1. Significant People and Ideas – The XIVth Dalai Lama
Originally elevated as the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan nation at the age of five in 1940, the 14th Dalai Lama has become the most famous Buddhist on Earth. In 1950 China invaded Tibet and the Dalai Lama set to work to free his nation from foreign control. The situation escalated and in 1959 he was forced to flee into exile in India. Here he remains to this day guiding a large nation-in-exile. He has travelled the world on behalf of Tibet, Buddhism and world peace and is celebrated as a person of overwhelming compassion
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The 14th Dalai Lama
For hundreds of years the mountainous nation of Tibet has been ruled not kings but by religious leaders. It is assumed by Tibetans that each Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Great Bodhisattva of Mercy Quan Yin (the Chinese name) or Avalokitesvara (Sanskrit or Indian name). When a Dalai Lama dies, it is the duty of Tibetans to seek out the next reincarnation of this Bodhisattva. Religiously speaking, all Dalai Lamas are the same soul moving from life to life.
The current possessor of this title, Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th reincarnation of this soul. His birth name was Lhamo Dhondrub and he came from a peasant family in the northeast Tibet. In 1937, at the age of two, he was identified as the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. He was raised to the throne of Tibet on 22 February 1940 in the capital of Lhasa. He was then five years old.
After many years of education, he became the fully active leader of Tibet in 1950. This was also the year in which China began its invasion of his country. The Dalai Lama spent the next several years in consultation with the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, trying to convince them to leave Tibet free, or at least treat Tibetans with respect and kindness. Tibetans believe the invaders were not willing to make this compromise. By 1959 Tibetans could not tolerate the Chinese presence in Tibet any longer and launch violent reprisals against them. This triggered severe repression from the Communist party. At this point the Dalai Lama felt it necessary to leave his nation. Today, more than 100 000 Tibetans live with him in Northern India, where they are granted protection. It is also here that schools and cultural centres ensure the continued development of Tibetan religion and culture.
In recent decades the Communist Party has been encouraging Chinese people to settle in Tibet, as part of their process for making the country and indivisible part of China.
The Dalai Lama has increasingly toured the world seeking support from governments for freedom in Tibet. In 1963 he developed a democratic constitution that will be implemented if/when Tibet is free. In all of his struggles, the Dalai Lama has tried to encourage a peaceful solution to the crisis in Tibet. For this he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. This year was marked with major freedom demonstrations in Beijing as well. It was a very difficult year for the Chinese Communist Party. The rise of the Dalai Lama’s presence on the world stage increases their discomfort.
The Dalai Lama, as a world-famous Buddhist, has regularly published books on various aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhism in general. He is sometimes treated as the ‘pope of Buddhism’ and many famous people, particularly in the United States, have joined his cause. Nevertheless, when he is not travelling the world, he continues to live in a small cottage in Dharamsala in India. He gets up early and meditates, like most monks, and works at Tibetan issues through writing and meetings. His message of peace and his promotion of Buddhism as a tool of peace, together with his incredible peaceful nature, have endeared him to thousands of supporters. The Dalai Lama is a well-travelled and popular world leader and has visited Australia several times in the last few years.
Tibet and the Dalai Lama set to work to free his