The 14th Dalai Lama Essay

This essay has a total of 2182 words and 10 pages.

The 14th Dalai Lama

Research Paper
November 12, 1999

The 14th Dalai Lama

“Dalai Lama” literally means ocean priest. His vast followers, awestruck by his presence,
cast their eyes downward, fall to the ground and weep. They cannot look directly in his
eyes out of respect. The Dalai Lama realizes the magnitude of his position, but dismisses
the idolatry. His people call him “His Holiness.” He calls himself a Tibetan who chooses
to be a Buddhist monk. He also was leader of a country that Tibetans say is occupied and
that Beijing says has always been part of China.

He is considered the reincarnation of the previous 13 Dalai Lamas of Tibet, the first born
more than 640 years ago. This Dalai Lama is different from his predecessors, though. For
instance, the 13th Dalai Lama was strict and formal, and most Tibetans couldn’t get close
to him except during public blessing ceremonies. The 14th Dalai Lama meets often with
Tibetans and foreigners and never keeps people at a distance. He is among 600 Tibetan
Buddhist monks living in Dharamsala, in northern India. About 7,000 of the 24,000 who live
in this city are Tibetans, with the greatest concentration in the village of McLeod
Ganj—the seat of Tibet’s government-in- exile.

The Chinese occupied Tibet in 1950. For nine years, the Dalai Lama tried to negotiate
peaceful coexistence with his people and the Chinese. When that failed, he fled in 1959 to
India, where he set up Tibet’s government-in-exile.

Lhamo Thondup was born July 6, 1935, to peasant farmers in Taktser, a poor settlement on a
hill overlooking a broad valley in northeastern Tibet. Buddhist priests from Lhasa,
Tibet’s capital, came for the boy when he was 2. Omens led them to him: from the way the
head of the 13th Dalai Lama had turned in his coffin toward the child’s village, to the
vision of the house seen in a lake by a high priest. The boy was renamed Jamphel Ngawang
Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso and raised by monks in Lhasa in the 1,000-room Potala palace,
where the fifth through the present Dalai Lamas resided. As a boy, he had no idea what it
meant to be the 14th Dalai Lama—the ruler of the land hidden behind the Himalayas. He was
tutored in Buddhist teachings.

At 15, with his country under threat from the newly communist China, he formally became
head of Tibet, which is about three times the size of California. At that time in 1950,
peace in Tibet was shattered when 84,000 Chinese soldiers launched an attack at six points
along Tibet’s border.

Chinese officials say communism liberated the downtrodden Tibetan people from a feudal
theocracy harshly ruled by a succession of Dalai Lamas. But many Tibetans say communism
never was attractive for them, and they always considered the rule of the Dalai Lama
benevolent. Fearful of being captured by the Chinese and believing he would be more
effective outside Tibet, the Dalai Lama fled at age 24 across 17,000-foot Himalayan passes
into India. Together with the 70-man remnant of the Tibetan government, he was given
political asylum. He chose India for its proximity to his homeland, and Tibetans felt a
spiritual kinship with their neighbors because Buddhism originated in India.

Buddhism teaches people to eliminate suffering caused by ignorance, egotism and self-
centeredness. Buddhists cultivate morality, generosity, patience, energy, wisdom and
meditation. They believe good actions lead to a promising rebirth. Tibet was the only
place where Buddhist monks solely ruled the country. Leaders were thought to be
incarnations of enlightened beings, and they taught others how to calm their minds and
cultivate altruism. Tibetans say they lived peacefully until the Chinese invaded their
country. Since then, 1.2 million people -- 20 percent of the Tibetan population—have died
in combat and through massive famines from collectivized farming and diversion of Tibetan
grain to China. The Chinese gutted all but 10 of Tibet’s 6,254 monasteries, and their
treasure -- $80 billion in jeweled, gold, silver and bronze statues and other holy
items—was trucked back to China and later sold in markets in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Still,
the Dalai Lama, 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his non-violent quest to free his
homeland, doesn’t hate the Chinese. He considers compassion as a means to regain Tibet’s

Leaders of Tibet’s government-in-exile have lived since 1960 in Dharamsala, a hill station
in Himlach Pradesh, India, 125 miles from Tibet’s border. From the center of Dharamsala,
there’s a hair-raising climb up thousands of feet along narrow roads that twist to the
village of McLeod Ganj. Tibetans live there under India’s rules, but they’re permitted
their quasi-government. The Dalai Lama drafted a constitution in 1963, allowing Tibetans
throughout the world to be elected representatives of the government-in-exile. He has
established an independent judiciary, an auditor’s office and other departments. He no
longer has final say on all governmental matters and can be impeached.

Living in Dharamsala in the 1960s and ‘70s was difficult for the Tibetans because it was
isolated. Construction of a small airport and installation of a telephone system have
improved conditions, the Dalai Lama says. Up the mountain is the Tibetan Children’s
Village, run by one of the Dalai Lama’s sisters. It houses and educates about 1,500
youngsters, many refugees. Its branches throughout India serve 5,500 or so more children.
The Dalai Lama sometimes visits the village and elsewhere, but the majority of his time in
Dharamsala is spent praying, meditating and studying. He reads scriptures, studies
philosophy and often prays with other Tibetan Buddhist monks. He also pores over official
papers, listens to the BBC World Service on the radio and reads magazines like Newsweek
and Time and newspapers such as The Times of India and The Hindustan Times.

Many people told Tibetans in the 1960s that their quest for freedom was hopeless, the
Dalai Lama says. With political changes in the former Soviet Union and East Germany, he
believes Tibetan freedom isn’t that far-fetched. Obstacles remain before Tibetans have
political and social freedom in their homeland, the Dalai Lama says. The old Chinese
Communist leaders are in their 80s, and he believes the first generation of
revolutionaries still respect and obey the government regime.

Even with no signs of political liberalization, the Communist Party’s free market reforms
have improved the Tibetan economy and quelled unrest. And many Chinese sympathize with the
Tibetan freedom movement, the Dalai Lama says. Once the current Chinese leaders are gone,
“then I don’t see any obstacle.”

In 1963, His Holiness promulgated a democratic constitution, based on Buddhist
principles and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as a model for a future free
Tibet. Since then, the Dalai Lama has been the most vigorous advocate for the refugee's
own democratic experiment, while consistently reaffirming his desire not to hold political
office once Tibet regains its independence. The Dalai Lama continues to present new
initiatives to resolve the Tibetan issue. At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in

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