What do you know about the Dalai Lama? Despite his immense popularity, many people are unaware of his background or what he has contributed to mankind. Aside from knowing that he is an important Tibetan monk, what else do you know about this important cultural symbol of Tibet?

Well, now you can learn some of the more major details of his life – past and present. It’s time to get to know the Dalai Lama. Here are 10 interesting Dalai Lama facts about the 14th Dalai Lama:

1. Tenzin Gyatso and Lhamo Dhondup

The Dalai Lama was originally named Lhamo Dhondup, but he was born as Tenzin Gyatso on July 6, 1935, in Taktster, Tibet (now the People’s Republic of China). He was one of five children in this peasant family, raised in the country’s ancient Potala Palace in Lhasa.

2. Ocean of Wisdom

The Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom, even at a young age. He was requested to assume full political power in Tibet in 1950 while the Chinese military was threatening the country.

3. Bodhisattva of Compassion

Dalai Lamas, in additions to being fountains of knowledge, are the reincarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The term Bodhisattva is someone who is on the path to Awakening. This is the state of full compassion towards every living creature.

4. Five-Point Peace Plan

Speaking to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the United States in 1987, the Dalai Lama presented a five-point peace plan that aimed to resolve the future states of Tibet. This is what the initiative called:

  • Tibet designated as a zone of peace.
  • End the massive influx of Chinese into Tibet.
  • Restore fundamental human rights.
  • Terminate the dumping of China’s nuclear waste in Tibet.
  • Establish negotiations between China and Tibet.

Suffice it to say, his plan has yet to come to fruition.

Nearly 20 years later, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

5. Nobel Peace Prize

In December 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was recognized for his initiative in “the struggle of the liberation of Tibet and the efforts for a peaceful resolution instead of using violence.”

6. Longest Living and Longest Reigning

The current Dalai Lama is the longest living and longest reigning of all time.

7. CIA

Prior to the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese, officials had requested assistance from around the world. Hardly anybody came to the defense of Tibet. However, it should be noted that in 1959 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) slightly intervened by helping the Dalai Lama escape Tibet and seek exile in India.

8. Meat Eater

The Dalai Lama has a complex diet.

Although the Dalai Lama is meant to be compassionate for every living creature on this planet, he grew up consuming meat as nearly all Tibetan monks do. Under its spiritual teachings, it is OK to imbibe meat as long as the monk does not kill the animal himself. The difficulty in being a vegetarian for monks is that eating money is essential to maintaining your health if you live at high elevations – a must for Tibetan monks – where it is hard to grow vegetables.

When he relocated to India, he became a vegetarian. However, he returned to eating meat because of his health.

That said, his kitchen is a vegetarian-only one.

9. Popularity

Prior to his 80th birthday, a global poll was taken that asked survey respondents about Tibetan issues, including their opinion of the Dalai Lama. Here were the results of his popularity:

  • 95 percent of Italians had a good opinion of the Dalai Lama.
  • 87 percent of Americans had a positive view of him.
  • 80 percent of the Dutch maintained a favourable opinion of the spiritual leader.

Other surveys found him to be extremely popular, even more so than most political leaders, like former President Barack Obama, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, or former Prime Minister David Cameron.

10. The Last One?

The 14th Dalai Lama has hinted that he might be the last Dalai Lama to be discovered. He also confirmed that the next one will not be born under Chinese rule, and the 15th Dalai Lama might be born in a Western country and female.

That said, the next Dalai Lama might need a permit because the Chinese government has said it will elect the next Dalai Lama through a committee as part of Order No. 5 by the State Administration of Religious Affairs. It remains unclear what the requirements will be.

The Dalai Lama has led an interesting, rich, and meaningful existence. He has traveled the world, met some of the planet’s most important people, and spoken with millions of avid followers. He is looked up to by many people. When he inevitably passes away, he will be missed by nearly everyone, but his spirit will live on for eternity.

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