His Holiness the
Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6, 1935 to a
peasant family in the small village of Taktser in northeastern Tibet and
was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of His predecessor,
the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the
Buddha of Compassion, who chose to take rebirth to serve humanity.
Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom; Tibetans normally refer to His
Holiness as Yizhin Norbu, the Wish-Fulfilling Gem, or simply
Kundun, the Presence.
When the Thirteenth
Dalai Lama died in 1935, the Tibetan Government had not simply to appoint
a successor, but to discover the child in whom the Buddha of Compassion
would incarnate: the child need not have been born just at the death of
His predecessor, or even very soon thereafter. As before, there would be
signs of where to search. For example, when the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's
body was laid in a shrine facing south, His head turned to the east twice,
and to the east of his shrine a great fungus appeared on the east side of
a pillar of well-seasoned wood. The Regent of Tibet went to the sacred
lake of Lhamoe Lhatso, where Tibetans have seen visions of the future.
There he saw, among other things, a monastery with roofs of green jade and
gold and a house with turquoise tiles. A detailed description of the
entire vision was written down and kept a strict secret.
In 1937 high lamas
and dignitaries were sent throughout Tibet to search for the place seen in
the vision. Those heading east were led by Lama Kewtsang Rinpoche of Sera
Monastery. In Takster they found such a place and went to the house, with
Kewtsang Rinpoche disguised as a servant and a junior monk posing as the
leader. The Rinpoche was wearing a rosary of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and
the little boy, recognizing it, demanded that it be given to him. This was
promised, if the child could guess who the wearer was. The reply was
Sera aga (in the local dialect, a monk of Sera). The boy was also able
to tell who the real leader and servant were. After many further tests,
the Dalai Lama was enthroned in 1940.
In 1950, at the age
of sixteen and still facing nine more years of intensive religious
education, His Holiness had to assume full political power when China
invaded Tibet. In March of 1959, during the national uprising of the
Tibetan people against Chinese military occupation, He went into exile.
Since then He has lived in the Himalayan foothills in Dharamsala, India,
the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, a constitutional democracy
since 1963. Dharamsala, aptly known as Little Lhasa, also has cultural and
educational institutions and serves as a "capital-in-exile" for 130,000
Tibetan refugees living mainly in India; others are in Nepal, Switzerland,
the UK, the United States, Canada and thirty other countries. In the past
decade, the Dalai Lama has tried to open dialogue with the Chinese. He
proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan in 1987-88, which would also stabilize
the entire Asian region and which has drawn widespread praise from
statesmen and legislative bodies around the world, but the Chinese have
yet to enter into negotiations.
Fourteenth Dalai Lama, unlike His predecessors who never came to the West,
continues His world-wide travels, eloquently speaking in favor of
ecumenical understanding, kindness and compassion, respect for the
environment and, above all, world peace.