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.


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.”


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


  1. Hi Jamie,
    Great blog post! I found it very informative. Just wondering, what aspects of Tenzin and his life will you be focusing on?
    -Sean M.

    • Hi Sean,
      Thank you for stopping and taking the time to comment! Honestly, I tried to condense his history as much as possible, because Tenzin has done a lot of stuff, but I know people don’t want to read it all on the introductory blog post. 😛

      My main points of interest are his early childhood/teenage years, however much of his historical significance is because of the years following the Chinese occupation, so I will be touching on that as well. But expect as many baby photos of the Dalai Lama as I can find!

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Hi Jamie. Are you sick? You weren’t at school today. I missed your singing.

    I was just going around to everyone’s blogs, reading about their eminent person, but your first paragraph grabbed my attention and I just had to comment.

    Honestly, that sentence where you wrote, “…a topic that has fascinated me has been how powerful someone’s faith can be…”, really touched my heart.

    I look super super forward to seeing what you’re going to be doing with your eminent person and I hope that your childhood friend will stop calling you devil child.

    Oh, and if you want to talk about religion, come see me anytime! I’m studying an evangelical Christian too :)

    • Hey Tiffany,

      Thanks for leaving a comment!
      I’m glad to know that my crazed wailing is making an impact on the people around me! 😀
      Thank you for you kind words. I guess to me… faith is something I am almost jealous of? I don’t know. It’s always been intriguing to me how people can put so much trust into something that has always been hiding… I have never been able to take that leap of faith, so I’m amazed by those who are.
      That childhood friend… yeah we aren’t in touch any more. Being called a devil child and an evil blight (parents) really puts a damper on a relationship. Who knew? 😛

      I may just take you up on that offer. You never know…

      Anyways, again, thanks for reading!

  3. Hi Jamie,
    How are you doing? Noticed you weren’t at school today. I really like your explanation of the 14th Dalai Lama, as it is a complicated story – you managed to sum it up nicely. Although, it would be nice to use a different form of media (such as a picture) to switch things up once in a while. I found your personal connection was very strong and well placed in your post. In your biography, I found the part about the Panchen Lama intruiging – could it be that your theme (of how powerful one’s faith is) is somewhat reflected in this action?

    • Hey Vanessa,
      Thanks for the comment! You are right, a picture is a great idea, imma go on the picture hunt now.
      The Panchen Lama is an interesting character in this kerfuffle with Tibet, as the Panchen Lama that proclaimed the Dalai Lama to be holy died rather quickly after he made his speech.

      Foul play? Of course not… I don’t actually know. There is speculation, but nothing is backed up by facts. However, soon after the previous Panchen Lama died, the Chinese elected a new one, proclaiming him to be the new spiritual leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama and his exiled government refuted this claim of course… but none the less, the people in Tibet who are being shut off from much of the world have no one else to turn to.

      Anyways, thanks so much for reading!

  4. Hey Jamie.

    Sorry for the confusion, but just so you know, I’m your partner (since I was originally involved in a three-people-group, and I thought it would be a better idea if I just partnered up with you).

    I thought your blog was very informative. It certainly did not bore me, in fact, I found the whole thing very interesting. Your language was very brief and concise, yet it hit all the main points. You seem to already know a lot on your eminent person, I look forward to learning more about Tenzin from you.

    One thing I would suggest for you to add is more of Tenzin’s accomplishments, because that would really show why Tenzin is “eminent”.

    Nice job Jamie!
    (PS. Don’t forget to comment on mine!)

    • Hi Jenny!

      The confusion wasn’t too soul crushing… 😛
      Thanks for all the kind words! I will be putting much, much more emphasis on Tenzin’s achievements in the future, I just tried to sum up his history and context in this post.

      I am heading to your blog right now! 😀
      Thanks for reading!

  5. Jamie, you are a brave child. If my friend told me I was a ‘devil child’ for not believing in the religion he/she believed in, I would be traumatized by that religion and I would never approach religion in general. I liked your blog post because I didn’t have to refer to Wikipedia to learn more about Tenzin. Your post was detailed yet concise.

    I hope that through the Eminent Person project you get at least a bit closer in achieving your religion goal. It’s going to take a long time because believing in something that is not seen is hard for a generation who have been surrounded by people who do not accept ideas until they see evidence.

    I didn’t know how to add this quote nicely into the comment so I’ll just say it: “The best things in life are unseen. That’s why we close our eyes when we kiss laugh and dream’ – anonymous. I hope the quote makes sense and seems relevant. : )

    • Hey Diane!

      First off, thank you. But how do you know I wasn’t traumatized?
      Maybe my whole life I have been hiding because I’m afraid to let people get close to me because I’m afraid to be hurt- yeah nope. 😀
      It did take a while for me to understand what he said, honestly. I was confused for a long time, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I fully understood what had happened.
      I’m glad to hear that you didn’t refer to Wikipedia. If you had, I would have had to call you the devil child. 😛
      I hope that too. In some ways, I disagree that this generation is full of people that need evidence. In many ways, this generation is one that leaps to conclusions without evidence.
      That is a beautiful quote. I love the kinda sorta rhyming action!
      You don’t mind if I steal that, do you…? I will make sure to credit you! e.g. -anonymous/diane kim. 😀
      Thanks for reading!

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