Tenzin Gyatso

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Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in 2015
Tibetan name
Tibetan script :
བསྟན་ འཛིན་ རྒྱ་མཚོ་
Wylie transliteration :
bstan ´dzin rgya mtsho
Pronunciation in IPA :
[ tɛ̃ ́tsĩ càtsʰo ]
Official transcription of the PRCh :
Dainzin Gyaco
THDL transcription :
Tenzin Gyatso
Other spellings:
Tendzin Gyatsho
Chinese name
Traditional :
丹增 嘉措
Simplified :
丹增 嘉措
Pinyin :
Dānzēng Jiācuò

Tenzin Gyatso (born in Lhamo Döndrub ( ལྷ་མོ་ དོན་ འགྲུབ་ / lha mo don 'grub ); born July 6, 1935 in Taktser , Amdo Province , Eastern Tibet ) is the 14th  Dalai Lama .

He is a Buddhist monk and lineage holder of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism . He advocates the rime movement. From his enthronement he was, like many of his predecessors, head of the Tibetan government and is considered the spiritual head of the Tibetans. In 2011 he resigned from his political offices.

In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The formal name is, based on the address of comparable religious dignitaries, in German His Holiness or, if addressed directly, Your Holiness , Tibetans call him Kundün (Tibetan. Present), Yishi Norbu (Tibetan: "Wish-fulfilling jewel") or Gyelwa Rinpoche .


Childhood and youth

Tenzin Gyatso at the age of five

Tenzin Gyatso is the monk name of the current Dalai Lama . He was born on July 6, 1935 with the name Lhamo Döndrub in Taktser , a village in the Tibetan province of Amdo in northeastern Tibet , the second son of the Dekyi Tshering and Chökyong Tshering family. His mother gave birth to a total of 16 children, seven of whom survived childhood. Tenzin Gyatso has four brothers -  Thubten Jigme Norbu (reincarnation of Taktser Rinpoche ), Gyalo Thöndrup, Lobsang Samten and Tenzin Chögyel - and two sisters: Tshering Dölma and Jetsün Pema . His sister Tshering Dölma and his brothers Lobsang Samten and Thubten Jigme Norbu have since passed away.

At the age of just under two years he was recognized by four monks based on a vision of the regent, oracles and other omens as the rebirth of XIII, who died in 1933 . Dalai Lama found. It is reported that the toddler spontaneously recognized a high lama disguised as a servant as "Lama from Sera Monastery " and took several items from the possession of the 13th Dalai Lama, which were displayed next to similar ones, as his property.

Lhamo Döndrub first had to be ransomed by the provincial governor through substantial bribes, which took almost two years of negotiations. He arrived in Lhasa at the age of about four , where he was enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama during the New Year celebrations on February 22, 1940 in the Potala by the Sitringasol ceremony. His new name was Jetsün Jampel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - "Holy Lord, Kind Lord, Compassionate Defender of Faith, Ocean of Wisdom". Tibetans usually speak of the Dalai Lama as Yishin Norbu ("all wish-fulfilling gem") or simply Kundün ( present ).

Former seat of Tenzin Gyatso, the Potala Palace in Lhasa

The Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer stayed in Lhasa from 1946 to 1950, and from 1948 made friends with the young Dalai Lama, for whom he filmed, photographed and instructed him in the western form of arithmetic as well as in English and geography.

On November 17, 1950, the then 15-year-old Dalai Lama was given secular rule over Tibet, but in view of the apparently hopeless situation under the threat to Tibet from the People's Republic of China at that time, he and his government staff had to go to Dromo immediately Indian border, to safety. Harrer accompanied him until March 1951 and then set out for Europe. The Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa in the summer to resume his religious functions under an agreement with the Chinese.

Agreement with the People's Republic of China

On May 23, 1951, representatives of the Tibetan government signed the " 17-point agreement for the peaceful liberation of Tibet" in Beijing , with which Tibet was to be assured of internal political autonomy and religious freedom, but representation in foreign policy, in foreign trade and in military matters the Government of the People's Republic of China has been claimed. On October 24, 1951, following a resolution by the Tibetan National Assembly in Lhasa, Tenzin Gyatso's approval was telegraphed to Mao Zedong and the government of the People's Republic of China. He himself later stated that he had only agreed to the agreement in order to “save his people and the country from total destruction” . The agreement was preceded by the invasion of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in the eastern Tibetan province of Chamdo .

In 1954, at the invitation of the government of the People's Republic of China and against the resistance of the abbots of Sera , Drepung and Ganden , Tenzin Gyatso traveled to Beijing with an entourage of almost 500 people. Conservative forces of the Tibetan nobility and clergy feared that the Dalai Lama in Beijing could be swayed against their interests. In September 1954 he was elected MP and then Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The Dalai Lama presented gifts to Mao Zedong and wrote a hymn to him in which he spoke to Mao Zedong et al. a. compared to Brahma . The Chinese government financed the construction of the Tagten Migyur Phodrang palace for the 14th Dalai Lama on the Norbulingka site . The palace was completed in 1956.

In winter the 14th Dalai Lama visited other Chinese cities, in 1955 he celebrated the Tibetan New Year in Beijing and on this occasion gave a banquet for Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai , Liu Shaoqi and Zhu De .

In April 1958, the Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee was established and the 14th Dalai Lama was elected chairman of the committee.

Flight and Exile

During the Tibet uprising , Tenzin Gyatso left his summer palace Norbulingka on March 17, 1959 and fled to India. There he had recently obtained the Geshe , the doctorate in Buddhist theology (cf. Indian philosophy ), after having proven himself in philosophical debates with teachers from the Drepung , Ganden and Sera monasteries .

On April 3, 1959, Jawaharlal Nehru informed the Indian parliament that he had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama, his family and their companions . Gyatso Tezpur was assigned as the first whereabouts , where he left on April 18. Another transfer to Masuri soon followed . Finally he was ordered to Dharamsala ( Himachal Pradesh ), where he resides to this day.

Before the flight, the Nechung oracle had been questioned with the result that “the Dalai Lama should leave Tibet”.

Relations with the West

Vienna, 2012

Cultural dialogue

In addition to previous political activities, the 14th Dalai Lama always campaigns intensively for peaceful, constructive and compassionate dialogue between people. To this end, he led lecture tours around the globe and edited publications in which the differentiated ideas of the Tibetan Buddhist religion on questions of life practice, the nature of human consciousness and other existential questions are explained.

The Dalai Lama is considered a friend of Christianity and was often a guest in the Vatican ; He was on friendly terms with Pope John Paul II.

Meeting with Barack Obama in the Map Room of the White House in Washington on June 15, 2016

Because of his keen interest in scientific topics and his collaboration with the North American lawyer Adam Engle and the Chilean neurobiologist and philosopher Francisco Varela , the US-based Mind and Life Institute was founded in 1990 . According to his own statement, the Dalai Lama is convinced that science and the Buddhist theses are absolutely compatible.

In October 2002 Tenzin Gyatso took part in the science congress "Unity in Duality" in Munich - together with nine scientists from different countries from different scientific fields: z. B. for the field of pharmacy Candace B. Pert , pharmacologist, USA; in the field of astrophysics Trịnh Xuân Thuận , astrophysicist born. Vietnam; for the biochemical department Rupert Sheldrake , England; in the field of psychology Jean Shinoda Bolen , psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, USA; the philosophical area represented by Marit Rullmann , project manager of the local Agenda 21, Germany; for the neurobiological specialty Humberto Maturana Biologist, in the context of neuroanatomy, neurobiology, Chile. Ultimately, it was formulated that the dualistic worldview of science does not have to contradict the idea of ​​a unity on which all experiences are based. This meeting is an important station in the dialogue between Buddhist teaching and Western science.

The current Dalai Lama attends Buddhist schools in the west and gives instructions there at regular intervals in Buddhist teachings and rituals.

In addition to his moral authority, the 14th Dalai Lama has above all the status of an “ambassador of peace” in the West. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to use peaceful means to raise awareness of the situation in his home country, Tibet .

The CIA supports the Tibetan government in exile

The armed resistance of Tibetans against the People's Republic of China was co-financed by payments from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Tibetan government-in-exile as part of the Cold War from the 1960s onwards . Around 250 Tibetans were trained in guerrilla tactics , some repeatedly, at Camp Hale , a training camp in Colorado that specializes in mountain warfare . In the course of this program, according to the television magazine Panorama , personal contacts were also made between Tenzin Gyatso and employees of the news service. Contacts were initiated by Tenzin Gyatso's representative, including his brothers, through the US consulate in Calcutta and the US embassy in New Delhi . According to a report by the Financial Times Deutschland, the topic of the contacts was explicitly military aid. In the specialist literature, however, it is emphasized that Gyatso avoided all contact with the CIA or the Kham rebels stationed in Mustang , and that this task was performed by his brother Gyalo Thondup .

In October 1998, the government-in-exile confirmed that it had received around US $ 1,700,000 from the CIA over several years in the 1960s. However, it was denied that Tenzin Gyatso personally benefited from a further fixed sum of US $ 180,000, which, according to research by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, was declared in CIA documents as “monetary aid for the Dalai Lama”. According to its administration, these amounts were used to set up offices in Geneva and New York City and for lobbying activities.

The CIA stopped supporting the fight when the United States lost the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon initiated a policy of détente against the People's Republic of China. The CIA began reducing the operation in 1967, and in 1974 the Dalai Lama called on the last of the guerrillas to lay down their arms.

Relations with the German-speaking area

Tenzin Gyatso is particularly connected to Carinthia through Heinrich Harrer , whom he visited several times in Hüttenberg . In 1992 the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Buddhist prayer room of the Heinrich Harrer Museum , and on Harrer's 90th birthday in 2002 he blessed the newly built Tibetan pilgrimage route Lingkor . At the end of April 1994 the Friedrich Naumann Foundation organized a trip to Germany for him , which took Tenzin Gyatso to Bonn and Berlin , where he had talks with the President of the Bundestag Rita Süssmuth , the Governing Mayor Eberhard Diepgen and the FDP Honorary Chairman Otto Graf Lambsdorff . In October 1998, for a week, he gave a daily briefing to around 8,000 people in the large open space of the former British military camp Camp Reinsehlen in the Lüneburg Heath . On May 14, 2006, Tenzin Gyatso visited Hüttenberg to lay the foundation stone for a Tibet center. Around 5000 people took part in the laying of the foundation stone.

At the end of July 2005, Tenzin Gyatso was a guest in Wiesbaden for three days . He was awarded the Hessian Peace Prize and celebrated his 70th birthday. At the end of his visit he gave a speech in front of around 20,000 people in the Wiesbaden spa gardens .

From July 19 to 29, 2007, the 14th Dalai Lama was in Hamburg , where he gave lectures at the Am Rothenbaum tennis stadium, among other places . At the end of one of his longest trips abroad, he was in Freiburg im Breisgau to inaugurate a stupa in the local Tibet Kailash House, a Tibetan health center, and to give a lecture in the Rothaus Arena.

From September 17 to 19, 2007 the Dalai Lama took part in the Waldzell Meeting in Melk Abbey in Lower Austria . On September 20, he was invited by Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer to an interview at the Federal Chancellery, for which he was heavily criticized by the Chinese.

Tenzin Gyatso in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 2008

From September 20 to 21, 2007, Tenzin Gyatso visited Münster for the second time after 1998 . There he received an honorary doctorate from the Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy from the Westphalian Wilhelms University for his services in mediating between religion and science. For Gyatso this is both the first honorary doctorate from a German university and the first from the field of natural sciences. On the second day, he held discussions with representatives of the Graduate Schools at Münster Castle and gave a lecture on the topic of “Global Responsibility in Science and Society” to around 4,500 guests.

After paying a visit to Hessenpark on September 22, 2007 , Tenzin Gyatso visited Chancellor Angela Merkel in her official residence one day later . This was the first meeting with a German head of government. The Chinese government criticized Merkel for her decision and canceled various meetings with German government representatives.

From May 14th to 20th, 2008 the Dalai Lama visited several cities, including Bochum , Mönchengladbach , Nuremberg , Bamberg and Berlin, following an invitation from the Tibet Initiative Germany under the motto “No peace without human rights” .

other activities

At the beginning of 1998, Tenzin Gyatso appeared in an advertisement for the IT company Apple . The ad with a large-format picture of the Dalai Lama was part of a marketing campaign that was specifically aimed at the Asian markets under the slogan “Think Different”. The other personalities used were Alfred Hitchcock , Albert Einstein , Pablo Picasso , Mahatma Gandhi, and Amelia Earhart . In April 1998, Apple announced that it would in future forego the motif in its advertisement and instead concentrate on better-known personalities. This sparked speculation that the Chinese government was putting pressure on the company. Apple explicitly denied this. Commenting on the company's decision, a well-known market researcher from Hong Kong University said it was impossible for Amelia Earhart to be better known in the region than the Dalai Lama. A spokesman for the Dalai Lama said it was evident that the matter was related to China, a significant market for the company. The Dalai Lama had given the company permission to use the image motif worldwide, he had not been advised that it would not be used in the campaign in China.

Withdrawal from politics

In March 2011, the Dalai Lama asked the Tibetan parliament in exile to release him from his political duties. Democratically elected representatives should replace him. Tsewang Rigzin, the president of the world-wide organized Tibetan Youth Congress, has long questioned the non-violent course of the religious leader. Lobsang Sangay , a lawyer who was elected the new Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile at the end of April 2011, will play his political role .

Religious controversy

A minority of Buddhist monks and lay people continue to worship the patron deity Dorje Shugden , which the 14th Dalai Lama personally no longer continues, as in his opinion this practice goes hand in hand with a sectarian attitude, especially towards the Nyingma school, and thus an ecumenical one Attitude is not beneficial. These steps have also mobilized the reactionary wing. Since these tensions go back to the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Dorje Shugden is seen to be personally hostile to him and the political position associated with him. Prof. Dr. Georges Dreyfus sums up this:

"This sectarian stance is the central message of the founding myth of the Shuk-den tradition, the wrathful transformation of Trul-ku Drak-ba Gyel-tsen into Shuk-den and his hostility to the Fifth Dalai-Lama. This hostility reflects the attitude of a part of the Ge-luk tradition which advocates a strictly Ge-luk practice and opposes the importation of Nying-ma teachings into their tradition. This opposition between two visions of the Ge-luk tradition focuses on the figure of the Dalai- Lama because of the way in which the Fifth and the Fourteenth Dalai-Lamas have considered the institution they represent, ... as resting on an eclectic religious basis in which elements associated with the Nying-ma tradition combine with an overall Ge-luk orientation Shuk-den, then, is less the spirit of teh Ge-luk political resentment against a strong Dalai-Lama, than it is the spirit of a religious resentment against a perceived threat to the integrity of the Ge-luk tradition. "

In 1996, he emphatically advised employees of the Tibetan government in exile and the monks and laypeople under his authority from worshiping Shugden. It is said that the vast majority of exiled Tibetan monasteries excluded monks who refused to give up the practice, but to what extent these groups self-isolated is currently unclear. It cannot be denied that tensions between the groups persist: In 1997, three high-ranking monks who publicly and in the media actively advised against the practice of this deity were victims of violence. These crimes have not yet been adequately investigated. In this context, both sides made the most serious mutual allegations.

In addition, his role in the Karmapa conflict was discussed publicly and controversially.

Political positions

Depiction of the history of Tibet

Critics accuse Tenzin Gyatso of portraying the conditions in what was then Tibet in an idealized way. According to the critics, the Lamaist monks, along with a small class of aristocrats, owned all the land; there were serfs and slaves who were monitored by a monk's police. Mutilating corporal punishment was also common.

The Tibetan government-in-exile contradicts this representation, which was also disseminated by the Chinese authorities . It is "incorrect to call the old Tibetan society a feudal society or a slave system". In fact, Tibet "before the invasion was much more egalitarian than most other Asian countries at that time".

Demand for autonomy, accusation of separatism

Tenzin Gyatso campaigns for the autonomy of Tibet within the People's Republic of China , which the rulers call separatism . On March 10, 1963, the 14th Dalai Lama proclaimed a constitution based on democratic principles for the Tibetan government-in-exile , which considered him head of state until his resignation in 2011 . For many Tibetans, Tenzin Gyatso's demand for autonomy does not go far enough; they demand full independence for Tibet.

Nuclear armament

On the issue of nuclear armament in India, he repeatedly expressed his regret at this development. In 1998, after underground nuclear weapons tests in India and in the year of the first tests in Pakistan , he called for the worldwide elimination of all nuclear weapons and referred to statements made by the leadership of the People's Republic of China. At the same time, he took the position that it was undemocratic when other large countries claim the right to possess nuclear weapons, but demand that countries like India renounce these weapons.

In 2005 he declared in a speech that war was “out of date” and that the goal was a demilitarized world. He is a supporter of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). During the 2008 presidential campaign in the United States , he supported an appeal to candidates to campaign for nuclear disarmament if they were elected. In 2009 he was a signatory to one of 17 Nobel Prize winners addressed to US President Barack Obama to renounce nuclear weapons.

Global migration

With regard to global migration, Gyatso advocates an ethic of universal, i.e. transnational responsibility, and predicts a gradual erosion of national borders in the future. Ultimately, he sees states as human organizations as transitory. He demands that the refugee question should not be answered with unilateral regulations, but that multilateral agreements should be reached between the states. Nevertheless, he expressed concerns about Germany's refugee policy and said that "Germany could not become an Arab country".

In an interview with the BBC , Tenzin Gyatso commented on the increasing number of refugees in Europe . Europe should take in the refugees, train them and teach them skills that they could use to rebuild their homeland. He added: "A limited number [of refugees] is fine, but for all of Europe to become a Muslim or African country at some point - impossible." The BBC interview was well received in the international media landscape.

Other engagement

The 14th Dalai Lama has been involved in the work of the SOS Children's Villages since the 1960s . The starting point was the Tibetan refugee children, who at the time had a great need for places of refuge in India.

The 14th Dalai Lama also takes a stand in the fight against whaling , he is a supporter of the environmental protection organization Sea Shepherd .

The Dalai Lama is also the patron of the worldwide " Action for Happiness " movement, founded in 2010 , which works to build a happier and more caring society.


Tenzin Gyatso received a number of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize , presented on December 10, 1989 in Oslo.

In German-speaking countries he was awarded the following honors:

Works (selection)

Introductions and basics

  • The teachings of Tibetan Buddhism . Goldmann, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-442-21539-0
  • The heart of all religions is one , Goldmann, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-442-13278-9
  • The Four Noble Truths - The Basis of Buddhist Practice . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-596-14973-8
  • Introduction to Buddhism - The Harvard Lectures . Herder, Freiburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-451-06778-5
  • Dalai Lama, Felizitas von Schönborn: Compassion and Wisdom - A conversation with Felizitas von Schönborn . Diogenes, Zurich 2004, ISBN 978-3-257-06397-4
  • The wisdom of the heart . Goldmann, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-442-21686-9

Individual aspects

Connection to western science

  • The world in a single atom - My journey through science and Buddhism. Theseus Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-89620-270-7
  • Dalai Lama, Laurens van den Muyzenberg: Leading, shaping, moving: Values ​​and wisdom for a globalized world. From the English by Jürgen Neubauer. Campus, Frankfurt 2008, ISBN 978-3-593-38687-4

Autobiographical writings

  • My life and my people. The tragedy of Tibet. Translated into German by Maria Steininger, Droemer Knaur, Munich 1962 (original edition My land and my people. McGraw Hill, New York 1962)
  • The book of freedom. The autobiography of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate . 14th edition. Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2004, ISBN 3-404-61239-6


  • Manuel Bauer u. a .: On the way for peace. DVA, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-421-05873-3 .
  • Mayank Chhaya: Dalai Lama: The Revealing Life Story and His Struggle for Tibet . IB Tauris, New York City 2008, ISBN 978-1-84511-763-4
  • Daniel Goleman : Dialogue with the Dalai Lama: How we can overcome destructive emotions . dtv, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-34207-2 .
  • Gilles van Grasdorff: The Dalai Lama. The biography . 2nd Edition. Barth, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-502-61133-5 .
  • John Kenneth Knaus: Orphans of the Cold War - America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival , PublicAffairs 2000, ISBN 978-1-891620-85-0 .
  • Claude B. Levenson: Dalai Lama. The authorized biography of the Nobel Laureate . Patmos, Düsseldorf 2004, ISBN 3-491-69415-9 .
  • Sabine Wiegand: Dalai Lama XIV. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-499-50673-4


  • Martin Scorsese : Kundun , 1997
  • Jean-Jacques Annaud : Seven Years in Tibet , 1997. Film adaptation of the book of the same name by Heinrich Harrer.
  • Albert Knechtel and Thea Mohr: A Life for Tibet , 2005. A portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama.
  • Focus TV report by Gabor Harrach: If a god comes to visit ... about the Dalai Lama major event in 2009 in Frankfurt.
  • Rick Ray: 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama , USA 2006.

Web links

Commons : Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

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  2. a b As the oracle means . In: Der Spiegel . No. 15 , 1959, pp. 34 ( online ).
  3. In Tibet at that time the abacus was used , and Harrer reports that he often went slower with the western method.
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  28. The first listeners come in the morning ( memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) on faz.net, accessed on August 20, 2015
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  46. ^ With Disarming Humor, the Dalai Lama Tackles Weapons and War , The New York Times , September 26, 2005
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  50. ^ Charles R. Strain: The Migrant, My Mother: Buddhist Ethical Perspectives on Migration. In: Elizabeth W. Collier, Charles R. Strain (Eds.): Religious and Ethical Perspectives on Global Migration. Lexington Books, Lanham 2014, ISBN 978-0-7391-8714-2 , pp. 185-208; here: p. 199 .
  51. ^ Heiner Rindermann: Cognitive Capitalism: Human Capital and the Wellbeing of Nations. Cambridge University, Cambridge 2018, ISBN 978-1-107-05016-7 , p. 139 .
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  53. Rajini Vaidyanathan: The Dalai Lama on Trump, women and going home . June 27, 2019 ( bbc.com [accessed August 10, 2019]).
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  58. Our Patron. Action for Happiness, accessed March 18, 2019 .
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Tenzin Gyatso (alternative names of the lemma)
Tenzin Gyatsho, Tenzin Gyatso, dancer Gyatso, chin .: 丹增 嘉措 , Dānzēng Jiācuò