The Dalai Lama, The leader of Tibetan Buddhism and His Quotes


The Dalai Lama is the leader of the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The name is a combination of the Mongolian word dalai meaning “Ocean” and the Tibetan word  meaning “teacher”Lama” is a general term referring to Tibetan Buddhist teachers.

In religious terms, the Dalai Lama is believed by his devotees to be the rebirth of a long line of tulkus who are considered to be manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteśvara. Traditionally, the Dalai Lama is thought of as the latest reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders who have chosen to be reborn in order to enlighten others. The Dalai Lama is often thought to be the director of the Gelug School, but this position belongs officially to the Ganden Tripa, which is a temporary position appointed by the Dalai Lama who, in practice, exerts much influence.

For certain periods of time between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lamas sometimes directed the Tibetan government, which administered portions of Tibet from Lhasa. The 14th Dalai Lama remained the head of state for the Central Tibetan Administration (“Tibetan government in exile”) until his retirement on March 14, 2011. He has indicated that the institution of the Dalai Lama may be abolished in the future, and also that the next Dalai Lama may be found outside Tibet and may be female

The origin of the title of Dalai Lama

In 1578 the Mongol ruler Altan Khan bestowed the title Dalai Lama on Sonam Gyatso. The title was later applied retrospectively to the two predecessors in his reincarnation line, Gendun Drup and Gendun Gyatso. Gendun Gyatso was also Sonam Gyatso’s predecessor as abbot of Drepung monastery. However, the 14th Dalai Lama asserts that Altan Khan did not intend to bestow a title as such and that he intended only to translate the name “Sonam Gyatso” into Mongolian.

. . . many writers have mistranslated Dalai Lama as “Ocean of Wisdom”. The full Mongolian title, “the wonderful Vajradhara, good splendid meritorious ocean”, given by Altan Khan, is primarily a translation of the Tibetan words Sonam Gyatso (sonam is “merit”).

The 14th Dalai Lama commented:

The very name of each Dalai Lama from the Second Dalai Lama onwards had the word Gyatso [in it], which means “ocean” in Tibetan. Even now I am Tenzin Gyatso, so the first name is changing but the second part [the word “ocean”] became like part of each Dalai Lama’s name. All of the Dalai Lamas, since the Second, have this name. So I don’t really agree that the Mongols actually conferred a title. It was just a translation.

Whatever the intention may have been originally, the Mongolian “Dalai”, which does not have any meaning as a Tibetan term, came to be understood commonly as a title.

The name or title Dalai Lama in Mongolian may also have derived originally from the title taken by Temüjin or Genghis Khan when he was proclaimed emperor of a united Mongolia during 1206. Temüjin took the name Čingis Qāghan or “oceanic sovereign”, the anglicized version of which is Genghis Khan.

Tibetans address the Dalai Lama as Gyalwa Rinpoche (“Precious Victor”), Kundun (“Presence”), Yishin Norbu (“Wish fulfilling Gem”) and so on.

Sonam Gyatso was an abbot at the Drepung Monastery who was considered widely as one of the most eminent lamas of his time. Although Sonam Gyatso became the first lama to have the title “Dalai Lama” as described above, since he was the third member of his lineage, he became known as the “Third Dalai Lama”. The previous two titles were conferred posthumously upon his earlier incarnations.

Yonten Gyatso (1589–1616), the 4th Dalai Lama, and a non-Tibetan, was the grandson of Altan Khan.

The tulku tradition of the Dalai Lama has evolved into, and been inaugurated as, an institution:

“The institution of the Dalai Lama has become, over the centuries, a central focus of Tibetan cultural identity; “a symbolic embodiment of the Tibetan national character.” Today, the Dalai Lama and the office of the Dalai Lama have become focal points in their struggle towards independence and, more urgently, cultural survival. The Dalai Lama is regarded as the principal incarnation of Chenrezig (referred to as Avalokiteshvara in India), the bodhisattva of compassion and patron deity of Tibet. In that role the Dalai Lama has chosen to use peace and compassion in his treatment of his own people and his oppressors. In this sense the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of an ideal of Tibetan values and a cornerstone of Tibetan identity and culture.”

Verhaegen mentions the trans-polity influence that the Institution of the Dalai Lama has had historically in areas such as western China, Mongolia, Ladakh in addition to the other Himalayan Kingdoms:

“The Dalai Lamas have also functioned as the principal spiritual guide to many Himalayan kingdoms bordering Tibet, as well as western China, Mongolia and Ladakh. The literary works of the Dalai Lamas have, over the centuries, inspired more than fifty million people in these regions. Those writings, reflecting the fusion of Buddhist philosophy embodied in Tibetan Buddhism, have become one of the world’s great repositories of spiritual thought.”

The current Dalai Lama is often called “His Holiness” (HH) by Westerners (by analogy with the Pope), although this does not translate to a Tibetan title.

Before the 20th century, European sources often referred to the Dalai Lama as the “Grand Lama”. For example, in 1785 Benjamin Franklin Bache mocked George Washington by terming him the “Grand Lama of this Country”. Some in the West believed the Dalai Lama to be worshipped by the Tibetans as the godhead

Starting with the 5th Dalai Lama and until the 14th Dalai Lama’s flight into exile during 1959, the Dalai Lamas spent the winter at the Potala Palace and the summer at the Norbulingka palace and park. Both are in Lhasa and approximately 3 km apart.

Following the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge in India. The then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, allowed in the Dalai Lama and his coterie of Tibetan government officials. The Dalai Lama has since lived in exile in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, where the Central Tibetan Administration is also established. Tibetan refugees have constructed and opened many schools and Buddhist temples in Dharamsala

Dalai Lama Quotes

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
Dalai Lama

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
Dalai Lama

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
Dalai Lama

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.
Dalai Lama

If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it.
Dalai Lama

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Dalai Lama

In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.
Dalai Lama

It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.
Dalai Lama

It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.
Dalai Lama

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
Dalai Lama

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
Dalai Lama

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.
Dalai Lama

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
Dalai Lama

Sleep is the best meditation.
Dalai Lama

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
Dalai Lama

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.
Dalai Lama

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.
Dalai Lama

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.
Dalai Lama

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.
Dalai Lama

 
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.
Dalai Lama

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.
Dalai Lama

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.
Dalai Lama

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
Dalai Lama

Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.
Dalai Lama

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.
Dalai Lama

With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.
Dalai Lama

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