Few names are so immediately associated with the cause of peace as that of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Born in 1935 in a small village in Eastern Tibet and recognised at the age of two as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, he received a traditional Buddhist monastic education. As a teenager, aged only 15, the Dalai Lama assumed his political responsibilities as leader of his country during the turmoil of the Chinese military invasion. In 1959, as Tibet was plunged further into crisis under Chinese occupation, he made a daring escape over the Himalayas to India; many thousands of his countrymen have since followed in his footsteps to his exile home in Dharamsala, Northern India.
In 1989 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to try to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing human rights tragedy in Tibet. In 2006 he received America's highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal, in recognition of his advocacy of peace, non-violence, human rights and religious understanding. In addition to bringing his message of peace to the wider world, the Dalai Lama campaigns on environmental issues, while also contributing to the mutually enriching dialogue between science and Buddhism – appreciating both disciplines as means of deepening our understanding of the nature of reality.
In 2011 HH the Dalai Lama completed the process of democratisation of the Central Tibetan Administration by devolving all his political authorities to the elected leadership.
In May 2012, at St Paul's Cathedral, the Dalai Lama received the Templeton Prize, which honours "entrepreneurs of the spirit" – outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality.
Describing himself as 'a simple Buddhist monk', the Dalai Lama is revered as one of the great spiritual teachers of our time, reaching out to people of all faiths and no faith. Now approaching his eighties, his wisdom, compassion and warm-hearted humour continue to touch and inspire people all around the world. He has visited the UK many times over the past 30 years, most recently in 2012.
Three Main Commitments in Life
His Holiness has three main commitments in life.
First, on the level of a human being, His Holiness' first commitment is the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. All human beings are the same. We all want happiness and do not want suffering. Even people who do not believe in religion recognise the importance of these human values in making their life happier. His Holiness refers to these human values as secular ethics. He remains committed to talk about the importance of these human values and share them with everyone he meets.
Secondly, on the level of a religious practitioner, His Holiness' second commitment is the promotion of religious harmony and understanding among the world's major religious traditions. Despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings. It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognise the value of each other's respective traditions. As far as one truth, one religion is concerned, this is relevant on an individual level. However, for the community at large, several truths, several religions are necessary.
Thirdly, His Holiness is a Tibetan and carries the name of the 'Dalai Lama'. Therefore, his third commitment is to work to preserve Tibet's Buddhist culture, a culture of peace and non-violence.