Sunday, February 17, 2008

H. H. The Dalai Lama ( July 6, 1935)

Text and Illustrations by Kuldip Dhiman

THE search party looking for the child believed to be the reincarnation of the thirteenth Dalai Lama finally, following certain signs and omens, reached the home of the three-year-old Lhamo Dhondrub (Thondup). The little boy recognised them instantly and called out 'Sera lama, Sera lama'. Sera was Kewtsang the dead Lama, Rinpoche's monastery. To make sure they hadn't got the wrong boy, the party left and returned a few days later with a number of personal effects of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, together with several that did not belong to him. In every case, the the boy correctly identified those belonging to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama saying, "It's mine. It's mine." It was not long before the boy from Taktser was acknowledged to be the new Dalai Lama, and was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom. Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yeshe Norbu, the Wishfulfilling Gem or simply Kundun - The Presence.

H. H. The Dalai LamaThe Dalai Lama is held by the Tibetans to be the reincarnation of each of the previous thirteen Dalai Lamas of Tibet (the first having been born in 1351 AD), who are in turn considered to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig, Bodhisattva of Compassion, holder of the White Lotus. He 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.

Lhamo Thondup then began to receive his primary education. The curriculum included Tibtean art and culture, Sanskrit, medicine and Buddhist philosophy that included Prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the Middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology.

Lhamo Thondup was doing extremely well for himself, and was all set to explore the path of dharma, but destiny had other things in store for him. About a fortnight before the day of his investiture, his eldest brother arrived in Lhasa. He told harrowing tales about Chinese brutality, and about their intentions of having the new Dalai Lama killed. Undaunted, the Dalai Lama stood his ground for the next nine years in spite of the oppressive policies of the Chinese Government.

On November 17, 1950, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power that is head of the State and Government after some 80,000 Peoples Liberation Army soldiers invaded Tibet. In 1954, he went to Beijing to talk peace with Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders, including Chou En-lai and Deng Xiaoping. While visiting India in 1956 to attend the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Anniversary, he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about deteriorating conditions in Tibet.

His efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to Sino-Tibetan conflict received a severe setback because of Bejing's ruthless policy in Eastern Tibet, which led to a popular uprising later. Soon the resistance movement spread to other parts of Tibet like a wild fire. On 10 March 1959 the capital of Tibet, Lhasa saw the largest demonstration in Tibetan history. The Chinese retaliated by unleashing a reign of terror, killing thousands of revolutionaries. While they were at it, they also destroyed Tibetan monasteries, and burnt thousands of ancient Tibetan books. The Tibetan National Uprising was brutally crushed by the Chinese army. In the circumstances, His Holiness was forced to escape to India where he was granted political asylum. Today, there are more than 120,000 Tibetan in exile. Since 1960, Dharamsala, known as 'Little Lhasa,' has been the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

In spite of his political concern for his people, the Dalai Lama has not forsaken the path for which he was born. He has been spreading the message of love and persuading people from all over the world to shed hatred and violence, and follow the path of spiritualism and dharma. Besides matters spiritual, he has a keen interest in electrical gadgets, and has a fervent interest in photography.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace. The prize money of $469,000 was used to set up a Foundation for Universal Responsibility, for needy people all over the world. While presenting the Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Human Rights Award to the Dalai Lama in 1989, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos said, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama's courageous struggle has distinguished him as a leading proponent of human rights and world peace. His ongoing efforts to end the suffering of the Tibetan people through peaceful negotiations and reconciliation have required enormous courage and sacrifice."

And people come in droves to his monastery at Dharmsala where for the last forty years or so, he has been tirelessly spreading his message, hoping to liberate his country and return to the land of his birth.

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