(A Portrait of HH the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso; I originally
wrote this in Danish...)
The fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was the spiritual and temporal
head of Tibet until 1959. He was born in 1935 to a peasant family in the village
of Taktser in northeastern Tibet. His parents called him Lhamo Dhondrub.
Acting on a vision he had had at the sacred lake of Lham Lhatso at Chokhorgyal,
about 90 miles south east of the capital, the Regent, Reting Rinpoché, discovered
the boy, and a series of rigourous tests were done to confirm if he was the
reincarnation of the XIIIth Dalai Lama. Tibetan Buddhists believe that each
Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of his predecessor (in Tibetan, a "tulku") and
also of Avalokitesvara (or Chenrezig), the Buddha of Compassion.
The four year old Dalai Lama was enthroned on February 2, 1940, in
Lhasa, capital of Tibet. His name was officially changed to
Jetsu Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso
(Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom).
Tibetans normally call him Yeshe Norbu (the Wish-fulfilling Jem) or Kundun
On November 17, 1950, the Dalai Lama was asked to take on full powers
as head of State and of Government of Tibet, after some 80,000
Peoples' Liberation Army soldiers invaded Tibet. At this time, the Dalai Lama
temporarily fled Tibet.
In 1954, he went to Beijing to talk with Mao Tsetung and other Chinese
Leaders, including Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping. He wanted to discuss peace
with them. In 1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th birthday of the
Buddha (or "Buddha Jayanti"), he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister
Nehru and also with Premier Zhou Enlai.
On March 10, 1959, many large demonstrations occurred in Lhasa. These
spread to other parts of Tibet. They were caused by Beijing's ruthlessness in
Eastern Tibet (Amdo, and in particular, Kham). The Dalai Lama went into
exile in India in 1959 in protest against the Chinese invasion and subsequent
annexation of Tibet. He journeyed across the Himalayas and set up a
Gouvernment-in-Exile at Dharamsala, in the Panjab. Around 80,000 refugees have
followed him into exile. Nowadays there are over 120,000 Tibetans in exile.
Dharamsala is now known as "little Lhasa".
The people of Tibet continually asked for his return, and the Chinese
offered to lift the ban on him returning provided that he did not call for
Tibet's Independence. However many others think that the Dalai Lama can better
help Tibet regain her independence outside of Tibet. Although the United Nations
has made many resolutions about Tibet, and although the Dalai Lama has proposed
many plans for a better future for Tibet, the Chinese are unwilling or unable to
The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989, in
recognition of his commitment to the nonviolent liberation of his homeland.
China, of course, did not like this. The Nobel Committee's citation read:
"The Committee wants to emphasise the fact that the Dalai Lama, in
his struggle for the liberation of Tibet, has consistently opposed the use of
violence. Instead he has advocated peaceful solutions, based upon tolerance
and mutual respect, in order to preserve the historical and cultural
heritage of his people".
In May 1996, he addressed a committee of the Danish Parliament in
Copenhagen. He warned about the dangers of the Tibetan people becoming
"sinicised". In July 1999 he stated that his reincarnation would not be found in a
country under Chinese control. He has also said that if he returns to Tibet
he will only remain spiritual leader. He will not lead them politically.