|Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. He was born into a peasant family on July 6, 1935, in Takster, a small village in Amdo in far northeastern Tibet. His name at birth was Lhamo Dhondrub.
At the age of two, His Holiness was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. As such, His Holiness is an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
The Dalai Lama began his education at the age of six and completed the Doctorate in Buddhist Philosophy (Geshe Lharampa) in 1959 at age 25. In addition to Buddhist subjects, the Dalai Lama studied English, sciences, geography and mathematics.
On November 17, 1950, when he was fifteen years old, the Dalai Lama assumed full political responsibility for Tibet following an invasion by soldiers of the Peoples Liberation Army of China. Efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution of issues with China led to meetings in Beijing with Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai and Deng Xiaoping and in India with Prime Minister Nehru and Chou-En-lai.
In March 1959, the Dalai Lama escaped to India and political asylum. Some 80,000 Tibetan refugees managed to escape as well. Today there are more than 120,000 Tibetan refugees in India, Nepal, Bhutan and the West. Since 1960, the Dalai Lama has resided in Dharamsala, a small town in northern India, often called "Little Lhasa," which is the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.
A first priority was the preservation of Tibetan culture. The Dalai Lama founded 53 large-scale agricultural settlements to rehabilitate Tibetan refugees. Later, an autonomous Tibetan school system was set up to provide refugee children with knowledge of their language, history, religion and culture. Today there are over 80 Tibetan schools in India and Nepal.
The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in 1959, and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies became a university for Tibetans in India. Over 200 monasteries have been re-established to preserve the vast corpus of Buddhist teachings that are the essence of the Tibetan spirit and way of life. In 1963, the Dalai Lama promulgated a democratic constitution based upon Buddhist principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Beginning in 1967, the Dalai Lama initiated a series of journeys that have resulted in visits to some 46 nations and meetings with world leaders. He has authored or co-authored more than 60 books, and he has received numerous honorary doctorates and awards. His most widely recognized award is the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace. The citation for the award reads in part:
"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 historical and cultural heritage of his people."
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The biographical information above was excerpted with permission from the website of the Office of Tibet in New York, the official agency of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-exile in the Americas. To learn more about the Dalai Lama and Tibet, visit the Office of Tibet in New York website (tibetoffice.org) or the official website of the Tibetan Government-in-exile (tibet.com).