His Holiness the 14 th Dalaï Lama of Tibet

Three Main Commitments

His Holiness has three main commitments in life.

Firstly, on the level of a human being, His Holiness’ first commitment is the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. All human beings are the same. We all want happiness and do not want suffering. Even people who do not believe in religion recognize the importance of these human values in making their life happier. His Holiness refers to these human values as secular ethics. He remains committed to talk about the importance of these human values and share them with everyone he meets.

Secondly, on the level of a religious practitioner, His Holiness’ second commitment is the promotion of religious harmony and understanding among the world’s major religious traditions. Despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings. It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognize the value of each other’s respective traditions. As far as one truth, one religion is concerned, this is relevant on an individual level. However, for the community at large, several truths, several religions are necessary.

Thirdly, His Holiness is a Tibetan and carries the name of the ‘Dalai Lama’. Therefore, his third commitment is to work to preserve Tibet's Buddhist culture, a culture of peace and non-violence.

Brief Biography

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the very young age of two, the child who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time, was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are believed to be enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.

Education in Tibet


His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. The curriculum consisted of five major and five minor subjects. The major subjects were logic, Tibetan art and culture, Sanskrit, medicine, and Buddhist philosophy which was further divided into a further five categories: Prajnaparimita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology. The five minor subjects were poetry, music and drama, astrology, composition and phrasing, and synonyms. At 23, His Holiness sat for his final examination in Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, during the annual Monlam (prayer) Festival in 1959. He passed with honors and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest-level degree, equivalent to a doctorate of Buddhist philosophy.

Leadership Responsibilities

In 1950 His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power after China's invasion of Tibet in 1949/50. In 1954, he went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. But finally, in 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala, northern India.

Since the Chinese invasion, the Central Tibetan Administration led by His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet. The General Assembly adopted three resolutions on Tibet in 1959, 1961 and 1965.

Democratization Process


In 1963, His Holiness presented a draft democratic constitution for Tibet that was followed by a number of reforms to democratize the Tibetan administrative set-up. The new democratic constitution promulgated as a result of this reform was named "The Charter of Tibetans in Exile". The charter enshrines freedom of speech, belief, assembly and movement. It also provides detailed guidelines on the functioning of the Tibetan Administration with respect to those living in exile.

In 1992, the Central Tibetan Administration issued guidelines for the constitution of a future, free Tibet. The guidelines outlined that when Tibet became free the immediate task would be to set up an interim government whose first responsibility will be to elect a constitutional assembly to frame and adopt Tibet's democratic constitution. His Holiness also stated that he hoped that Tibet, comprising of the three traditional provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham, would be federal and democratic.

In May 1990, the reforms called for by His Holiness saw the realization of a truly democratic administration in exile for the Tibetan community. The Tibetan Cabinet (Kashag), which till then had been appointed by His Holiness, was dissolved along with the Tenth Assembly of the Tibetan People's Deputies (Tibetan parliament in exile). In the same year, exile Tibetans on the Indian sub-continent and in more than 33 other countries elected 46 members to the expanded Eleventh Tibetan Assembly on a one-man one-vote basis. The Assembly, in its turn, elected the new members of the cabinet.

In September 2001, a further major step in democratization was taken when the Tibetan electorate directly elected the Kalon Tripa, the senior-most minister of the Cabinet. The Kalon Tripa in turn appointed his own cabinet who had to be approved by the Tibetan Assembly. In Tibet's long history, this was the first time that the people elected the political leadership of Tibet. Since the direct election of the Kalon Tripa, the system of the institution of Gaden Phodrang of the Dalai Lama as both the spiritual and temporal authority ended. Since then, His Holiness described himself as being semi-retired.

Peace Initiatives

On 21 September 1987 in his address to members of the United States Congress in Washington, DC, His Holiness proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet as the first step towards a peaceful solution to the worsening situation in Tibet. The peace plan contained five basic components:
  1. Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace.
  2. Abandonment of China's population transfer policy that threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people.
  3. Respect for the Tibetan people's fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.
  4. Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.
  5. Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.
On 15 June 1988 in an address to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, His Holiness made another detailed proposal elaborating on the last point of the Five-Point Peace Plan. He proposed talks between the Chinese and Tibetans leading to a self-governing democratic political entity for all three provinces of Tibet. This entity would be in association with the People's Republic of China and the Chinese Government would continue to remain responsible for Tibet's foreign policy and defence.

Universal Recognition

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a man of peace. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.

His Holiness has travelled to more than 67 countries spanning 6 continents. He has received over 150 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes, etc., in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion.  He has also authored or co-authored more than 110 books.

His Holiness has held dialogues with heads of different religions and participated in many events promoting inter-religious harmony and understanding.

Since the mid-1980’s, His Holiness has begun a dialogue with modern scientists, mainly in the fields of psychology, neurobiology, quantum physics and cosmology. This has led to a historic collaboration between Buddhist monks and world-renowned scientists in trying to help individuals achieve peace of mind. This has also led to the introduction of modern science in the traditional curriculum of Tibetan monastic institutions re-established in exile.

Political Retirement 

On 14 March 2011 His Holiness sent a letter to the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (Tibetan Parliament in exile) requesting them to devolve him of his temporal (political) power. According to The Charter of the Tibetans in Exile, His Holiness was technically still considered to be the head of state. The historic announcement would bring an end to the dual spiritual and political authority of the Dalai Lama and revert to the previous tradition of the first four Dalai Lamas being only the spiritual leader of Tibet. The democratically elected leadership would assume complete formal political leadership of Tibet. The Ganden Phodrang, the institution of the Dalai Lamas, would continue and remain intact.

On 29 May 2011 His Holiness signed into law the formal transfer of his temporal power to the democratically elected leader. This brought to an end the 368-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas being both spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.

The Future

As far back as 1969, His Holiness has made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfill their own political agenda. Therefore, on 24 September 2011, clear guidelines were drawn up to recognize the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception.

His Holiness has stated that when he is about ninety he will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis, a decision will be made. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. His Holiness would leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

Birth to Exile

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was born on 6 July 1935, and named Lhamo Thondup, to a Tibetan farming family in the small village of Taktser, located in the province of Amdo. The name, Lhamo Thondup, literally means ‘Wish-Fulfilling Goddess’. Taktser (Roaring Tiger) was a small village that stood on a hill overlooking a broad valley. Its pastures had not been settled or farmed for long, only grazed by nomads. The reason for this was the unpredictability of the weather in that area, His Holiness writes in his autobiography, “During my early childhood, my family was one of twenty or so making a precarious living from the land there”.

His Holiness' parents were small farmers who mostly grew barley, buckwheat and potatoes. His father was a man of medium height with a very quick temper. “I remember pulling at his moustache once and being hit hard for my trouble”, recalls His Holiness. “Yet he was a kind man too and he never bore grudges”. His Holiness recalls his mother as undoubtedly one of the kindest people he has ever known. She had a total of sixteen children, of whom seven lived.

His Holiness had two sisters and four brothers who survived their infancy. Tsering Dolma, the eldest child, was eighteen years older than His Holiness. At the time of His Holiness’ birth she helped his mother run the house and acted as his midwife. “When she delivered me, she noticed that one of my eyes was not properly open. Without hesitation she put her thumb on the reluctant lid and forced it wide fortunately without any ill effect”, narrate His Holiness. He had three elder brothers: Thubten Jigme Norbu - the eldest, who was recognized as the reincarnation of a high lama, Taktser Rinpoche - Gyalo Thondup and Lobsang Samden. The youngest brother, Tenzin Choegyal was also recognized as the reincarnation of another high lama, Ngari Rinpoche.

“Of course, no one had any idea that I might be anything other than an ordinary baby. It was almost unthinkable that more than one tulku (reincarnation) could be born into the same family and certainly my parents had no idea that I would be proclaimed Dalai Lama”, His Holiness writes. Though the remarkable recovery made by His Holiness' father from his critical illness at the time of His Holiness' birth was auspicious, it was not taken to be of great significance. “I myself likewise had no particular intimation of what lay ahead. My earliest memories are very ordinary.” His Holiness recollects his earliest memory, among others, of observing a group of children fighting and running to join in with the weaker side.

“One thing that I remember enjoying particularly as a very young boy was going into the chicken coop to collect the eggs with my mother and then staying behind. I liked to sit in the hens' nest and make clucking noises. Another favorite occupation of mine as an infant was to pack things in a bag as if I was about to go on a long journey. I'm going to Lhasa, I'm going to Lhasa, I would say. This, coupled with my insistence that I be allowed always to sit at the head of the table, was later said to be an indication that I must have known that I was destined for greater things”.

His Holiness is considered to be the reincarnation of each of the previous thirteen Dalai Lamas of Tibet (the first having been born in 1391 AD), who are in turn considered to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, holder of the White Lotus. Thus His Holiness is also believed to be a manifestation of Chenrezig, in fact the seventy-fourth in a lineage that can be traced back to a Brahmin boy who lived in the time of Buddha Shakyamuni. “I am often asked whether I truly believe this. The answer is not simple to give. But as a fifty-six year old, when I consider my experience during this present life, and given my Buddhist beliefs, I have no difficulty accepting that I am spiritually connected both to the thirteen previous Dalai Lamas, to Chenrezig and to the Buddha himself”.

Discovery as Dalai Lama

When Lhamo Thondup was two years old, a search party that had been sent out by the Tibetan government to find the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama arrived at Kumbum monastery. It had been led there by a number of signs. One of these concerned the embalmed body of his predecessor, Thupten Gyatso, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, who had died aged fifty-seven in 1933. During its period of sitting in state, the head was discovered to have turned from facing south to northeast. Shortly after that the Regent, himself a senior lama, had a vision. Looking into the waters of the sacred lake, Lhamoi Lhatso, in southern Tibet, he clearly saw the Tibetan letters Ah, Ka and Ma float into view. These were followed by the image of a three-storied monastery with a turquoise and gold roof and a path running from it to a hill. Finally, he saw a small house with strangely shaped guttering. He was sure that the letter Ah referred to Amdo, the northeastern province, so it was there that the search party was sent.

By the time they reached Kumbum, the members of the search party felt that they were on the right track. It seemed likely that if the letter Ah referred to Amdo, then Ka must indicate the monastery at Kumbum, which was indeed three-storied and turquoise-roofed. They now only needed to locate a hill and a house with peculiar guttering. So they began to search the neighboring villages. When they saw the gnarled branches of juniper wood on the roof of the His Holiness' parent's house, they were certain that the new Dalai Lama would not be far away. Nevertheless, rather than reveal the purpose of their visit, the group asked only to stay the night. The leader of the party, Kewtsang Rinpoche, then disguised himself as a servant and spent much of the evening observing and playing with the youngest child in the house.

The child recognized him and called out “Sera lama, Sera lama”. Sera was Kewtsang Rinpoche's monastery. The next day they left only to return a few days later as a formal deputation. This time they brought with them a number of possessions that had belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, together with several similar items that did not belong to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. In every case, the infant correctly identified those belonging to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama saying, “It's mine. It's mine”. This more or less convinced the search party that they had found the new incarnation. It was not long before the boy from Taktser was recognized to be the new Dalai Lama.

The boy Lhamo Thondup was first taken to Kumbum monastery. “There now began a somewhat unhappy period of my life”, His Holiness was to write later, reflecting on his separation from his parents and the unfamiliar surroundings. However, there were two consolations to life at the monastery. First, His Holiness' immediate elder brother Lobsang Samden was already there. The second consolation was the fact that his teacher was a very kind old monk, who often seated his young disciple inside his gown.

Lhamo Thondup was eventually to be reunited with his parents and together they were to journey to Lhasa. This did not come about for some eighteen months, however, because Ma Bufeng, the local Chinese Muslim warlord, refused to let the boy-incarnate be taken to Lhasa without payment of a large ransom. It was not until the summer of 1939 that he left for the capital, Lhasa, in a large party consisting of his parents, his brother Lobsang Samden, members of the search party, and other pilgrims.

The journey to Lhasa took three months. “I remember very little detail apart from a great sense of wonder at everything I saw: the vast herds of drong (wild yaks) grazing across the plains, the smaller groups of kyang (wild asses) and occasionally a herd of gowa and nawa, small deer which were so light and fast they might have been ghosts. I also loved the huge flocks of hooting geese we saw from time to time”.

Lhamo Thondup's party was received by a group of senior government officials and escorted to Doeguthang plain, two miles outside the gates of the capital. The next day, a ceremony was held in which Lhamo Thondup was conferred the spiritual leadership of his people. Following this, he was taken off with Lobsang Samden to the Norbulingka, the summer palace of His Holiness, which lay just to the west of Lhasa.

During the winter of 1940, Lhamo Thondup was taken to the Potala Palace, where he was officially installed as the spiritual leader of Tibet. Soon after, the newly recognized Dalai Lama was taken to the Jokhang temple where he was inducted as a novice monk in a ceremony known as taphue, meaning cutting of the hair. “From now on, I was to be shaven-headed and attired in maroon monk's robes”. In accordance with ancient custom, His Holiness forfeited his name Lhamo Thondup and assumed his new name, Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso.

His Holiness then began to receive his primary education. The curriculum consisted of five major and five minor subjects. The major subjects were logic, Tibetan art and culture, Sanskrit, medicine, and Buddhist philosophy which was further divided into a further five categories: Prajnaparimita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology. The five minor subjects were poetry, music and drama, astrology, composition and phrasing, and synonyms.

Dalai Lama in His Youth


On the day before the opera festival in the summer of 1950, His Holiness was just coming out of the
 bathroom at the Norbulingka when he felt the earth beneath begin to move. As the scale of this natural phenomenon began to sink in, people naturally began to say that this was more than a simple earthquake: it was an omen.

Two days later, Regent Tatra received a telegram from the Governor of Kham, based in Chamdo, reporting a raid on a Tibetan post by Chinese soldiers. Already the previous autumn there had been cross-border incursions by Chinese Communists, who stated their intention of liberating Tibet from the hands of imperialist aggressors. “It now looked as if the Chinese were making good their threat. If that were so, I was well aware that Tibet was in grave danger for our army comprised no more than 8,500 officers and men. It would be no match for the recently victorious People's Liberation Army (PLA)”.

Two months later, in October, news reached Lhasa that an army of 80,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army had crossed the Drichu river east of Chamdo. So the axe had fallen. And soon, Lhasa would have to fall. As the winter drew on and the news got worse, people began to advocate that His Holiness be given his full temporal (political) power. At a ceremony, the Government consulted the Nechung Oracle, a very tense moment, who came over to where His Holiness was seated and laid a kata, a white offering scarf, on His Holiness's lap with the words thu-la bap, his time has come. Thus, at the young age of fifteen, His Holiness was on 17 November 1950 officially enthroned as the temporal leader of Tibet in a ceremony held at the Norbulingka Palace.

At the beginning of November, about a fortnight before the day of His Holiness's investiture, his eldest brother arrived in Lhasa. “As soon as I set eyes on him, I knew that he had suffered greatly. Because Amdo, the province where we were both born, and in which Kumbum is situated, lies so close to China, it had quickly fallen under control of the Communists. He himself was kept virtual prisoner in his monastery. At the same time, the Chinese endeavored to indoctrinate him in the new Communist way of thinking and tried to subvert him. They had a plan whereby they would set him free to go to Lhasa if he would undertake to persuade me to accept Chinese rule. If I resisted, he was to kill me. They would then reward him”.

To mark the occasion of his ascension to power, His Holiness granted a general amnesty whereby all the prisoners were set free.

Shortly after the 15-year-old Dalai Lama found himself the undisputed leader of six million people facing the threat of a full-scale war, His Holiness appointed two new Prime Ministers. Lobsang Tashi became the monk Prime Minister and an experienced lay administrator, Lukhangwa, the lay Prime Minister.

Then in consultation with the two Prime Ministers and the Kashag, His Holiness decided to send delegations abroad to America, Great Britain and Nepal in the hope of persuading these countries to intervene on Tibet’s behalf. Another was to go to China in the hope of negotiating a withdrawal. These missions left towards the end of the year. “Shortly afterwards, with the Chinese consolidating their forces in the east, we decided that I should move to southern Tibet with the most senior members of the Government. That way, if the situation deteriorated, I could easily seek exile across the border with India. Meanwhile, Lobsang Tashi and Lunkhangwa were to remain in an acting capacity”.

While His Holiness was in Dromo, which lay just inside the border with Sikkim, he received the news that while the delegation to China had reached its destination, each of the others had been turned back. It was almost impossible to believe that the British Government was now agreeing that China had some claim to authority over Tibet. His Holiness was equally saddened by America's reluctance to help. “I remember feeling great sorrow when I realized what this really meant: Tibet must expect to face the entire might of Communist China alone”.

Frustrated by the indifference shown to Tibet's case by Great Britain and America, His Holiness, in his last bid to avoid a full-scale Chinese invasion, sent Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, governor of Kham, to Beijing to open a dialogue with the Chinese. The delegation hadn't been given the power to reach at any settlement, apart from its entrusted task of convincing the Chinese leadership against invading Tibet. However, one evening, as His Holiness sat alone, a harsh, crackling voice on the radio announced that a Seventeen-Point 'Agreement' for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet had that day (23 May 1951) been signed by representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China and what they called the Local Government of Tibet. As it turned out, the Chinese who even forged the Tibetan seal had forced the delegation headed by Ngabo into signing the agreement. The Chinese had in effect secured a major coup by winning Tibetan compliance, albeit at gunpoint, to their terms of returning Tibet to the fold of the motherland. His Holiness returned to Lhasa in the middle of August 1951.

Countdown to Escape

The next nine years saw His Holiness trying to evade a full-scale military takeover of Tibet by China on one hand and placating the growing resentment among Tibetan resistance fighters against the Chinese aggressors on the other. His Holiness made a historic visit to China from July 1954 to June 1955 for peace talks and met with Mao Zadong and other Chinese leaders, including Chou Enlai, Zhu Teh and Deng Xiaoping. From November 1956 to March 1957 His Holiness visited India to participate in the 2500th Buddha Jayanti celebrations. But disheartening reports of increasing brutality towards his own people continued to pour in when the young Dalai Lama was giving his final monastic examinations in Lhasa in the winter of 1958/59.

Escape into Exile

One winter day of 1959 (March 10), General Zhang Chenwu of Communist China extended a seemingly innocent invitation to the Tibetan leader to attend a theatrical show by a Chinese dance troupe. When the invitation was repeated with new conditions that no Tibetan soldiers were to accompany the Dalai Lama and that his bodyguards be unarmed, an acute anxiety befell the Lhasa population. Soon a crowd of tens of thousands of Tibetans gathered around the Norbulingka Palace, determined to thwart any threat to their young leader's life and preventing His Holiness from going.

On 17 March 1959 during a consultation with the Nechung Oracle, His Holiness was given an explicit instruction to leave the country. The Oracle's decision was further confirmed when a divinity performed by His Holiness produced the same answer, even though the odds against making a successful break seemed terrifyingly high.

A few minutes before ten o'clock His Holiness, disguised as a common soldier, slipped past the massive throng of people along with a small escort and proceeded towards the Kyichu river, where he was joined by the rest of the entourage, including some of his immediate family members.

In Exile

Three weeks after escaping Lhasa, His Holiness and his entourage reached the Indian border on 30 March 1959 from where they were escorted by Indian guards to the town of Bomdila in the present

day Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian government had already agreed to provide asylum to His Holiness and his followers in India. Soon after his arrival in Mussoorie on 20 April 1959, His Holiness met with the Indian Prime Minister and the two talked about rehabilitating the Tibetan refugees.

Realizing the importance of modern education for the children of Tibetan refugees, His Holiness impressed upon Nehru to undertake the formation of an independent Society for Tibetan Education within the Indian Ministry of Education. The Indian Government was to bear all the expenses for setting up the schools for the Tibetan children.

Thinking the time was ripe for him to break his elected silence, His Holiness called a press conference on 20 June 1959 during which he formally repudiated the Seventeen-Point Agreement. In the field of administration, too, His Holiness was able to make radical changes. Among others, His Holiness saw the creation of various new Tibetan administrative departments. These included the Departments of Information, Education, Home, Security, Religious Affairs and Economic Affairs. Most of the Tibetan refugees, whose number had grown to almost 30,000, were moved to road camps in the hills of northern India.

On 10 March 1960 just before leaving for Dharamsala with the eighty or so officials who comprised the Central Tibetan Administration, His Holiness made a statement on the first commemoration anniversary of the Tibetan People's Uprising. “On this first occasion, I stressed the need for my people to take a long-term view of the situation in Tibet. For those of us in exile, I said that our priority must be resettlement and the continuity of our cultural traditions. As to the future, I stated my belief that, with truth, justice and courage as our weapons, we Tibetans would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet”.

Reincarnation

(Translated from the original Tibetan)
Introduction

My fellow Tibetans, both in and outside Tibet, all those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and everyone who has a connection to Tibet and Tibetans: due to the foresight of our ancient kings, ministers and scholar-adepts, the complete teaching of the Buddha, comprising the scriptural and experiential teachings of the Three Vehicles and the Four Sets of Tantra and their related subjects and disciplines flourished widely in the Land of Snow. Tibet has served as a source of Buddhist and related cultural traditions for the world. In particular, it has contributed significantly to the happiness of countless beings in Asia, including those in China, Tibet and Mongolia.





In the course of upholding the Buddhist tradition in Tibet, we evolved a unique Tibetan tradition of recognizing the reincarnations of scholar-adepts that has been of immense help to both the Dharma and sentient beings, particularly to the monastic community.





Since the omniscient Gedun Gyatso was recognized and confirmed as the reincarnation of Gedun Drub in the fifteenth century and the Gaden Phodrang Labrang (the Dalai Lama’s institution) was established, successive reincarnations have been recognized. The third in the line, Sonam Gyatso, was given the title of the Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, established the Gaden Phodrang Government in 1642, becoming the spiritual and political head of Tibet. For more than 600 years since Gedun Drub, a series of unmistaken reincarnations has been recognised in the lineage of the Dalai Lama.  





The Dalai Lamas have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders of Tibet for 369 years since 1642. I have now voluntarily brought this to an end, proud and satisfied that we can pursue the kind of democratic system of government flourishing elsewhere in the world. In fact, as far back as 1969, I made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda. Therefore, while I remain physically and mentally fit, it seems important to me that we draw up clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception. For these guidelines to be fully comprehensible, it is essential to understand the system of Tulku recognition and the basic concepts behind it. Therefore, I shall briefly explain them below.





Past and future lives





In order to accept reincarnation or the reality of Tulkus, we need to accept the existence of past and future lives. Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death. This kind of continuous rebirth is accepted by all the ancient Indian spiritual traditions and schools of philosophy, except the Charvakas, who were a materialist movement. Some modern thinkers deny past and future lives on the premise that we cannot see them. Others do not draw such clear cut conclusions on this basis.





Although many religious traditions accept rebirth, they differ in their views of what it is that is reborn, how it is reborn, and how it passes through the transitional period between two lives. Some religious traditions accept the prospect of future life, but reject the idea of past lives.





Generally, Buddhists believe that there is no beginning to birth and that once we achieve liberation from the cycle of existence by overcoming our karma and destructive emotions, we will not be reborn under the sway of these conditions. Therefore, Buddhists believe that there is an end to being reborn as a result of karma and destructive emotions, but most Buddhist philosophical schools do not accept that the mind-stream comes to an end. To reject past and future rebirth would contradict the Buddhist concept of the ground, path and result, which must be explained on the basis of the disciplined or undisciplined mind. If we accept this argument, logically, we would also have to accept that the world and its inhabitants come about without causes and conditions. Therefore, as long as you are a Buddhist, it is necessary to accept past and future rebirth.





For those who remember their past lives, rebirth is a clear experience. However, most ordinary beings forget their past lives as they go through the process of death, intermediate state and rebirth. As past and future rebirths are slightly obscure to them, we need to use evidence-based logic to prove past and future rebirths to them.
 




There are many different logical arguments given in the words of the Buddha and subsequent commentaries to prove the existence of past and future lives. In brief, they come down to four points: the logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past, and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.





Ultimately all these arguments are based on the idea that the nature of the mind, its clarity and awareness, must have clarity and awareness as its substantial cause. It cannot have any other entity such as an inanimate object as its substantial cause. This is self-evident. Through logical analysis we infer that a new stream of clarity and awareness cannot come about without causes or from unrelated causes. While we observe that mind cannot be produced in a laboratory, we also infer that nothing can eliminate the continuity of subtle clarity and awareness.





As far as I know, no modern psychologist, physicist, or neuroscientist has been able to observe or predict the production of mind either from matter or without cause.





There are people who can remember their immediate past life or even many past lives, as well as being able to recognise places and relatives from those lives. This is not just something that happened in the past. Even today there are many people in the East and West, who can recall incidents and experiences from their past lives. Denying this is not an honest and impartial way of doing research, because it runs counter to this evidence. The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnations is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.





How rebirth takes place





There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarise themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence. On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.




The meaning of Tulku





It seems the Tibetan custom of applying the epithet ‘Tulku’ (Buddha’s Emanation Body) to recognized reincarnations began when devotees used it as an honorary title, but it has since become a common expression. In general, the term Tulku refers to a particular aspect of the Buddha, one of the three or four described in the Sutra Vehicle. According to this explanation of these aspects of the Buddha, a person who is totally bound by destructive emotions and karma has the potential to achieve the Truth Body (Dharmakaya), comprising the Wisdom Truth Body and Nature Truth Body. The former refers to the enlightened mind of a Buddha, which sees everything directly and precisely, as it is, in an instant. It has been cleared of all destructive emotions, as well as their imprints, through the accumulation of merit and wisdom over a long period of time. The latter, the Nature Truth Body, refers to the empty nature of that all-knowing enlightened mind. These two together are aspects of the Buddhas for themselves. However, as they are not directly accessible to others, but only amongst the Buddhas themselves, it is imperative that the Buddhas manifest in physical forms that are accessible to sentient beings in order to help them. Hence, the ultimate physical aspect of a Buddha is the Body of Complete Enjoyment (Sambhogakaya), which is accessible to superior Bodhisattvas, and has five definite qualifications such as residing in the Akanishta Heaven. And from the Body of Complete Enjoyment are manifested the myriad Emanation Bodies or Tulkus (Nirmanakaya), of the Buddhas, which appear as gods or humans and are accessible even to ordinary beings. These two physical aspects of the Buddha are termed Form Bodies, which are meant for others.





The Emanation Body is three-fold: a) the Supreme Emanation Body like Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, who manifested the twelve deeds of a Buddha such as being born in the place he chose and so forth; b) the Artistic Emanation Body which serves others by appearing as craftsmen, artists and so on; and c) the Incarnate Emanation Body, according to which Buddhas appear in various forms such as human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, and trees to help sentient beings. Of these three types of Emanation Body, the reincarnations of spiritual masters recognized and known as ‘Tulkus’ in Tibet come under the third category. Among these Tulkus there may be many who are truly qualified Incarnate Emanation Bodies of the Buddhas, but this does not necessarily apply to all of them. Amongst the Tulkus of Tibet there may be those who are reincarnations of superior Bodhisattvas, Bodhisattvas on the paths of accumulation and preparation, as well as masters who are evidently yet to enter these Bodhisattva paths. Therefore, the title of Tulku is given to reincarnate Lamas either on the grounds of their resembling enlightened beings or through their connection to certain qualities of enlightened beings.





As Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said:



“Reincarnation is what happens when someone takes rebirth after the predecessor’s passing away; emanation is when manifestations take place without the source’s passing away.”



Recognition of Reincarnations



The practice of recognizing who is who by identifying someone’s previous life occurred even when Shakyamuni Buddha himself was alive. Many accounts are found in the four Agama Sections of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Jataka Stories, the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, the Sutra of One Hundred Karmas and so on, in which the Tathagata revealed the workings of karma, recounting innumerable stories about how the effects of certain karmas created in a past life are experienced by a person in his or her present life. Also, in the life stories of Indian masters, who lived after the Buddha, many reveal their previous places of birth. There are many such stories, but the system of recognizing and numbering their reincarnations did not occur in India.



The system of recognizing reincarnations in Tibet



Past and future lives were asserted in the indigenous Tibetan Bon tradition before the arrival of Buddhism. And since the spread of Buddhism in Tibet, virtually all Tibetans have believed in past and future lives. Investigating the reincarnations of many spiritual masters who upheld the Dharma, as well as the custom of praying devotedly to them, flourished everywhere in Tibet. Many authentic scriptures, indigenous Tibetan books such as the Mani Kabum and the Fivefold Kathang Teachings and others like the The Books of Kadam Disciples and the Jewel Garland: Responses to Queries, which were recounted by the glorious, incomparable Indian master Dipankara Atisha in the 11th century in Tibet, tell stories of the reincarnations of Arya Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. However, the present tradition of formally recognizing the reincarnations of masters first began in the early 13th century with the recognition of Karmapa Pagshi as the reincarnation of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa by his disciples in accordance with his prediction. Since then, there have been seventeen Karmapa incarnations over more than nine hundred years. Similarly, since the recognition of Kunga Sangmo as the reincarnation of Khandro Choekyi Dronme in the 15th century there have been more than ten incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo. So, among the Tulkus recognized in Tibet there are monastics and lay tantric practitioners, male and female. This system of recognizing the reincarnations gradually spread to other Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and Bon, in Tibet. Today, there are recognized Tulkus in all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu and Nyingma, as well as Jonang and Bodong, who serve the Dharma. It is also evident that amongst these Tulkus some are a disgrace.



The omniscient Gedun Drub, who was a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founded Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tsang and took care of his students. He passed away in 1474 at the age of 84. Although initially no efforts were made to identify his reincarnation, people were obliged to recognize a child named Sangye Chophel, who had been born in Tanak, Tsang (1476), because of what he had to say about his amazing and flawless recollections of his past life. Since then, a tradition began of searching for and recognizing the successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas by the Gaden Phodrang Labrang and later the Gaden Phodrang Government.



The ways of recognizing reincarnations



After the system of recognizing Tulkus came into being, various procedures for going about it began to develop and grow. Among these some of the most important involve the predecessor’s predictive letter and other instructions and indications that might occur; the reincarnation’s reliably recounting his previous life and speaking about it; identifying possessions belonging to the predecessor and recognizing people who had been close to him. Apart from these, additional methods include asking reliable spiritual masters for their divination as well as seeking the predictions of mundane oracles, who appear through mediums in trance, and observing the visions that manifest in sacred lakes of protectors like Lhamoi Latso, a sacred lake south of Lhasa.



When there happens to be more than one prospective candidate for recognition as a Tulku, and it becomes difficult to decide, there is a practice of making the final decision by divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak) before a sacred image while calling upon the power of truth.



Emanation before the passing away of the predecessor (ma-dhey tulku)



Usually a reincarnation has to be someone’s taking rebirth as a human being after previously passing away. Ordinary sentient beings generally cannot manifest an emanation before death (ma-dhey tulku), but superior Bodhisattvas, who can manifest themselves in hundreds or thousands of bodies simultaneously, can manifest an emanation before death. Within the Tibetan system of recognizing Tulkus there are emanations who belong to the same mind-stream as the predecessor, emanations who are connected to others through the power of karma and prayers, and emanations who come as a result of blessings and appointment.



The main purpose of the appearance of a reincarnation is to continue the predecessor’s unfinished work to serve Dharma and beings. In the case of a Lama who is an ordinary being, instead of having a reincarnation belonging to the same mind-stream, someone else with connections to that Lama through pure karma and prayers may be recognized as his or her emanation. Alternatively it is possible for the Lama to appoint a successor who is either his disciple or someone young who is to be recognized as his emanation. Since these options are possible in the case of an ordinary being, an emanation before death that is not of the same mind-stream is feasible. In some cases one high Lama may have several reincarnations simultaneously, such as incarnations of body, speech and mind and so on. In recent times, there have been well-known emanations before death such as Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje and Chogye Trichen Ngawang Khyenrab.



Using the Golden Urn



As the degenerate age gets worse, and as more reincarnations of high Lamas are being recognized, some of them for political motives, increasing numbers have been recognized through inappropriate and questionable means, as a result of which huge damage has been done to the Dharma.



During the conflict between Tibet and the Gurkhas (1791-93) the Tibetan Government had to call on Manchu military support. Consequently the Gurkha military was expelled from Tibet, but afterwards Manchu officials made a 29-point proposal on the pretext of making the Tibetan Government’s administration more efficient. This proposal included the suggestion of picking lots from a Golden Urn to decide on the recognition of the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Hutuktus, a Mongolian title given to high Lamas. Therefore, this procedure was followed in the case of recognizing some reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and other high Lamas. The ritual to be followed was written by the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso.  Even after such a system had been introduced, this procedure was dispensed with for the Ninth, Thirteenth and myself, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.



Even in the case of the Tenth Dalai Lama, the authentic reincarnation had already been found and in reality this procedure was not followed, but in order to humour the Manchus it was merely announced that this procedure had been observed.



The Golden Urn system was actually used only in the cases of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dalai Lamas. However, the Twelfth Dalai Lama had already been recognized before the procedure was employed. Therefore, there has only been one occasion when a Dalai Lama was recognized by using this method. Likewise, among the reincarnations of the Panchen Lama, apart from the Eighth and the Ninth, there have been no instances of this method being employed. This system was imposed by the Manchus, but Tibetans had no faith in it because it lacked any spiritual quality. However, if it were to be used honestly, it seems that we could consider it as similar to the manner of divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak).



In 1880, during the recognition of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Twelfth, traces of the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and the Manchus still existed. He was recognized as the unmistaken reincarnation by the Eighth Panchen Lama, the predictions of the Nechung and Samye oracles and by observing visions that appeared in Lhamoi Latso, therefore the Golden Urn procedure was not followed. This can be clearly understood from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s final testament of the Water-Monkey Year (1933) in which he states:



“As you all know, I was selected not in the customary way of picking lots from the golden urn, but my selection was foretold and divined. In accordance with these divinations and prophecies I was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and enthroned.”



When I was recognized as the Fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama in 1939, the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and China had already come to an end. Therefore, there was no question of any need to confirm the reincarnation by employing the Golden Urn. It is well-known that the then Regent of Tibet and the Tibetan National Assembly had followed the procedure for recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation taking account of the predictions of high Lamas, oracles and the visions seen in Lhamoi Latso; the Chinese had no involvement in it whatever. Nevertheless, some concerned officials of the Guomintang later cunningly spread lies in the newspapers claiming that they had agreed to forego the use of the Golden Urn and that Wu Chung-tsin presided over my enthronement, and so on. This lie  was exposed by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who the People’s Republic of China considered to be a most progressive person, at the Second Session of the Fifth People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region (31st July 1989). This is clear, when, at the end of his speech, in which he gave a detailed explanation of events and presented documentary evidence, he demanded: 



“What need is there for the Communist Party to follow suit and continue the lies of the Guomintang?”



Deceptive strategy and false hopes



In the recent past, there have been cases of irresponsible managers of wealthy Lama-estates who indulged in improper methods to recognize reincarnations, which have undermined the Dharma, the monastic community and our society. Moreover, since the Manchu era Chinese political authorities repeatedly engaged in various deceitful means using Buddhism, Buddhist masters and Tulkus as tools to fulfil their political ends as they involved themselves in Tibetan and Mongolian affairs. Today, the authoritarian rulers of the People’s Republic of China, who as communists reject religion, but still involve themselves in religious affairs, have imposed a so-called re-education campaign and declared the so-called Order No. Five, concerning the control and recognition of reincarnations, which came into force on 1st September 2007. This is outrageous and disgraceful. The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair.



Moreover, they say they are waiting for my death and will recognize a Fifteenth Dalai Lama of their choice. It is clear from their recent rules and regulations and subsequent declarations that they have a detailed strategy to deceive Tibetans, followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the world community. Therefore, as I have a responsibility to protect the Dharma and sentient beings and counter such detrimental schemes, I make the following declaration.



The next incarnation of the Dalai Lama 



As I mentioned earlier, reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas. Such brazen meddling contradicts their own political ideology and reveals their double standards. Should this situation continue in the future, it will be impossible for Tibetans and those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to acknowledge or accept it.



When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

The Dalai Lama
Dharamsala

September 24, 2011
 


Chronology of Events

DateEvent (Tibetan Calendar Date)
17 December 1933Thirteenth Dalai Lama Passes Away in Lhasa at the age of 57 (Water-Bird Year, 10th month, 30th day)
6 July 1935Born in Taktser, Amdo, Tibet (Wood-Pig Year, 5th month, 5th day)
July 1939Departs Amdo for three-month journey to Lhasa
1939Public Declaration of the Official Recognition of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama near town of Bumchen
8 October 1939Enters Lhasa after three-month journey from Amdo (Earth-Hare Year, 8th month, 25th day)
22 February 1940Enthronement Ceremony (Iron-Dragon Year, 1st month, 14th day)
1940Begins monastic education at the age of five
1942Receives Vows of Novice Monk from Taktra Rinpoche (1st month, 10th day)
17 November 1950Assumes full temporal (political) power after China's invasion of Tibet in 1949 (Iron-Tiger Year, 10th month, 11th day)
16 December 1950Departs Lhasa for Dromo because of Chinese threat
January 1951 to July 1951Resides in Dromo (Yatung)
23 May 195117-Point Agreement signed by Tibetan delegation in Peking under duress
16 July 1951Chinese delegation led by General Chiang Chin-wu, newly appointed Commissioner and Administrator of Civil and Military Affairs of Tibet, meets with His Holiness in Dromo (Yatung)
24 July 1951Departs Dromo (Yatung) for Lhasa (Iron-Hare Year, 5th month, 17th day)
17 August 1951Arrives Lhasa from Dromo (Iron-Hare Year, 6th month, 13th day)
1954Receives Gelong Ordination from Ling Rinpoche (Wood-Horse Year, 1st month, 15th day)
1954Confers 1st Kalachakra Initiation in Norbulingka Palace, Lhasa.
July 1954 to June 1955Visits China for peace talks and meets with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Chou En-Lai, Chu Teh and Deng Xiaoping
November 1956 to March 1957Visits India to participate in 2500th Buddha Jayanti celebrations
February 1959Receives Geshe Lharampa Degree during Monlam Ceremonies in Lhasa (Earth-Pig Year, 1st month, 13th day)
10 March 1959Tens of thousands of Tibetans gathered in front of Norbulingka Palace, Lhasa to prevent His Holiness from going to a performance at the Chinese Army Camp in Lhasa. Tibetan People's Uprising begins in Lhasa.
15 March 1959Artillery Shells fired from Chinese troops land outside Norbulingka Palace
17 March 1959Escapes at night from Norbulingka Palace in Lhasa
March 1959Tibetan Government formally reestablished at Lhudup Dzong. 17-Point Agreeement formally repudiated by Tibetan Government.
30 March 1959Enters India from Tibet after a 14-day harrowing escape
18 April 1959Hold international press conference and formally repudiates the 17-Point Agreement
20 April 1959Arrives Mussoorie and resides at Birla House
30 April 1960Arrives in Dharamsala to take up residence at Swarg Ashram
1963Presents a draft democratic constitution for Tibet. First exile Tibetan Parliament (Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies) established in Dharamsala.
1967First visits abroad (since coming into exile) to Japan and Thailand
1968Moves residence from Swarg Ashram to present day Thekchen Choeling (Byrne Estate)
September to November 1973First visit to the West (Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, UK, West Germany & Austria)
1979First contact with the Government of the People's Republic of China established since coming into exile in 1959
21 September 1987Delivers historic Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet in Washington, D.C. to members of the U.S. Congress
June 1988Delivers historic Strasbourg Proposal for Tibet in Strasbourg, France to members of the European Parliament
10 December 1989Awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace in Oslo, Norway
1992Initiates a number of additional major democratic steps, including the direct elections of Kalons (Ministers) by the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies and the establishment of a judiciary branch. Previously Kalons appointed directly by His Holiness.
2001First direct democratic elections held by the Tibetan people for the post of Kalon Tripa (Senior Minister) in the history of Tibet
March & May 2011On March 14 His Holiness the Dalai Lama sends a letter to the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (Tibetan Parliament in exile) requesting them to devolve his temporal power. On May 29 His Holiness  signs into law the formal transfer of his temporal power to the democratically elected  leader. This brings to an end the 368-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas being both spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do you view yourself?
Answer: I always consider myself as a simple Buddhist monk. I feel that is the real me. I feel that the Dalai Lama as a temporal ruler is a man-made institution. As long as the people accept the Dalai Lama, they will accept me. But being a monk is something which belongs to me. No one can change that. Deep down inside, I always consider myself a monk, even in my dreams. So naturally I feel myself as more of a religious person. Even in my daily life, I can say that I spend 80% of my time on spiritual activities and 20% on Tibet as a whole. The spiritual or religious life is something I know and have great interest in. I have some kind of confidence in it, and thus I want to study it more. Regarding politics, I have no modern education except for a little experience. It is a big responsibility for someone not so well equipped. This is not voluntary work but something that I feel I must pursue because of the hope and trust that the Tibetan people place on me.

Question: Will you be the last Dalai Lama?
Answer: Whether the institution of the Dalai Lama remains or not depends entirely on the wishes of the Tibetan people. It is for them to decide. I made this clear as early as in 1969. Even in 1963, after four years in exile, we made a draft constitution for a future Tibet which is based on the democratic system. The constitution clearly mentions that the power of the Dalai Lama can be removed by a two-thirds majority vote of the members of the Assembly. At the present moment, the Dalai Lama's institution is useful to the Tibetan culture and the Tibetan people. Thus, if I were to die today, I think the Tibetan people would choose to have another Dalai Lama. In the future, if the Dalai Lama's institution is no longer relevant or useful and our present situation changes, then the Dalai Lama's institution will cease to exist.Personally, I feel the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose. More recently, since 2001 we now have a democratically elected head of our administration, the Kalon Tripa. The Kalon Tripa runs the daily affairs of our administration and is in charge of our political establishment. Half jokingly and half seriously, I state that I am now in semi-retirement.

Question: Do you think you will ever be able to return to Tibet?
Answer: Yes, I remain optimistic that I will be able to return to Tibet. China is in the process of changing. If you compare China today to ten or twenty years ago, there is tremendous change. China is no longer isolated. It is part of the world community. Global interdependence, especially in terms of economics and environment make it impossible for nations to remain isolated. Besides, I am not seeking separation from China. I am committed to my middle-way approach whereby Tibet remains within the People's Republic of China enjoying a high degree of self-rule or autonomy. I firmly believe that this is of mutual benefit both to the Tibetans as well as to the Chinese. We Tibetans will be able to develop Tibet with China's assistance, while at the same time preserving our own unique culture, including spirituality, and our delicate environment. By amicably resolving the Tibetan issue, China will be able to contribute to her own unity and stability.

Question: The Chinese have recently stated that the next Dalai Lama will be born in Tibet and chosen by them. What do you have to say about this?
Answer: If the present situation regarding Tibet remains the same, I will be born outside Tibet away from the control of the Chinese authorities. This is logical. The very purpose of a reincarnation is to continue the unfinished work of the previous incarnation. Thus if the Tibetan situation still remains unsolved it is logical I will be born in exile to continue my unfinished work. Of course the Chinese will still choose their own Dalai Lama and we Tibetans will choose our own according to tradition. It will be similar to the present situation of the Panchen Lama. There is a Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama and there is the Panchen Lama chosen by me. One is paraded to serve its master's purposes and the other is the Panchen Lama accepted in the hearts of all the Tibetans.

Question: What are your commitments?
Answer: In general, I always state that I have three commitments in life. Firstly, on the level of a human being, my first commitment is the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. All human beings are the same. We all want happiness and do not want suffering. Even people who do not believe in religion recognize the importance of these human values in making their lives happier. I remain committed to talk about the importance of these human values and share them with everyone I meet. Secondly, on the level of a religious practitioner, my second commitment is the promotion of religious harmony and understanding amongst different religious traditions. Despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create better human beings. It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognize the value of each other's respective traditions. Thirdly, I am a Tibetan and carry the name of the Dalai Lama. Tibetans place their trust in me. Therefore, my third commitment is to the Tibetan issue. I have a responsibility to act the free spokesperson of the Tibetans in their struggle for justice. As far as this third commitment, it will cease to exist once a mutually beneficial solution is reached between the Tibetans and Chinese. However, my first two commitments I will carry on till my last breath.

Question: What were your first feelings on being recognized as the Dalai Lama? What did you think had happened to you?

Answer: I was very happy. I liked it a lot. Even before I was recognized, I often told my mother that I was going to Lhasa. I used to straddle a window sill in our house pretending that I was riding a horse to Lhasa. I was a very small child at the time, but I remember this clearly. I had a strong desire to go there. Another thing I didn't mention in my autobiography is that after my birth, a pair of crows came to roost on the roof of our house. They would arrive each morning, stay for while and then leave. This is of particular interest as similar incidents occurred at the birth of the First, Seventh, Eighth and Twelfth Dalai Lamas. After their births, a pair of crows came and remained. In my own case, in the beginning, nobody paid attention to this. Recently, however, perhaps three years ago, I was talking with my mother, and she recalled it. She had noticed them come in the morning; depart after a time, and then the next morning, come again. Now, the evening the after the birth of the First Dalai Lama, bandits broke into the family's house. The parents ran away and left the child. The next day when they returned and wondered what had happened to their son, they found the baby in a corner of the house. A crow stood before him, protecting him. Later on, when the First Dalai Lama grew up and developed in his spiritual practice, he made direct contact during meditation with the protective deity, Mahakala. At this time, Mahakala said to him, Somebody like you who is upholding the Buddhist teaching needs a protector like me. Right on the day of your birth, I helped you.  So we can see, there is definitely a connection between Mahakala, the crows, and the Dalai Lamas.

Another thing that happened, which my mother remembers very clearly, is that soon after I arrived in Lhasa, I said that my teeth were in a box in a certain house in the Norbulinka. When they opened the box, they found a set of dentures which had belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. I pointed to the box, and said that my teeth were in there, but right now I don't recall this at all. The new memories associated with this body are stronger. The past has become smaller, vaguer. Unless I made a specific attempt to develop such a memory, I don't recall it.

Question: Do you remember your birth or the womb state before?
Answer: At this moment, I don't remember. Also, I can't recall if at that time when I was a small child, I could remember it. However, there was one slight external sign perhaps. Children are usually born with their eyes closed. I was born with my eyes open. This may be some slight indication of a clear state of mind in the womb.

Question: Between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, after you assumed temporal power, did you change?

Answer: Yes, I changed a little bit. I underwent a lot of happiness and pain. Within that and from growing, gaining more experience, from the problems that arose and the suffering, I changed. The ultimate result is the man you see now (laughter).

Question: How about when you just entered adolescence? Many people have a difficult time defining themselves as an adult. Did this happen to you?
Answer: No. My life was very much in a routine. Two times a day I studied. Each time I studied for an hour, and then spent the rest of the time playing (laughter). Then at the age of 13, I began studying philosophy, definitions, debate. My study increased, and I also studied calligraphy. It was all in a routine though, and I got used to it. Sometimes, there were vacations. These were very comfortable and happy. Losang Samten, my immediate elder brother, was usually at school, but during these times he would come to visit. Also, my mother would come occasionally and bring special bread from our province of Amdo. Very thick and delicious. She made herself.

Question: Are there any of your predecessors in whom you have a special interest or with whom you have a particular affinity?
Answer: The Thirteenth Dalai Lama. He brought a lot of improvement to the standards of study in the monastic colleges. He gave great encouragement to the real scholars. He made it impossible for people to go up in the religious hierarchy, becoming an abbot and so forth, without being totally qualified. He was very strict in this respect. He also gave tens of thousands of monks' ordinations. There were his two main religious achievements. He didn't give many initiations, or many lectures. Now, with respect to the country, he had great thought and consideration for statecraft. The outlying districts in particular. How they should be governed and so forth. He cared very much how to run the government more efficiently. He had great concern about our borders and that type of thing.

Question: During the course of your life, what have been your greatest personal lessons or internal challenges? Which realizations and experiences have had the most effect on your growth as an individual?
Answer: Regarding religious experience, some understanding of shunya (emptiness: lack of independent self nature) some feeling, some experience and mostly bodhichitta, altruism. It has helped a lot. In some ways, you could say that it has made me into a new person, a new man. I am still progressing. Trying. It gives you inner strength, courage, and it is easier to accept situations. That's one of the greatest experiences.

Question: When you became a refugee, what helped you gain this strength? Was it the loss of your position and country, the fact of everyone suffering around you. Were you called on to lead your people in a different way than you had been accustomed to?
Answer: Being a refugee is really a desperate, dangerous situation. At that time, everyone deals with reality. It is not the time to pretend things are beautiful. That's something. You feel involved with reality. In peace time, everything goes smoothly. Even if there is a problem, people pretend that things are good. During a dangerous period, when there's a dramatic change, then there's no scope to pretend that everything is fine. You must accept that bad is bad. Now when I left the Norbulinka, there was danger. We were passing very near the Chinese military barracks. It was just on the other side of the river, the Chinese check post there. You see, we had definite information two or three weeks before I left, that the Chinese were fully prepared to attack us. It was only a question of the day and hour.

Question: About you being the incarnation of the bodhisattva of infinite compassion, Avalokiteshvara. How do you personally feel about this? Is it something you have an unequivocal view of one way or another?
Answer: It is difficult for me to say definitely. Unless I am engaged in a meditative effort, such as following my life back, breath by breath, I couldn't say exactly. We believe that there are four types of rebirth. One is the common type wherein, a being is helpless to determine his or her rebirth, but only reincarnates in dependence on the nature of past actions. The opposite is that of an entirely enlightened Buddha, who simply manifests a physical form to help others. In this case, it is clear that the person is Buddha. A third is one who, due to past spiritual attainment, can choose, or at least influence, the place and situation of rebirth. The fourth is called a blessed manifestation. In this the person is blessed beyond his normal capacity to perform helpful functions, such as teaching religion. For this last type of birth, the person's wishes in previous lives to help others must have been very strong. They obtain such empowerment. Though some seem more likely than others, I cannot definitely say which I am.

Question (follow up): From the viewpoint then of the realistic role you play as Chenrezi, how do you feel about it? Only a few people have been considered, in one way or another, divine. Is the role a burden or a delight?
Answer: It is very helpful. Through this role I can be of great benefit to people. For this reason I like it: I'm at home with it. It's clear that it is very helpful to people, and that I have the karmic relationship to be in this role. Also, it is clear that there is a karmic relationship with the Tibetan people in particular. Now you see, you may consider that under the circumstances, I am very lucky. However, behind the word luck, there are actual causes or reasons. There is the karmic force of my ability to assume this role as well as the force of my wish to do so. In regard to this, there is a statement in the great Shantideva's Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds which says, As long as space exists, and as long as there are migrators in cyclic existence, may I remain removing their sufferings. I have that wish in this lifetime, and I know I had that wish in past lifetimes.

Question (follow up): With such a vast goal as your motivation, how do you deal with your personal limitations, your limits as a man?
Answer: Again, as it says in Shantideva, If the blessed Buddha cannot please all sentient beings, then how could I. Even an enlightened being, with limitless knowledge and power and the wish to save all others from suffering, cannot eliminate the individual karma of each being.

Question (follow up): Is this what keeps you from being overwhelmed when you see the suffering of the six million Tibetans, who on one level, you are responsible for?
Answer: My motivation is directed towards all sentient beings. There is no question, though, that on a second level, I am directed towards helping Tibetan. If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.

Question (follow up): A lot of people say this, but few really live by it. Did you always feel this way, or did you have to learn it?
Answer: It is developed from inner practice. From a broader perspective, there will always be suffering. On one level, you are bound to meet with the effects of the unfavorable actions you yourself have previously committed in body, speech or mind. Then also, your very own nature is that of suffering. There's not just one factor figuring into my attitude, but many different ones. From the point of view of the actual entity producing the suffering, as I have said, if it is fixable, then there is no need to worry. If not, there is no benefit to worrying. From the point of view of the cause, suffering is based on past unfavorable actions accumulated by oneself and no other. These karmas are not wasted. They will bear their fruit. One will not meet with the effects of actions that one has not done oneself. Finally, from the viewpoint of the nature of suffering itself, the aggregates of the mind and body have as their actual nature, suffering. They serve as a basis for suffering. As long as you have them you are susceptible to suffering. From a deep point of view, while we don't have our independence and are living in someone else's country, we have a certain type of suffering, but when we return to Tibet and gain our independence, then there will be other types of suffering. So, this is just the way it is. You might think that I'm pessimistic, but I am not. This is how, through Buddhist teaching and advice, we handle situations. When fifty thousand people in the Shakya clan were killed one day, Shakyamuni Buddha, their clansman, didn't suffer at all. He was leaning against a tree, and he was saying, I am a little sad today because fifty thousand of my clansmen were killed. But he, himself, remained unaffected. Like that, you see (laughter). This was the cause and effect of their own karma. There was nothing he could do about it. These sorts of thoughts make me stronger; more active. It is not at all a case of losing one's strength of mind or will in the face of the pervasive nature of suffering.

Award & Honors: 1957 - 1999

DateName of the AwardAwarded byCountry
December 12, 1999 Diwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Award for International Peace & HarmonyDiwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Charitable TrustIndia
November 24, 1999Life Time Achievement AwardHadassah Women's Zionist Israel
October 12, 1999Boddhi Award American Buddhist CongressU.S.A.
April 16, 1999 Doctor of TheologyFlorida International UniversityU.S.A.
April 9, 1999Doctor Honoris CausaUniversity of Buenos Aires Argentina
April 7, 1999Doctor Honoris CausaUniversity of Brasilla Brazil 
November 11, 1998Doctor Honoris CausaSeton Hill College, Greensburg U.S.A.
May 15, 1998Doctor of Laws University of Wisconsin, MadisonU.S.A.
May 11, 1998Doctor of DivinityEmory University, Atlanta U.S.A.
May 8, 1998Doctor of Humane Letters Brandeis University, BostonU.S.A.
May 8, 1998Juliet Hollister AwardJuliet Hollister Foundation, New YorkU.S.A.
November 25, 1997Paulos Mar Gregorious AwardPaulos Mar Gregorious CommitteeIndia
September 11, 1997Doctor of International Diplomatic ScienceUniversity of Trieste, TriesteItaly
June 1, 1997Doctor Honoris CausaRegis university, DenverU.S.A.
May 31, 1997 Doctor Honoris CausaUniversity of Colorado, BoulderU.S.A. 
March 23, 1997Doctor of Honoris CausaChungshan University, KaohsiungTaiwan
July 26, 1996The President's Medal for ExcellenceIndiana University, BloomingtonU.S.A. 
April 5, 1995Doctor of Buddhist PhilosophyRissho University, TokyoJapan 
January 2, 1995 Doctor of LettersNagpur UniversityIndia
June 4, 1994Franklin D. Roosevelt, Freedom MedalFranklin & Eleanor Roosevelt InstituteU.S.A.
April 27, 1994World Security Annual Peace AwardNew York Lawyer's AllianceU.S.A.
April 26, 1994Doctor of Humane Arts & LettersColumbia University U.S.A.
April 25, 1994Doctor of Humane LettersBerea College, BereaU.S.A.
March 20, 1994Fellow of UniversityHebrew University, JerusalemIsrael
March 14, 1993International Valiant for Freedom AwardThe Freedom Coalition, Melbourne Australia
November 26, 1992Doctor Honoris CausaJain Vishva Bharati University, LadnunIndia
September 17, 1992 Honorary ProfessorNovosibirsk State University Buriat
September 11, 1992Honorary ProfessorKalmyak State UniversityKalmyk
June 6, 1992 Doctor Honoris CausaUniversity of Rio de JaneiroBrazil 
May 5, 1992Doctor of Laws University of MelbourneAustralia
February 16, 1992 Doctor of Sacred Philosophy Lafayette University, AuroraU.S.A.
October 10, 1991Wheel of Life AwardTemple of Understanding, New YorkU.S.A.
October 10, 1991United Earth PrizeKlaus Nobel United EarthU.S.A.
August 23, 1991 Peace and Unity AwardNational Peace Conference, DelhiIndia
April 17, 1991 Advancing Human Liberty AwardFreedom House, New YorkU.S.A. 
March 25, 1991Shiromani Award 1991 Shiromani Institute, DelhiIndia
April 6, 1991Distinguished Peace Leadership Award 91 Nuclear Age Peace Foundation U.S.A.
December 8, 1990Doctor Honoris CausaKarnataka UniversityIndia
January 14, 1990Doctor of DivinityCentral Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies, SarnathIndia
December 10, 1989The Nobel Peace PrizeNorwegian Nobel Committee Norway 
December 4, 1989Prix de la MemoireFoundation Danielle Mitterrand, ParisFrance
September 23, 1989Recognition of Perseverance of Times of Adversity World Management CouncilU.S.A.
June 21, 1989 Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Human Rights Award Human Rights Foundation USA
June 16, 1988 Leopold Lucas Award University of TuebingenW. Germany 
September 28, 1987 Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award Human Behavior Foundation USA
January 16, 1984 Honorary Doctor Degree University of Paris France 
October 19, 1979 Liberty Torch Gilbert Di Luchia Friends of Tibet USA
October 4, 1979 Doctor of HumanitiesSeattle UniversityUSA 
September 27, 1979 Doctor of Buddhist Philosophy University of Oriental Studies USA
September 17, 1979 Doctor of Divinity Carol College, Waukesh USA 
June 17, 1979 Special Medal Asian Buddhist Council for PeaceMongolia
1969Lakett AwardNorwegian Refugee CouncilNorway
January 23, 1963Lincoln AwardResearch Institute of AmericaUSA
September 16, 1959 The Admiral Richard E. Byrd MemorialInternational Rescue CommitteeUSA
August 31, 1959 Ramon Magaysay Award for Community Leadership Ramon Magaysay CommitteePhilippines
1957 Doctor of Letters Benaras Hindu University India 

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