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Tenzin Gyatso
14th Dalai Lama
Tenzin Gyatzo foto 1
Characteristic hands-raised anjali greeting
Reign 17 November 1950 – present
Predecessor Thubten Gyatso
Tibetan བསྟན་འཛིན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
Wylie bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho
Pronounciation tɛ̃tsĩ catsʰo (IPA)
Dainzin Gyaco
THDL Tenzin Gyatso
Chinese 丹增嘉措
Pinyin Dānzēng Jiācuò
Father Choekyong Tsering
Mother Diki Tsering
Born 6 July 1935 (1935-07-06) (age 81)
Taktser, Qinghai, Tibet

Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (born Lhamo Döndrub) (Tibetan: ལྷ་མོ་དོན་འགྲུབ་; Wylie: Lha-mo Don-'grub; (simplified Chinese: 拉莫顿珠; traditional Chinese: 拉莫頓珠; ||pinyin]]: Lāmò Dùnzhū) (born 6 July 1935 in Taktser, Qinghai[1]) is the 14th Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader revered among the people of Tibet. He is the head of the government-in-exile based in Dharamshala, India. Tibetans traditionally believe him to be the reincarnation of his predecessors.

The Dalai Lama was born fifth of 16 children to a farming family in the village of Taktser. His 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 regional Amdo dialect. He was proclaimed the tulku or rebirth of the 13th Dalai Lama at the age of two. In 1950 the army of the People's Republic of China invaded the region. One month later, on 17 November 1950, he was enthroned formally as Dalai Lama: at the age of fifteen, he became the region's most important spiritual leader and political ruler.

In 1951 the Chinese military pressured the Dalai Lama to ratify a seventeen-point agreement which permitted the People's Republic of China to take control of Tibet. He fled through the mountains to India soon after the failed 1959 uprising, and the effective collapse of the Tibetan resistance movement. In India he established a government-in-exile.

The most influential member of the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat sect, he has considerable influence over the other sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The Chinese government regards him as the symbol of an outmoded theocratic system.Along with the 80,000 or so exiles that followed him, the Dalai Lama strives to preserve traditional Tibetan education and culture.

Conditions in Tibet have in more recent years caused an international protest movement, including the attempted disruption of the 2008 Olympic Games. In March 2008 the Dalai Lama asked for an international inquiry into China's treatment of Tibet, which he said amounted to cultural genocide.

A noted public speaker worldwide, the Dalai Lama is often described as charismatic. He is the first Dalai Lama to travel to the West, where he seeks to spread Buddhist teachings and to promote ethics and interfaith harmony. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was given honorary Canadian citizenship in 2006, and was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal during October 2007. He has received more than 100 honorary conferments and major awards.

On 17 December 2008, after months of speculation, the Dalai Lama announced his semi-retirement. He said that the future course of the movement he had directed for nearly five decades would now be decided by the elected parliament-in-exile with the prime minister Samdhong Rinpoche. The then 73-year-old Nobel laureate, who had recently undergone surgery, told reporters in Dharamsala, "I have grown old.... It is better if I retire completely and get out of the way of the Tibetan movement."

Early life and background


House where the 14th Dalai Lama was born

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.[1][2] He was one of nine 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, who is affiliated with the Tibetan Youth Congress and Tibetan Women's Association, portrayed their mother in the 1997 Hollywood film Seven Years in Tibet.

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.[3] 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.

Dalai Lama boy

The Dalai Lama as a boy

The little boy 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!"[4][5]

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). 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, having spotted him in Lhasa through his telescope. 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.[3][6]

Life as the Dalai Lama


Lhasa's Potala Palace, today a UNESCO world heritage site, pictured in 2006

IMG 1206 Lhasa Potala

Abandoned former quarters of the Dalai Lama at the Potala. The empty vestment placed on the throne symbolises his absence

As well as being Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has traditionally been the country's absolute ruler. In 1939, at the age of four, the present Dalai Lama was taken in a procession of lamas to Lhasa.

China asserts that the Kuomintang government ratified the 14th Dalai Lama and that a Kuomintang representative, General Wu Zhongxin, presided over the ceremony. It cites a ratification order dated February 1940, and a documentary film of the ceremony.[7] According to Tsering Shakya, Wu Zhongxin along with other foreign representatives was present at the ceremony, but there is no evidence that he presided over it.[8]

The Dalai Lama's childhood was spent between the Potala and Norbulingka, his summer residence.

"On 8 July 1949, the Kashag [Tibetan Parliament] called Chen Xizhang, the acting director of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission office in Lhasa. He was informed that the Tibetan Government had decided to expel all Chinese connected with the Guomingdang Government. Fearing that the Chinese might organize protests in the streets of Lhasa, the Kashag imposed a curfew until all the Chinese had left. This they did on 14, 17 and 20 July 1949. At the same time the Tibetan Government sent a telegram to General Chiang Kai-shek and to President Liu Zongren informing them of the decision."[9]
Mao dalai lama-1955

The Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama meet Mao Zedong in 1955

In October 1950 the army of the People's Republic of China entered the country, moving through Tibetan defenses with ease. On 17 November. the 15-year-old was enthroned formally as the temporal ruler of Tibet.

Cooperation and conflicts with the PRC

The Dalai Lama's formal rule was brief. He sent a delegation to Beijing, and under military pressure ratified a Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.[10][11] He tried to work with the Chinese government: in September 1954, together with the 10th Panchen Lama he went to the Chinese capital to meet Mao Zedong and attend the first session of the National People's Congress as a delegate, primarily discussing China's constitution.[12][13] On 27 September 1954, the Dalai Lama was selected as a deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.[14][15]

In 1959 there was a major uprising in Tibet. The Dalai Lama's entourage suspected that the Chinese government may have been planning to kill him. On 17 March, he fled for Tawang, India, finally crossing the border on 31 March. It was later established that forces from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division had assisted the Dalai Lama's escape, and had supported initial resistance to the Chinese.[16]

Exile to India

The Dalai Lama met with the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, to urge India to pressure China into giving Tibet an autonomous government, as relations with China were not proving successful. Nehru did not want to increase tensions between China and India, so he encouraged the Dalai Lama to work on the Seventeen Point Agreement Tibet had with China. Eventually, after the failed uprising in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet crossing into India on 30 March, 1959, and spent some days resting at Tawang Monastery before reaching Tezpur in Assam on 18 April.[17] Some time later he set up the Government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamsala, India,[18] which is often referred to as "Little Lhasa".

File:Nehru and Gyatso 1959.jpg

After the founding of the exiled government he re-established the approximately 80,000 Tibetan refugees who followed him into exile in agricultural settlements.[3] He created a Tibetan educational system in order to teach the Tibetan children the traditional language, history, religion, and culture. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established[3] in 1959 and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies[3] became the primary university for Tibetans in India. He supported the refounding of 200 monasteries and nunneries in an attempt to preserve Tibetan Buddhist teachings and the Tibetan way of life.

The Dalai Lama appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet. This appeal resulted in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965.[3] These resolutions required China to respect the human rights of Tibetans and their desire for self-determination. During 1963, he promulgated a democratic constitution which is based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A Tibetan parliament-in-exile is elected by the Tibetan refugees scattered all over the world, and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile is likewise elected by the Tibetan parliament. During 1970, he opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala which houses over 80,000 manuscripts and important knowledge resources related to Tibetan history, politics and culture. It is considered one of the most important institutions for Tibetology in the world.[19]

At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus during 1987 in Washington, D.C., he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan regarding the future status of Tibet. The plan called for Tibet to become a "zone of peace" and for the end of movement by ethnic Han Chinese into Tibet. It also called for "respect for fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms" and "the end of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production, testing, and disposal." Finally, it urged "earnest negotiations" on the future of Tibet.

He proposed a similar plan at Strasbourg on 15 June 1988. He expanded on the Five-Point Peace Plan and proposed the creation of a self-governing democratic Tibet, "in association with the People's Republic of China." This plan was rejected by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile during 1991. During October 1991, he expressed his wish to return to Tibet to try to make a mutual assessment on the situation with the Chinese local government. At this time he feared that a violent uprising would occur and wished to avoid it. The Dalai Lama has indicated that he wishes to return to Tibet only if the People's Republic of China agrees not to make any precondition for his return, which they have so far refused to do.[20][21]

The Dalai Lama celebrated his seventieth birthday on 6 July 2005. About 10,000 Tibetan refugees, monks and foreign tourists gathered outside his home. Patriarch Alexius II of the Russian Orthodox Church said, "I attest that the Russian Orthodox Church highly appreciates the good relations it has with the followers of Buddhism and hopes for their further development." Taiwan's President, Chen Shui-bian, attended an evening celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday that was entitled "Travelling with Love and Wisdom for 70 Years" at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei. The President invited him to return to Taiwan for a third trip in 2005. His previous trips were during 2001 and 1997.[22] In Tibet there is a popular song calling for his return to Tibet known as Aku Pema.

Teaching activities

Dalai lama teaching room

The Dalai Lama's main teaching room at Dharamsala

The Dalai Lama chief spiritual practice is Dzogchen, a subject he teaches and writes about extensively. He has conducted numerous public initiations in the Kalachakra, and is the author of a great number of books. His teaching activities in the US include:

  • During July 2008, the Dalai Lama gave a public lecture and conducted a series of teachings at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[23]
  • He visited the U.S. during April 2008, when he gave lectures on engaging wisdom and compassion, and sustainability, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.[24]
  • During February 2007, the Dalai Lama was named Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, United States,[25] the first time that the leader of the Tibetan exile community has accepted a university appointment. The appointment is in part an expansion of a program begun during 1998 called the Emory–Tibet Partnership. As Presidential Distinguished Professor, he will:[25]
    • provide opportunities for university community members to attend his annual teachings,
    • make periodic visits to Emory to participate in programmes, and
    • continue the Emory–Tibet Partnership practice of providing private teaching sessions with students and faculty during Emory's study-abroad programme in Dharamsala.
  • The Dalai Lama has strong ties with University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, Wisconsin, United States, and is a frequent visitor there. He visited the university in 1981 and again in 1989, the year in which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. In May 1998, he addressed a large audience at the Kohl Center and received an honorary degree from the university. He visited Madison again during the summers of both 2007 and 2008, making public appearances at The Kohl Center and Alliant Energy Center, as well as more intimate sessions at the nearby Deer Park Buddhist Center, where Geshe Sopa (the first Tibetan tenured in an American university), whom the Dalai Lama sent to America in 1959 to bridge cultures, resides.[26]
  • During May 2001, he met with a group of neuroscientists who conduct research on the effects of meditation on brain function, emotions and physical health.

Foreign relations

Since 1967, the Dalai Lama has initiated a series of tours in 46 nations. He has frequently engaged on religious dialogue. He met with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. He met with Pope John Paul II in 1980 and also later in 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990, and 2003.

During 1990, he met in Dharamsala with a delegation of Jewish teachers for an extensive interfaith dialogue.[27] He has since visited Israel three times and met during 2006 with the Chief Rabbi of Israel. In 2006, he met privately with Pope Benedict XVI. He has also met the late Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Robert Runcie, and other leaders of the Anglican Church in London, Gordon B. Hinckley, late President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), as well as senior Eastern Orthodox Church, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Sikh officials.

Soon before the Beijing Olympics of 2008, the Dalai Lama visited Japan on 10 April 2008 on his way to the United States, amid protests around the world over China's response to the 2008 Tibetan unrest. The Dalai Lama, whom Beijing claimed fomented the unrest, called for calm, but the protests showed little sign of abating. The Dalai Lama said he did not support a boycott of the 2008 Summer Games outright.[28] Japan's government had been relatively quiet about the violence in Tibet and, by deference to Beijing, does not deal officially with the Dalai Lama. Tokyo does, however, grant visas to the spiritual leader, who has visited Japan fairly frequently.[29]

International children's villages

14th Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama at Tibetan Children's Village Dharamsala, 1993

The Dalai Lama has long been a supporter of SOS Children's Villages organisation.[30] He often visits the villages, and has maintained a friendship with the founder, Hermann Gmeiner.

He has said of SOS's efforts:

The splendid work done by SOS Children's Villages is charity where deeds speak louder than words. The revolutionary idea and the general concept developed by Hermann Gmeiner for providing orphaned and abandoned children with a new family and a permanent home has had a great influence on child welfare world-wide, and SOS Children's Villages have become a model on every continent. Above all, SOS Children's Villages shows that it is possible to create a community of brothers and sisters comprising children of all races, creeds and nationalities. The ties that develop and hold these communities together and form the basis of their upbringing is love.

Social and political stances

Tibetan independence movement

The Dalai Lama accepted the 1951 Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet with the People's Republic of China. However, he moved to Kalimpong in India and, with the help of American government organised pro-independence literature and the smuggling of weapons into Tibet. Armed struggles broke out in Amdo and Kham during 1956 and later spread to Central Tibet. The movement was a failure and was forced to retreat to Nepal or go underground. Soon after normalisation of relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China, American support was ended during the early 1970s.

During October 1998, the Dalai Lama's administration acknowledged that it received US$1.7 million a year in the 1960s from the U.S. Government through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and had also trained an army in Colorado (USA).[31]

The Dalai Lama has on occasion been denounced by the Chinese government as a supporter of Tibetan independence. Over time, he has developed a public position stating that he is not in favour of Tibetan independence[32] and would not object to a status in which Tibet has internal autonomy while the PRC manages some aspects of Tibet's defence and foreign affairs.[33] In his 'Middle Way Approach', he laid down that the Chinese government can take care of foreign affairs and defence, and that Tibet should be managed by an elected body.[34]

The Dalai Lama on 16 March 2008 called for an international inquiry into China's treatment of Tibet, which he said amounted to cultural genocide.[35] He has stated that he will step down as leader of Tibet's government-in-exile if violence by protesters in the region worsens, the exiled spiritual leader said 18 March 2008 after China's premier Wen Jiabao blamed his supporters for the growing unrest.[36] On 20 March 2008, he claimed he was powerless to stop anti-Chinese violence.[37] The Dalai Lama on 28 March 2008 rejected a series of allegations from the Chinese government, saying he did not seek the separation of Tibet and had no desire to "sabotage" the 2008 Summer Olympics.[38]

Critics of the news and entertainment media coverage of the controversy charge that feudal Tibet was not as benevolent as popularly portrayed. The penal code before 1913 included forms of corporal punishment and capital punishment.[39] In response, the Dalai Lama agreed many of old Tibet's practices needed reform. His predecessor had banned extreme punishments and the death penalty.[40] And he had instituted major reforms like removal of debt inheritance before the Chinese invaded during 1951.[33]

On 4 June 2008, Dalai Lama said that Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, a territory that is called Southern Tibet in mainland China and still claimed by the People's Republic of China, is part of India, acknowledging the validity of the McMahon Line per the 1914 Simla Agreement signed by Tibetan and British representatives.[41]

On 25 October 2008, the Dalai Lama announced he had given up negotiating for increased autonomy for Tibet within the People's Republic of China. He stated that from now on Tibetans themselves should decide how to continue a dialogue with the Chinese government.[42][43]

Interfaith dialogue

On 6 January 2009, at Gujarat’s Mahuva, the Dalai Lama inaugurated an interfaith "World Religions-Dialogue and Symphony" conference convened by Hindu preacher Morari Bapu. This conference explored "ways and means to deal with the discord among major religions," according to Morari Bapu.[44][45]

Many other meetings and dialogues have been held with other religious, spiritual, philosophical and scientific leaders throughout the life of the 14th Dalai Lama. He was presented Shambhala Buddhism's Living Peace Award at the The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya Which Liberates Upon Seeing in 2006 with representatives of all Abrahamic religions in attendance.[46] He has also helped many authors including Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj by writing the forewords to books such as Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation.[47]

Social stances

The Dalai Lama endorsed the founding of the Dalai Lama Foundation in order to promote peace and ethics worldwide. The Dalai Lama is not involved operationally with this foundation, though he suggests some general direction and his office is routinely briefed on its activities.[48] He has also stated his belief that modern scientific findings take precedence over ancient religions.[49][50]

Democracy, Non-violence, Religious harmony and Tibet's relationship with India

The Dalai Lama says that he is active in spreading India's message of non-violence and religious harmony throughout the world "I am the messenger of India's ancient thoughts world over", he said democracy was deep rooted in India . He says he considers India as a master and Tibet its disciple as great scholars like Nagarjuna went from Nalanda to Tibet to preach Buddhism in the eighth century. He says millions of people had lost their lives in violence and economy of many a countries got ruined due to conflicts in the 20th century "Let the 21st century be a century of tolerance and dialogue."[51]


The Dalai Lama reminds that according to Buddhist precepts abortion is an act of killing,[52] although he has taken a nuanced position, as he explained to the New York Times:

Of course, abortion, from a Buddhist viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances. If the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent, these are cases where there can be an exception. I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance.[53]


Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilisation of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes—that is, the majority—as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. I just recently read an article in a paper where His Holiness the Pope Benedict XVI also pointed out some positive aspects of Marxism (though disapproving of it on the whole).

As for the failure of the Marxist regimes, first of all I do not consider the former USSR, or China, or even Vietnam, to have been true Marxist regimes, for they were far more concerned with their narrow national interests than with the Workers' International; this is why there were conflicts, for example, between China and the USSR, or between China and Vietnam. If those three regimes had truly been based upon Marxist principles, those conflicts would never have occurred.

I think the major flaw of the Marxist regimes is that they have placed too much emphasis on the need to destroy the ruling class, on class struggle, and this causes them to encourage hatred and to neglect compassion. Although their initial aim might have been to serve the cause of the majority, when they try to implement it all their energy is deflected into destructive activities. Once the revolution is over and the ruling class is destroyed, there is not much left to offer the people; at this point the entire country is impoverished and unfortunately it is almost as if the initial aim were to become poor. I think that this is due to the lack of human solidarity and compassion. The principal disadvantage of such a regime is the insistence placed on hatred to the detriment of compassion.

The failure of the regime in the former Soviet Union was, for me, not the failure of Marxism but the failure of totalitarianism. For this reason I still think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.[54]


He has also expressed his concern for environmental problems:

On the global level, I think the ecology problem is very serious. I hear about some states taking it very seriously. That's wonderful! So this blue planet is our only home, if something goes wrong at the present generation, then the future generations really face a lot of problems, and those problems will be beyond human control; so that's very serious. Ecology should be part of our daily life.

In recent years, he has been campaigning for wildlife conservation, including a religious ruling against wearing tiger and leopard skins as garments.[55][56]


In 2001, he discussed firearms and self-defence, and Hal Bernton, a staff reporter of The Seattle Times, reports that:

One girl wanted to know how to react to a shooter who takes aim at a classmate.

The Dalai Lama said acts of violence should be remembered, and then forgiveness should be extended to the perpetrators. But if someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, he said, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun. Not at the head, where a fatal wound might result. But at some other body part, such as a leg.[57]


In his view, oral, manual and anal sex (both homosexual and heterosexual) is not acceptable in Buddhism or for Buddhists, but society should tolerate gays and lesbians from a secular point of view.[58] In 1997 he explained that the basis of that teaching was unknown to him and that he at least had some "willingness to consider the possibility that some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context" while reiterating the unacceptable nature saying, "Buddhist sexual proscriptions ban homosexual activity and heterosexual sex through orifices other than the vagina, including masturbation or other sexual activity with the hand... From a Buddhist point of view, lesbian and gay sex is generally considered sexual misconduct".[59] In a 1994 interview with OUT Magazine, the Dalai Lama explained "If someone comes to me and asks whether homosexuality is okay or not, I will ask 'What is your companion's opinion?'. If you both agree, then I think I would say 'if two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay'".[60] However, in his 1996 book Beyond Dogma, he clearly states, "A sexual act is deemed proper when the couples use the organs intended for sexual intercourse and nothing else....Homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact."[61] He has said that sex spelled fleeting satisfaction and trouble later, while chastity offered a better life and "more independence, more freedom." [62] He says that problems arising from conjugal life could even lead to suicide or murder.[63]

Prior to Tiger Woods' public reports of infidelity, the Dalai Lama had not heard of the American golf player[64]. However, the Dalai Lama has said about Tiger Woods regarding the importance of "self-discipline with awareness of consequences" and that all religions have the same idea about adultery. Woods is Buddhist. [65]

Buddhist vegetarianism

In Tibet, meat being the most common food, most monks have historically been omnivores, including the Dalai Lamas. After getting jaundice, his doctors advised him to return to eating meat. Since then, he abstains from meat every other day.[66]


British journalist Christopher Hitchens criticised the Dalai Lama in 1998, questioned his alleged support for India's nuclear weapons testing, his statements about sexual misconduct, his suppression of Shugden worship, as well as his meeting Shoko Asahara, whose cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system.[67][68] Hitchens proclaims that he "makes absurd pronouncements about sex and diet and, when on his trips to Hollywood fund-raisers, anoints major donors like Steven Segal and Richard Gere as holy."[69]

Despite protest from China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama in the Berlin Chancellery on 25 September 2007. The meeting was characterised as "private and informal talks" in order to avert potential retaliation by China such as the severance of trade ties. In response to the meeting, China cancelled meetings with German officials including Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.[70]

Two months after the 2008 Tibetan unrest and before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, news carried by Xinhua, the Chinese official government news agency, said that the twelfth Samding Dorje Phagmo (considered to be Tibet's "only female living Buddha,") who is also the vice-chairwoman of the standing committee of the Tibetan Autonomous Regional People's Congress, was quoted saying that "The sins of the Dalai Lama and his followers seriously violate the basic teachings and precepts of Buddhism and seriously damage traditional Tibetan Buddhism's normal order and good reputation." She told Xinhua that "Old Tibet was dark and cruel, the serfs lived worse than horses and cattle."[71]

The Dalai Lama's talks in the UK, May, 2008, were attended by Chinese protesters who oppose Tibetan independence.[72]

Dorje Shugden

During a teaching tour of the UK in May, 2008, there were demonstrations by the Western Shugden Society[73][74] and Chinese students. The Western Shugden Society say they are protesting against the ban of a prayer to Dorje Shugden,[73] which they protest constitutes religious persecution.[74] Similar protests occurred in Sydney when the Dalai Lama arrived in Australia in June 2008.[75] The Dalai Lama says he had not banned the practice,[73] but strongly discourages it as he feels it promotes a spirit as being more important than Buddha, and that it may encourage cult-like practices and sectarianism within Tibetan Buddhism.[76] The Shugden worshipers in India protest they are denied admission to hospitals, stores, and other social services provided by the local Tibetan community.[77]

Recognition of the 17th Karmapa

Another controversy associated with the Dalai Lama is the recognition of the seventeenth Karmapa. Two factions of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism have chosen two different Karmapas, leading to a deep division within the Kagyu school. The Dalai Lama has given his support to Urgyen Trinley Dorje, while supporters of Trinley Thaye Dorje claim that the Dalai Lama has no authority in the matter, nor is there a historical precedent for a Dalai Lama involving himself in an internal Kagyu dispute.[78] In his 2001 address at the International Karma Kagyu Conference, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche—one of the four Karma Kagyu regents—accused the Dalai Lama of adopting a "divide and conquer" policy to eliminate any potential political rivalry arising from within the Kagyu school.[79] For his side, the Dalai Lama accepted the prediction letter presented by Tai Situ Rinpoche (another Karma Kagyu regent) as authentic, and therefore Tai Situ Rinpoche's recognition of Urgyen Trinley Dorje, also as correct.[80] Tibet observer Julian Gearing suggests that there might be political motives to the Dalai Lama's decision: "The Dalai Lama gave his blessing to the recognition of [Urgyen] Trinley, eager to win over the formerly troublesome sect [the Kagyu school], and with the hope that the new Karmapa could play a role in a political solution of the 'Tibet Question.' ...If the allegations are to be believed, a simple nomad boy was turned into a political and religious pawn."[81] However, according to Tsurphu Labrang, articles by Julian Gearing on this subject are biased, unverified and without crosschecking of basic facts.[82]

CIA backing

In October 1998, The Dalai Lama's administration acknowledged that it received $1.7 million a year in the 1960s from the US Government through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and also trained a resistance movement in Colorado (USA).[31] When asked by CIA officer John Kenneth Knaus in 1995 whether the organisation did a good or bad thing in providing its support, the Dalai Lama replied that though it helped the morale of those resisting the Chinese, "thousands of lives were lost in the resistance" and further, that "the US Government had involved itself in his country's affairs not to help Tibet but only as a Cold War tactic to challenge the Chinese."[83]

Refusal of visa to enter South Africa

Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu. Carey Linde

The Dalai Lama and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu share a joke.

In March 2009, the Dalai Lama was denied a visa to enter South Africa in order to attend an international peace conference. The South African government initially stated that it denied his visa to avoid distracting attention from South Africa and its hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, although the visa-refusal precipitated precisely such a distraction.[84] South African government officials later acknowledged that his visa had been denied to maintain close relations with China.[85] Chinese officials had urged the South African government to not admit him.[86]

Two other Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Arch Bishop-emeritus Desmond Tutu and former South African President FW de Klerk, criticised the denial and pulled out of the conference. Current Minister of Health Barbara Hogan was critical of the decision, accusing the Government of "being dismissive of human rights". Opposition parties to the ruling African National Congress, including the Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party and Congress of the People, also expressed disgust. "The recent shameful denial of entry to South Africa to a peace icon and Nobel laureate, the Dalai Lama, is a demonstration of the ANC government's willingness to sacrifice the standing of South Africa on the altar of political expediency," said Mvume Dandala, leader of the last-mentioned, as well as former presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and former head of the All Africa Council of Churches. "This is especially so if the rumours are true that this was because of the funding arrangements between the ANC and the Communist Party of China."

Conference organisers, including the grandson of Nelson Mandela, also expressed outrage over the refusal to issue the Dalai Lama a visa. The conference was subsequently cancelled.[86][87]

The South African government defended its decision as a matter of sovereignty. One South African official publicly criticised the Dalai Lama and lamented a taboo on criticism of him,[88] while another publicly criticised the government for denying his visa.

Withdrawal of Honorary Degree

He was to be offered an honorary doctorate by the University of Tasmania when he would be visiting that Australian state in December 2009 but that offer has since been withdrawn. The University of Tasmania collects $30 million a year from Chinese students and Australian Senator Brown is questioning whether the Dalai Lama's fight for Tibetan independence affected the decision.

The University of Tasmania says the issue was raised in a meeting with Chinese officials but it had already decided to withdraw its offer to the Dalai Lama.[89]

International support

The Dalai Lama has been successful in gaining Western sympathy for Tibetan self-determination, including vocal support from numerous Hollywood celebrities, most notably the actors Richard Gere and Steven Seagal, as well as lawmakers from several major countries.[90]

In 2005[91] and 2008[92] Time placed the Dalai Lama on its list of the world's 100 most influential people.

On 22 June 2006, the Parliament of Canada voted unanimously to make The Dalai Lama an honorary citizen of Canada.[93][94] This marks the third of four times in history that the Government of Canada has bestowed this honour, the others being Raoul Wallenberg posthumously in 1985, Nelson Mandela in 2001 and Aung San Suu Kyi in 2007.

In September 2006, the United States Congress voted to award the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal,[95] the highest award which may be bestowed by the Legislative Branch of the United States government. The actual ceremony and awarding of the medal took place on 17 October 2007. The Chinese Government has reacted angrily to the award, which it merely refers to as "the extremely wrong arrangements". Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said: "It seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with China's internal affairs".[96]

In June 2007, during an Australian tour, the Dalai Lama made public appearances in Perth, Bendigo, Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.

On 6 December 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France and current Chairman of the European Union met the Dalai Lama in Poland and appeased the situation after China postponed a China-EU summit.

In March 2009 a peace conference for Nobel laureates in South Africa was postponed indefinitely after Pretoria refused the Dalai Lama a visa, sparking a storm of controversy, the government being accused of bowing to Chinese pressure. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President FW de Klerk pulled out of the meeting in protest.

In May 2009, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke met the Dalai Lama after having faced several appeals form China not to do so. After the meeting, the spokesman from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qin Gang, stated that "China is very dissatisfied with — and is protesting about the meeting".

On 18 February 2010, United States President Barack Obama hosted a meeting at the White House with the Dalai Lama. Obama "commended [the Dalai Lama's] commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government". China expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with the meeting.

Songs for Tibet is an album supportive of the Dalai Lama and a peaceful solution for the Tibetan issue. Several rock bands contributed with their music for the album.


Dalai Lama 1471 Luca Galuzzi 2007

The Dalai Lama during his visit to Italy in 2007

After suffering abdominal pain in October 2008, the Dalai Lama was hospitalized in New Delhi. He had routine surgery on 10 October to remove a gallstone.[97][98][99] Four marks on the Dalai Lama's right arm are the consequence of a childhood smallpox vaccination and do not have any special significance.[100] His right arm is uncovered in accordance with Buddhist tradition.

Possibility of retirement

In May 2007, Chhime Rigzing, a senior spokesman for the Tibetan spiritual leader's office, stated that the Dalai Lama wants to reduce his political burden as he moves into "retirement".[101] However, in 2008 the Dalai Lama himself ruled out such a move, saying "There is no point, or question of retirement."[102]

Rigzing stated "The political leadership will be transferred over a period of time but he will inevitably continue to be the spiritual leader because as the Dalai Lama, the issue of relinquishing the post does not arise".

The Dalai Lama announced he would like the elected Tibetan Parliament in Exile to have more responsibility over administration.

On 1 September 2007, China issued new rules controlling the selection of the next Dalai Lama, declaring that any reincarnation must bear the seal of approval by China's cabinet. These regulations could potentially result in one Dalai Lama approved by the Chinese government, and another chosen outside of Tibet.[103] This would be similar to the present situation with the Panchen Lamas and Karmapas. In November 2007, Tashi Wangdi said the new rules mean nothing. "It will have no effect" said Wangdi. "You can't impose a Pope. You can't impose an imam, an archbishop, saints, any religion... you can't politically impose these things on people. It has to be a decision of the followers of that tradition. The Chinese can use their political power: force. Again, it's meaningless".[104]

During the 2008 unrest in Tibet, the Dalai Lama called for calm[105] and concurrently condemned Chinese violence.[106] His call was met with Tibetan frustration at his methodology[107] and goals[108][109] and Chinese allegations that he himself incited the violence[110] in order to ruin the 2008 Summer Olympics.[111] In response to the continued violence perpetrated by Chinese as well as Tibetans,[112] on 18 March 2008, the Dalai Lama threatened to step down,[113] a move unprecedented[114] in the history of the office of the Dalai Lama.[115] Aides later clarified that this threat was predicated on a further escalation of violence, and that he did not presently have the intention of leaving his political or spiritual offices.[116] Many Tibetan exiles expressed their support for the Dalai Lama, and the People's Republic of China intensified their campaign of attacks against him.[117][118]

In the ensuing months, he held meetings aimed at discussing the future institution of the Dalai Lama, including:

[A] conclave, like in the Catholic Church, a woman as my successor, no Dalai Lama anymore, or perhaps even two, since the Communist Party has, astonishingly enough, given itself the right to be responsible for reincarnations.[119]

He has clarified that his goal is to relinquish all temporal power and to no longer play a "pronounced spiritual role" and have a simpler monastic life.

Awards and honours

The Dalai Lama has received numerous awards over his spiritual and political career.[120] On 22 June 2006, he became one of only five people ever to be recognised with Honorary Citizenship by the Governor General of Canada. On 28 May 2005, he received the Christmas Humphreys Award from the Buddhist Society in the United Kingdom. Most notable was the Nobel Peace Prize, presented in Oslo on 10 December 1989 (see below).

Other notable awards and honours include:

  • Lantos Human Rights Prize on 6 October 2009[121]
  • Honorary citizenship of Memphis, Tennessee on 23 September 2009[122]
  • Ján Langoš Human Rights award in Bratislava, Slovakia on 9 September 2009 [12]
  • Honorary citizenship of Paris on 7 June 2009
  • German Media Prize Berlin on 10 February 2009 [2]
  • Honorary citizenship of Italy in Venice on 10 February 2009 [3]
  • Honorary citizenship of Rome on 10 February 2009 [4] [5]
  • Honorary Doctoral Degree from Jagiellonian University on 8 December 2008[123]
  • Honorary Degree from Lehigh University on 13 July 2008
  • Honorary citizenship of Wrocław,[124] voted 24 June 2008
  • Honorary Doctoral Degree of Philosophy from London's Metropolitan University on 21 May 2008[125][126]
  • Honorary citizenship of Paris,[127] voted 21 April 2008, the same day as Hu Jia[128]
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letter from the University of Washington in April 2008
  • Inaugural Hofstra University Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize on 24 March 2008[129]
  • Honorary Doctorate in chemistry and pharmacy from University of Münster on 20 September 2007
  • Honorary Doctorate from Southern Cross University on 8 June 2007
  • Presidential Distinguished Professorship from Emory University in February 2007
  • Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters conferred by the State University of New York at Buffalo in September 2006
  • Honorary citizenship of Canada in 2006
  • Honorary citizenship of Ukraine, during the anniversary of the Nobel Prize on 9 December 2006 in Mc Leod Ganj.
  • United States Congressional Gold Medal on 27 September 2006[130]
  • Key to New York City from Mayor Bloomberg on 25 September 2005
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Rutgers University on 25 September 2005[131]
  • Honorary Doctoral Degree of Philosophy from University of Tartu, Estonia on 27 May 2005[132]
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of British Columbia on 19 April 2004
  • Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University 27 May 2004
  • Jaime Brunet Prize for Human Rights on 9 October 2003
  • International League for Human Rights Award on 19 September 2003
  • Honorary Doctoral Degree from University of San Francisco on 5 September 2003[133]
  • Life Achievement Award from Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization on 24 November 1999
  • Four Freedoms Award from the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute on 4 June 1994
  • World Security Annual Peace Award from the Lawyers Alliance for New York on 27 April 1994
  • Berkeley Medal from University of California, Berkeley, on 20 April 1994
  • Peace and Unity Awards from the National Peace conference on 23 August 1991
  • Earth Prize from the United Earth and U.N. Environmental Program on 5 June 1991
  • Advancing Human Liberty from the Freedom House on 17 April 1991
  • Le Prix de la Memoire from the Fondation Danielle Mitterrand on 4 December 1989
  • Raoul Wallenberg Human Rights Award (or Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Human Rights Award) from the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on 21 July 1989
  • Key to Los Angeles from Mayor Bradley in September 1979
  • Key to San Francisco from Mayor Feinstein on 27 September 1979

Nobel Peace Prize

On 10 December 1989 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[134] The committee recognized his efforts in "the struggle of the liberation of Tibet and the efforts for a peaceful resolution instead of using violence."[135] The chairman of the Nobel committee said that the award was "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi." In his acceptance speech the Dalai Lama criticised China for using force against student protesters during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. He said the victims efforts were not in vain. His speech focused on the importance of the continued use of non-violence and his desire to maintain a dialogue with China to try and resolve the situation.[136]

Support for Uyghur Spokesperson Rebiya Kadeer

During the Melbourne International Film Festival, the controversial film The 10 Conditions of Love, which documents the life of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, was screened on 8 August 2009 in spite of attempts by the Chinese government (which labels her a terrorist), to block screening of the film. The Dalai Lama sent a message of support:

Australian Federal Labor Member of Parliament, Michael Danby, says he discussed Ms Kadeer with the Dalai Lama recently: "He asked me to convey to you in Melbourne that she is another one of the national leaders who is a paradigm of non-violence," he said. "He wanted to make it very clear to people that the claims of this woman being a violent person or instigating violence, is from his point of view, and with all of his authority, wrong."[137]


Examples of films recently made about Tenzin Gyatso:

See also


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  2. Brief biography, official website of the Dalai Lama
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named bbcprofile
  4. "Dalai Lama — Speech to the U.N. and Images of Tibet". Retrieved 6 August 2006. 
  5. "Cosmic Harmony". Dalai Lama Address to the United Nations. 
  6. Marcello, Patricia Cronin (2003). The Dalai Lama: A Biography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313322074. 
  7. "Tibet during the Republic of China (1912-1949)". Archived from the original on 4 September 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  8. Shakya 1999, pp. 6–7
  9. Tsering Shakya. (1999). The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet since 1947, pp. 7–8. Columbia University Press, New York. ISBN 0-231-11814-7.
  10. Gyatso, Tenzin, Dalai Lama XIV, interview, 25 July 1981.
  11. Goldstein, Melvyn C., A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951, University of California Press, 1989, pp. 812–813
  12. Goldstein, M.C., A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2 - The Calm before the Storm: 1951-1955, p.493
  13. Ngapoi recalls the founding of the TAR, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei, China View, 30 August 2005.
  14. Goldstein, M.C., A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2 - The Calm before the Storm: 1951-1955, p.496
  15. Chairman Mao: Long Live Dalai Lama!
  16. The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, Kenneth Conboy, James Morrison, The University Press of Kansas, 2002.
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  62. Sex invariably spells trouble, says Dalai Lama
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  67. His material highness article by Christopher Hitchens
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  69. God Is Not Great, p. 200
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  • Iyer, Pico. The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (2008) Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0307387550
  • Knaus, Robert Kenneth. Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival (1999) PublicAffairs . ISBN 978-1891620188
  • Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet & Its History. 1st edition 1962. 2nd edition, Revised and Updated. Shambhala Publications, Boston. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk).
  • Shakya, Tsering. The Dragon In The Land Of Snows (1999) Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11814-7


Further reading

  • Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, pp. 452–515. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.

External links

14th Dalai Lama
Born: 6 July 1935
Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Thubten Gyatso
Dalai Lama
Recognised in 1937
Political offices
Preceded by
Zhang Jingwu
Chief of the Tibet Region, PRC
Succeeded by
Choekyi Gyaltsen

Template:Nobel Peace Prize Laureates 1976-2000

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