His Life in Tibet
The Dalai Lama, sometimes called „Ocean of Wisdom“, is revered as the incarnation of Chenresi, the Bodhisattva of compassion, who is also the spiritual patron of Tibet. The current Dalai Lama was born in a farmer’s family in the Tibetan village of Taktser on July 6, 1935. His parents gave him the name of Lhamo Dhondrub. At the age of two, based on prophetic signs and other indications, he was recognized as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. He was brought to Lhasa together with his family. On February 22, 1940, Lhamo Dhondrub was inaugurated at the age of four and a half years and was given the monk’s name Tenzin Gyatso. At the age of six years, he started his education comprising of dialectics, Tibetan arts and culture, grammar and linguistics, medicine and philosophy, the latter being the most important subject.
In 1950, the Chinese army invaded Tibet. As the situation in Tibet was deteriorating due to the Chinese occupation, the Dalai Lama, although only 15 years old, was forced to assume his political duties on November 22, 1950. He travelled to Beijing in 1954 to discuss the future of Tibet with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. As he visited India in 1956 to participate in the celebrations of the 2500th anniversary of Buddha’s Parinirvana, many of his advisors urged him to stay in India and not to return to Tibet. However, he decided to return in order to attempt peaceful coexistence with the Chinese occupants.
Escape to India
China’s ruthless rule over Tibet rendered a peaceful solution of the conflict impossible. This culminated in the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa that was brutally crushed on March 10, 1959. Around 90,000 Tibetans lost their lives during the fighting. The Dalai Lama, and with him tens of thousands of Tibetans, were forced to escape over the Himalayas to India. Since then and each year, Tibetans are commemorating the victims of the uprise on March 10.
Since 1960, the Dalai Lama has been residing in Dharamsala in Northern India which is also the seat of the Government in Exile. From his earliest days in exile, he has been appealing to the United Nations. The UNO passed three resolutions, in 1959, 1961, and 1965, urging the Peoples Republic of China to respect the human rights in Tibet and the Tibetans’ right to self-determination. However, since the Peoples Republic of China has become a member of the United Nations and its Security Council in 1972, it has blocked any political discussion on the Tibet issue by veto.
In Exile, the Dalai Lama has undertaken all possible efforts to safeguard the survival of the Tibetan people and their culture. Refugees have found new homes, economic development has been promoted, Tibetan schools and universities have been built, and more than 200 monasteries have been re-established on Indian soil.
In 1963, the Dalai Lama promulgated the first draft of the future democratic constitution of the Tibetan people in exile. Since then, he has vigorously been promoting the democratization of the Tibetan community. At his own initiative, a paragraph was added to the constitution providing for the possibility of impeachment with regard to the Dalai Lama. Apart of his commitment for Tibetans in exile, he has constantly been pursuing plans for the peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue.
In 1987, the Dalai Lama proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan as a first step towards the future status of Tibet. He demanded that Tibet be declared a zone of peace, that the massive resettlement of Chinese in Tibet be stopped, that human rights be respected and that nuclear weapons as well as deposition of nuclear waste be prohibited in Tibet. In addition, he suggested to initiate serious negotiations on the future status of Tibet. In 1988, he formulated the so-called Strasbourg Proposal, according to which Tibet should be given genuine autonomy within the Peoples Republic of China. In return, the earlier demand for full Tibetan independence would be waived.
The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989 for his constant efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue. The Nobel Committee said: “The Dalai Lama has developed his philosophy of peace, based on deep respect for all living beings, and a vision of universal responsibility, comprising all mankind and nature.” During his journeys into 52 different countries and meetings with religious and political leaders, the Dalai Lama has constantly been promoting the peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue as well as other conflicts around the globe. Untiringly, he has advocated human rights and ecological responsibility. Religious, political, scientific and economic leaders have been in discussion with him. He is constantly invited to travel to other countries and speak in front of thousands of people about his vision of living together in a harmonious and peaceful world.
On 14 March 2011 His Holiness wrote to the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (Tibetan Parliament-in-exile) requesting it to relieve him of his temporal authority, since according to the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile, he was technically still the head of state. He announced that he was ending the custom by which the Dalai Lamas had wielded spiritual and political authority in Tibet. He intended, he made clear, to resume the status of the first four Dalai Lamas in concerning himself only with spiritual affairs. He confirmed that the democratically elected leadership would assume complete formal responsibility for Tibetan political affairs. The formal office and household of the Dalai Lamas, the Gaden Phodrang, would henceforth only fulfil that function. On 29 May 2011 His Holiness signed the document formally transferring his temporal authority to the democratically elected leader. In so doing he formally put an end to the 368-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas functioning as both the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.