Jonah Engler Silberman: What You Should Know about the Dalai Lama
If you’ve read a quote by the Dalai Lama at one point or another, it didn’t take long to realize the magnitude of the wisdom in this Tibetan leader’s mind. However, this inspirational leader is much more than a few feel-good quotes, according to spirituality expert Jonah Engler Silberman. Let’s take a look at why the Dalai Lama is such a major household name today and what you can learn from his larger-than-life existence.
Who is the Dalai Lama?
You probably known him by “the Dalai Lama,” but he also goes by the name “His Holiness” — and for good reason. The Dalai Lama was born in Takster, a tiny village located in the northeastern part of Tibet. At age 2, he was recognized as the reincarnated version of the 13th Dalai Lama, his predecessor. The definition of “Dalai Lama” is “ocean of wisdom.”
The renowned Dalai Lama began his studies when he was 6 years old and ended up becoming a Doctor of Buddhist Philosophy at age 25. He then proceeded to complete a preliminary exam at three monastic universities: Ganden, Drepung, and Sera.
The preliminary exam was followed by a final exam during which 30 scholars tested him on logic in the morning. Then, during the afternoon, he engaged in debate with 15 scholars regarding the Middle Path — or the path of moderation, where you go between the two extremes of self-mortification and sensual indulgence. Finally, in the evening, he was tested by 35 scholars on his understanding of metaphysics and the monastic discipline. He passed these examinations with honors.
In addition to demonstrating his spiritual prowess, the Dalai Lama has proved his leadership skills over the years, starting at the young age of 16. That’s when he assumed complete political power as the Tibetan head of state/government, at a time when China was threatening Tibet. He ended up going into exile in India when China’s military occupied Tibet. However, the story doesn’t end there.
During his time in exile, the Dalai Lama made appeals to the UN on Tibet’s behalf, leading to three resolutions that the General Assembly adopted in the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, the Dalai Lama also promoted constitution assuring democracy in Tibet. During the past couple of decades there, His Holiness has established religious, educational, and cultural institutions that have contributed in a major way to preserving Tibet’s rich heritage and identity.
What makes the Dalai Lama so unique compared with his predecessors is his passion for engaging with Westerners and visiting such countries as Australia, the United States, the UK, Canada, and Costa Rica. In fact, he has had meetings with important religious figures in all of these nations — and more.
In the West, the Dalai Lama continues to receive recognition for being a peace-focused man and a reputable scholar. His high-level Buddhist philosophy writings have earned him many honorary doctoral degrees and peace awards from institutions and universities. His focus on peace and freedom will no doubt continue to shape society’s ideals today and the years to come.