His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the age of two, the child, then named Lhamo Dhondup, was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.
The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are realized beings inspired by a wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, who have vowed to be reborn in the world to help humanity.
His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. The curriculum, derived from the Nalanda tradition, consisted of five major and five minor subjects. The major subjects included logic, fine arts, Sanskrit grammar, and medicine, but the greatest emphasis was given to Buddhist philosophy which was further divided into a further five categories: Prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology. The five minor subjects included poetry, drama, astrology, composition and synonyms.
At 23, His Holiness sat for his final examination in Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, during the annual Great Prayer Festival (Monlam Chenmo) in 1959. He passed with honors and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, equivalent to the highest doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.
In 1950, after China's invasion of Tibet, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power. In 1954, he went to Beijing and met with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. Finally, in 1959, following the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala, northern India.
In exile, the Central Tibetan Administration led by His Holiness appealed to the United Nations to consider the question of Tibet. The General Assembly adopted three resolutions on Tibet in 1959, 1961 and 1965
On 21 September 1987 in an address to members of the United States Congress in Washington, DC, His Holiness proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet as a first step towards a peaceful solution of the worsening situation in Tibet. The five points of the plan were as follows:
Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace.
Abandonment of China's population transfer policy that threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people.
Respect for the Tibetan people's fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.
Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.
Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.
On 15 June 1988, in an address to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, His Holiness further elaborated on the last point of the Five-Point Peace Plan. He proposed talks between the Chinese and Tibetans leading to a self-governing democratic political entity for all three provinces of Tibet. This entity would be in association with the People's Republic of China and the Chinese Government would continue to be responsible for Tibet's foreign policy and defence.