Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

About the Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth and present Dalai Lama, was born Lhamo Dhondrub on July 6th, 1935 in the village of Takster in Amdo near the monastery of Kumbum in northeastern Tibet to a peasant family. At the age of three, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Much mysticism surrounded the discovery of the new Dalai Lama. While the body of Thupten Gyatso still lay in state at the Potala, it is said that his face turned toward the northeast. Soon thereafter, a vision of the house where the next Dalai Lama would be found appeared to Reting Rinpoche, a Tibetan regent, as he gazed into Lake Lhamo Latso in southern Tibet. He saw the letters Ah, Ka, Ma, along with the image of a monastery with a jade green roof, and a humble house with a turquoise roof and unusual gutters.

For the letter Ah, a search party was sent to Amdo in the northeastern province of Tibet, and then to the Karma Rolpai Dorje monastery in Kumbum, with its turquoise roof, for the letters Ka and Ma. There they found the house with the unusual gutters. A search of the surrounding villages revealed a house with an ancient juniper bush on the roof, where they sought lodging for the night. There they found an infant boy named Lhamo among the members of the household. The leader of the search party, pretending to be an ordinary servant, played with the child, who took to him instantly and called him Sera Lama, for the name of the monastery where the lama had once been a disciple. A few days later, the party returned with a collection of personal artifacts that had belonged to Thupten Gyatso, the former Dalai Lama, including rosaries, drums and walking sticks. When presented to the child along with other items that had not belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, the boy Lhamo claimed all the correct items as his own. Convinced that the child was the true reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, he was taken to Lhasa, but only after paying a substantial ransom to the Chinese provincial governor for his release.

Tenzin Gyatso was enthroned on February 22, 1940 in the Potala Palace at Lhasa at age four. His eighteen-year spiritual training began at the age of six, and was completed when he received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Philosophy at age 25. In October 1950 however, in the midst of his training, The People's Liberation Army of China invaded Tibet, and Tenzin Gyatso assumed full power as the Fourteenth Dalai Lama on November 17, at the age of fifteen. Political unrest continued to escalate, and by 1959, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet for India with nearly 80,000 followers. On March 17, 1959, the Dalai Lama escaped from the summer palace at Norbulinka with his family. For nearly five decades, from his headquarters at Dharamsala, India Tenzin Gyatso has worked relentlessly to restore the sovereignty of Tibet through peaceful, non-violent means, and to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the Tibetan people. On December 10, 1989, Tenzin Gyatso was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.