Understanding Tenzin Gyatso

Swati Chopra

Few of us can claim not to know Tenzin Gyatso, a.k.a the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The elderly maroon-robed monk with a warm smile and ready handshake is one of the most photographed people in the world. And yet, who is he, really? On his 79th birthday today, it is a worthwhile question to ask.

We know the facts about him – that he is the fourteenth reincarnation of the monk-rulers of Tibet, an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, his name is Tenzin Gyatso though he is addressed by honorifics like Kundun (‘the presence’) and Yeshe Norbu (‘wish-fulfilling jewel’). That he had to flee Tibet in 1959 and has lived in India ever since.

He is spiritual master and politician, ambassador for Tibet and lovable guru-philosopher-hopegiver to the world, practitioner of the 2,500-year-old teachings of Buddhism, a modern mind interested in science, and winner of the 1989 Nobel…

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