the XIVth Dalai Lama. Stanley Gosh of the Saturday Review said of this book, My Land And My People is, without a doubt, one of the most moving memoirs I have ever read. The Dalai Lama first wrote this book at the age of 27, just three years after he escaped into India from Chinese-occupied Tibet. It paints a rare, intimate portrait of a way of life that would end with an overwhelming and brutal invasion. It also reveals the evolution of a man from a cloistered monk to a world leader and spokesman for ethics and peace.
Kundun, PG-13. This beautiful film, by Martin Scorsese, tells the story of the early life of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. It brings to life his childhood in a remote and isolated Tibet, his unique position as leader of the Tibetan people, his dawning awareness of the wider world, the invasion and occupation of Tibet by China, his meetings with Chairman Mao, and finally his epic escape to India.