Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is an extraordinary teacher, writer, and speaker. Some have revered him as a god, but within Tibetan Buddhism, he is actually a bodhisattva, an enlightened being who has stepped back from the brink of Nirvana to help others reach enlightenment. He comes from a long line of Tibetan Dalai Lama and he has lived in exile from his beloved Tibet ever since 1959, when he fled the Chinese Communist invasion on his homeland.
Tenzin Gyatso was born in 1935 in Amdo. He was the fifth of sixteen children. He was recognized as the incarnated Dalai Lama when he was two. He received his coronation as Dalai Lama too early at age fifteen because the Chinese People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1950. In 1954, he went for peace talks with Mao Zedong, the head of the Chinese Communist government, but the Dalai Lama could not find any agreement, so he left in despair. Finally, in 1959, after years of fighting the Chinese Communists, the Dalai Lama fled to India, and he was followed by thousands of Tibetan refugees. He established a Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, his headquarters for peace and compassion.
The Dalai Lama has brought awareness to the plight of the Tibetans living under Communist Chinese dictatorship. The Dalai Lama’s struggle for Tibetan liberation is noteworthy for its peaceful approach. He has said that he does not support an armed conflict against the Chinese Communists. Instead, he would like to see a peaceful liberation and the establishment of a democratically autonomous Tibet.
People all over the world, whether Buddhist or not, respect and admire him for his compassionate view on all living beings and his campaign on inter-religious dialogue. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to freeing the Tibetan people. In 2006, the Canadian Prime Minister made him an Honorary Canadian citizen. Only two othersRaoul Wallenberg and Nelson Mandelahave received this Canadian honor. More currently, on October 17, 2007, President George W Bush has received Chinese hostility by awarding the Dalai Lama the United States Congressional Gold Medal. The Dalai Lama has met with numerous political and religious leaders, such as the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Catholic Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. He has also met with Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh religious leaders.
The Dalai Lama is opposed to abortion, since the Tibetan Buddhist view of compassion means that one should never take a life. However, he has stated that abortion is permitted under the circumstance that the birth would create serious health problems for the mother.
On the issue of homosexuality, he is not opposed to same-sex partners as long as neither of the partners has taken a vow of chastity. However, gay rights activists have criticized his meaning concerning “sexual misconduct,” since this could mean oral and anal sex. Overall, the Dalai Lama has won approval for stating that society should be more accepting of gays and lesbians.
The Dalai Lama has also been campaigning for ecological awareness and wildlife conservation. He has campaigned for protection of wildlife in the Tibetan community in India and Tibet. He is against poaching and clothing made from leopard, tiger, and otter skins. In speeches, he has urged people everywhere to take care of Mother Earth, since her death would mean our death.
As a protective move against Chinese intrusion into Tibetan affairs, the 14th Dalai Lama has stated that his next reincarnation will not be born in China or Tibet. This action safeguards against Chinese interference. Perhaps times have changed and a new Tibetan leader is needed. Perhaps Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the last Dalai Lama.