Dalai Lama is 14th in a nearly 900-year succession of spiritual leaders

photo by Luca Galuzzi - www.galuzzi.it
photo by Luca Galuzzi - www.galuzzi.it

The Dalai Lama who will visit the University of Oregon on May 10 is the 14th in a line of Tibetan spiritual – and at times political – leaders that began during the 13th Century. Information and updates about his UO visit are available on AroundtheO's Dalai Lama web page.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born as Lhamo Dhondrup in 1935 to a farming family in northeastern Tibet. The child was recognized at age 2 as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

Each successive Dalai Lama is considered by those in the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism to be a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has postponed nirvana to instead serve humanity.

At various times from the 17th Century until 1959, Dalai Lamas have served as leaders of Tibetan government. Tibet was incorporated into the People's Republic of China in 1951, and following a revolt in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India and set up a government in exile. The Dalai Lama handed his absolute government authority over to an elected parliament of Tibetan exiles in 2001.

The 14th Dalai Lama was born two years after the 1933 death of his predecessor. He began his monastic education at age 6 and was formally enthroned as the Dalai Lama in 1950, at age 15. He took his final examination in 1959, passed with honors and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest-level degree, which is equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.

Dharamsala, a city in northern India, has been the home of the Dalai Lama and seat of the Tibetan government in exile since 1959.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, for his non-violent campaign to liberate Tibet. He was the first Nobel laureate whose concern for global environmental problems was recognized.

The Dalai Lama, who describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk, has travelled to at least 62 countries on six continents, meeting with various heads of state, religious leaders and scientists. He has received dozens of awards and has authored more than 72 books.