On Friday, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama will turn 77. In the past few years my family has marked the occasion by sharing birthday cake and reflecting on the contribution of a man who describes himself as “a simple Buddhist monk.” Of course, that statement is always accompanied by his ever- present smile and slightly raised eyebrow as if to see who has gotten the private joke. It seems to me like that anyway.
There is much to be said of a man who is undoubtedly one of the most recognized beings on the planet. He’s traveled to 62 countries and met with heads of state, religious leaders, scientists, and thousands of other equally important, average citizens. In 1989 he won the Nobel Peace prize and later a Nobel laureate for his environmental leadership. The Dalai Lama remains committed to non-violence, kindness, and compassion. On the worldwide stage, he is the most visible proponent of peace. He also has championed inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and interconnectedness, and environmental protection. Some simple monk!
Tenzin Gyatso was born in rural, northeastern Tibet (Amdo) in 1935. He was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama at the age of two and installed as Tibet’s religious and secular leader. To Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is an emanation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara). The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 finally resulted in deteriorating conditions with His Holiness fleeing his country after an uprising was brutally suppressed by the Chinese. In 1959, The Dalai Lama and many other Tibetans crossed into India. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile now reside in Dharamsala, India.
With Americans celebrating the 4th of July this week, it’s interesting to note (in a synchronistic sort of way), how His Holiness shares democratic values and has done much to implement them for his own nation. In 1990, Tibetans elected their first Assembly in a one-man, one-vote system. This overturned a centuries-old political system headed by the Dalai Lama. In a further advancement of democratization, Tibetans- in-Exile elected their first top minister of the cabinet known as the Kalon Tripa.
His Holiness has advocated and supported these changes. In addition, the Dalai Lama continues to reach out to the Chinese government to open a dialog on the issue of Tibet.
Long Life Prayer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama (short version)
In the land encircled by snow mountains
You are the source of all happiness and good;
All-powerful Chenrezig, Tenzin Gyatso,
Please remain until samsara ends.