The Dalai Lama is among the giants of humanity's moral and spiritual leaders of modern times. Along with Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama has been an outspoken proponent of civil rights, dialogue between science and spirituality, reconciliation and universal compassion. Also known as Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, he was raised in his homeland of Tibet as the spiritual and political leader of its people. In 1959, he was forced to escape and establish the Tibetan government in exile after the Chinese invaded the region.
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Government in exile
As the leader of a people exiled from their homeland, the Dalai Lama has established and maintained the Tibetan Government in exile. It is headquartered in Dharamsala, India, a city bordering the Himalayan region close to the Chino-Tibetan border. He led the government in exile until 2011, when he resigned to allow for the established democratic system to elect a new political leader. Over the decades of his leadership, he maintained a strict stance of nonviolence and respect for Chinese people despite their conquering of the Tibet region.
The Dalai Lama has been a prolific teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. Its core is based on the unity of wisdom and compassion developed through meditation and other dynamic practices. When he entered office as a boy, Tibetan Buddhism was almost completely confined to Tibet. Now it is known and practiced throughout the world, with Tibetan Monasteries in the US, Great Britain, Mexico, Australia, France and many other countries. Its widespread flourishing is largely due to his skill and sincerity in teaching, as he consistently tours the world speaking to large audiences.
Science and spirituality
The Dalai Lama has promoted an open dialogue between science and spirituality. Since his first encounters with automobiles and clocks, the Dalai Lama has had an endless curiosity to understand science. Throughout his leadership, he met with many scientists to feed his curiosity and to develop open dialogue between science and religion. In 1991, he met with the famous scientist Carl Sagan at Cornell University in the US. They discussed topics like the possibility of science undermining deeply held beliefs. The Dalai Lama commented how Buddhism is much akin to science in that it is based on findings rather than scripture.
He has received over 120 awards from countries around the world. They range from academic distinctions in philosophy, divinity and theology to lifetime achievement and global peace awards. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. Through the 61 years of his political rule he has been recognised globally as a courageous and moral leader. Despite all of his awards, he consistently describes himself as a "simple Buddhist monk."