Tenzin Gyatso

Tenzin Gyatso

The shortened for of Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, born as Lhamo Thondup, is the current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are important monks of the Gelug school, the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism, which is nominally headed by the Ganden Tripas. From the time of the 5th Dalai Lama to 1959, the central government of Tibet, the Ganden Phodrang, invested the position of Dalai Lama with temporal duties.

The Dalai Lama is considered to be the successor in a line of tulkus who are believed to be the incarnations of Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, called “Chenrezig” in Tibetan. The name is a combination of the Mongolic word “dalai” meaning “ocean” (coming from the Mongolian title “Dalaiyin qan” or “Dalaiin khan”, translated as “Gyatso” in Tibetan) and the Tibetan word “བླ་མ་” (bla-ma) meaning “guru, teacher or mentor”. The Tibetan word “lama” corresponds to the better known Sanskrit word of “guru”.

Lhamo Thondup was born in Taktser, Tibet. He lived in a family of peasants, together with a sister and three older brothers. His family had a small farm where they grew horses, sheep, goats and chickens. Agricultural speaking, they cultivated barley and potatoes. The family lived in a typical Tibetan house made out of stone and mud.

A couple of men and monks from the Tibetan government visited Taktser in 1940. The old Dalai Lama, leader of one of the main branches of Tibetan Buddhism and head of the Tibetan government, died that year. This team went in the search for his reincarnation. Young Tenzin was thought to bear the old Dalai Lama’s reborn soul. But they had to submit him to a test. They established several pairs of objects that were placed in front of the boy, such as eyeglasses, canes and prostrations. Lhamo chose an object that belonged to the old Dalai Lama, and the monks were convinced that they had found the next Dalai Lama. Lhamo traveled to Lhasa, where he was educated by Buddhist monks and then honored as the spiritual leader of the country, in the Potala palace of Lhasa.

In 1950, aged just 15 years old, became the head of the Tibetan state and government at the same time when the popular Chinese army troops entered into Tibet by the force of arms. Dalai Lama spent the next decade by appealing to international aid in an attempt to avoid a total conquest by the Chinese forces. 80.000 Chinese soldiers invaded Tibet. In 1959, Dalai Lama had to flee the country, traveling for several weeks, going over the Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world and reaching India. His parents and brothers went with him, like many of his teachers and other Tibetan government officials. They made their way to Dharamsala, now called “Little Lhasa”, where the Tibetan government in exile was founded. Dalai Lama continued to work for the rights of people. In 1965, the United Nations voted a decision regarding Tibet.

In 2014, Tenzin Gyatso recommended that after his death, another Dalai Lama not to be chosen anymore because the institution has lost its significance: its importance was the political power, which now it no longer has. After 450 years of the Dalai Lama institution, it is no longer necessary because Tibetan Buddhism has a very good organization, has monks with exceptional education, so they no longer depend on a certain individual.

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