His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6, 1935 to a peasant family in the small village of Taktser in northeastern Tibet and was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of His predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lamas are the manifestations of the Buddha of Compassion, who chose to take rebirth to serve humanity. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom; Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yizhin Norbu, the Wish-Fulfilling Gem, or simply Kundun, the Presence.
In 1950, at the age of sixteen and still facing nine more years of intensive religious education, His Holiness had to assume full political power when China invaded Tibet. In March of 1959, during the national uprising of the Tibetan people against Chinese military occupation, He went into exile. Since then He has lived in the Himalayan foothills in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, a constitutional democracy since 1963.
Dharamsala, aptly known as Little Lhasa, also has cultural and educational institutions and serves as a “capital-in-exile” for 130,000 Tibetan refugees living mainly in India; others are in Nepal, Switzerland, the UK, the United States, Canada and thirty other countries. In the past decade, the Dalai Lama has tried to open dialogue with the Chinese. He proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan in 1987-88, which would also stabilize the entire Asian region and which has drawn widespread praise from statesmen and legislative bodies around the world, but the Chinese have yet to enter into negotiations.
Meanwhile, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, unlike His predecessors who never came to the West, continues His world-wide travels, eloquently speaking in favor of ecumenical understanding, kindness and compassion, respect for the environment and, above all, world peace.