The Dalai Lama, also referred to as His Holiness, assumes the roles of head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. Formally known as Tenzin Gyatso, he was born in Tibet on July 1935. At the age of two, he was discovered as the reincarnation of his predecessor the XIIIrd Dalai Lama. This meant that at the age of six, he was to begin his moniistic education, which would groom him for his future role as the spiritual leader of Tibet.
The Dalai Llama’s teachings and life are based on three major commitments,, theseis being;: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness;, the fostering of inter-religious harmony; and, the welfare of the Tibetan people, focusing on the survival of their identity, culture and religion. Throughout his life, his continuous and relentless works to spread these core beliefs have impacted the development and expression Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama has made a profound impact onto the Tibetan independence. In the 1950s, His Hholiness was called upon to assume full political leadership of the government of Tibet after Cchina’s invasion in 1949. Although he was involved in a collection of peace talks with all sectors of the Chinese government, in an attempt to maintain peace with Cchina, the destruction of the Tibetan nation continued, forcing Hhis Hholiness to escape in exile.
During his exile, however, he ensured the continuation of Tibetan Buddhism through the establishment of various educational, cultural and religious institutions. His commitment and determination to preserve Buddhism remains as one of the Dalai Lama’s most enduring legacies. Since then, the Dalai Lama has continued to work tirelessly on the rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people both religious and secular, in order to regain independence for the country of Tibet and its people.
In recognition of his constant non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet, he was awarded, in 1989, a Nobel peace prize. The Dalai Lama then continued on to represent the Tibetan government on constitutional matters, international law reform and international religious and political understanding. In doing so, he has further validated his approach of achieving this non-violent and peaceful methods and negotiations.
This in tuern, allowed Hhis Hholiness to be recognized as a respected figure for worldwide adherents of Buddhism, and further develops his international reputation as Buddhist interpreter and teacher. The Dalai Lama is a modern figurehead for Buddhism, who is gaining increases in popularity, which has resulted in the promotion of religious harmony and growth of Buddhism. In order to spread his teaching and beliefs of peace, compassion and care throughout the world, the Dalai Lama has travelled extensively, to over 63 nations around the world.
This has created ecumenical support for his cause and Tibetan Buddhism through dialogues with highly regarded religious leaders from numerous faiths such as Pope John Paul II. As a result of this, he has popularized and still continues to raise the awareness and profile of Buddhism. This is evident in the expansion of adherents from not only its base of Asia, but now throughout the western world as he attracts non-Buddhists into a study of Buddhism, which often results in denominational switching.
The Dalai Lama views himself as a “simple Buddhist monk” however he is much greater than that, due to the profound impact he has had on the development and expression of Buddhism. This is demonstrated through him receiving over 84 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes etc. His contribution as mentioned above has allowed him to become an international ambassador for world peace, meaning that his legacy is not confined to one geographical region but rather all over the world as he has become a truly respected and recognizable figure.
Through his rhetoric and speeches he has adapted the Buddhist teachings in a contemporary context, causing a direct impact on the Buddhist stance on current ethics. His teachings are not based solely on the concerns of the problems of Tibet but rather he makes a plea to all people to have a sense of compassion and justice. The Dalai Lama set out to use life as an example, because he knew what he was doing was correct and he presented his beliefs in a way, which would empower others to do the same.