The 14th Dalai Lama is cherished around the globe for his continuous efforts to promote the Buddhist wisdom that he has studied for his entire life. He has went to especially great lengths to use his leadership role to spread teachings on compassion, nonviolence, and meditation. Even after witnessed Tibetan Buddhists unjustly suffer at the hands of the Chinese military, His Holiness has remained committed to offering peace and love to those who harmed the people he leads. In addition to publishing numerous books, the Dalai Lama has won a plethora of awards for his nonviolent peace efforts including the 1989 Noble Peace Prize.
The 14th Dalai Lama Profile:
Birth: July 6th, 1935 (81-years-old)
Spiritual Role: Spiritual Leader of Tibetan Buddhists
Focuses On: Meditation, Compassion, Peace, & Happiness
The Dalai Lama Overview:
It was in the summer of 1935 when Diki and Choekyong Tsering gave birth to a young boy whom they named Lhamo Thondup (translates to mean ‘Wish-Fulfilling Goddess’). The Tibetan farming family from the small northeastern village of Takster made a living growing barley, buckwheat, and potatoes, and in total gave birth to seven children who survived into adulthood. At the time of Lhamo Thondup’s birth, there were around 20 families living in Takster and the first two years of the young boy’s life were typical for a child living in the area. This normalcy, however, quickly changed in 1937 when a group of senior Tibetan officials arrived in the small village searching for Tibet’s next great spiritual leader.
In the Tibetan Buddhist religion, it is believed that individuals reincarnate into another physical form after they have passed away. While the common man’s reincarnation is believed to be determined by the karma they have accumulated in past lifetimes, high-ranking monks and lamas are believed to have the ability to choose when and where they reincarnate. It is said that when high ranking spiritual leaders succumb to illness or old-age, they will leave a number of important clues that point a search party towards the child they chose to reincarnate as. The Dalai Lama, who is considered to be the reincarnation of Avalokitsevara (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), is the single most important spiritual leader in the religion.
When the 13th Dalai Lama passed away in 1933, few would have guessed that the 14th Dalai Lama would be found four years later in the small farming community of Takster, and even fewer would have guessed that the 13th Dalai Lama would have previously recognized the young child’s older brother as another highly ranked lama 12 years earlier. This, however, is exactly how the search process played out, and in 1937, Lhamo Thondup was recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama.
Once Lhamo Thondup was recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama, the young boy and his family were relocated to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa where he began receiving formal monastic education at the age of six. After spending nine years training to become the spiritual leader of six million Tibetan Buddhists, the young adolescent was prematurely called upon for guidance at the age of 15.
It was in 1950 when China first invaded Tibet and hostility between the two nations grew until a full-scale revolution broke out in 1959. The unstable circumstances in Lhasa made it unsuitable for the Dalai Lama’s safety causing him and other high-ranking Tibetan officials to escape into exile. Fortunately, the Indian government offered a place of permanent safety and residence. Three weeks after leaving his home on horseback, the Dalai Lama arrived in the Indian Himalayan foothill city of Dharamsala.
For the past 57 years, the Dalai Lama has called Dharamsala home, and since his arrival, over 100,000 Tibetan have joined him there in exile. It is from here where he has become a beloved global figure who offers only love and compassion to a Chinese government that has caused immense amounts of suffering for Tibetan people. His unwavering warmheartedness is easy to recognize when he speaks of Chinese officials:
I visualized the Chinese officials and took their anger, suspicion, and negative feelings, and offered in their place my love, my compassion, and my forgiveness.”
In 2011, the Dalai Lama stepped down from his political leadership role in hopes of having a more politically experienced individual help the Tibetan people gain autonomy from China. His Holiness does still remains the country’s unquestioned spiritual leader. He has spent his entire life promoting the importance of compassion, forgiveness, inner exploration, and self-control. He has helped author over 100 books and is recognized around the globe as a leader for nonviolence and peace. For his nonviolent leadership efforts in the Tibet-China conflict, he was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1989. Two of his most recognizable books are: ‘The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living‘ and ‘How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life.’
3 Messages to Take from His Teachings:
Happiness is Found Within:
While many in the western world falsely believe that happiness can be found through external successes and material acquisition, the Dalai Lama understands completely that true and lasting happiness can only be found internally. Through his studies and training in ancient practices taught by the Buddha, His Holiness has learned that only by systematically focusing one’s attention on cultivating positive emotional states, and challenging negative ones, can individuals move to a more blissful place that is unaffected by external circumstances. “Happiness is a state of mind. With physical comforts if your mind is still in a state of confusion and agitation, it is not happiness. Happiness means calmness of mind,” he tells us. There are a number of important personal qualities, such as kindness, contentment, and compassion, that the Dalai Lama tells us will naturally lead to higher levels of joy when individuals cultivate and develop them internally. It is certain that by undertaking a regular meditation practice and studying Buddhist wisdom, each one of us can move beyond feelings of separation, greed, and hatred that are largely a byproduct of social conditioning and ignorance towards the reality of all phenomena in existence.
Compassion is the Only Answer:
If there is one teaching that the Dalai Lama stresses over all others, it is to live a life based upon compassion towards all. His Holiness tells us that instead of focusing on the qualities that differentiate human beings, we should focus on finding the commonalities we all share. One of the main reasons that he gives us for acting compassionately towards others and ourselves is because it create happiness for ourselves. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion,” he is famously quoted as saying. While exhibiting the levels of compassion that the Dalai Lama continuously exhibits may be a tall order, we can certainly begin to act more compassionately by focusing on the numerous benefits that come from acting this way. The University of Stanford’s Center of Compassion and Altruism Research and Education recently released an infographic that shows the Top 10 Scientific Benefits that come as a byproduct of acting compassionately which can serve as a good reminder for each of us. Additionally, it is important to remind ourselves that each and every person is doing their best with the mental and emotional resources available to them.
Cleansing the Mind:
In the western world, children learn at a young age about the importance of physical hygiene yet are taught little about the importance of mental and emotional hygiene. Throughout his life, the Dalai Lama has gone to great lengths to show how cleansing one’s mind is just as important as cleansing their body. He tells us, “Values are related to our emotions, just as we practice physical hygiene to preserve our physical health, we need to observe emotions to preserve a healthy mind and attitude.” There are a number of important steps that we can take to monitor and cleanse our minds of disturbing thoughts and emotions. In addition to limiting our exposure to negatively focused television programs and making sure that we get enough sleep, the practice of meditation can help us increase our self-awareness and allows us to interrupt detrimental cognitive and emotional patterns before they cause us to harm ourselves and others.
- “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”
- “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
- “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”