The 14th Dalai Lama

by Brian from San Diego

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you cannot help them, at least do not hurt them." -The 14th Dalai Lama
The 14th Dalai Lama ( (The Sydney Morning Herald))
The 14th Dalai Lama ( (The Sydney Morning Herald))

            It was a turbulent time, and he, a boy just 15 years of age, stood at the center of it. He would be forced into exile by the enemies of his people, but would continue his campaign to Tibetans from the oppressive regime forced upon them. This is the story of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Dalai Lama is the title given to the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. The 14th person to hold this centuries-old title also previously led the Tibetan government-in-exile, which formed in 1959 at Dharamsala, India. That administration's founding was necessitated by China's hostile takeover of Tibet in the same year. He is an internationally respected and renowned symbol of peace and wisdom. In recognition of his feats, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Templeton Prize, and a slew of other awards. To become a truly inspiring figure, one must be able to set a virtuous example for others. Through his words and actions, the Dalai Lama has made clear beyond doubt that he is an inspiration in that respect, as he is charitable and selfless at every opportunity, maintains a philosophy based on thoughtful deliberation, and is guided by tempered restraint and resolve through all his endeavors.

The Dalai Lama comforts a leprosy victim. ( (Tenzin Choejor))
The Dalai Lama comforts a leprosy victim. ( (Tenzin Choejor))

            The Dalai Lama frequently performs acts of charity and benevolence, making every effort to help improve the lives of others, and in doing so promotes wellbeing and harmony while inspiring others to do the same. When not raising awareness of Tibet's struggle for independence, the Dalai Lama works to aid his fellow Tibetan refugees: "On March 10, 1959, the Dalai Lama was forced to seek asylum in India along with 80,000 Tibetan refugees. In this country, he established a government-in-exile in Dharamsala and began to build schools, universities, monasteries, and other structures for the preservation of Tibetan life and culture." (Gale). Although the People's Liberation Army forced the Dalai Lama and many others out of the Tibetan Plateau itself, the Dalai Lama continued to serve as a leader for the Tibetan people in exile. Going above and beyond his expected duties as a spiritual guide, he took steps to help his fellow refugees and provide for them; an act performed in the spirit of altruism. In working to promote the livelihoods and culture of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama made apparent the vast breadth of his compassion. Beyond his work within the Tibetan community, the Dalai Lama confirmed that selflessness is one of his core values: "The important thing is that my daily life should be something useful to others. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I shape my mind. The rest of the day, my body, speech, mind are dedicated to others. That is compulsory as a practitioner, and also that way I gain some kind of inner strength" (Mathison). This value the Dalai Lama places on dedicating his life to others is evidence of his sense of compassion and philanthropy. He cultivates his mind to devote himself to aiding others, dedicating his life to the world in an act of unparalleled self-sacrifice. This degree of devotion to the principle of selflessness brings the Dalai Lama beyond the ken of the common herd, and into the midst of heroes.  The Dalai Lama's acts of charity and altruism bring happiness to many, but it is his thoughtful philosophy that makes him a person that is exceptionally valuable to humanity.

The 2014 Mind and Life Conference ( (Office of Tibet))
The 2014 Mind and Life Conference ( (Office of Tibet))

            While the Dalai Lama expresses an admirable degree of conviction and confidence in his opinions, their true value stems from the thought that goes into them and the deep insight that results. The Dalai Lama values scientific knowledge just as much as the Buddhist beliefs that the monks taught him: "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview." (Gyatso). Unlike most other religious leaders, the Dalai Lama does not stubbornly reject scientific evidence that contradicts his faith; rather, he embraces it as a complement to Buddhism in the "search for the truth and for understanding reality" (Gyatso). He understands how the two fields can mesh, and takes both into account in his view of the world. This shows that his beliefs are based not on faith alone, but also on thorough and logical consideration of the observed and the inferred, making his convictions all the more worthy of respect. Worthy of respect, however, does not always mean popular. Occasionally, the Dalai Lama's insight means that his views differ vastly from those of common people. In his own words: "Since my childhood, I feel very bad about the death sentence. In 1945 or 1946, when I was 10 years old, they hanged German leaders at the Nuremberg war-crime trials. I saw pictures in Life magazine. I felt very sad. Then some Japanese leaders also. These people were already defeated. Killing them was not as a sort of a precaution, but simply revenge." (Mathison). Though he speaks in broken English, the Dalai Lama's words show more than just gut feelings and emotions in expressing his opinions on the topic of executions. Analyzing the motives behind the aforementioned executions and asserting that they were performed for the purposes of revenge alone, he shows a deep understanding of the topic. This makes evident that his current stance developed as a result of reflection and contemplation. Making such an outright condemnation of the death sentence would imply that the Dalai Lama is not afraid to take an unpopular stance, insofar as evidence supports it. Undoubtedly, he holds more interest in enlightening others than in gaining their approval. This in itself is evidence of the value he places on thought and wisdom. The Dalai Lama's careful deliberation and keen perception give him an exceptional set of morals, and those morals provide a strong foundation on which to base his viewpoints. However, these viewpoints would be hypocritical if not for the tempered resolve he has epitomized over the course of the last several decades.

The Dalai Lama (2nd to left) escapes China. ( ())
The Dalai Lama (2nd to left) escapes China. ( ())

            Perhaps the most defining feature of the Dalai Lama is the unwavering discipline he relies on in his pursuit of freedom and independence for the Tibetan people. While this is not the only attribute of importance, it is this one that guides all others. Through his actions, the Dalai Lama made it clear that he will not falter in his continuing campaign for the freedom of Tibet: "The Dalai Lama continued to emphasize nonviolence, even in the face of decades of exile and a lack of substantive progress toward ending the disagreement. His perseverance caught the attention of the Nobel Committee, which awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He used the increased visibility garnered after receiving the award to press forward with the issues that had been his life's focus for the past three decades." (Watt). Adhering both to the Tibetan cause and a strict principle against non-violence for decades, the Dalai Lama exemplifies discipline and self-control as a guide and spiritual leader for the Tibetan people. The Dalai Lama has devoted his life to seeking a peaceful resolution of the dispute between the PRC and the Tibetans who seek free rein over their homeland, and it is for this reason that he uses the benefits of the Nobel Prize to aid that cause. This discipline keeps him on this path and following his morals. Self-discipline includes both dedication and the ability to resist temptation. The Dalai Lama exudes both through his willingness to relinquish power for the sake of a greater good: "In a speech posted on the internet and delivered in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamasala, the Dalai Lama said he would ask the Tibetan parliament in exile to make the necessary constitutional changes to relieve him of his "formal authority" as head of the Tibetan community outside China." (Burke). After having served as both spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile for five decades, in 2011 the Dalai Lama decided that the time had come for Tibet to have "a leader elected freely by the Tibetan people" (Burke). He stressed the importance of this eventuality "as early as the 1960s" (Burke). An individual of lesser merit might selfishly cling to power; the Dalai Lama takes only his responsibilities to others into account. It is self-discipline that allows him to keep the situation in perspective, and ensure that those responsibilities take precedence over selfish impulses and material wants. The Dalai Lama's sense of self-discipline is a facet of his mindset that not only forges his path, but also keeps him walking it, establishing self-discipline as a trait of immeasurable importance to his life and all those he affects.

            To this day, the Dalai Lama demonstrates a capacity for rarely paralleled measures of altruism, an exceptional ability to blend reason and philosophy, as well as self-discipline in regard to his ideals and his objectives. The Dalai Lama used his publicity to promote equality and improve the lives of the disadvantaged; he challenged widely accepted doctrines in favor of more logical perspectives; and he has, through it all, kept the focus on his goal of allowing Tibetans to govern their own lands free of intervention from the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama's efforts for the sake of peace and freedom have not gone unnoticed. Coming from humble beginnings and touching minds around the world-all while striving for an ambitious and noble goal-the Dalai Lama proves to be an immensely inspiring figure. It is here that he strikes a chord with my own experiences. At one time, I was neither of much merit as a student, nor even tempered. I eventually found that it is often only through hard work that a person can make a difference for oneself and for others. This concept has since become an essential part of who I am. It so happens that the Dalai Lama exemplifies this idea exceptionally well. Once merely a boy in a humble farming family, the Dalai Lama has become a byword for peace and wisdom worldwide, proving that the potential to accomplish great things is within all of us, and that anyone can make a difference.

Works Cited

Burke, Jason. "It's Time for a New Generation, Says Dalai Lama as He Drops Political Role." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. .

Gyatso, Tenzin. "Our Faith in Science." The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2005. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. .

Mathison, Melissa. "A Conversation with the Dalai Lama." Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 21 July 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. .

Watt, Donald A. "Dalai Lama." Great Lives from History: The 20th Century. Ed. Robert F. Gorman. N.p.: Salem, 2008. 1-3.Biography Reference Center. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. 

Page created on 4/17/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/17/2014 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama - is the website for the office that acts on behalf of the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama Foundation - was founded with the Dalai Lama's support, the Dalai Lama Foundation also frequently publishes news articles on the Dalai Lama.
The Central Tibetan Administration - provides information on Tibet's government-in-exile as well as the Dalai Lama and Tibet in general.
The Mind & Life Institute - helps promote cooperation between the scientific and spiritual communities with the Dalai Lama's aid.