20 March 2008

Who is The Dalai Lama?

The Dalai Lamas, each a Buddhist monk, have been traditionally the spiritual and temporal leaders of Tibet, at least since the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century CE and until 1959, when the Chinese efforts to take over Tibet reached completion. The Dalai Lama is also the head of the Dge-Lugs-Pa (Yellow Hat) order or Tibetan Buddhists.

The first Dalai Lama was Dge-'dun-grub-pa (1391-1475), a monk who founded the Tashilhunpo monastery in central Tibet and who was the third successor of the founder of the Geluk school. The title "Dalai" is a transcription of the Tibetan "Ta le", which means "Ocean [of Wisdom]" and was given to the third Lama by Altan Khan. Each Dalai Lama believes that he is the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama and all are incarnations of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion. Avalokitesvara is believed to reincarnate in order to help people who are still caught in the cycle of samsara.

The current Dalai Lama was born on June 6, 1935, and is the 14th
person to hold this position. His original name was Tenzin Gyatso and his birthday is traditionally commemorated with things like dances, picnics and singing. In accordance with Tibetan tradition, he was recognized at the age of two as being the reincarnation of his predecessor.

He lives in exile outside of Tibet due to the repression from Chinese rulers who have invaded Tibet and repressed local culture and religion. He was born on June 6, 1935. This is not, however, the first time that Chinese influence and interference have forced a Dalai Lama into exile. The same happened with the seventh, Jampal Gyatso (1758-1804). Others, although living in Tibet, were not politically inclined and so allowed Chinese-backed regents to run the state. Today, Tibetans are a minority in their own homeland due to massive Chinese colonization and various social programs designed to keep Tibetan births as low as possible.

In recognition of his persistent efforts to end Chinese control of his homeland through nonviolent means, the current Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He accepted it on behalf of oppressed people around the world and, according to the Noble commitee

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 culture and history of his people.

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Dalai Lama


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