Tenzin Gyatso is the fourteenth Dalai Lama. He has been the spiritual leader of Tibet since 1950. Nine years on from this date, he sought exile in India as a result of the uprising against Chinese military occupation in Tibet. He took up residence in Dharamsala (where he lives today) and started work to help Tibetan exiles and find a solution for his country. His work earned him the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.
According to tradition, the Dalai Lama is the incarnate, spiritual leader of Tibet. The term comes from the Mongolian "dalaï", ocean, and the Tibetan "bla-ma", guru, and can be taken to mean “ocean of wisdom”. The Dalai Lama is succeeded in his post by a child born at the moment of his death.
The current Dalai Lama was born on the 6th of July 1935 to a farming family in the small village of Takster (Tibet). He was recognised as the reincarnation of his predecessor at the age of two.
His monastic education started at the age of six. When he was 24, he took preliminary examinations at the three main monastic universities: Drepung, Sera and Ganden. In 1959, he was awarded the Lharampa Geshe degree (Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy).
On the 17th of November 1950, he assumed political power following his country’s invasion by the army of the People's Republic of China. As Head of State, he travelled to Beijing in 1954 to speak with Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders in a futile attempt at establishing peace. March 1959 saw the Tibetan national uprising against Chinese military occupation brutally suppressed.
As a result of the failure of the uprising, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India, followed by some 80,000 Tibetans. He set up the Government of Tibet in Exile, a constitutional democracy since 1963, in Dharamsala, India, often referred to as "Little Lhasa".