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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Life as Dalai Lama


As well as being one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama traditionally claims to be Tibet's Head of State and most important political ruler. At the age of fifteen, faced with possible conflict with the People's Republic of China, Tenzin Gyatso was on November 17, 1950, enthroned as the temporal leader of Tibet; however, he was only able to govern for a brief time. In October of that year, an army of the People's Republic of China entered the territory controlled by the Tibetan administration, easily breaking through the Tibetan defenders.

The People's Liberation Army stopped short of the old border between Tibet and Xikang and demanded negotiations. The Dalai Lama sent a delegation to Beijing, and, although he has rejected the subsequent Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, he did try to work with the Chinese government until 1959. During that year, there was a major uprising among the Tibetan population. In the tense political environment that ensued, the Dalai Lama and his entourage began to suspect that China was planning to kill him. Consequently, he fled to Dharamsala, India, on March 17 of that year, entering India on March 31 during the Tibetan uprising.

Exile in India

The Dalai Lama met with the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, to urge India to pressure China into giving Tibet an autonomous government when relations with China were not proving successful. Nehru did not want to increase tensions between China and India, so he encouraged the Dalai Lama to work on the Seventeen Point Agreement Tibet had with China. Eventually in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and set up the government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamsala, India, which is often referred to as "Little Lhasa".

After the founding of the exiled government, he rehabilitated the Tibetan refugees who followed him into exile in agricultural settlements. He created a Tibetan educational system in order to teach the Tibetan children what he believed to be traditional language, history, religion, and culture. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in 1959, and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies became the primary university for Tibetans in India. He supported the refounding of 200 monasteries and nunneries in attempt to preserve Tibetan Buddhist teachings and the Tibetan way of life.

The Dalai Lama appealed to the United Nations on the question of Tibet, which resulted in three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, 1961, and 1965. These resolutions required China to respect the human rights of Tibetans and their desire for self-determination.

In 1963, he promulgated a supposed democratic constitution which is based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A Tibetan parliament-in-exile is elected by the Tibetan refugees scattered all over the world, and the Tibetan Goverment in Exile is likewise elected by the Tibetan parliament.

At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987 in Washington, D.C., he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan regarding the future status of Tibet. The plan called for Tibet to become a "zone of peace" and for the end of movement by ethnic Chinese into Tibet. It also called for "respect for fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms" and "the end of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production, testing, and disposal." Finally, it urged "earnest negotiations" on the future of Tibet.

He proposed a similar plan at Strasbourg, France, on 15 June 1988. He expanded on the Five-Point Peace Plan and proposed the creation of a self-governing democratic Tibet, "in association with the People's Republic of China". This plan was rejected by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in 1991.

In October 1991, he expressed his wish to return to Tibet to try to form a mutual assessment on the situation with the Chinese local government. At this time he feared that a violent uprising would take place and wished to avoid it.

On July 5, 2005, the Dalai Lama called on the G8 leaders meeting the next day to ease the plight of the millions starving throughout the world, during a meeting with the rock singer Annie Lennox. He said the meeting had "positive potential".

The Dalai Lama celebrated his seventieth birthday on July 6, 2005. About 10,000 Tibetan refugees, monks and foreign tourists gathered outside his home. Patriarch Alexius II of the Russian Orthodox Church said, "I confess that the Russian Orthodox Church highly appreciates the good relations it has with the followers of Buddhism and hopes for their further development" . President Chen Shui-bian of the Republic of China attended an evening celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday that was entitled "Traveling with Love and Wisdom for 70 Years" at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei. The President invited him to return to Taiwan for a third trip in 2005. His previous trips were in 2001, and 1997.

The Dalai Lama wishes to return to Tibet only if the People's Republic of China sets no preconditions for the return, which they have refused to do . On July 5, 2005, the People's Republic of China refused his request to return to Tibet on his birthday, despite worries that if he dies in exile it may spark an uprising against the local government in Tibet and neighboring areas.
Foreign relations

Since 1967, the Dalai Lama has initiated a series of tours in forty-six nations. He met with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973. Later on, he met with Pope John Paul II in 1980 and also later in 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990 and 2003. In 2006, he met privately with Pope Benedict XVI. He has also met the Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Dr. Robert Runcie, and with other leaders of the Anglican Church in London. Finally, he has met Jewish and senior Catholic officials.

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