The 14th Dalai Lama

By Christian Schmidt

1935_____The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is born in a small village in the province of Amdo. When the lama entrusted with the search for the reincarnation enters his house disguised as a pedlar, the two-year-old child points at the rosary he is wearing and says, “I want that.” To which the lama responds, “Tell me who I am and you shall have it.” The child answers correctly. “You are a lama from Sera Monastery.”

1940_____The 14th Dalai Lama is enthroned in Lhasa.

1950_____With 80,000 Chinese soldiers crossing the border into Tibet, the Dalai Lama takes over the reins of power at the age of 15. He is now responsible for the fate of his country. A review of the state of the Tibetan army, with its 8,500 troops, 50 cannons and 200 machine guns, makes it clear that resistance is futile. The Dalai Lama exchanges his official residence for one on the country’s southern border at Yatung, but returns to Lhasa at the end of the year.

1954_____The Dalai Lama travels to Beijing for peace talks. He is cordially received and meets with Mao Zedong, as well as with a series of other heads of state also visiting China: the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, for instance, and the General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev. The Dalai Lama spends several months travelling around China and is impressed by Marxist ideas. Nevertheless, his talks with Mao Zedong lead nowhere. In their last encounter, the Dalai Lama is obliged to listen as religion is described as “poisoning” the people.

1956_____The Dalai Lama travels to India on the occasion of Buddha’s 2500th jubilee. The Chinese authorities are uneasy, fearing that he might defect. The Dalai Lama discusses the deteriorating Tibetan situation with Indian Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, who either cannot or will not lend his aid. The Dalai Lama also meets with Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Zhou Enlai who assures him of Tibet’s “unique” status and the fact that China sees “no problem” with the country. The Dalai Lama returns.

1959_____One week after the mass uprising, on 17 March, the Dalai Lama decides to flee. On 20 June, in exile in India, he calls a press conference and revokes the 17-point agreement signed with China in 1954. The Dalai Lama is presented in absentia with the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Asian counterpart to the Nobel Peace Prize.

1960_____In the United States the Dalai Lama is presented in absentia with the Lincoln Award for his commitment to the freedom of Tibet.

1963_____The Dalai Lama decrees a democratic national constitution for Tibet based on Buddhist principles and the Declaration of Human Rights. Members of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile have since been elected by direct suffrage. At the same time the Dalai Lama subjects himself to democratic strictures, allowing for his own removal from office by a two-thirds majority.

1967_____The Dalai Lama leaves his refuge for the first time, to travel to Japan and Thailand. He meets Thailand’s King Bhumipol and Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn. During his flight he sees an American B-52 bomber over Vietnam. He recalls in his memoirs: “I was moved when I realised that the theatre of human cruelty extended even to ten thousand metres over the earth.”

1972_____The Dalai Lama visits Thailand.

1973_____The Dalai Lama meets Pope Paul V, Ireland’s President Erskine Childers, and Ireland’s Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave. He visits Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, England and the Netherlands.

1974_____The Dalai Lama visits Switzerland for the second time.

1978_____The Dalai Lama travels to Japan, where he meets Prime Minister Suzuki Zenko.

1979_____The Dalai Lama visits Greece and Mongolia. In Mongolia he receives a special medal from the Asian Buddhist Council for Peace. The Norwegian Refugee Council bestows upon him its Plakett Award in honour of his work. The city of Houston, Texas, makes the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen. The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) awards him the title Doctor of Buddhist Philosophy. He receives the keys to their respective cities from the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Seattle University makes the Dalai Lama a Doctor of Humanities.

1982_____The Dalai Lama meets Malaysia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Rahman, Indonesia’s Vice President Adam Malik, and Pope John Paul II. He visits Italy, Germany, Australia, France, Hungary, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Spain.

1983_____The Dalai Lama visits Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Turkey.

1984_____The Dalai Lama visits Germany, Japan, England and the US. The University of Paris grants him an honorary doctorate.

1985_____The Dalai Lama visits Switzerland and the US. On 24 July, 91 members of the US Congress co-sign a letter to President Li Xiannian of the People’s Republic of China expressing support for direct talks between Beijing and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans in exile, and urging the government of the People’s Republic of China “to grant the very reasonable and justified aspirations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his people every consideration”.

1986_____The Dalai Lama meets Federal President Rudolf Kirchschläger of Austria and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France. He visits Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. At the Vatican he meets with Pope John Paul II.

1987_____The Dalai Lama presents his five-point plan before the American congress in Washington, with which he hopes to settle the status of Tibet. The plan calls for the country to be declared a peace zone, for the massive project of rendering Tibet Chinese to be halted, and for human rights to be reinstated. Furthermore, it provides for the country in future to be used neither as a depot for Chinese atomic weapons nor as a radioactive waste dump. The Dalai Lama visits Germany and Switzerland. In New York he receives the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award.

1988_____The Dalai Lama presents a more advanced version of his five-point plan in Strasbourg. The new plan calls for Tibet to become a self-administered democratic state, “in association with the People’s Republic of China”. The Dalai Lama visits France, Finland, Germany, Sweden, England and Switzerland. At the Vatican he confers with Pope John Paul II. Tübingen University in Germany awards him its Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.

1989_____The Dalai Lama receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo against China’s unsuccessful protest. The president of the Committee, Egil Aarvik, compares China’s protest to Adolf Hitler’s enraged reaction to the awarding of the Peace Prize to Carl von Ossietzky, the peace campaigner, in 1935. In Washington the Dalai Lama is given the Raoul Wallenberg Human Rights Award by the Congressional Human Rights Committee; in France, meanwhile, Danielle Mitterrand presents him with Le Prix de Mémoire. The Dalai Lama meets Mexico’s President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Norway’s King Olav and Prime Minister Jan Syse. He visits France, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Italy and Norway.

1990_____The Dalai Lama confers with Pope John Paul II. He also meets with Czechoslovakia’s President Vaclav Havel and Germany’s President Richard von Weizsäcker. He visits Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, the US and Switzerland. The University of Bologna, in Italy, makes him a Doctor of Education, while the University of Karnataka, in India, awards him a doctorate in literature.

1991_____The Tibetan government-in-exile declares the Dalai Lama’s five-point plan null and void after the Chinese government not only rejects it but steps up repression in Tibet. The Dalai Lama, undaunted, pursues his attempt to reach a peaceful solution. At Yale University in the US he announces his intention to travel to Tibet in order to hold talks aimed at “promoting understanding and finding a basis for a negotiated settlement”. China, however, does not allow the trip. The Dalai Lama meets Ireland’s President Mary Robinson, US President George Bush, Prince Hans Adam of Liechtenstein, Switzerland’s Foreign Affairs Minister René Felber, Austria’s President Kurt Waldheim, Lithuania’s President Vytautas Landsbergis, Latvia’s President Anatolijs Gorbunvos, Bulgaria’s President Zhelyn Zhelev, and the UK’s Prime Minister John Major. The Dalai Lama visits Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, England, Russia, the US, the Autonomous Republic of Buriatia, Mongolia, Switzerland and the Vatican. In the US he is awarded the Advancing Human Liberty Prize by Freedom House, the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and the Earth Prize by United Earth and the United Nations Environmental Program. India’s National Peace Conference presents him with the Peace and Unity Awards.

1992_____The Dalai Lama meets Australia’s Prime Minister Paul Keating, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jim Bolger, Argentina’s President Carlos Menem, Chile’s President Patricio Aylwin, and Austria’s President Thomas Klestil. He visits Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Hungary and the US. The University of Melbourne, in Australia, makes him an Honorary Doctor of Laws. The Catholic University of São Paulo, in Brazil, awards him an Honorary doctorate.

1993_____The Dalai Lama meets France’s President François Mitterrand, Austria’s President Thomas Klestil, and US President Bill Clinton. He visits Austria, France, Poland, England and the US. The Universities of Aberdeen and St. Andrews, in Scotland, make him an honorary Doctor of Laws.

1994_____The Dalai Lama meets America’s President Bill Clinton, Belgium’s Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, Italy’s President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Nicaragua’s President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and Norway’s Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. He visits France, Italy, Japan, Spain, England, the US, Switzerland, Mongolia and the Netherlands. Hebrew University in Jerusalem makes him an Honorary Fellow. Columbia University, in New York, makes him a Doctor of Human Arts and Letters. The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Middelburg, the Netherlands, grants him the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award.

1995_____The Dalai Lama meets Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning, US President Bill Clinton, Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister Klaus Kinkel, and Switzerland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Flavio Cotti. He visits Austria, Germany and the US.

1996_____The Dalai Lama visits France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, England, the US, Switzerland and the Vatican. He meets EU President Jacques Santer, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jim Bolger, South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela, the Queen Mother, Pope John Paul II and Prince Albert of Monaco. Sun Yatsen University in Taiwan awards him an honorary doctorate in philosophy.

1997_____The Dalai Lama visits France and Spain. He meets with US President Bill Clinton and Taiwan’s President Lee Teng-hui.

1998_____The Dalai Lama visits Austria, France, Germany, Japan, the US and Switzerland. He meets France’s President Jacques Chirac, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and US President Bill Clinton.

1999_____The Dalai Lama visits Germany, England, the US, the Netherlands and Switzerland. He meets Israel’s Education Minister Yossi Sarid, Pope John Paul II, Italy’s Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema, the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Wim Kok, Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer, the UK’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, Belgium’s Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, Chile’s President Edwardo Frei, and Brazil’s President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. In Jerusalem, the Dalai Lama is presented with the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization’s “Life Achievement Award”.

2000_____The Dalai Lama visits Denmark, Germany, Japan, Norway and Sweden. He meets with the Czech Republic’s President Vaclav Havel, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, US President Bill Clinton, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and King Harold, Denmark’s Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Sweden’s Prime Minister Göran Persson, Poland’s Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, and Germany’s Interior Minister Otto Schily.

2001_____The Dalai Lama visits Switzerland, France and Norway. He meets Lithuania’s President Valdas Adamkus, Latvia’s President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and Estonia’s Prime Minister Mart Laar.

2002_____The Dalai Lama visits the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria. He meets with Croatia’s Prime Minister Ivica Racan, Slovenia’s President Milan Kucan, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jim Anderton, and the Czech Republic’s President Vaclav Havel.

2003_____The Dalai Lama visits Mongolia and the US and meets Peru’s President Alexander Toledo, US President George W. Bush, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Denmark’s Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer. In Stockholm he is awarded the Sigtuna Medal in Defense of Human Dignity and Freedom, while in New York he is presented with the International League for Human Rights Award.

2004_____The Dalai Lama meets the Prince of Wales and Canada’s Prime Minister Paul Martin. He meets Abel Pacheco, President of Costa Rica, Tony Saca, President of El Salvador, Oscar Jose Rafael Berger Perdomo, President of Guatemala, and Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa. He visits France, England, Italy, South Africa, Kalmykia, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US. The University of British Columbia, in Canada, makes him an Honorary Doctor of Law, the Universities of Toronto, Miami, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico City make him Doctor Honoris Causa; Simon Fraser University in Vancouver awards him a Special Honorary Degree, the National University of Mexico awards him its Gold Medal, and the Buddhist Society of London awards him the Humphreys Memorial Award for Services to Buddhism.