Tibetan Buddhists believe him to be the 14th reincarnation of the original Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader who was born in 1351 and who was said to be the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, The 14th Dalai Lama is the current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are important monks of the Gelug school, the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism which is nominally headed by the Ganden Tripas.
Buddhism is the fourth largest of the world’s religions, with about 375 million followers. The religion of Buddhism is made up of several sects, philosophies, or schools. One of these is Tibetan Buddhism which is a religion-in-exile, forced from its homeland when Tibet was conquered by the Chinese. The leader of Tibetan Buddhism is the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since he fled the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959.
Partly because of the worldwide prominence of the Dalai Lama, most people have heard about Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan form of Buddhism is one of the most complicated because it is tied to the ancient spirit-oriented religion of the Tibetan plateau. The essential goal of Tibetan Buddhism, however, is unchanged: to realize enlightenment and enter “nirvana,” or the freedom of one’s spiritual self from the attachment to or affection for worldly things.
Tibetan Buddhism focuses on its monks, called “lamas.” Correspondingly, it also recognizes a multitude of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (a deity or being who has attained enlightenment worthy of nirvana but remains in the world to help others), as well as their consorts. Lamas use different meditation techniques, which include what is called “mandalas” (spiritual diagrams) and prayer wheels. The Dalai Lama is the highest lama. What is most interesting is that whenever the Dalai Lama dies, Tibetan Buddhists believe he is reborn as an infant, and officials of the religion search for the child who is supposed to bear certain distinguishing marks and when he is discovered, he then becomes the new Dalai Lama.
The current Dalai Lama is named Tenzin Gyatso and is the 14th Dalai Lama. His real name is Lhamo Thondup. Born in 1935 and “discovered” in 1937, he was given the name he now bears, Tenzin Gyatso. He became the political head of Tibet in 1950. However, he left Tibet to establish a government-in-exile in 1959 when the Chinese took over that country. In 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize.
So is he a spiritual or political leader?
Both. Six million Tibetan Buddhists look to him for religious guidance but he is also leader of 100,000 Tibetans living in exile in India and the world’s most prominent political refugee. Since fleeing Tibet he has dedicated himself to campaigning internationally for his exiled homeland, but always stressing the need for non-violence a stance which won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
The Dalai Lama has trod a careful line which has kept him spiritually pure but also politically crafty. He has come up with a “middle way” to resolve the status of Tibet autonomy for Tibet within China. He speaks differently to Tibetans and to Westerners. With his own people he is, like previous Dalai Lamas, serious and directive about what they should do. With Westerners he does not pontificate from a high moral position but is an altogether more genial figure who talks with humility from his own Buddhist practice. He is warm and humorous. His medium is his message. But when he speaks to Western Buddhists he often warns them “to be interested in religion you have to be involved in politics”.
Most Buddhists consider Jesus to be an “enlightened master” but not the Son of God. During an interview with “Christianity Today,” the Dalai Lama said that Jesus had lived previous lives and His purpose was to teach a message of tolerance and compassion, to help people to become better human beings. And this is the primary problem with the Dalai Lama and all of Buddhism. While some aspects of the Dalai Lama’s message are undeniably positive, and while most Buddhists are indeed kind-hearted “good” human beings, their denial of the biblical Jesus infinitely outweighs any positive aspects of Buddhism.
The Scriptures reveal that Jesus is God in human form, slain for the sins of the world (John 3:16). Yes, Jesus taught tolerance and compassion, but that was not the primary reason for His coming. Jesus came to provide Salvation for all those who receive Him as Savior. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus provides salvation for us because we are absolutely incapable of saving ourselves. Due to their explicit rejection of this truth, the Dalai Lama is a false prophet and Buddhism is a false religion. On the most crucial of issues, the Dalai Lama is, sadly, not enlightened.