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Definition: Dalai Lama from The Macquarie Dictionary

the Grand Lama, formerly the chief pontiff and governmental ruler of Tibet (now the Xizang Autonomous Region) believed to be a reincarnation of previous Dalai Lamas.


the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), born 1935, who fled to India in 1959 following Chinese occupation of Tibet (now the Xizang Autonomous Region); awarded the Nobel Peace prize 1989.

Etymology: Tibetan dalai literally, ocean + lama priest

Summary Article: Tenzin, Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama) (1935–)
from Asian Americans: An Encyclopedia of Social, Cultural, Economic, and Political History

Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th and current Dalai Lama of Tibet, former head of the Tibetan government in exile, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and recognized spiritual leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama has been successful in garnering international sympathy for greater Tibetan autonomy and has emerged in Western consciousness as one of the most recognized and revered teachers of the Buddhist tradition. Since the 1980s he has become a well-known author and is known for his gentle and sometimes humorous disposition.

Born Lhamo Dhondrub in the Amdo region of Tibet in 1935, he was recognized as the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama at the age of two and received the name Tenzin Gyatso upon ordination as a monk. After years of intense training he assumed full temporal and religious control of Tibet in 1950, but in the face of encroaching Communist Chinese forces in 1959 he fled with his advisors to India to begin a life in exile.

In 1987, decades after establishing the government of Tibet in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama proposed a new plan for a negotiated settlement with the Chinese government, and although it was rejected, he drew international praise and his efforts led to his selection as the recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 1989. The following decades saw an increased exposure of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause in American media, and the Dalai Lama has since received numerous honors and rewards for his human rights advocacy and commitment to nonviolence.

In 2011, the Dalai Lama formally submitted his resignation as the temporal ruler of Tibet. Although the Dalai Lama remains the spiritual leader of Tibet and continues to tour and offer public lectures on Buddhism, the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama officially stated in 2011 that he is unsure if he will chose to be reincarnated and will need further consultation as to whether the institute of the Dalai Lama will continue in the future.

See also Tibetan Americans

  • Mullin, Glen H. 2001. The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation. Clear Light Publishers Santa Fe.
  • Tenzin Gyatso; Dalai Lama XIV. 1962. My Land and My People. McGraw-Hill New York.
  • Peter M. Romaskiewicz
    Copyright 2013 by Xiaojian Zhao and Edward J.W. Park

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