Dalai Lama Biography

The Dalai Lama as a holly reincarnation currently is in the 14th reincarnation from the first time his holiness was born in 1391, when he was discovered to be the reincarnated Lama Lhamo adopted the name “Tenzin Gyatso”. The current Dalai Lama official name is Lhamo Thondup, born on July 6th 1935, in a tiny village name Takster relatively close from Tibet. The name of the current Dalai Lama means, “wish fulfilling godess”. Lhamo was born in a poor family, whose resources were extremely limited due to the harsh weather conditions in the village, Takster (roaring tiger). This tiny village struggle to produce enough food as the dalail lama mentions in his autobiography, “there were 20 families living in Takster at the time, all of them including my own family, constantly struggle to produced enough food resulting in a very precarious life”.

The word Dalai Lama is formed by the word “Dalai” that comes from the Mongolian language that refers to the Ocean and the word in Tibetan language “Lama” spelled “Bla ma” (the letter “b” is not pronounced) referring to “master” or “teacher”. The word Lama can be associated with the word, Guru. Religiously it is believed that the sole purpose of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations is to serve others or to “enlighten”, referring to the teachings conducted by the Dalai Lama.

Ever since the 5th Dalai Lama reincarnation took place, besides being a spiritual guide, his holiness also took political responsibilities in the famous Chinese town of Tibet. In the following reincarnations, sometimes the Lamas were responsible for the region’s government. His holiness was also responsible of the Tibetan government before exile, but as his health deteriorate due to advance age, he resigned in 2011. His holiness has predicted that after his death, he will reincarnate somewhere outside Tibet in a female body for the first time in hundreds of years. The Chinese government stupid response about this prediction is that as the higher authority in China they are the only ones authorized to appoint the next Lama, even though China is a nation that does not accept religious believes.

 Quick Facts

 Nick name: “His Holiness”, Tenzin Gyatso

Born: July 6th 1935

Place of birth:  Takster, province of Amdo, China. A tiny village north east of Tibet

Died: the current Dalai Lama hasn’t physically died, nonetheless the first Dalai Lama born in the late 14 century physically died in 1474 but has reincarnated fourteen times so far

Profession:  spiritual guide, Philosopher, public figure, sort of politician

Origin:  Chinese Tibetan

Known for: Promoting human values, predicating harmony among all religions, respecting all living creatures, being the spoke person of the Tibetan population, promoting culture and education, promoting peace, inspiring millions of people, protecting human rights etc, etc

 Website: www.dalailama.com

 Childhood, growing years and family

 Lhamo’s parents were farmers who mostly cultivated some grains and potatoes. Lhamo remembers his dad as temper fellow; nevertheless he was very kind and never remained angry for long periods of time. His mother was as he said, “one of the kindest person I’ve ever known”. Lhamo’s mother had 16 children including him, unfortunately only 7 survived. As part of a big family, Lhamo had 4 brothers and only 2 sisters. Tsering Dolma, Lhamo’s older sibling, helped her own mother giving birth to Lhamo. Surprisingly 2 of Lama’s brothers were also recognized as the reincarnation of other important Lamas, something that had no precedents.

As a child the Lama remembers having an ordinary life, having memories of playing with other kids and picking up eggs together with his mom, as he said, one of the things that enjoyed the most when little. Another thing that he remembers that signal his predestination to a prominent future, was the fact that he felt that he was always preparing for a long trip. He recalls. “I constantly insisted that I wanted to visit Lhasa” and “I always wanted to sit at the most important place of the table, the head”.

The current Lama is no less than the reincarnation of all previous 13 Lamas who lived in Tibet. These reincarnations are considered to be Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig or Bodhisattva. The last one is known as, “The one who holds the white lotus”. His holiness has been asked several times about his opinion regarding this lineage, responding, “Throughout my life’s experiences and considering my religious believes, I have no problem whatsoever to realize that in some way I’m linked in one way or another to all previous Lama’s reincarnations, Chenrezig and Buddha himself”.

 Decisive years
Traditionally, after the last Lama passes away, a group of people sent by Tibetan authorities embark on a quest to look for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. In the case of the 14th reincarnation, there were some clues that point out the location of the reincarnated Lama to be in or near Kumbum Monastery in Tibet. Tibetan authorities were directed to this exact place as the 13th reincarnation, Thupten Gyatso’s head turned from facing south towards the northeast. Also there was a vision by a Senior Lama that pointed to the location of the reincarnation to be somewhere near Lhamo Lhatso, “the sacred lake”. Also in this vision the senior Lama saw the Tibetan letters, Ah, Ka, Ma. These Tibetan letters referred to Amdo, exactly where the Tibetan authorities sent the searching group (Ah), Kumbum (Ka).

By the time the searching group reached Lhamo’s house they knew that they had reached the right place, but instead of introducing themselves as the searching group appointed to discovered the 14th Lama reincarnation they simply requested to spend the night as guests. The searching group leader acted as a servant and focused his attention on the youngest children in the family. Right away, as young Lhamo saw Kewtsang (the leader of the searching group), he recognized him and mentioned the name, “Sera Lama”, the searching group leader’s monastery. The following day, the searching group left only to comeback with several belongings from the prior Lama as well as other things that did not belonged to him. Every time when young Lhamo was presented with items belonging to the prior Lama he instantly replied, “mine, mine”, somehow convincing the searching group and young Lhamo was acknowledge as the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

After the discovery Lhamo was taken to Kumbum monastery where he began a moment in his life which wasn’t the happiest. Even though that the young boy wasn’t really happy, when he arrived to the monastery he realized that his older brother was at the monastery already and his mentor or guide was a very lovely monk who regularly wrapped young Lhamo with his gown. As time went by Lhamo reunite with his parents before beginning a journey to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Despite some difficulties, in mid 1939, the young boy with his parents and a large caravan began the journey. His holiness remembers in this long journey (that took 3 months), that everything fascinated him, “there were herds of wild animals everywhere, wild yaks, wild donkeys, small deer, and geese”. When the caravan arrived in the Tibetan capital, the entire party was warmly welcomed. The following day a ceremony took place in which the young boy Lhamo officially became the 14th Dalai Lama.

By the end of the 1940’s, a ceremony took place in which young Lhamo adopted the traditional monk’s attire and his hair was totally shaved from his head. Also in this ceremony the young boy surrendered his name given by his parents (Lhamo Thondup) to adopt the name of the 14th Lama reincarnation, “Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso”. After the official designation as Lama, the young boy began his academic formation that included: doctorate in Buddhist studies, (Tibetan) art and culture, medicine and the hardest and most important of them all, “Buddhist Philosophy”.

 Life as the 14th Reincarnated Dalai Lama

At age 15 after the communist regime in china threatened to invade the Tibetan capital, his holiness officially became the sub sequential Tibetan leader. A couple of months before the end of the 50’s, his holiness had a conversation with his older brother who had just arrived to the Tibetan capital. As soon as the Lama saw his brother he knew that something terrible had happened. The Lama’s older brother face with sorrow was the result of the occupation of their hometown by the Chinese troops. The situation against the Chinese worsened and Tibet was on the brink of war against the communist government. 2 newly elected prime ministers by the Dalai Lama were sent to other nations (the U.S., the UK and Nepal) to seek help for their independent nation. Meanwhile his holiness moved towards southern china in case the situation got even worse; he would have the opportunity to escape to a neighbor country.

When his holiness learned that neither of the nations which he asked for help refused to support Tibet, he now knew that the Tibet would have to face its problems alone. In total frustration of these nations unwillingness to help Tibet, the Dalai Lama tried once again to negotiate with the Chinese not to invade Tibet. These peace negotiations terribly failed and the party sent to Beijing to negotiate Tibetan independence was forced at gun point to sign an agreement drafted by the Chinese. These document in which the Chinese authorities forged the Tibetan seal, set the Tibetan acceptance of being part of the People’s Republic of China.

In the following years, the Dalai Lama kept trying to persuade the Chinese government to change their mind about Tibet. Despite the fact that his holiness himself talked to the communist leader Mao Zadong and other important figures, peace talks were unsuccessful and while his holiness was in India for some religious celebrations, terrible news about brutal acts committed by the Chinese against the Tibetan people reached the ears of the Tibetan leader.

After a suspicious invitation made by a Chinese general to the Dalai Lama to attend a show, the Tibetan people felt extremely anxious that this was an attempt by the Chinese to capture his holiness. This thoughts were confirmed when the Tibetan leader consulted the Nechung Oracle. Soon after, dressed as a soldier, his holiness managed to escape. Several weeks after the Dalai Lama escaped together with his family members, Indian soldier welcomed his holiness and as it has been already agreed, the Indian government offered asylum to the Tibetan leader as well as his companions. Some time after the Tibetan leader arrived in India, he met with the nation’s prime minister to discuss the situation of thousands of Tibetan refugees.

By the beginning of the 60’s, his holiness together with several of Tibetan officials, began their journey to a place that would become one of the most important places for Tibetan refugees as well as the town of his holiness the Dalai Lama. This town in northern India is known as, McLeodGanj (Dharamshala), Himanchal Pradesh.


 Ever since the Dalai Lama escaped Tibet, he has been visiting several nations around the world. In 167, his holiness made his first trip outside India and Tibet, he visited Thailand and Japan. In 1973, his holiness made his first visit to Europe visiting 12 European nations. In the following years he began a series of actions in favoring Tibet.

 Awards Received

Date Award Name Awarded by Country
December 12, 1999


Diwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Award for International Peace & Harmony


Diwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Charitable Trust




November 24, 1999


Life Time Achievement Award


Hadassah Women’s Zionist




October 12, 1999


Boddhi Award


American Buddhist Congress




April 16, 1999


Doctor of Theology


Florida International University




April 9, 1999

April 7, 1999


Doctor Honoris Causa

Doctor Honoris Causa


University of Buenos Aires

University of Brasilla





November 11, 1998


Doctor Honoris Causa


Seton Hill College, Greensburg




May 15, 1998


Doctor of Laws


University of Wisconsin, Madison




May 11, 1998


Doctor of Divinity


Emory University, Atlanta




May 8, 1998


Doctor of Humane Letters


Brandeis University, Boston




May 8, 1998


Juliet Hollister Award


Juliet Hollister Foundation, New York




November 25, 1997


Paulos Mar Gregorious Award


Paulos Mar Gregorious Committee




September 11, 1997


Doctor of International Diplomatic Science


University of Trieste, Trieste




June 1, 1997


Doctor Honoris Causa


Regis university, Denver




May 31, 1997


Doctor Honoris Causa


University of Colorado, Boulder




March 23, 1997

July 26, 1996


Doctor of Honoris Causa

The President’s Medal for Excellence


Chungshan University,Kaohsiung

Indiana University, Bloomington





Plus dozens and dozens more of awards and recognitions comprised from 1957 until 2011. The Dalai Lama has received over 150 awards and recognitions in countless nations around the world. One of the most important awards received by his holiness is the Nobel Prize in 1989.

 Personal Quotes

“With truth and courage as our weapons, we Tibetans would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet”.

 Dalai Lama.


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