Photo taken by Pete Souza

Taktser, Tibet, July 6, 1935

Tenzin Gyatso is the name of the Dalai Lama presiding as the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and is recognized for his efforts to make Tibet an independent state of China. He was born in a peasant family and recognized as the reincarnation of Avalokitesvara, a deity of Buddhism, but gained official recognition as Dalai Lama until 1950, when he assumed political power in Tibet.

In that year the army of Mao Zedong came to Tibet and his government drafted an agreement to incorporate the territory to China. Despite public protest and his public meeting with Mao in 1954, in 1959 he had to flee to India on foot with many of his followers, about 80,000 Tibetans. They settled in Dharamsala, where he established the seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile.

He completed a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy and began the task of preserving Tibetan culture in a foreign land. In 1959, 1961 and 1965 he made a public appeal to the United Nations calling for the protection of his people. In 1963 he promulgated a project for the development of a constitution for Tibet with the intention to democratize the government.

Dalai Lama Congressional Medal

Dalai Lama Congressional Medal

In 1987 he proposed a peace plan of five points, which he considered the basis for the problems of Tibet. The plan, called for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace, an end to the massive transfer of Chinese population in the area and serious negotiations or agreements on the future of his people.

During the following years the Dalai Lama made ​​a number of actions to ensure peace, meeting with numerous religious leaders among those included was Pope John Paul II in six occasions. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to the use of violence on the issue of Tibetan autonomy.

The Dalai Lama continues to work for peace. In 2008 he retired from his political responsibilities in the Tibetan Government in Exile although he retains his position as a religious leader.