His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. He was born in a small village called Taktser in northeastern Tibet. Born to a peasant family, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate to serve the people. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom. Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yeshin Norbu, the Wish-fulfilling Gem, or simply, Kundun, meaning The Presence.
Education in Tibet
He began his education at the age of six and completed the Geshe Lharampa Degree (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) when he was 25. At 24, he took the preliminary examination at each of the three monastic universities: Drepung, Sera and Ganden. The final examination was held in the Jokhang, Lhasa, during the annual Monlam Festival of Prayer, held in the first month of every year. In the morning he was examined by 30 scholars on logic. In the afternoon, he debated with 15 scholars on the subject of the Middle Path, and in the evening, 35 scholars tested his knowledge of the canon of monastic discipline and the study of metaphysics. His Holiness passed the examinations with honours, conducted before a vast audience of monk scholars.
In 1950, at 16, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power as Head of State and Government when Tibet was threatened by the might of China. In 1954 he went to Peking to talk with Mao Tse-Tung and other Chinese leaders, including Chou En-Lai and Deng Xiaoping. In 1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th Buddha Jayanti, he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about deteriorating conditions in Tibet. In 1959 he was forced into exile in India after the Chinese military occupation of Tibet. Since 1960 he has resided in Dharamsala, aptly known as "Little Lhasa", the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
In the early years of exile, His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet, resulting in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961 and 1965. In 1963, His Holiness promulgated a draft constitution for Tibet which assures a democratic form of government. In the last two decades, His Holiness has set up educational, cultural and religious institutions which have made major contributions towards the preservation of the Tibetan identity and its rich heritage. He has given many teachings and initiations, including the rare Kalachakra Initiation, which he has conducted more than any of his predecessors.
His Holiness continues to present new initiatives to resolve the Tibetan issues. At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987 he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan as a first step towards resolving the future status of Tibet. This plan calls for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace, an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, restoration of fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production and the dumping of nuclear waste, as well as urging "earnest negotiations" on the future of Tibet and relations between the Tibetan and Chinese people. In Strasbourg, France, on June 15, 1988, he elaborated on this Five-Point Peace Plan and proposed the creation of a self-governing democratic Tibet, "in association with the People's Republic of China." In his address, the Dalai Lama said that this represented "the most realistic means by which to re-establish Tibet's separate identity and restore the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people while accommodating China's own interests." His Holiness emphasized that "whatever the outcome of the negotiations with the Chinese may be, the Tibetan people themselves must be the ultimate deciding authority."