Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

by Ethan from San Diego

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"At the age of two, he was examined by several lamas [spiritual leaders] and determined to be the incarnation of the thirteenth Dalai Lama--Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion" ("The Fourteenth Dalai Lama"). From that day forth Tenzin Gyatso began his journey towards becoming one of the most inspirational spiritual leaders of our era. After being crowned as the fourteenth Dalai Lama at the age of four, he spent the next ten years studying his past selves along with the responsibilities that he must uphold as the new incarnation. In 1950 at the age of fourteen the Chinese invaded his country of Tibet giving the young leader his first real challenge. He tried negotiating peace between the Chinese in 1954, but in the course of the next five years the Chinese army reached the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, forcing him and thousands of others into exile. For the next 60 years, Tenzin Gyatso would dedicate his life to become a new voice for his fellow Tibetans, and eventually a voice for all mistreated people around the world. The Dalai Lama has led this revolution against the communist superpower with his humble charisma, peaceful resistance and his strategic adaptability, making him not only a hero for the Tibetan people, but a champion for oppressed people everywhere.

 (he Dalai Lama winning the 1989 Nobel Prize (
(he Dalai Lama winning the 1989 Nobel Prize (

Even though Tenzin Gyatso receives awards and honors for his actions every year, his humble nature still shines through: "He said he is nothing more than 'a simple Buddhist monk,' despite the 2012 Templeton or his 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. The Templeton honor, he said, is 'another sign of recognition about my little service to humanity, mainly, non violence and unity around different religious traditions'" (Herlinger). When the Dalai Lama states in a public announcement as he receives this award and refers to his service to humanity as "little", and himself as just a "simple" Buddhist monk. This in several ways, is an understatement with accordance to his achievements in life. At that point, Tenzin Gyatso has already won multiple prizes for his recognition of peace and human rights, like the Nobel Peace Prize and the Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Human Rights Award. That's not to even mention that he is still the religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism and a former leader in the Tibetan government in exile. His modesty goes even deeper than just accepting an award for his own work. More times than not, Tenzin Gyatso would constantly insist on sharing his award: '"I accept the prize with profound gratitude on behalf of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace. I accept it as a tribute to the man who founded the modern tradition of nonviolent action for change - Mahatma Gandhi - whose life taught and inspired me'" ("The 14th Dalai Lama - Acceptance Speech"). Consistently, whenever the Dalai Lama receives huge honors, the Nobel Peace Prize in this case, he would invariably direct the attention not towards himself, but rather towards the people he inspires and the people who inspire him. As he received the award, his first intentions were never to describe the challenges he endured or the milestones he reached, but rather remind everyone the reason of why he did what he did. To fight "on the behalf of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and world peace". Even after tributing his award to all the people he fights for, he still continued to honor others, the ones before him who set the precedent for him to follow. Throughout his life the Dalai Lama has achieved what many could only wish for; yet at the same time he is never blinded from these actions and he never forgets what he is fighting for.

As the leader of a religion of peace, naturally Tenzin Gyatso would withhold that very notion. And withhold he has, in fact Tenzin Gyatso has become one of the world's most advocated and revered icons for world peace: "In 1987, I made specific proposals in a five-point plan for the restoration of peace and human rights in Tibet. This included the conversion of the entire Tibetan plateau into a Zone of Ahimsa, a sanctuary of peace and nonviolence where human beings and nature can live in peace and harmony" ("The 14th Dalai Lama - Acceptance Speech"). For over fifty years, his fight for Tibetan freedom had been one of nonviolence and free of hatred. He had forgiven the Chinese for the invasion of his country and even suggested proposals of a negotiated five point plan, in which Tibet would be autonomous, yet still a part of China. Even though the Chinese officials rejected the idea, the Dalai Lama still keeps an assertive attitude towards continuing negotiations rather than result to war: "I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings" ("The 14th Dalai Lama - Acceptance Speech"). The Dalai Lama is a forgiving man. He never lets hate cloud his goals of peace between Tibet and China as well peace among the whole world. So in the final words of his Nobel prize speech, he prays both for the oppressors (China and other regimes) and his friends. In interest of eliminating any tension and preventing either parties from fogging his judgement in making decisions towards creating a better world. With his insistent peaceful protests and negotiations as well as putting his history with his oppressors behind him, make the Dalai Lama a symbol of peace for a reason.


The fourteenth Dalai Lama's ability to adapt and embrace change separates him from the other Dalai Lamas and even other religious leaders in general. His methods of finding new solutions are ones that take a lot of nerve to do: "The Dalai Lama, by comparison, seems to exult in meeting people from different traditions than his own - Catholics, neuroscientists, even Maoists - and seeing what they have in common beneath their designations" (Pico). Rather than just discussing his predicaments with only fellow Buddhists, Tenzin Gyatso also discusses his situations amongst people who have a different views upon the matter. His approach toward a need for answers holds no limitations; it did not matter what profession one held or what religions one believed in, he always believed that they all had something important to say. The Dalai Lama even seeks the words of Maoists, the very people who hate him, just to get their opinion on the matter at hand. Accepting the voice for change is only one step of the battle, the next is executing that change: "It has not been a smooth road. It took until last year for Buddhist leaders to accept science education as a mandatory part of monastic education. It was the first major change in 600 years" (Serverson). The Dalai Lama's influence of change truly is a miracle; being able to break 600 years of tradition in just two years to accommodate the modern times is nothing short from extraordinary. Changes like these are more significant than one realizes. The Dalai Lama's open-minded attitude towards change not only redefined Tibetan Buddhism as a whole, but created a bridge between the western sciences and the eastern faith.

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Revered throughout the world for his struggle against the Chinese, Tenzin Gyatso doubtlessly deserves the title as leader and inspiration for all mistreated people worldwide. He leads this new peaceful revolution for human rights and independence from hate, with his inspirational, yet modest personality, peaceful yet assertive mentality, and his open-minded approach towards change. Whenever awarded with a honor or prize, he never gloats about his achievements, but rather shares it with the oppressed people that he represents; as well as the leaders that inspired him beforehand. His fights for peace have been his main purpose ever since his exile. Though he has not won independence (yet) he still inspires numerous peace activists around the world. Even when he directs his attention to the oppressors of his time, he still wants them to take a part in the love and understanding that he wishes to give to the world. The Dalai Lama's open attitude towards change is remarkable, he constantly searches for answers and is ready to hear from anyone, no matter what their background.  Than once he finds that answer he embraces the need for change, changes that included revolutionizing the rural Tibetan culture into one that now embraces science as well as ancient religions and philosophies. Even Tenzin himself embodies the very idea of adaptability: "as people reach toward him to try to get a blessing or a handshake, how he is switching, as always, at lightning speed from monk to head of state to philosopher-scientist to regular man. But what is more striking, I realize, is that he's pushing all these roles together, as if they were all intertwined, to see how one might throw light on the others" (Pico). Throughout his life, the Dalai Lama escaped an invasion, established a government in exile, created a bridge between the worlds of religion and science, and challenged a Communist superpower for not only independence, but for a standard of human rights and a precedent towards world peace. These are the endeavors that make Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, not only a hero, but a champion.

Works Cited

"14th Dalai Lama - Acceptance Speech, The". Nobel Media AB 2013. Web. 9 Dec    

        2013. l>

"Dalai Lama, Holy Ruler of the Land of Tibet." Human and Civil Rights: Essential Primary Sources.        

Ed. Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, and K. Lee Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 390-393. Biography in Context. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

"Fourteenth Dalai Lama, The" Religious Leaders of America. Gale, 1999. Biography in Context.

Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Herlinger, Chris. "Dalai Lama wins Templeton for science-religion work." The Christian

Century 129.9 (2012): 18+. Biography in Context. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

"Is The Dalai Lama Playing A Dangerous Game?" All Things Considered 26 Apr. 2011. Biography in

Context. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Iyer, Pico. The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. New York: Alfred

A. Knopf, 2008. Print.

Severson, Kim. "A Bridge Between Western Science and Eastern Faith." New York Times 12 Oct.

2013: A11(L). Biography in Context. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Page created on 1/13/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/13/2014 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

The 14th Dalai Lama Acceptance Speech - A copy of Tenzin Gyatso's 1989 Nobel Prize acceptance speech and other pages.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet: - The Dalai Lama's Official Website