The 14th Dalai Lama, also known as Tenzin Gyatso, is the religious leader of Tibetan buddhism and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Dalai Lama’s are also believed to be the reincarnations of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. He was born in Taktser, Amdo in Tibet at the 6th of July, 1935 and at the age of 2 years old in 1937, He was officially recognised as the reincarnation (or tulku) of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, by the Tibetan people. In addition to this, the Dalai Lama takes on temporal roles in the governing of the Tibetan people, as the leader of their nation, in which the 14th Dalai Lama took the responsibility of at the age of 15. The 14th Dalai Lama has made significant commitments to the development ; expression of Buddhism. This is demonstrated through his contributions to interfaith dialogue, the image ; relativity of Buddhism in a contemporary context, and finally the welfare of the Tibetan people and conservation of culture especially during the opposition of China. The influence of these contributions of the 14th Dalai Lama impacts Buddhism in regards to the way in which it is perceived and practiced by adherents of the religion.
As stated before, the 14th Dalai Lama became the political leader of the Tibetan people at age 15. This occured as a response to the oppression imposed onto the Tibetan people by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in October 1950. In his response, he exercised the Dharma as seen when he states, ‘Buddhism is a way of thinking, a way of life, a way of guidance, and especially I think a proper way to confront our negative emotion’. This is demonstrated through the Dalai Lama’s non-violent stance against the opposition of China, displaying the practice of the concepts of the 8 fold path, and in particular, the concepts of right action, right mindfulness, and right intent which is represented in his lack of ego (mark of anatta) as he states, ‘Violence will only increase the cycle of violence’. His teachings and the Dharma is exemplified through his attempts to negotiate with the Chinese government for 9 years, however, he eventually sought refuge in Dharamshala in India in 1959. This course of action occurred out of adherence of the first precept, Ahimsa. In addition to this, the Dalai Lama insisted that in response to China, Tibet would act peacefully and thus presented the Five Point Peace Plan in 1987 to China. As a result, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He taught that, ‘in the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.’ and teaching that circumstance should not determine behaviour. This is demonstrated through the way in which his actions as spiritual leader are integrated into the decisions made as a political leader, expressing the tenets of Buddhism specifically through course of actions mentioned when responding to the oppression of China. This emphasis on the consistency of attitude is exhibited in his actions as described by ******** as stated in ***, ‘***’
Moreover, In the effort to conserve and maintain the unique Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist culture that was developed in Tibetan society and was adapted as a way of life, the Dalai Lama established the highly democratic, theocratic Tibetan constitution in 1963 (Tibetan government in exile). Later, The Dalai Lama established the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, effectively educating students on the traditional language, culture, history, and religion of Tibet in effort of conservation of traditional culture. Furthermore, He instituted efforts to establish monasteries and appointed a sangha that were to be associated with education, human rights and democracy.
The Dalai Lama developed Buddhism to solidify the way in which it interacts with modern issues and has reinforced the stance of Buddhism on the modern ethical issues such as sexuality, abortion, environmental ethics, euthanasia.
The way in which the Dalai Lama has impacted Buddhism in a contemporary context is most explicitly illustrated in the establishment Dalai Lama foundation. The Dalai Lama foundation was established in 2002 to promote the ideals of Buddhism globally especially in regards to peace and ethics, with the focus of implementing moral and ethical justice in an effort to encourage the presence of peace in modern societies. Through this and his stances on modern ethical issues, he effectively demonstrates the Buddhist teachings (Dharma) of the right mindfulness, right speech, and right effort as well as the fundamental Buddhist teaching of compassion (ahimsa).
The Dalai Lama