His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet and was head of the state until his devolution of political power to the elected leadership in 2011. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, in north-eastern Tibet. At the age of two, the child named Lhamo Dhondup was recognized as the reincarnation of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. On 22 February 1940 he was formally enthroned at a ceremony in the Potala Palace, Lhasa. His Holiness the Dalai Lama began his monastic education at the age of five, and at twenty-three was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, equivalent to a doctorate of Buddhist philosophy.
On 17 November 1950, at the age of 16, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power following China’s invasion of Tibet the previous year. In 1954 His Holiness went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders including Deng Xiao ping and Zhou Enlai. In 1959, at the age of 24, he was forced into exile in India due to the increasing repression under communist China‘s occupation. Since then he has been living in Dharamshala, northern India, headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration.
After the Chinese invasion, His Holiness appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet. As a result, the UN General Assembly adopted three resolutions on Tibet in 1959, 1961 and 1965. Soon after his arrival in India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama established the Central Tibetan Administration on 29 April 1959 to succeed the Gaden Phodrang Government, which had governed Independent Tibet since 1642.
He also introduced Tibetans in exile to the practice of democratic self-rule and instituted the first election of Tibetan people’s representatives on 2 September 1960. In 1963 His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented a draft democratic constitution for a future Tibet, followed by a number of reforms to democratize the administrative set-up of the Tibetan community in exile. These initiatives eventually led to the promulgation of a new democratic constitution called “The Charter of the Tibetans-in-Exile” in 1991, which provided for the expansion of the Tibetan Parliament in exile and empowered it to elect the Kalons of the Tibetan administration.
In March 2011, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in order to bring about complete democratization of the Tibetan polity, announced his decision to devolve his political responsibility to an elected Tibetan leadership. On 29 May 2011 His Holiness the Dalai Lama signed into law the formal transfer of his temporal powers to the democratically elected leaders. His Holiness the Dalai Lama truly empowered his people through this decisive act, unleashing their collective energy to sustain their just struggle for years to come.
Today His Holiness the Dalai Lama is recognized globally as an embodiment of the highest human aspirations – the end of suffering and the cultivation of happiness for all sentient beings. To spread this enduring human message, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has travelled tirelessly to over 67 countries, meeting the powerful and the mighty, the poor and the disenfranchised, with the same warmth and care. He has held dialogues with the heads of different religions and many eminent scientists. He has authored or co-authored 116 books in the English language.
In recognition of his unwavering efforts to spread the message of peace, non- violence, inter-religious harmony, universal responsibility and compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been honoured with more than 150 awards and honorary doctorates including the Noble Peace Prize in 1989, the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 and the Templeton Prize in 2012.