This celebration of 31 stories about men and women who risked crossing
religious boundaries to help heal the world began on January 1 with a story about John Paul II.
HERE IS THE 3rd OF OUR 31 STORIES THIS YEAR:
THE 14th DALAI LAMA
“EACH RELIGION HAS certain unique ideas or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one’s own faith.”
Tenzin Gyatso was born in a rural village in Tibet. Following the practices of Tibetan Buddhism he was recognized as the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are believed to be the manifestation of Avalokiteshvara (also known as Chenrezig), the Bodhisattva or “enlightened being” of compassion and the patron saint of Tibet.
As the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso began his monastic education at the age of 6. He received his doctorate in Buddhist philosophy at 23, but prior to completing his education, politics intervened to shape his life in a dramatic fashion.
In October, 1950, China invaded Tibet, and the next month the Dalai Lama assumed full political power in the Tibetan government where the Dalai Lama has traditionally been the absolute ruler.
He initially sought to work within the Chinese Communist system. Then in 1959 there was a failed uprising by Tibetans that prompted the Dalai Lama to flee to India and set up a government in exile. Tens of thousands of Tibetans followed him into exile, leaving Tibet for India and other parts of the world.
In exile the Dalai Lama began a thorough overhaul of the Tibetan political system. He abandoned the traditional heavy-handed feudalistic system and established democratic reforms in both the government-in-exile and in the plans for a constitution for a free Tibet. He sought nonviolent means for liberating Tibet, offering a peace proposal including negotiations with China. Those efforts were recognized with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
In 2008 in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, another uprising and violent repression in Tibet focused world attention on the situation in that mountainous region. Shortly after the crisis initial contacts were made between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government to open new negotiations to resolve the status of Tibet, though once again Tibetan hopes and dreams were frustrated when the talks failed to achieve any political change.
His political efforts might seem enough to consume a lifetime, but the Dalai Lama has also emerged as a leader in global interfaith efforts. In articulating his three major commitments, his first is the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. His second is to harmony and understanding among the world’s religious traditions. The third commitment is to the people of Tibet as their Dalai Lama.
In pursuit of religious harmony he has met repeatedly with other global religious figures such as the Catholic Popes Paul VI and John Paul II and the Chief Rabbi of Israel as well as senior Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Eastern Orthodox leaders. He sees the exchange of ideas and feelings between leaders of different religions as a way to “open the door to a progressive pacification between people.”
The Dalai Lama is more than the formal head of a major religious group appearing in global religious congresses. He has gotten directly involved in the organizing and planning of such events. This direct involvement in interreligious affairs and events has led to many deep interpersonal relationships with people of other faiths. Those close to him have testified about his impact in their lives. Working with other contemplatives of different religions in the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, the Dalai Lama helped produce the Universal Declaration on Nonviolence. At the World Congress of Faith he said, “Each religion has certain unique ideas or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one’s own faith.”
Through his relationships with so many religious leaders the Dalai Lama may have enriched his own faith, but countless people of other religions bear witness about how he has enriched their faith, as well.
The Dalai Lama’s Wikipedia page is quite extensive.
But the Dalai Lama’s staff also maintains his own personal Web site.
An independent Web site maintains a very detailed chronology of U.S.-Tibet-related events through the past century.
The Dalai Lama’s North American monastery also maintains a large Web site.
“Interfaith Heroes 2”
(cover at left) will be available soon from Amazon and other online
retailers, containing this story honoring the Dalai Lama and dozens of other
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(Originally published at http://www.ReadTheSpirit.com/)