How was the 14th Dalai Lama selected?

Knowledge question

What does Dalai Lama mean?

The XIV Dalai Lama made Buddhism very well known in the West. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the Tibet conflict. Since then he has been worshiped by many people regardless of religious affiliation. The Dalai Lama is the secular and spiritual head of the Tibetans. The XIV., The current Dalai Lama, is called Tenzin Gyatso.

So the Dalai Lama is not a name, but a title. But what does the Dalai Lama mean and what is a Dalai Lama anyway? In 1578 the Mongol prince Altan Kahn bestowed this title on the then Grand Lama Sönam Gyatso as thanks for Buddhist consecrations. The meaning of the words "Dalai Lama" is interpreted differently. "Dalai" is originally a Mongolian word and means "ocean". The Tibetan word "Lama" means something like teacher or master. Therefore one often hears the free translation "ocean of wisdom".

Dalai Lamas are the embodiment of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of loving devotion. Chenrezig is also the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are beings who, out of compassion, have chosen to return to normal existence in order to serve others, even though they could have left the eternal cycle of death and rebirth.

The XIV Dalai Lama

A boy was born on July 6, 1935 in Taktser, a small farming village in the Tibetan province of Amdo. His parents, who fought their lives as farmers, called him Lhamo Thöndup, which means "wish-fulfilling goddess". His oldest brother had already been recognized as a high rebirth and so nobody expected that Lhamo Thöndup would also be a special baby.

Almost three years after his birth, a government search party from Lhasa came to Taktser to investigate the reincarnation of the XIII. To locate the Dalai Lama. Various clues and prophecies had brought them to this remote corner of Tibet. They asked Lhamo's parents for a place to stay for the night without revealing the real reason for their trip. So they could watch the boy undisturbed.

They left the next day and returned with items a few days later. Some had the XIII. Dalai Lama, but others only resembled them. The first test for Lhamo: he could correctly identify the objects. But other potential candidates were also tested in this way and it took a long time for the test procedure to be completed.

In the summer of 1939 Lhamo was brought to Lhasa and officially recognized by the government in a solemn ceremony. He was given the new name Tenzin Gyatso. At the age of four and a half, the XIV Dalai Lama ascended the lion throne. He received intensive training. When the Chinese People's Liberation Army began conquering Tibet, the government gave the 15-year-old boy control of Tibet. A difficult time began.

When it became clear that the Chinese invasion could not be stopped, the Dalai Lama decided to flee to India. Since then he has lived in Dharamsala in northern India, from where he headed the Tibetan government-in-exile for decades until he retired from active political life in 2011.

Author: Bettina Wiegand