The 14th Dalai Lama gets two 80th birthdays. He was already honored on June 21st, the day that coincides with the traditional date, according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. By actual, modern reckoning, His actual birthday is today.
The current head of the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism was born with the name Lhamo Dondrub on July 6, 1935 in the Amdo Province of Tibet. After he was formally recognized as the reincarnated 14th Dalai Lama, he was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso or “Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom”. He goes by the shortened form, Tenzin Gyatso. His devotees and the mainstream press call him “His Holiness the Dalai Lama”. This is further shortened to HHDL.
The two Tibetan monks I sponsor also use three additional names for His Holiness: Kundun (Presence), Kyabgon (Saviour), and Yishin Norbu (Wish-Fulfilling Gem). In correspondence with my two friends, I generally use Kundun, His Holiness, or HHDL just to keep matters simple.
HHDL’s biography has been extensively outlined in popular culture, so I won’t reiterate it here. His Holiness is still the most recognizeable leader in all of Buddhism, even though he represents only one school of one variety of Buddhism. Some people mistakenly think of him as the “Buddhist Pope”. In fact, while HHDL is the titular leader of the Tibetan government in exile, his religious duties place him as the head monk of the Gelug school. As such, he is an overwhelming inspirational force for the Tibetan people, but he is not a Buddhist “Pope”.
As reported by the “Tibet Sun” newspaper, HHDL remains as popular, as ever, with the rest of the World. For his June birthday celebration, thousands of devotees, fans, and other well-wishers were present at the Tsuglakhan temple in a suburb of Dharamsala in Northern India. Although he is exceedingly famous and widely praised, His Holiness continually reminds the public that he is “just a simple Buddhist monk.”
His Holiness is a multifaceted character. During his public appearances in major cities, HHDL preaches compassion, peace, loving-kindness, and mindfulness. His good humor and self-depricating personality effectively drive his message home to the masses. On a different level, His Holiness is a very learned scholar who teaches advanced courses about complex, highly nuanced aspects of Vajrayana Buddhism or “The Diamond Way”.
Kundun is utterly fascinated with modern science and technology. He regularly, actively participates in scientific conferences with the brightest scholars in such fields as cosmology, neurology, quantum mechanics, and psychology. He has sat on the panels in discussions at John Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Mayo Clinic, and Zurich University, to name just a few. His Holiness continually investigates the connections between arcane Buddhist teachings and modern scientific discoveries.
His active participation in scholastic studies has sparked several scientific papers and university research programmes in many fields. His Holiness has authored such books as The Universe in a Single Atom, and Ethics for the New Millenium.
The Dalai Lama trust has helped fund such projects as the Emory-Tibet Partnership, and the Stanford School of Medicine’s Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. HHDL is the leading advocate regarding research into the effects of contemplative practice on the human brain, behavior, and biology. If you see news reports about brain-mapping and meditating monks, you can be sure HHDL had something to do with them.
I must make at least quick mentions about Kundun’s enthusiastic involvement in non-violent conflict resolution, religious harmony, pro-democracy movements, animal welfare concerns, humane economic theory, his sympathy with feminism, the LGBT civil rights movement, public health concerns, environmentalism and global climate change. Regarding all of these categories, HHDL is no Johnny-come-lately. He has been investigating and advocating for these concerns for many years.
It is nearly impossible to summarize the life of the 14th Dalai Lama in the space of this daily blog. I only wish to convey admiration and affection towards a very learned, empathetic, compassionate world leader. Happy Birthday Dalai Lama.