This can only be a glimpse of the Dalia Lama’s spiritual influence, and can only begin to recount the extraordinary legends of his lineage, for the history behind the lore has created a ripple effect across the world. If you are interested in our discussion, I strongly encourage you to seek his books on the philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
The Dali Lama, one of the world’s most renowned spiritual figures, is believed to be the rebirths of “Avalokitesvara,” the embodiment of compassion, according to Buddhism. The name loosely translates to “ocean mentor” or “ocean guru.” The first Dali Lama was Gendun Drup, born in 1391, although he would not be bestowed with that mantle until the third of his line. Gendun Drup was born in a cattle pen in Tibet. His parents were unable to provide for him and gave his care to his uncle, a Buddhist monk. With him he received vast exposure to spirituality and education. He excelled in his studies and achieved monkhood, to later found a school, and later lead it. Eventually he became the Abbot of one of the greatest monasteries of the region. When he passed away, it was written that he did so “in a blaze of glory, having attained Buddhahood,” which was a state of “perfect enlightenment,” and one of the four “sublime states” a person can attain.
“We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.”
Gunden Gyatso, the second Dali Lama, proclaimed his former life as Gendun Drup at the age of three. When asked to be “taken home” he spoke in verses no child could possibly know, and knew the names of his past life’s closest disciples. He was eventually recognized as Gendun Drup reborn, and taken in for schooling. As he grew in popularity, he embarked on pilgrimages to spread his teachings, built schools, and eventually became an Abbot. As Abbot, he built Tibet’s largest monastery. He passed away in 1542, and the third reincarnation, Sonam Gyatso, was given the mantle of Dali Lama by the Mongolian King in 1578. From then on the linage would be known as such.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dali Lama, born in 1935, is the 14th reincarnation. Although there are 14 recognized rebirths of the Dali Lama, it is suggested there are more…as many as seventy others who have been rebirthed as “Avalokitesvara.” Among these past lives were kings and emperors, noblemen, gurus and sages. The first of all is arguably tracked back to the time of the original Buddha.
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
The Dali Lama teaches “commitments,” that we are all human beings, are all the same, and we are all traveling on our own journeys. He teaches we must respect the human values of “compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline.” He also teaches we want the same things that, “we all want happiness and do not want suffering.” He also teaches several religions are necessary, since when a world community becomes so large, “several truths,” or multiple ways to see the same world because of how diverse we are, is essential. He also teaches despite fundamental differences amongst religions, all of them “have the same potential to create good human beings” by respecting our differences, and our traditions. And “truth” is only important to a person for their sake. We have no right to project our views onto others. Lastly, and profoundly, he teaches a “culture of peace and non-violence.” This culture is not defined by a religion, or a physical location, or an affiliation, but a way of being…kindness.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”