The Dalai Lama is today the symbol of Tibetan identity, both in Tibet and in exile.Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama is Tibetans political and religious leader. Since 1960 he has lived in the small mountain town of Dharamsala in northern India where he is the head of the Tibetan exile government.
The current Dalai Lama is the fourteenth in a series of reincarnations of a particularly powerful «bodhisattva», Chenrezig. Bodhisattvas are sacred and wise people who have promised to be reborn in perpetuity to work for happiness and freedom of all sentient beings. The idea of reincarnations comes from India and existed in Tibet before Dalai Lamas. There are many reincarnations in the Tibetan culture but the Dalai Lama is considered the foremost of them. «Dalai» is the Mongolian word for ocean which symbolizes the infinite wisdom («Gyatso» in Tibetan).
The first Dalai Lama (1391-1474) was a senior abbot in the Gelugpa School, a reform movement within Tibetan Buddhism. The third Dalai Lama was the first who had the title of Dalai Lama while he was alive. The first two were named as the Dalai Lama after their death. All the Dalai Lamas were religious leaders, but have also a varying political role. The fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) was the first who achieved to be Tibet’s Head of State. In the periods when a newly installed Dalai Lama was a minor, the country was ruled by a regent.
The current Dalai Lama
When the 13th Dalai Lama died in 1934, immediately the search started to find the man he had chosen to be reborn in. Two years later a group of officials found a little boy who was born at the time of the13th Dalai Lamas death. He was recognized as Dalai Lama after a number of signs had pointed in his direction. One of these was the regent’s vision of a house and a landscape that he saw while studying the surface of the sacred lake Tech Khor Gye laying an eight days journey from Lhasa. The government delegation was convinced when the little boy immediately recognized the objects that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama.
The 14th Dalai Lama was born in 1935 in the northeastern part of Tibet. The family of farmers lived in simple conditions. Four years old he was taken to Lhasa. He grew up in the Potala palace and went through the years of the highest religious education that existed in Tibet.
Only 16 years old, he became in 1951 the country’s head of state. Because of the Chinese occupation the situation was so acute that the Tibetan National Assembly found it necessary that he was installed as quickly as possible. Despite the fact that he tried to reach a peaceful solution, the conditions were increasingly more difficult and in 1959 he was forced to escape. A few days after the Dalai Lamas fleeing to India the big uprising broke out in Lhasa.
Life in exile
After the Dalai Lama fled, he continued to work for his people. Under his leadership, the Tibetans build up an efficient mechanism for receiving the refugees who continue to cross the border. He has formed a government in exile and built democratic principles. In all the years he has followed the line of nonviolent resistance. Tibetans have followed his line, even though some, especially among the young, have been impatient and wanted to use other ways in the struggle for a free Tibet. In 1989 the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize for his relentless non-violent struggle for Tibets autonomy:
«The Dalai Lama has developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all mankind as well as nature. In the opinion of the Committee the Dalai Lama has come forward with constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems.»
(Nobel Committee’s reasoning).
The Dalai Lama travels round the world and speaks Tibetan cause. His message is compassion and non-violence. Although the authorities in many countries have refused to accept him as the official representative of the Tibetans, he is greeted with great interest and sympathy wherever he arrives.
The Dalai Lama is an intellectual who is known to express himself easily and immediately. As a bodhisattva is he sacred to millions of people, not only for Tibetans but also for other ethnic groups in The Himalayan region and Mongolia. He is also warm and down to earth person who sees himself as an ordinary monk.
List of Dalai Lamas
Gedun Drub, (dge ‘dun ‘grub) 1391-1474
Gendun Gyatso, (dge ‘dun rgya mtsho) 1475-1541
Sonam Gyatso, (bsod nams rgya mtsho) 1543-1588
Yonten Gyatso, (yon tan rgya mtsho) 1589-1616
Lobsang Gyatso, (blo bzang rgya mtsho) 1617-1682
Tsangyang Gyatso, (tshang dbyangs rgya mtsho) 1683- 1706
Kelzang Gyatso, (bskal bzang rgya mtsho) 1708-1757
Jamphel Gyatso, (byams spel rgya mtsho)1758-1804
Lungtok Gyatso, 1806-1815
Tsultrim Gyatso, (tshul khrim rgya mtsho) 1816-1837
Khendrup Gyatso, 1838-1856
Trinley Gyatso, (sprin las rgya mtsho) 1856-1875
Thubten Gyatso, 1876-1933
Tenzin Gyatso, (bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho) 1935 – present