Eminent Introduction: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

One of my IEP interests is religion. When I was younger, I had a good friend, who one day realized I was an atheist. Because of my lacking faith in God he named me the devil child and tried to convert me/shield himself from me.

Haters gonna hate.

Anyways, since then a topic that has fascinated me has been how powerful someone’s faith can be, especially in cases where there may or may not be visible or quantifiable proof. Because of my curiosity concerning religion I chose to look for a religious leader for Eminent. The one that got my attention the most, was the 14th Dalai Lama. It’s hard, because this guy has a lot of names, so for all further appearances I will refer to him as Tenzin. Tenzin is, and always will be, an inspirational figure to me. In the face of great personal danger as well as inhumane cruelty against his people, Tenzin has always believed in compassion and love. He continues to be one of the greatest advocates for human rights, and his love of life and belief of goodness in everyone is incredible.

What follows is a short biography in which my initial research is presented. I tried to make it as concise as possible.

Tenzin was born Llhamo Dondrub, in a peasant family located in Qinghai, China. On December 17th, 1933, in Lhasa, Tibet, the 13th Dalai Lama died. The regent in Tibet at the time, Jamphel Yeshe Gyaltsen, had a vision where he determined the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama to be in the Amdo province in China. Gyaltsen then sent out a search party to locate the successor to the spiritual throne. What the party found was a two year old boy who immediately recognized the religious tools used by the previous Dalai Lama.

He was pretty cute. I gotta say, I like his hat.

The search party decided that Tenzin was the new reincarnation, and so they returned to Lhasa where Tenzin met Gyaltsen. After further tests, Tenzin was recognized as the new spiritual leader of Tibet, and was reborn as Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. From there, he was sent off to various temples for monastic training, where Tenzin learned how to win the hearts of the people of Tibet.

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You can really tell he’s winning the hearts of the people… I mean, who could resist that face?

In 1940, Gyaltsen, who was a mentor and father-figure to Tenzin, resigned because he broke his vow of celibacy. Tenzin appointed a new regent in Tathag Ripoche, another of his teachers. Six years later, in 1947 Gyaltsen attacked Tathag Ripoche, in an attempt to regain political power. In the attempt, the Ripoche monastery was destroyed. This betrayal was an important turning point for Tenzin, as from then on he made many more public appearances, making vows to teach happiness and enlightenment through a pacifistic path. For another three years, Tenzin learned and taught in Lhasa.

In 1950, a shocking change happened in China. The civil war had ended, and Chairman Mao had risen to the role of leadership. China began to threaten Tibet, claiming “Tibet is just a part of the People’s Republic of China… The Liberation Army will march on and emancipate it’s Tibetan People from the hands of the foreign Imperialists!”

Tibet immediately launched a demonstration and issued a press release, denying the need for emancipation because there was no foreign imperialists… but they were too late. On October 7th of 1950, the Chinese army invaded from the eastern side of Tibet, launching a full scale assault on the eastern capital Chamdo. The fast moving invaders caused the political elements in Tibet to convene, and they decided that they were out of options. Their last hope lay in His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. When Tenzin was 15 years of age, he ascended to the full throne of Tibet.

Tenzin fled Lhasa, going to southern Tibet. The Chinese pursued him, and Tenzin was then forced to flee to India, or risk all out war with the Chinese. In 1959, the Chinese shelled Lhasa, reducing much of the great city to rubble, and killing tens of thousands.

lhasa destoryed

I have nothing to say on this one.

The Panchen Lama (the second to Dalai Lama) remained in Tibet. The Chinese allowed him to make a speech, and promised to let him live on the condition that he renounced the Dalai Lama, still in exile. In 1989, the Panchen Lama made a speech where he criticized the Chinese and reiterated that the Dalai Lama was the true leader of Tibet. He died shortly after.

In 1989 Tenzin received a Nobel Peace Prize.  Upon his acceptance, he addressed the audience, saying “Individually, this prize does not mean much to me. However, for the entire Tibetan population it means so much. The true recipient of this prize for peace is none other than the Tibetan people.”

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“Yeah, just got a nobel peace prize… thanks y’all, imma go sleep now.” -At the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.