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The Dalai Lama is a lineage of religious officials of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. "Lama" is a general term referring to Tibetan Buddhist teachers. In religious terms, the Dalai Lama is believed by his devotees to be the rebirth of a long line of tulkus who descend from the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Traditionally, His Holiness is thought of as the latest reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders who have chosen to be reborn in order to enlighten others. The Dalai Lama is often thought to be the director of the Gelug School, but this position belongs officially to the Ganden Tripa, which is a temporary position appointed by the Dalai Lama (who in practice exerts much influence).

Between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lamas were the directors of the Tibetan Government, administering a large portion of the area from the capital Lhasa, although the extent of that lineage's historical authority, legitimacy and claim to territory has been recently contested for political reasons. Since 1959, the Dalai Lama has been president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, or Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).


The current Dalai Lama is sometimes called "His Holiness" (HH) by Westerners (by analogy with the Pope), although this does not translate to a Tibetan title.

"Dalai" means "Ocean" in Mongolian, and is a translation of the Tibetan name "Gyatso," while "Lama" is the Tibetan equivalent of the Sanskrit word "guru." Putting the terms together, the full title is "Ocean Teacher" meaning a teacher who is spiritually as great as the ocean. The name is often mistranslated as "Ocean of Wisdom."

"The Institution of the Dalai Lama" by R. N. Rahul Sheel in The Tibet Journal, Vol. XIV No. 3. Autumn 1989, pp. 19-32 says on pp. 31-32, n. 1: "The word Dalai is Mongolian for "ocean", used mainly by the Chinese, the Mongols, and foreigners. Rgya mtsho, the corresponding Tibetan word, always has formed the last part of the religious name of the Dalai Lama since Dalai Lama II [sic – should read Dalai Lama III]. The expression Lama (Bla ma) means the "superior one". Western usage has taken it to mean the "priest" of the Buddhism of Tibet. The term Dalai Lama, therefore, means "Ocean of Wisdom."[1]

Before the 20th century, European sources often referred to the Dalai Lama as the "Grand Lama". For example, in 1795 Benjamin Franklin Bache mocked George Washington by terming him the "Grand Lama of this Country".[2] Some in the West believed the Dalai Lama to be worshipped by the Tibetans as the godhead.[3]


Kublai Khan

During 1252, Kublai Khan granted an audience to Drogön Chögyal Phagpa and Karma Pakshi, the 2nd Karmapa. Karma Pakshi, however, sought the patronage of Möngke Khan. Before his death in 1283, Karma Pakshi wrote a will to protect the established interests of his sect by advising his disciples to locate a boy to inherit the black hat. His instruction was based on the premise that Buddhist ideology is eternal, and that Buddha would send emanations to complete the missions he had initiated. Karma Pakshi's disciples acted in accordance with the will and located the reincarnated boy of their master. The event was the beginning of the teacher reincarnation system for the Black-Hat Line of Tibetan Buddhism. During the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Yongle bestowed the title Great Treasure Prince of Dharma, the first of the three Princes of Dharma, upon the Black-Hat Karmapa. Various sects of Tibetan Buddhism responded to the teacher reincarnation system by creating similar lineages.

The origin of the title of Dalai Lama

During 1578 the Mongol ruler Altan Khan bestowed what would later become the title Dalai Lama on Sonam Gyatso, which was also later applied retroactively to the two predecessors in his reincarnation line, Gendun Drup and Gendun Gyatso. Gendun Gyatso was also Sonam Gyatso's predecessor as abbot of Drepung monastery. However, the 14th Dalai Lama asserts that Altan Khan did not intend to bestow a title as such and that he intended only to translate the name "Sonam Gyatso" into Mongolian.

As journalist Thomas Laird explains:[4]

. . . many writers have mistranslated Dalai Lama as "Ocean of Wisdom." The full Mongolian title, "the wonderful Vajradhara, good splendid meritorious ocean," given by Altan Khan, is primarily a translation of the Tibetan words Sonam Gyatso (sonam is "merit").

The 14th Dalai Lama remarks:[5]

The very name of each Dalai Lama from the Second Dalai Lama onwards had the word Gyatso [in it], which means "ocean" in Tibetan. Even now I am Tenzin Gyatso, so the first name is changing but the second part [the word "ocean"] became like part of each Dalai Lama's name. All of the Dalai Lamas, since the Second, have this name. So I don't really agree that the Mongols actually conferred a title. It was just a translation.

Whatever the intention may have been originally, the Mongolian "Dalai", which does not have any meaning as a Tibetan term, came to be understood commonly as a title.

The name or title Dalai Lama in Mongolian may also have derived originally from the title taken by Temüjin or Genghis Khan when he was proclaimed emperor of a united Mongolia during 1206. Temüjin took the name Čingis Qāghan or "oceanic sovereign", the Anglicized version of which is Genghis Khan.[6]

Tibetans address the Dalai Lama as Gyalwa Rinpoche ('Precious Victor'), Kundun ('Presence') Yishin Norbu ('Wishfulfilling Gem'), and so on.[7]

Sonam Gyatso

Sonam Gyatso was an Abbot at the Drepung Monastery who was considered widely as one of the most eminent lamas of his time. Although Sonam Gyatso became the first lama to have the title "Dalai Lama" as described above, since he was the third member of his lineage, he became known as the "Third Dalai Lama." The previous two titles were conferred posthumously upon his earlier incarnations.

Yonten Gyatso (1589 – 1616), the 4th Dalai Lama and a non-Tibetan, was the grandson of Altan Khan.

Verhaegen (2002: p. 5-6) states that the tulku tradition of the Dalai Lama has evolved into, and been inaugurated as, an institution and is recognised as a "cornerstone of Tibetan identity and culture":

The institution of the Dalai Lama has become, over the centuries, a central focus of Tibetan cultural identity; "a symbolic embodiment of the Tibetan national character." Today, the Dalai Lama and the office of the Dalai Lama have become focal points in their struggle towards independence and, more urgently, cultural survival. The Dalai Lama is regarded as the principal incarnation of Chenrezig (referred to as Avalokiteshvara in India), the bodhisattva of compassion and patron deity of Tibet. In that role the Dalai Lama has chosen to use peace and compassion in his treatment of his own people and his oppressors. In this sense the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of an ideal of Tibetan values and a cornerstone of Tibetan identity and culture.[8]

Verhaegen (2002: p. 6) mentions the trans-polity influence that the Institution of the Dalai Lama has had historically in areas such as western China, Mongolia, Ladakh in addition to the other Himalayan Kingdoms:[9]

The Dalai Lamas have also functioned as the principal spiritual guide to many Himalayan kingdoms bordering Tibet, as well as western China, Mongolia and Ladakh. The literary works of the Dalai Lamas have, over the centuries, inspired more than fifty million people in these regions. Those writings, reflecting the fusion of Buddhist philosophy embodied in Tibetan Buddhism, have become one of the world's great repositories of spiritual thought.

Unification of Tibet

Güshi Khan

In the 1630s, Tibet became entangled in power struggles between the rising Manchu and various Mongol and Oirat factions. Ligden Khan of the Chakhar, retreating from the Manchu, set out to Tibet to destroy the Yellow Hat sect. He died on the way in Koko Nur in 1634 [10]. His vassal Tsogt Taij continued the fight, even having his own son Arslan killed after Arslan changed sides. Tsogt Taij was defeated and killed by Güshi Khan of the Khoshud in 1637, who would in turn become the overlord of Tibet, and act as a "Protector of the Yellow Church"[11]. Güshi helped the Fifth Dalai Lama to establish himself as the highest spiritual and political authority in Tibet and destroyed any potential rivals. The time of the Fifth Dalai Lama was, however, also a period of rich cultural development.

The Fifth Dalai Lama's death was kept secret for fifteen years by the regent (Tibetan: desiWylie: sde-srid), Sanggye Gyatso. This was apparently done so that the Potala Palace could be finished, and to prevent Tibet's neighbours taking advantage of an interregnum in the succession of the Dalai Lamas.[12]

Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama, was not enthroned until 1697. Tsangyang Gyatso enjoyed a lifestyle that included drinking, the company of women, and writing love songs.[13] In 1705, Lobzang Khan of the Khoshud used the sixth Dalai Lama's escapades as excuse to take control of Tibet. The regent was murdered, and the Dalai Lama sent to Beijing. He died on the way, near Koko Nur, ostensibly from illness. Lobzang Khan appointed a new Dalai Lama who, however, was not accepted by the Gelugpa school. Kelzang Gyatso was discovered near Koko Nur and became a rival candidate.

The Dzungars invaded Tibet in 1717, and deposed and killed Lobzang Khan's pretender to the position of Dalai Lama. This was widely approved. However, they soon began to loot the holy places of Lhasa, which brought a swift response from Emperor Kangxi in 1718; but his military expedition was annihilated by the Dzungars, not far from Lhasa.[14][15]

A second, larger, expedition sent by Emperor Kangxi expelled the Dzungars from Tibet in 1720 and the troops were hailed as liberators. They brought Kelzang Gyatso with them from Kumbum to Lhasa and he was installed as the seventh Dalai Lama in 1721.[14][16]

After him [Jamphel Gyatso the VIIIth Dalai Lama (1758-1804)], the IXth and Xth Dalai Lamas died before attaining their majority: one of them is credibly stated to have been murdered and strong suspicion attaches to the other. The XIth and XIIth were each enthroned but died soon after being invested with power. For 113 years, therefore, supreme authority in Tibet was in the hands of a Lama Regent, except for about two years when a lay noble held office and for short periods of nominal rule by the XIth and XIIth Dalai Lamas.

It has sometimes been suggested that this state of affairs was brought about by the Ambans—the Imperial Residents in Tibet—because it would be easier to control the Tibet through a Regent than when a Dalai Lama, with his absolute power, was at the head of the government. That is not true. The regular ebb and flow of events followed its set course. The Imperial Residents in Tibet, after the first flush of zeal in 1750, grew less and less interested and efficient. Tibet was, to them, exile from the urbanity and culture of Peking; and so far from dominating the Regents, the Ambans allowed themselves to be dominated. It was the ambition and greed for power of Tibetans that led to five successive Dalai Lamas being subjected to continuous tutelage.


Thubten Jigme Norbu, the elder brother of the present 14th Dalai Lama, describes these unfortunate events as follows:[18]

It is perhaps more than a coincidence that between the seventh and the thirteenth holders of that office, only one reached his majority. The eighth, Gyampal Gyatso, died when he was in his thirties, Lungtog Gyatso when he was eleven, Tsultrim Gyatso at eighteen, Khadrup Gyatso when he was eighteen also, and Krinla Gyatso at about the same age. The circumstances are such that it is very likely that some, if not all, were poisoned, either by loyal Tibetans for being Chinese-appointed impostors, or by the Chinese for not being properly manageable.

Throne awaiting Dalai Lama's return. Summer residence of 13th Dalai Lama, Nechung, Tibet.

Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, assumed ruling power from the monasteries, which previously had great influence on the Regent, during 1895. Due to his two periods of exile in 1904-1909, to escape the British invasion of 1904, and from 1910-1912 to escape a Chinese invasion, he became well aware of the complexities of international politics and was the first Dalai Lama to become aware of the importance of foreign relations. After his return from exile in India and Sikkim during January 1913, he assumed control of foreign relations and dealt directly with the Maharaja and the British Political officer in Sikkim and the king of Nepal rather than letting the Kashag or parliament do it.[19]

Thubten Gyatso issued a Declaration of Independence from China during the summer of 1912 and standardised the Tibetan flag to its present form.[20] He deported all Chinese residents in the country, including the Ambans, and instituted many measures to modernise Tibet.[21]

The Dalai Lamas continued to direct Tibet until the People's Republic of China invaded the region during 1949 and then assumed complete control during 1959. The 14th Dalai Lama then fled to India and has since ceded temporal power to an elected government-in-exile. The current 14th Dalai Lama seeks greater autonomy for Tibet.


Potala Palace


Starting with the 5th Dalai Lama and until the 14th Dalai Lama's flight into exile during 1959, the Dalai Lamas spent the winter at the Potala Palace and the summer at the Norbulingka palace and park. Both are in Lhasa and approximately 3 km apart.

During 1959, after the start of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge in India. The then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was instrumental in granting safe refuge to the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has since lived in exile in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, where the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government-in-exile) is also established. Tibetan refugees have constructed and opened many schools and Buddhist temples in Dharamsala.[22]

Searching for the reincarnation

The search for the 14th Dalai Lama took the High Lamas to Taktser in Amdo

Palden Lhamo, the female guardian spirit of the sacred lake, Lhamo La-tso, who promised Gendun Drup the 1st Dalai Lama in one of his visions that "she would protect the reincarnation lineage of the Dalai Lamas"

By the Himalayan tradition, phowa (Tibetan) is the discipline that transfers the mindstream to the intended body. Upon the death of the Dalai Lama and consultation with the Nechung Oracle, a search for the Lama's reincarnation, or yangsi (yang srid), is conducted. Traditionally it has been the responsibility of the High Lamas of the Gelugpa Tradition and the Tibetan government to find his reincarnation. The process can take around two or three years to identify the Dalai Lama, and for the 14th Tenzin Gyatso it was four years before he was found. The search for the Dalai Lama has usually been limited historically to Tibet, although the third tulku was born in Mongolia. Tenzin Gyatso, though, has stated that there is a chance that he will not be reborn although if he is reborn it will not be in a country possessed by the People's Republic of China.[23] The High Lamas used several ways in which they can increase the chances of finding the reincarnation. High Lamas often visit the holy lake, called Lhamo La-tso, in central Tibet and watch for a sign from the lake itself. This may be either a vision or some indication of the direction in which to search and this was how Tenzin Gyatso was found. It is said that Palden Lhamo, the female guardian spirit of the sacred lake, Lhamo La-tso, promised Gendun Drup, the 1st Dalai Lama in one of his visions "that she would protect the reincarnation lineage of the Dalai Lamas." Ever since the time of Gendun Gyatso, the 2nd Dalai Lama, who formalised the system, the Regents and other monks have gone to the lake to seek guidance on choosing the next reincarnation through visions while meditating there.[24]

The particular form of Palden Lhamo at Lhamo La-tso is Gyelmo Maksorma, "The Victorious One who Turns Back Enemies". The lake is sometimes referred to as "Pelden Lhamo Kalideva", which indicates that Palden Lhamo is an emanation of the goddess Kali, the shakti of the Hindu god Śiva.[25]

Lhamo Latso ... [is] a brilliant azure jewel set in a ring of grey mountains. The elevation and the surrounding peaks combine to give it a highly changeable climate, and the continuous passage of cloud and wind creates a constantly moving pattern on the surface of the waters. On that surface visions appear to those who seek them in the right frame of mind.[26]

It was here that during 1935, the Regent, Reting Rinpoche, received a clear vision of three Tibetan letters and of a monastery with a jade-green and gold roof, and a house with turquoise roof tiles, which led to the discovery of Tenzin Gyatso, the present 14th Dalai Lama.[27][28][29]

High Lamas may also have a vision by a dream or if the Dalai Lama was cremated, they will often monitor the direction of the smoke as an indication of the direction of the rebirth.[23]

Once the High Lamas have found the home and the boy they believe to be the reincarnation, the boy undergoes a series of tests to affirm the rebirth. They present a number of artefacts, only some of which belonged to the previous Dalai Lama, and if the boy chooses the items which belonged to the previous Dalai Lama, this is seen as a sign, in conjunction with all of the other indications, that the boy is the reincarnation.

If there is only one boy found, the High Lamas will invite Living Buddhas of the three great monasteries together with secular clergy and monk officials, to confirm their findings and will then report to the Central Government through the Minister of Tibet. Later a group consisting of the three major servants of Dalai Lama, eminent officials and troops will collect the boy and his family and travel to Lhasa, where the boy would be taken, usually to Drepung Monastery to study the Buddhist sutra in preparation for assuming the role of spiritual leader of Tibet.[23]

However, if there are several possibilities of the reincarnation, in the past regents and eminent officials and monks at the Jokhang in Lhasa, and the Minister to Tibet would decide on the individual by putting the boys names inside an urn and drawing one lot in public if it was too difficult to judge the reincarnation initially.[30]

List of Dalai Lamas

This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.

There have been 14 recognised reincarnations of the Dalai Lama:

Name Picture Lifespan Recognised Reign Tibetan/Wylie PRC transcription (Chinese transcription) Alternative spellings
1 Gendun Drup 1stDalaiLama.jpg 1391–1474 N/A[31] དགེ་འདུན་འགྲུབ་
dge ‘dun ‘grub
Gêdün Chub (根敦朱巴) Gedun Drub
Gedün Drup
Gendun Drup
2 Gendun Gyatso 2Dalai.jpg 1475–1542 1492–1542[31] དགེ་འདུན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
dge 'dun rgya mtsho
Gêdün Gyaco (根敦嘉措) Gedün Gyatso
Gendün Gyatso
3 Sonam Gyatso 3rdDalaiLama.jpg 1543–1588 ? 1578–1588 བསོད་ནམས་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
bsod nams rgya mtsho
Soinam Gyaco (索南嘉措) Sönam Gyatso
4 Yonten Gyatso 4DalaiLama.jpg 1589–1617 ? 1601–1617 ཡོན་ཏན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
yon tan rgya mtsho
Yoindain Gyaco (雲丹嘉措) Yontan Gyatso
5 Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso NgawangLozangGyatso.jpg 1617–1682 1618 1642–1682 བློ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
blo bzang rgya mtsho
Lobsang Gyaco (羅桑嘉措) Lobzang Gyatso
Lopsang Gyatso
6 Tsangyang Gyatso 6dalailama.jpg 1683–1706 1688 1697–1706 ཚངས་དབྱངས་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
tshang dbyangs rgya mtsho
Cangyang Gyaco (倉央嘉措)
7 Kelzang Gyatso 7thDalaiLama.jpg 1708–1757 ? 1720–1757 བསྐལ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
bskal bzang rgya mtsho
Gaisang Gyaco (格桑嘉措) Kelsang Gyatso
Kalsang Gyatso
8 Jamphel Gyatso 8thDalaiLama.jpg 1758–1804 1760 1762–1804 བྱམས་སྤེལ་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
byams spel rgya mtsho
Qambê Gyaco (強白嘉措) Jampel Gyatso
Jampal Gyatso
9 Lungtok Gyatso 9thDalaiLama.jpg 1805–1815 1807 1810–1815 ལུང་རྟོགས་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
lung rtogs rgya mtsho
Lungdog Gyaco (隆朵嘉措) Lungtog Gyatso
10 Tsultrim Gyatso 10thDalaiLama.jpg 1816–1837 1822 1826–1837 ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
tshul khrim rgya mtsho
Cüchim Gyaco (楚臣嘉措) Tshültrim Gyatso
11 Khendrup Gyatso 11thDalaiLama1.jpg 1838–1856 1841 1842–1856 མཁས་གྲུབ་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
mkhas grub rgya mtsho
Kaichub Gyaco (凱珠嘉措) Kedrub Gyatso
12 Trinley Gyatso 12thDalai Lama.jpg 1857–1875 1858 1860–1875 འཕྲིན་ལས་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
'phrin las rgya mtsho
Chinlai Gyaco (成烈嘉措) Trinle Gyatso
13 Thubten Gyatso 13thdali2.jpg 1876–1933 1878 1879–1933 ཐུབ་བསྟན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
thub bstan rgya mtsho
Tubdain Gyaco (土登嘉措) Thubtan Gyatso
Thupten Gyatso
14 Tenzin Gyatso Tenzin Gyatzo foto 1.jpg born 1935 1937 1950–present
(currently in exile)
bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho
Dainzin Gyaco (丹增嘉措) Tenzing Gyatso

There has also been one nonrecognised Dalai Lama, Ngawang Yeshe Gyatso, declared during 1707, when he was 25 years old, by the Dzungars as the "true" 6th Dalai Lama - but never accepted as such by the majority of the population.

Future of the position

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso in 2007

The main teaching room of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India

Verhaegen (2002: p. 5) states:

In the mid-1970s Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, told a Polish newspaper that he thought he would be the last Dalai Lama. In a later interview published in the English language press he stated "The Dalai Lama office was an institution created to benefit others. It is possible that it will soon have outlived its usefulness."[32] These statements caused a furor amongst Tibetans in India. Many could not believe that such an option could even be considered. It was further felt that it was not the Dalai Lama's decision to reincarnate. Rather, they felt that since the Dalai Lama is a national institution it was up to the people of Tibet to decide whether or not (sic) the Dalai Lama should reincarnate.[33]

Despite its officially secular stance, the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has claimed the power to approve the naming of "high" reincarnations in Tibet, based on a precedent set by the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. The Qianlong Emperor was said to have instituted a system of selecting the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama by means of a lottery which utilised a golden urn with names wrapped in clumps of barley. This method is unrelated to the traditional means of identifying incarnations used by the Tibetans for centuries. Controversially, this precedent was used by the PRC to name their own Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhists in exile do not regard PRC's Panchen Lama to be the legitimate Panchen Lama; instead recognizing a different child, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, as the reincarnated Panchen Lama. This child and his family have been taken into 'protective custody' according to the PRC, although there has not been any mention of from what or whom the child must be protected. Nyima has been missing since May 17, 1995[34]. All attempts by members of the EU parliament and US government to garner guarantees of the family's safety have been denied by the PRC. During September 2007 the Chinese government said all high monks must be approved by the government, which would include the selection of the 15th Dalai Lama after the death of Tenzin Gyatso. The People's Republic of China may attempt to direct the selection of a successor using the authority of their Panchen Lama.

In response to this scenario, Tashi Wangdi, the representative of the 14th Dalai Lama, replied that the Chinese government's selection would be meaningless. "You can’t impose an Imam, an Archbishop, saints, any can’t politically impose these things on people," said Wangdi. "It has to be a decision of the followers of that tradition. The Chinese can use their political power: force. Again, it’s meaningless. Like their Panchen Lama. And they can’t keep their Panchen Lama in Tibet. They tried to bring him to his monastery many times but people would not see him. How can you have a religious leader like that?"[35]

The Dalai Lama said as early as 1969 that it was for the Tibetans to decide whether the institution of the Dalai Lama "should continue or not."[36] He has given reference to a possible vote occurring in the future for all Tibetan Buddhists to decide whether they wish to recognize his rebirth.[37] In response to the possibility that the PRC may attempt to choose his successor, the Dalai Lama has said he will not be reborn in a country controlled by the People's Republic of China, or any other country which is not free.[38][39]

During 2007, two monks from Tashilhunpo monastery of Tibet committed suicide soon after the beginning of a campaign of exclusion by Chinese officials.[40] These two monks had recognised the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and could therefore have been requested to recognise the next Dalai Lama.[41][42]

On March 10, 2009, the Dalai Lama criticised China for oppressing his people and misrepresenting his wish for Tibetan autonomy. He warned Tibetans to prepare themselves “in case our struggle goes on for a long time". The Dalai Lama also spoke of his own exile, and that of the 90,000 Tibetans who followed him, as a period of “unimaginable hardship, which is still fresh in the Tibetan memory.”[43]

Introduction of the Dalai Lama into popular Western culture

Because of the political and geographical isolation of Tibet, there was little mention of the persona of the Dalai Lama or Tibet in mainstream popular Western culture before the Chinese invasion of Tibet during 1950.

The earliest New York Times mention of the Dalai Lama was in a July 8, 1853 article entitled "The Fate of Asia", where the Dalai Lama was mentioned once by name[44] in the context of larger nations seeking territory and influence in Asia. A March 3, 1878 Times article entitled "Choosing the Dalai Lama" describes the process during 1841 of finding the new Dalai Lama and choosing between four child candidates.

In the February 11, 1924 issue of Time magazine, in an article entitled "Everest Assault",[45] the Dalai Lama is mentioned as giving permission to British army officers in their attempt to scale Mount Everest.

During the early 1940s, the United States Army managed an expedition to Tibet, as directed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to bring gifts to the Dalai Lama, and to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Tibet during the Second World War. This expedition was documented on colour 16 mm film by the United States Army.

Universal Newsreels, which screened feature film presentations in American movie theatres through the late 1960s, produced newsreel segments describing the Dalai Lama to American audiences during the 1950s before the 1950 invasion of Tibet by China, as well as reporting on the invasion of Tibet itself. There were also Universal Newsreels reporting on the 1959 fleeing of the 14th Dalai Lama into Northern India. Once in India he told about what he had seen including the destruction of monasteries.[46]

The Dalai Lama was on the cover of Time magazine on April 20, 1959, with the headline "The Escape that Rocked the Reds".

After the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the public awareness of the Dalai Lama became even more prevalent, and the Dalai Lama became the subject of several motion pictures, including Seven Years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt, Martin Scorsese's feature film Kundun, as well as documentary films like the 2008 theatrically released Dalai Lama Renaissance,[47] narrated by Harrison Ford.

See also

  • International Tibet Independence Movement
  • Tibet Autonomous Region


  1. Art Hughes (2001-05-07). "The Thirteen Previous Dalai Lamas". Part of MPR's special report, Ocean of Wisdom: The Dalai Lama's Visit (Minnesota Public Radio). 
  2. Pennsylvania Aurora. August 1795.
  3. Nicolas Jovet. L'histoire des religions de tous les royaumes du monde. 1710. pp. 553-555.
  4. Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 142. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.
  5. Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 143. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.
  6. Roux, Jean-Paul. (2003). Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, p. 25. Trans from the French by Toula Balas. Thames & Hudson. London. ISBN 0-500-30113-1.
  7. Sheel, R. N. Rahul. "The Institution of the Dalai Lama." The Tibet Journal, Vol. XIV No. 3. Autumn 1989, p. 23.
  8. Verhaegen, Ardy (2002). The Dalai Lamas: The Institution and Its History. Emerging Perceptions in Buddhist Studies, no. 15. New Delhi, India: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd. ISBN 81-246-0202-6. p.5-6.
  9. Verhaegen, Ardy (2002). The Dalai Lamas: The Institution and Its History. Emerging Perceptions in Buddhist Studies, no. 15. New Delhi, India: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd. ISBN 81-246-0202-6. p.6
  10. Michael Weiers, Geschichte der Mongolen, Stuttgart 2004, p.182f
  11. Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, New Brunswick 1970, p. 522
  12. Laird 2006, pp. 181-182
  13. Karenina Kollmar-Paulenz, Kleine Geschichte Tibets, München 2006, pp. 109-122.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet and its History. Second Edition, Revised and Updated, pp. 48-9. Shambhala. Boston & London. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk)
  15. Stein 1972, p. 85
  16. Schirokauer, 242
  17. Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet and its History. Second Edition, Revised and Updated, pp. 59-60. Shambhala. Boston & London. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk)
  18. Norbu, Thubten Jigme and Turnbull, Colin M. (1968). Tibet: An account of the history, the religion and the people of Tibet. Reprint: Touchstone Books. New York. ISBN 0-671-20559-5, p. 311.
  19. Sheel, R. N. Rahul. "The Institution of the Dalai Lama." The Tibet Journal, Vol. XIV No. 3. Autumn 1989, pp. 24 and 29.
  20. Sheel, R. N. Rahul. "The Institution of the Dalai Lama." The Tibet Journal, Vol. XIV No. 3. Autumn 1989, p. 20.
  21. Norbu, Thubten Jigme and Turnbull, Colin M. (1968). Tibet: An account of the history, the religion and the people of Tibet. Reprint: Touchstone Books. New York. ISBN 0-671-20559-5, pp. 314, 318.
  22. "Dispatches from the Tibetan Front: Dharamsala, India," Litia Perta, The Brooklyn Rail, April 4, 2008
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 "Religion and Ethics:Buddhism". BBC. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  24. Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, pp. 139, 264-265. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.
  25. Dowman, Keith. (1988). The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide, p. 260. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London. ISBN 0-7102-1370-0 (pbk).
  26. Hilton, Isabel. (1999). The Search for the Panchen Lama. Viking Books. Reprint: Penguin Books. (2000), pp. 39-40. ISBN 0-14-024670-3.
  27. Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, p. 139. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.
  28. Norbu, Thubten Jigme and Turnbull, Colin M. (1968). Tibet: An account of the history, the religion and the people of Tibet, pp. 228-230. Reprint: Touchstone Books. New York. ISBN 0-671-20559-5, p. 311.
  29. Hilton, Isabel. (1999). The Search for the Panchen Lama. Viking Books. Reprint: Penguin Books. (2000), p. 42. ISBN 0-14-024670-3.
  30. "Dalai Lama’s confirmation of reincarnation". Tibet Travel info. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 The title "Dalai Lama" was conferred posthumously to the 1st and 2nd Dalai Lamas.
  32. Glenn H. Mullin, "Faces of the Dalai Lama: Reflections on the Man and the Tradition", Quest, vol.6, no.3, Autumn 1993, p.80.
  33. Verhaegen, Ardy (2002). The Dalai Lamas: The Institution and Its History. Emerging Perceptions in Buddhist Studies, no. 15. New Delhi, India: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd. ISBN 81-246-0202-6. p.5
  35. Interview with Tashi Wangdi, David Shankbone, Wikinews, November 14, 2007.
  36. "Dalai's reincarnation will not be found under Chinese control". Government of Tibet in Exile. 
  37. Dalai Lama may forgo death before reincarnation, Jeremy Page, The Australian, November 29, 2007.
  38. "Dalai's reincarnation will not be found under Chinese control". Government of Tibet in Exile ex Indian Express July 6, 1999. 
  39. "BBC - Religion & Ethics - People: The Dalai Lama". BBC, UK. 
  40. Two Monks from Panchen Lama's Monastery Commit Suicide
  41. Tibet - "Suicides" of Tibetan Monks who were to recognise the next Dalai Lama
  42. Tibetan monks commit "suicide," victims of pre-Olympic repression
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  46. UPI, Year in Review,


  • Yá Hánzhāng 牙含章: The Biographies of the Dalai Lamas (Dálài Lǎmá chuán 达赖喇嘛传; Beijing, Foreign Languages Press 1993); ISBN 7-119-01267-3.
  • Schulemann, Guenther: Geschichte der Dalai-Lamas, Harrassowitz, Leipzig, 1958.
  • Diki Tsering, edited & introduced by Khedroob Thondop. (2000). Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother's Story. Virgin Publishing Company, London. ISBN 0-7535-0571-1.
  • Murray Silver, "When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama," (Bonaventure Books, Savannah, 2005). The author recounts how he was introduced to the Dalai Lama by mutual friend Richard Gere and became involved in various aspects of the Tibetan initiative; also includes an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and biographies of several high lamas. The book relates a story about the author's wife and how she was healed of leukemia by the Dalai Lama's doctor and a monk from Kathmandu.

Further reading

  • Goodman, Michael H. (1986). The Last Dalai Lama. Shambhala Publications. Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.

External links