Introduction to The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion

Introduction to The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion

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Description and discussion of the grand building project of the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Victoria, Australia, the largest stupa in the western world.


Great Stupa of Universal Compassion -->

The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is a sacred Buddhist monument being constructed near Bendigo in central Victoria, Australia. [3] The basic idea for building the stupa came from Lama Yeshe and then, after Lama Yeshe&aposs death, from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who decided to model the stupa (kumbum) on the Great Stupa of Gyantse which is 600 years old. [4] When completed, the stupa&aposs exterior will be an exact replica of the Great Stupa of Gyantse. It will be 50 metres (160ਏt) high and its four sides will each be 50 metres (160ਏt) long, making it one of the largest Buddhist monuments in the Western world. Buddhists say that viewing the stupa will help purify the mind. [5]

The stupa has been designed to last 1,000 years. When complete the interior will have teaching rooms, a central temple, a library and 80 ornate shrine rooms. It houses the 2.5 metre Jade Buddha for Universal Peace statue, the world’s largest gem-quality jade Buddha statue. There is a vast collection of Asian sacred relics and statues on display at the stupa&aposs exhibition centre. [4]


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The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion author. (2013). The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion. http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-155084

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The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion author. The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-155084>

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The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion author. 2013, The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion <http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-155084>

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The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion

PANDORA electronic collection.

Mode of access: Available online. Address as at 12/2/16 : http://www.stupa.org.au/

"The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion will be the same size and design as the Great Stupa of Gyantse which is 50 metres (164 feet) wide along each side at its base and nearly 50 metres high. This will make it the largest stupa in the Western World. It is being built near Bendigo, Australia. A Stupa is the most sacred monument in the Buddhist world. It is a symbolic representation of the fully Enlightened mind and the path to Enlightenment. As the sacred texts are the verbal expression of the Dharma, so the Stupa is its architectural expression."--Introduction

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Sometimes the unexpected over delivers

For a slight diversion off the road, this was a wonderful sight in the middle of no where. Sure it is incomplete but you can only see what you can see. It is a tranquil place and a photographic opportunity. A must see for something a little different as part of a tour of Bendigo.

We attended the festival last weekend for the blessing of the animals. It was joyful. The Grand Stupa is a beautiful and calming environment.

Who would have thought that this - what will be incredible - place is near Bendigo!
Only 1 year to go until then outside is complete, then another 4 for the inside to be finished and then the decorating project starts which will take (can you believe) 40 years. What an amazing project.
I will be interested and intrigued to return to the Great Stupa each year to see how the project is progressing.
I enjoyed the fact that you could either just sit in the gardens and soak up the atmosphere or you could join an informal tour inside the building and learn more about the jade that was brought from Canada, the hand painting, the project, or you could pick up a guide sheet to explain objects in the garden.
Plenty of parking space and donation entry/exit
Coffee shop and gift shop, plus small seating area to watch an informative film on the project.

Thank you for your positive review! It's great to hear that you enjoyed your tour and learning about the entire project. We do hope you can come back regularly to watch the progress.


This article is taken from the Introduction to The Great Compassion by Norm Phelps (Lantern Books, 2004).

Buddhism ought to be an animal rights religion par excellence. It teaches the unity of all life it holds kindness and compassion to be the highest virtues and it explicitly includes animals in its moral universe. Buddhist rules of conduct – including the First Precept, “Do not kill” – apply to our treatment of animals as well as our treatment of human beings. This would lead us naturally to expect Buddhists to oppose all forms of animal exploitation.

There is, in fact, wide agreement that most forms of animal exploitation are contrary to Buddhist teaching, although crimes against animals are sometimes – inexplicably – treated as minor offenses. Hunting, fishing, animal husbandry, and the use of animals in entertainment are forbidden to Buddhists. But on the question of meat-eating, controversy and confusion reign. Many Buddhists eat meat – although many do not – and monks, priests, and teachers sometimes defend meat-eating as consistent with Buddhist teachings.

Western Buddhists – influenced by a lifetime of the most animal-intensive diet the world has ever known – are especially creative in fashioning Buddhist rationales to justify their addiction to meat, eggs, and dairy. In 1994, in a forum on meat-eating published in Tricycle, a popular Buddhist magazine, Bodhim Kjolhede, Abbot of the American Zen Center in Rochester, New York, and dharma heir to Roshi Philip Kapleau, viewed with dismay these efforts to use the Buddhadharma to rationalize meat-eating. “It is sad to see how many American Buddhists are managing to find a self-satisfying accommodation to eating meat. Some airily cite the doctrine of Emptiness, insisting that ultimately there is no killing and no sentient being being killed. Others find cover behind the excuse that taking life is the natural order of things and, after all, ‘the life of a carrot and the life of a cow are equal.’” Most of his fellow contributors used the forum to promote precisely the kinds of accommodation to which Kjolhede objected.

This is a critical moment in the history of Buddhism. The next great Buddhist manifestation, Western Buddhism, is still in its formative stage. It has not yet ossified into an orthodoxy that brooks no dissent. There is still time to reject these “self-satisfying accommodations” and tie ourselves firmly to the ethical foundation of the Buddhadharma: boundless compassion for all sentient beings. And it is vital that we do so. Buddhism cannot be true to itself until Buddhists resolve their ambivalence toward nonhuman animals and extend the full protection of their compassion to the most harmless and helpless of those who live at our mercy in the visible realms.

The Great Compassion grew out of a deep conviction that The Buddhadharma calls upon all of us who take refuge in the Triple Gem not to abandon those beings whose suffering and death may somehow benefit us. It is feeble compassion that pulls up short where self-interest begins. The Great Compassion is also intended for animal protection advocates who wish to take part in a dialogue with members of the Buddhist community. It is, therefore, a book about why – once we have put aside the very appetites and customs that Buddhist practice is intended to help us overcome – the Buddha’s teaching leads us to the realization that we must always strive to harm no sentient being, human or nonhuman, whether or not it is in our selfish interests to do so.

Buddhist ethics are not a legalistic system that allows us to justify behavior on the basis of loopholes, technicalities, or a strict construction of the text. Buddhist ethics are based on motivation and intent. An ethical act is one that is driven by love and compassion and guided by the desire to do the least harm possible to any living being in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. An unethical act is one that is driven by craving, fear, or anger and guided by the desire to benefit ourselves by harming another living being. Thinking like a lawyer or an academic logician and claiming that it is acceptable to harm another sentient being for our own selfish benefit based on hair-splitting distinctions and nimble logic is contrary to the teaching of the Buddha.

After noting that “Ethical conduct (sila) is built on the vast conception of universal love and compassion for all beings, on which the Buddha’s teaching is based,” the Venerable Walpola Rahula, a monk, university professor and social activist who was one of the twentieth century’s leading exponents of Theravada Buddhism, observes, “It is regrettable that many scholars forget this great ideal of the Buddha’s teaching and indulge in only dry philosophical and metaphysical divagations when they talk and write about Buddhism. The Buddha gave his teaching ‘for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world.’”

A trend in contemporary Western Buddhism that is just as pernicious is the growing tendency to treat the Buddha as just another self-help guru, like Wayne Dyer or Dr. Phil, whose lecture series might show up on public television during the pledge drive. According to this school of thought, the purpose of spiritual practice is to reduce stress, lower anxiety, and generally make us better adjusted and less neurotic. Advocates of Buddhism as self-help do not so much deny the importance of compassion as reduce it to a set of mental exercises that fill us with warm fuzzies while having little or no effect on the world around us. The Buddha taught that we cannot achieve our own happiness until we are prepared to sacrifice it for the happiness of others. Buddhist self-help coaches teach that we cannot make others happy until we first make ourselves happy. It is, as the saying goes, a question of priorities.

Most of the discussion about whether Buddhists should eat meat takes place in this kind of moral vacuum. That is to say, it deals exclusively with the mental state of the practitioner and ignores the suffering of animals. As long as this trend continues, the role of veganism in Buddhist practice will never be properly understood. As a way of placing the discussion that will occupy the bulk of this book in its moral context, the first chapter will consider the scale of the killing that our society carries out, while the second will look at the suffering that we inflict upon farmed animals before we kill them.


Summary

Pip (Philip Pirrip) narrates the tale from an unspecified time in the future. He grows up in the marshlands of Kent, where he lives with his disagreeable sister and her sweet-natured husband, the blacksmith Joe Gargery. While visiting his family members’ graves in the churchyard, the young Pip encounters Abel Magwitch, an escaped convict. Pip brings him food and a file, but the fugitive and Compeyson—his former partner in crime and a supposed gentleman who is now his enemy—are soon caught. Later Pip is requested to pay visits to Miss Havisham, a woman driven half-mad years earlier by her lover’s departure on their wedding day. Living with Miss Havisham at Satis House is her adopted daughter, Estella, whom she is teaching to torment men with her beauty. Pip, at first cautious, later falls in love with Estella, who does not return his affection. He grows increasing ashamed of his humble background and hopes to become a gentleman, in part to win over Estella. However, he is disappointed when he instead becomes Joe’s apprentice.

Several years later a lawyer named Mr. Jaggers appears and informs Pip that an anonymous benefactor has made it possible for him to go to London for an education Pip believes that the money is from Miss Havisham, who does not dissuade him of the notion. Once in London, Pip is taught to be a gentleman by Matthew Pocket and his son Herbert, the latter of whom Pip met years earlier at Satis House. Also receiving instruction is the slow-witted and unlikable Bentley Drummle.

The increasingly snobbish Pip is later horrified to discover that his mysterious benefactor is Magwitch. Not only is Magwitch in danger of being arrested, Pip’s social standing is threatened. Pip reveals the situation to Herbert, and it is decided that Magwitch and Pip should leave England. Before departing, Pip visits Satis House, where he confronts Miss Havisham for letting him believe she was his patron. He also professes his love to Estella, who rejects him. Knowing that Drummle is pursuing her, Pip warns her about him, but she announces that she plans to marry him. Pip subsequently makes several startling discoveries, notably that Magwitch is Estella’s father and that Compeyson was Miss Havisham’s lover. He also grows close to Magwitch, whom he comes to respect.

As Pip and Magwitch attempt to leave London via a boat, the police and Compeyson arrive. The two convicts end up fighting in the Thames, and only Magwitch surfaces Compeyson’s body is later recovered. The injured Magwitch is arrested, convicted, and dies awaiting execution. A despondent Pip is arrested because of his debts, but his failing health prevents him from being jailed. Joe subsequently arrives and nurses Pip back to health. Joe also informs him that Miss Havisham has died. After Joe leaves, Pip discovers that his brother-in-law has paid all of his bills. Pip later accepts a job offer at the Cairo branch of Herbert’s firm, and he enjoys a simple but content life. After more than 10 years away, he returns to England and visits the place where Satis House once stood. There he encounters Estella, who is now a widow. As they leave, Pip takes her hand, believing that they will not part again.


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Interview on the Karmapas

How did you come to write History of the Karmapas?

Lama Pemo: Starting in adolescence Lama Kunsang was very interested in biographies of Buddhist saints. Because he repeatedly recounted the biographies to all of his friends and family members, he ended up knowing all the stories in detail. Already at that time people would tell him: You know so much about the Karmapas. Why don't you write a new book on them?

Lama Kunsang: Then during the thirty years that followed we both continued collecting material about the Karmapas and masters linked to their activity.

It was in 2008 that we actually decided to sit down in order to compile this rich material, with the goal of providing a complete reference work concerning the Karmapas. Encouraged by Marie Aubele—a French editor and writer who offered her help— we started writing History of the Karmapas.

We also turned to Mila Khyentse Rinpoche to help us in this challenging task. He considerably contributed to the book due to his immense knowledge in numerous fields. We requested that he draw some calligraphies of the Karmapas and write an introduction to explain some Buddhist notions difficult for the average reader to understand.

LP: We decided to enrich the book with lively accounts and numerous anecdotes of the private lives of masters, drawn from various written and oral sources. As Lama Kunsang is a specialist and lecturer in Asian history and travels to Tibet and Bhutan several times a year, he took advantage of this situation in order to find more details, take photos and interview people.

Thus many sections of the book came about rather naturally. For example, he interviewed the aged Karma Shedrup Rinpoche—who now lives in Rewalsar, Northern India—about his life as a young tulku in Tsurphu Monastery. This master remembered many private stories about the Karmapas, as he had been in care of the 16th Karmapa and the famous "Great Khandro", the 15th Karmapa's spiritual consort.

What is your link with the Karmapas?

LK: We both met the Dharma in the late 1970's when we had barely emerged from adolescence. It was during this period that the 16th Karmapa sent Kalu Rinpoche as his representative to the West. A few years later, at the age of twenty-four, we did the traditional three-year-retreat under Kalu Rinpoche's direction, followed by another year of retreat to deepen our understanding. Throughout the retreats the karmapa greatly inspired us and was constantly present in our minds. After retreat, we went to India and spent five years in Kalu Rinpoche's monastery in the Himalayan foothill region of Darjeeling. There we were asked to join his translation committee whose task it was to translate into English Jamgon Kongtrul's Treasury of Knowledge, an encyclopedia of Buddhism.

During this time we occasionally went to the Karmapa's seat in Rumtek, Sikkim on our first visit we met a helpful monk who allowed us to catch a glimpse of the unique religious items and termas that belonged to the previous Karmapas we also spent hours meditating in the shrine room that contains the 16th Karmapa's golden stupa with his relics. The living presence and the blessing of the Karmapa were still palpable there.

They were joking noisily with us all the time and even tried to offer us their modest provisions, but as soon as we came in sight of Tsurphu Monastery, they all of a sudden became extremely serious, joined their hands, tears in their eyes, and started to chant Karmapa Chenno, "Karmapa think of me."

Which Karmapa has left the deepest impression on you?

LP: All Karmapas had exceptional qualities. However, one who particularly touched us because of his limitless compassion was the 8th Karmapa, who passed away at age forty after having taking upon himself an epidemic of leprosy.

The 15th Karmapa was also very special in his lineage as he was a terton (treasure revealer) and the only Karmapa to take spiritual consorts.

The 16th Karmapa, who passed away in an American hospital, was also particularly inspiring for us: his joyful approach to death transformed the atmosphere of the entire hospital his exemplary way of using his cancer was the ultimate teaching to students and the medical team alike. We dedicated a long chapter to this Karmapa as numerous readers met him in the seventies and also because he was the first Karmapa to set foot on Western soil and establish dharma centers.

The 17th Karmapa occupies, of course, a very special position in the history of the Karmapas as he is the present head of the Kagyu lineage. He became world-famous due to his spectacular and greatly publicized flight from Tibet in the winter of 1999/2000. In the book we also recount the amazing details of this adventure.

Can you say something about your first encounter with the young 17th Karmapa?

LP: In 1993, while staying in Kalu Rinpoche's monastery, in India not far from the Tibetan border, we heard about the opening of Tibet and went to Kathmandu, where we managed to get a permit for two months. So we traveled to Lhasa at the end of the winter and headed straight to Tsurphu, the Karmapa's monastery (4 hours drive from Lhasa.) We succeeded in sneaking into a local bus, filled to the brim with pilgrims coming from Kham (eastern part of Tibet, the 17 th Karmapa's birth region.) It was a delightful and unforgettable journey!

We were the only Westerners in the midst of a joyful, lively crowd of Khampas, all dressed in their best attire and adorned with colorful jewelry. They were joking noisily with us all the time and even tried to offer us their modest provisions, but as soon as we came in sight of Tsurphu Monastery, they all of a sudden became extremely serious, joined their hands, tears in their eyes, and started to chant Karmapa Chenno, Karmapa think of me.

The monastery, perched at 4,300 meters, was an awesome sight! We headed straight to the special chamber where the Karmapa gave his blessings every day at noon. When we first saw the child, then eight years old, we were mesmerized by his impressive, large eyes gazing at us fixingly. We both felt an immediate and strong connection and were moved to tears. There was such an indescribable presence about him! He seemed slightly amused, perfectly at ease, and full of self-confidence when he blessed the pilgrims one after the other with a long stick.

After this first encounter we stayed at the monastery for two weeks, lodged in a small cell in freezing cold winter weather. At that time there was no food available for foreign visitors and no shop around the monastery so we sustained ourselves with a bag of tsampa (roasted barley) that we had thought to bring with us and some rancid yak butter (Tibetans' special treat!) to add some flavor to our dry barley flour. But we would have endured any hardship to be able to meet the Karmapa every day. Every morning we returned to see him at noon in order to get his blessing.

One day we noticed a group of Khampa pilgrims who followed the Karmapa when he left the room after a blessing. As we suddenly saw them line up to kneel down with their foreheads touching the stone floor, we wondered what was going on there. The Karmapa gave them a very special traditional blessing by putting his boot on their heads. We imitated the Tibetans and also knelt down.

On seeing us two westerners in this position, he stopped in front of us and burst out laughing! He seemed to hesitate a little bit, but then he jokingly put his boot on our heads with a much softer gesture, as if he knew that Westerners were not at all familiar with such a blessing!

One month later we returned to Tsurphu monastery with Bokar Rinpoche. We still clearly remember the joyful meeting between the Karmapa and Bokar Rinpoche, who had brought a big bag filled with toys that greatly amused the young Karmapa. He was particularly interested in a big plastic frog that he grasped jokingly, getting it to rebound on the table in front of him.

During our stay there we also went to the lingkor, to the hills above the monastery where the different Karmapas had meditated in caves. The blessing is still very strong there.

The Karmapa gave them the very special traditional blessing by putting his boot on their heads. We imitated the Tibetans and also knelt down. On seeing us two westerners in this: position, he stopped in front of us and burst out laughing!

Does this book help the reader to better understand the principle of reincarnation and the tulku system?

LK: Mila Khyentse Rinpoche's brilliant introduction is a real plus, as it adds many clarifications on subjects that were not explained in great detail in the book itself. He elucidates in a completely new way the process of reincarnation, the tulku system, and other points, such as the invisible world of the Karmapas, their specific visions and powers, the different levels of consciousness, the three kayas, the functioning of emanations, etc. Many readers of the French version told us that the book greatly helped them to understand reincarnation more clearly.

Why do great Tulkus such as the Karmapas still need such a strict education?

LP: For most people it is difficult to understand that great Bodhisattvas such as the Karmapas still need such a long education and must train in meditation like ordinary practitioners.

As Mila Khyentse Rinpoche says in his introduction, tenth ground Bodhisattvas do not suffer any alteration of consciousness on entering the womb and can thus effortlessly remember most of their previous studies. They do not come back propelled by karmic forces they decide to come back motivated by their wish to help beings. They only take up formal teaching, transmitted from the mouth of the master to the ear of the disciple, as Tibetans say, to set an example for practitioners.

For them, a simple review of the path and its practices is sufficient. However, the longer the delay between rebirth and rediscovery, the greater the risk of loss. That is why elaborate systems of recognition rapidly developed in Tibet.

What needs to be purified are not the illnesses and adverse circumstances, which are only the results of an erroneous vision of reality, but rather the very cause ignorance that permitted their emergence in the first place.

Why do many Karmapas die so young?

LK: As Mila Khyentse Rinpoche explains in his introduction, great Bodhisattvas can take upon themselves negative conditions and lighten in this way the karma accumulated by ordinary beings. They take upon themselves physical or mental pains and adverse circumstances and give happiness in return.

It is not rare for a Karmapa to voluntarily contract illnesses such as smallpox and die. These acts of great compassion rapidly consume their vital energy, thus shortening their lives. However, in order to counteract this, they usually perform long life practices in retreat. Nonetheless, due to their tireless activity entirely oriented towards the benefit of beings, the Karmapas often die young.

When Bodhisattvas take upon themselves the troubles of beings, they take over their ignorance and purify it by transforming it into wisdom.

It is, however, not the sickness that they take upon themselves that affects them, but the erroneous vision of the unenlightened beings they help. What needs to be purified are not the illnesses and adverse circumstances, which are only the results of an erroneous vision of reality, but rather the very cause ignorance that permitted their emergence in the first place.

When Bodhisattvas take upon themselves the troubles of beings, they take over their ignorance and purify it by transforming it into wisdom. It is precisely this purification process that consumes the energy of Bodhisattvas and can shorten their lives.

Although the vital functions no longer play their role, the body retains its suppleness and the region of the heart stays warm

What characterizes their passing away?

LP: When great Bodhisattvas die they usually sit in a meditation posture and enter the ultimate meditation, tukdam, that is considered their ultimate teaching and reveals the level of realization of the master. Although the vital functions no longer play their role, the body retains its suppleness and the region of the heart stays warm the head does not drop and no typical decomposing odor develops.

On the contrary, it may happen that the followers smell a subtle perfume emanating from the body. After the cremation rite of the first Karmapa, for example, his followers discovered his heart and his tongue (representing the awakened mind and speech) intact in the middle of the ritual pyre, as well as fragments of bone on which appeared Buddhist symbols, particularly sacred syllables. Meteorological signs such as rainbows, particular cloud formations, etc. also occur when great Bodhisattvas pass away.

For more information:

Lama Kunsang and Lama Pemo (Olivier and Lydia Brunet) completed the traditional three-year retreat under the guidance of the first Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche. They then spent five years in a monastery in the Himalayas working as part of Kalu Rinpoche’s translation committee. They currently teach Buddhism and meditation in Europe and Asia.

The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the spiritual head of one of the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The 900-year-old lineage of Karmapas has included some of Tibet’s greatest spiritual masters. Born to nomadic parents in rural Tibet, he was identified while still a young child as the heir to this leadership position. In 2000, the Karmapa’s dramatic escape to India from Chinese-ruled Tibet at the age of fourteen propelled him onto the world stage.


Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
1st Dalai Lama.jpg
Gendun Drup, 1st Dalai Lama
Reign 1391�
Tibetan ཏཱ་ལའི་བླ་མ་
Wylie transliteration tā la'i bla ma
Pronunciation [táːlɛː láma]
Conventional Romanisation Dalai Lama
House Dalai Lama
Dynasty Gelug
Tenzin
The 14th Dalai Lama
Dalailama1 20121014 4639.jpg
Reign November 17, 1950 – present
Predecessor 13th Dalai Lama
Prime Ministers
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Tibetan བསྟན་འཛིན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
Wylie bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho
Pronunciation [tɛ̃ ́tsĩ càtsʰo]
Transcription
(PRC) Dainzin Gyaco
THDL Tenzin Gyatso
Chinese 丹增嘉措
Pinyin Dānzēng Jiācuò
Father Choekyong Tsering
Mother Diki Tsering
Born 6 July 1935 (age 81)
Taktser, Qinghai
Signature Dalai Lama's signature

The Dalai Lama /ˈdɑːlaɪ ˈlɑːmə/ (US), /ˌdælaɪ ˈlɑːmə/ (UK) is a monk of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism, the newest of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Je Tsongkhapa. The 14th and current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso.

The Dalai Lama was an important figure of the Gelug tradition. Although finding dominance in Central Tibet, The Dalai Lama was an important figure beyond sectarian boundaries. The Dalai Lama figure was important for many reasons. He was a symbol of unification of the state of Tibet, where he represented Buddhist values and traditions.

The Dalai Lama is considered to be the successor in a line of tulkus who are believed to be incarnations of Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, called Chenrezig in Tibetan.The name is a combination of the Mongolic word dalai meaning "ocean" (coming from Mongolian title Dalaiyin qan or Dalaiin khan, translated as 'Gyatso' in Tibe] and the Tibetan word བླ་མ་ (bla-ma) meaning "guru, teacher, mentor". The Tibetan word "lama" corresponds to the better known Sanskrit word "guru".

From 1642 until the 1950s (except for 1705 to 1750), the Dalai Lamas or their regents headed the Tibetan government (or Ganden Phodrang) in Lhasa which governed all or most of the Tibetan plateau with varying degrees of autonomy, up to complete sovereignty. This government also enjoyed the patronage and protection of firstly Mongol kings of the Khoshut and Dzungar Khanates (1642�) and then of the emperors of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1720�).

In Central Asian Buddhist countries, it has been widely believed for the last millennium that Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, has a special relationship with the people of Tibet and intervenes in their fate by incarnating as benevolent rulers and teachers such as the Dalai Lamas. This is according to The Book of Kadam, the main text of the Kadampa school, to which the First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup, first belonged. In fact, this text is said to have ‘laid the foundation’ for the Tibetans' later identification of the Dalai Lamas as incarnations of Avalokiteśvara. It traces the legend of the bodhisattva’s incarnations as early Tibetan kings and emperors such as Songsten Gampo and later as Dromtönpa (1004-1064). This lineage has been extrapolated by Tibetans up to and including the Dalai Lamas.
Origins in myth and legend

Thus, according to such sources, an informal line of succession of the present Dalai Lamas as incarnations of Avalokiteśvara stretches back much further than Gendun Drub. The Book of Kadam, the compilation of Kadampa teachings largely composed around discussions between the Indian sage Atisa (980-1054) and his Tibetan host and chief disciple Dromtönpa and ‘Tales of the Previous Incarnations of Arya Avalokiteśvara’, nominate as many as sixty persons prior to Gendun Drub who are enumerated as earlier incarnations of Avalokiteśvara and predecessors in the same lineage leading up to him. In brief, these include a mythology of 36 Indian personalities plus 10 early Tibetan kings and emperors, all said to be previous incarnations of Dromtönpa, and fourteen further Nepalese and Tibetan yogis and sages in between him and the first Dalai Lama. In fact, according to the "Birth to Exile" article on the 14th Dalai Lama's website, he is "the seventy-fourth in a lineage that can be traced back to a Brahmin boy who lived in the time of Buddha Shakyamuni."
Avalokiteśvara's 'Dalai Lama master plan'

According to the 14th Dalai Lama, long ago Avalokiteśvara had promised the Buddha to guide and protect the Tibetan People and in the late Middle Ages, his master plan to fulfil this promise was the stage-by-stage establishment of the Dalai Lama theocracy in Tibet.

First, Tsongkhapa established three great monasteries around Lhasa in the province of Ü before he died in 1419. The 1st Dalai Lama soon became Abbot of the greatest one, Drepung, and developed a large popular power base in Ü. He later extended this to cover Tsang, where he constructed a fourth great monastery, Tashi Lhunpo, at Shigatse. The 2nd studied there before returning to Lhasa, where he became Abbot of Drepung. Having reactivated the 1st's large popular followings in Tsang and Ü, the 2nd then moved on to southern Tibet and gathered more followers there who helped him construct a new monastery, Chokorgyel. He also established the method by which later Dalai Lama incarnations would be discovered through visions at the 'oracle lake', Lhamo Lhatso. The 3rd built on his predecessors' fame by becoming Abbot of the two great monasteries of Drepung and Sera. The stage was set for the great Mongol King Altan Khan, hearing of his reputation, to invite the 3rd to Mongolia where he converted the King and his followers to Buddhism, as well as other Mongol princes and their followers covering a vast tract of central Asia. Thus most of Mongolia was added to the Dalai Lama's sphere of influence, founding a spiritual empire which largely survives to the modern age. After being given the Mongolian name 'Dalai', he returned to Tibet to found the great monasteries of Lithang in Kham, eastern Tibet and Kumbum in Amdo, north-eastern Tibet. The 4th was then born in Mongolia as the great grandson of Altan Khan, thus cementing strong ties between Central Asia, the Dalai Lamas, the Gelugpa and Tibet. Finally, in fulfilment of Avalokiteśvara's master plan, the 5th in the succession used the vast popular power base of devoted followers built up by his four predecessors. By 1642, a strategy that was planned and carried out by his resourceful chagdzo or manager Sonam Rapten with the military assistance of his devoted disciple Gushri Khan, Chieftain of the Khoshot Mongols, enabled the 'Great 5th' to found the Dalai Lamas' religious and political reign over more or less the whole of Tibet that survived for over 300 years.

Thus the Dalai Lamas became pre-eminent spiritual leaders in Tibet and 25 Himalayan and Central Asian kingdoms and countries bordering Tibet and their prolific literary works have "for centuries acted as major sources of spiritual and philosophical inspiration to more than fifty million people of these lands". Overall, they have played 'a monumental role in Asian literary, philosophical and religious history'.
How the Dalai Lama lineage became established

Gendun Drup (1391-1474) was the ordination name of the monk who came to be known as the 'First Dalai Lama', but only from 104 years after he died. There had been resistance, since first he was ordained a monk in the Kadampa tradition and for various reasons, for hundreds of years the Kadampa school had eschewed the adoption of the tulku system to which the older schools adhered. Tsongkhapa largely modelled his new, reformed Gelugpa school on the Kadampa tradition and he also refrained from starting a tulku system. Therefore, although Gendun Drup grew to be a very important Gelugpa lama, after he died in 1474 there was no question of any search being made to identify his incarnation.

Despite this, when the Tashilhunpo monks started hearing what seemed credible accounts that an incarnation of Gendun Drup had appeared nearby and repeatedly announced himself from the age of two, their curiosity was aroused. It was some 55 years after Tsongkhapa’s death. When eventually the monastic authorities saw compelling evidence which convinced them that the child in question was indeed none other than the incarnation of their founder, they felt obliged to break with their own tradition. In 1487, the boy was renamed Gendun Gyatso and installed at Tashilhunpo as Gendun Drup's tulku, albeit on an informal kind of basis.

Gendun Gyatso eventually died in 1542 and the lineage of Dalai Lama tulkus finally became firmly established when the third incarnation, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588), came forth. He made himself known as the tulku of Gendun Gyatso and was formally recognised and enthroned at Drepung in 1546. When he was given the titular name "Dalai Lama" by the Shunyi King of China in 1578 , it was also accorded to his last two predecessors and he became known as the third in the lineage.
1st Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama lineage started from humble beginnings. 'Pema Dorje' (1391-1474), the boy who was to become the first in the line, was born in a cattle pen[ in Shabtod, Tsang in 1391. His nomad parents kept sheep and goats and lived in tents. When his father died in 1398 his mother was unable to support the young goatherd so she entrusted him to his uncle, a monk at Narthang, a major Kadampa monastery near Shigatse, for education as a Buddhist monk. Narthang ran the largest printing press in Tibet and its celebrated library attracted scholars and adepts from far and wide, so Pema Dorje received an education beyond the norm at the time as well as exposure to diverse spiritual schools and ideas. He studied Buddhist philosophy extensively and in 1405, ordained by Narthang's abbot, he took the name of Gendun Drup. Soon recognised as an exceptionally gifted pupil, the abbot tutored him personally and took special interest in his progress. In 12 years he passed the 12 grades of monkhood and took the highest vows. After completing his intensive studies at Narthang he left to continue at specialist monasteries in Central Tibet, his grounding at Narthang was revered among many he encountered.

In 1415 Gendun Drup met Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa school, and became his student their meeting was of decisive historical and political significance as he was later to be known as the First Dalai Lama. When eventually Tsongkhapa's successor Khedrup Je the Panchen Lama died, Gendun Drup became the leader of the Gelugpa. He rose to become Abbot of Drepung, the greatest Gelugpa monastery, outside Lhasa.

It was mainly due to Gendun Drup's energy and ability that Tsongkhapa's new school grew into an expanding order capable of competing with others on an equal footing. Taking advantage of good relations with the nobility and a lack of determined opposition from rival orders, on the very edge of Karma Kagyu-dominated territory he founded Tashilhunpo Monastery at Shigatse. He was based there, as its Abbot, from its founding in 1447 until his death. Tashilhunpo, 'Mountain of Blessings', became the fourth great Gelugpa monastery in Tibet, after Ganden, Drepung and Sera had all been founded in Tsongkhapa's time. It later became the seat of the Panchen Lamas. By establishing it at Shigatse in the middle of Tsang, he expanded the Gelugpa sphere of influence, and his own, from the Lhasa region of Ü to this province, which was the stronghold of the Karma Kagyu school and their patrons, the rising Tsangpa dynastyTashilhunpo was destined to become 'Southern Tibet's greatest monastic university' with a complement of 3,000 monks.

Gendun Drup was said to be the greatest scholar-saint ever produced by Narthang Monastery and became 'the single most important lama in Tibet'. Through hard work he became a leading lama, known as 'Perfecter of the Monkhood', 'with a host of disciples'. Famed for his Buddhist scholarship he was also referred to as Panchen Gendun Drup, 'Panchen' being an honorary title designating 'great scholar'. By the great Jonangpa master Bodong Chokley Namgyal he was accorded the honorary title Tamchey Khyenpa meaning "The Omniscient One", an appellation that was later assigned to all Dalai Lama incarnations.

At the age of 50, he entered meditation retreat at Narthang. As he grew older, Karma Kagyu adherents, finding their sect was losing too many recruits to the monkhood to burgeoning Gelugpa monasteries, tried to contain Gelug expansion by launching military expeditions against them in the region. This led to decades of military and political power struggles between Tsangpa dynasty forces and others across central Tibet. In an attempt to ameliorate these clashes, from his retreat Gendun Drup issued a poem of advice to his followers advising restraint from responding to violence with more violence and to practice compassion and patience instead. The poem, entitled Shar Gang Rima, "The Song of the Eastern Snow Mountains", became one of his most enduring popular literary works.

Though born in a cattle pen to be a simple goatherd, Gendun Drup thus rose to become one of the most celebrated and respected teachers in Tibet and Central Asia. His spiritual accomplishments brought him lavish donations from devotees which he used to build and furnish new monasteries, to print and distribute Buddhist texts and to maintain monks and meditators At last, at the age of 84, older than any of his 13 successors, in 1474 he went on foot to visit Narthang Monastery on a final teaching tour. Returning to Tashilhunpo he died 'in a blaze of glory, recognised as having attained Buddhahood'.

His mortal remains were interred in a bejewelled silver stupa at Tashilhunpo, which survived the Cultural Revolution and can still be seen to this day.

Like the Kadampa, the Gelugpa eschewed the tulku system.[] After Gendun Drup died, however, a boy called Sangyey Pel born to Nyngma adepts at Yolkar in Tsang] declared himself at 3 to be "Gendun Drup" and asked to be 'taken home' to Tashilhunpo. He spoke in mystical verses, quoted classical texts out of the blue and said he was Dromtönpa, an earlier incarnation of the Dalai Lamas. When he saw monks from Tashilhunpo he greeted the disciples of the late Gendun Drup by name.[69] The Gelugpa elders had to break with tradition and recognised him as Gendun Drup's tulku.

He was then 8 but until his 12th year his father took him on his teachings and retreats, training him in all the family Nyingma lineages. At 12 he was installed at Tashilhunpo as Gendun Drup's incarnation, ordained, enthroned and renamed Gendun Gyatso Palzangpo (1475-1542).

Tutored personally by the abbot he made rapid progress and from 1492 at 17 he was requested to teach all over Tsang where thousands gathered to listen and give obeisance, including senior scholars and abbots. In 1494, at 19, he met some opposition from the Tashilhunpo establishment, so, invited by the Drepung abbot he left to study in Lhasa where he was accorded all the loyalty and devotion that Gendun Drup had earned and the Gelugpa school remained as united as ever. This move shifted central Gelugpa authority back to Lhasa. Under his leadership, the sect went on growing in size and influence and with its appeal of simplicity, devotion and austerity its lamas were asked to mediate in disputes between other rivals.

Gendun Gyatso's popularity in Ü-Tsang grew as he went on pilgrimage, travelling, teaching and studying from masters such as the adept Khedrup Norzang Gyatso in the Olklha mountains. He also stayed in Kongpo and Dagpo and became known all over Tibet. He spent his winters in Lhasa, writing commentaries and the rest of the year travelling and teaching many thousands of monks and lay people.

In 1509 he moved to southern Tibet to build Chokorgyel Monastery near the 'Oracle Lake', Lhamo Latso,[] completing it by 1511. That year he saw visions in the lake and 'empowered' it to impart clues to help identify incarnate lamas. All Dalai Lamas from the 3rd on were found with the help of such visions granted to regents. By now widely regarded as one of Tibet's greatest saints and scholars he was invited back to Tashilhunpo. On his return in 1512, he was given the residence built for Gendun Drup, to be occupied later by the Panchen Lamas. He was made abbot of Tashilhunpo and stayed there teaching in Tsang for 9 months.

Gendun Gyatso continued to travel widely and teach whilebased at Tibet's largest monastery, Drepung and became known as 'Drepung Lama', his fame and influence spreading all over Central Asia as the best students from hundreds of lesser monasteries in Asia were sent to Drepung for education.

Throughout Gendun Gyatso's life the Gelugpa were opposed and suppressed by older rivals, particularly the Karma Kagyu and their Ringpung clan patrons from Tsang, who felt threatened by their loss of influence. In 1498 the Ringpung army captured Lhasa and banned the Gelugpa annual New Year Monlam Prayer Festival started by Tsongkhapa for world peace and prosperity. Gendun Gyatso was promoted to abbot of Drepung in 1517 and that year Ringpung forces were forced to withdraw from Lhasa.Gendun Gyatso then went to the Gongma (King) Drakpa Jungne to obtain permission for the festival to be held again. The next New Year, the Gongma was so impressed by Gendun Gyatso's performance leading the Festival that he sponsored construction of a large new residence for him at Drepung, 'a monastery within a monastery'. It was called the Ganden Phodrang, a name later adopted by the Tibetan Government, and it served as home for Dalai Lamas until the 5th moved to the Potala Palace in 1645.

In 1525, already abbot of Chokhorgyel, Drepung and Tashilhunpo, he was made abbot of Sera monastery as well, and seeing the number of monks was low he worked to increase it. Based at Drepung in winter and Chokorgyel in summer, he spent his remaining years in composing commentaries, regional teaching tours, visiting Tashilhunpo from time to time and acting as abbot of these four great monasteries. As abbot, he made Drepung the largest monastery in the whole of Tibet He attracted many students and disciples 'from Kashmir to China' as well as major patrons and disciples such as Gongma Nangso Donyopa of Droda who built a monastery at Zhekar Dzong in his honour and invited him to name it and be its spiritual guide.

Gongma Gyaltsen Palzangpo of Khyomorlung at Tolung and his Queen Sangyey Paldzomma also became his favourite devoted lay patrons and disciples in the 1530s and he visited their area to carry out rituals as 'he chose it for his next place of rebirth'. He died in meditation at Drepung in 1547 at 67 and his reliquary stupa was constructed at Khyomorlung. It was said that, by the time he died, through his disciples and their students, his personal influence covered the whole of Buddhist Central Asia where 'there was nobody of any consequence who did not know of him'.
3rd Dalai Lama

The Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588) was born in Tolung, near Lhasa, as predicted by his predecessor. Claiming he was Gendun Gyatso and readily recalling events from his previous life, he was recognised as the incarnation, named 'Sonam Gyatso' and installed at Drepung, where 'he quickly excelled his teachers in knowledge and wisdom and developed extraordinary powers'. Unlike his predecessors, he came from a noble family, connected with the Sakya and the Phagmo Drupa (Karma Kagyu affiliated) dynasties, and it is to him that the effective conversion of Mongolia to Buddhism is due.

A brilliant scholar and teacher, he had the spiritual maturity to be made Abbot of Drepung, taking responsibility for the material and spiritual well-being of Tibet's largest monastery at the age of nine. At 10 he led the Monlam Prayer Festival, giving daily discourses to the assembly of all Gelugpa monks. His influence grew so quickly that soon the monks at Sera Monastery also made him their Abbot and his mediation was being sought to prevent fighting between political power factions. At 16, in 1559, he was invited to Nedong by King Ngawang Tashi Drakpa, a Karma Kagyu supporter, and became his personal teacher. At 17, when fighting broke out in Lhasa between Gelug and Kagyu parties and efforts by local lamas to mediate failed, Sonam Gyatso negotiated a peaceful settlement. At 19, when the Kyichu River burst its banks and flooded Lhasa, he led his followers to rescue victims and repair the dykes. He then instituted a custom whereby on the last day of Monlam, all the monks would work on strengthening the flood defences. Gradually, he was shaping himself into a national leader. His popularity and renown became such that in 1564 when the Nedong King died, it was Sonam Gyatso at the age of 21 who was requested to lead his funeral rites, rather than his own Kagyu lamas.

Required to travel and teach without respite after taking full ordination in 1565, he still maintained extensive meditation practices in the hours before dawn and again at the end of the day. In 1569 at 26 he went to Tashilhunpo to study the layout and administration of the monastery built by his predecessor Gendun Drup. Invited to become the Abbot he declined, already being Abbot of Drepung and Sera, but left his deputy there in his stead. From there he visited Narthang, the first monastery of Gendun Drup and gave numerous discourses and offerings to the monks in gratitude.

Meanwhile, Altan Khan, chief of all the Mongol tribes near China's borders, had heard of Sonam Gyatso's spiritual prowess and repeatedly invited him to Mongolia. By 1571, he had fulfilled his political destiny and a nephew advised him to seek spiritual salvation, saying "In Tibet dwells Avalokiteshvara", referring to Sonam Gyatso, then 28 years old. At the second invitation, in 1577-78 Sonam Gyatso travelled 1,500 miles to Mongolia to see him. They met in an atmosphere of intense reverence and devotion and their meeting resulted in the re-establishment of strong Tibet-Mongolia relations after a gap of 200 years. To Altan Khan, Sonam Gyatso identified himself as the incarnation of Drogön Chögyal Phagpa, and Altan Khan as that of Kubilai Khan, thus placing the Khan as heir to the Chingizid lineage whilst securing his patronage. Altan Khan and his followers quickly adopted Buddhism as their state religion, replacing the prohibited traditional Shamanism. Mongol law was reformed to accord with Tibetan Buddhist law. From this time Buddhism spread rapidly across Mongolia[] and soon the Gelugpa had won the spiritual allegiance of most of the Mongolian tribes. As proposed by Sonam Gyatso, Altan Khan sponsored the building of Thegchen Chonkhor Monastery at the site of Sonam Gyatso's open-air teachings given to the whole Mongol population. He also called Sonam Gyatso "Dalai", Mongolian for 'Gyatso' (Ocean).

The name "Dalai Lama", by which the lineage later became known throughout the non-Tibetan world, was thus established and it was applied to the first two incarnations retrospectively.

Returning eventually to Tibet by a round-about route and invited to stay and teach all along the way, in 1580 Sonam Gyatso was in Hohhot [or Ningxia], not far from Beijing, when the Chinese Emperor invited him to his court. By now he had established a religious empire of such proportions that it was unsurprising the Emperor wanted to invite him and grant him a diploma. At the request of the Ningxia Governor he had been teaching large gatherings of people from East Turkestan, Mongolia and nearby areas of China, with interpreters provided by the governor for each language. While there, a Ming court envoy came with gifts and a request to visit the Wanli Emperor but he declined having already agreed to visit Eastern Tibet next. Once there, in Kham, he founded two more great Gelugpa monasteries, the first in 1580 at Lithang where he left his representative before going on to Chamdo Monastery where he resided and was made Abbot. In 1582, he heard Altan Khan had died and invited by his son Dhüring Khan he decided to return to Mongolia. Passing through Amdo, he founded a second great monastery, Kumbum, at the birthplace of Tsongkhapa near Kokonor. Further on, he was asked to adjudicate on border disputes between Mongolia and China. It was the first time a Dalai Lama had exercised such political authority. Arriving in Mongolia in 1585, he stayed 2 years with Dhüring Khan, teaching Buddhism to his people and converting more Mongol princes and their tribes. Receiving a second invitation from the Emperor in Beijing he accepted, but died en route in 1588.

For a lifetime of only 45 years, his accomplishments were impressive and some of the most important ones were due to his relationship with Altan Khan. As he was dying, his Mongolian converts urged him not to leave them, as they needed his continuing religious leadership. He promised them he would be incarnated next in Mongolia, as a Mongolian.

The Fourth Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso (1589-1617) was a Mongolian, the great-grandson of Altan Khan who was a descendant of Kublai Khan and King of the Tümed Mongols who had already been converted to Buddhism by the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588). This strong connection caused the Mongols to zealously support the Gelugpa sect in Tibet, strengthening their status and position but also arousing intensified opposition from the Gelugpa's rivals, particularly the Tsang Karma Kagyu in Shigatse and their Mongolian patrons and the Bönpo in Kham and their allies. Being the newest school, unlike the older schools the Gelugpa lacked an established network of Tibetan clan patronage and were thus more reliant on foreign patrons. At the age of 10 with a large Mongol escort he travelled to Lhasa where he was enthroned. He studied at Drepung and became its abbot but being a non-Tibetan he met with opposition from some Tibetans, especially the Karma Kagyu who felt their position was threatened by these emerging events there were several attempts to remove him from power. Yonten Gyatso died at the age of 27 under suspicious circumstances and his chief attendant Sonam Rapten went on to discover the 5th Dalai Lama, became his chagdzo or manager and after 1642 he went on to be his regent, the Desi

The death of the Fourth Dalai Lama in 1617 led to open conflict breaking out between various parties. Firstly, the Tsangpa dynasty, rulers of Central Tibet from Shigatse, supporters of the Karmapa school and rivals to the Gelugpa, forbade the search for his incarnation. However, in 1618 Sonam Rabten, the former attendant of the 4th Dalai Lama who had become the Ganden Phodrang treasurer, secretly identified the child, who had been born to the noble Zahor family at Tagtse castle, south of Lhasa. Then, the Panchen Lama, in Shigatse, negotiated the lifting of the ban, enabling the boy to be recognised as Lobsang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama.

Also in 1618, the Tsangpa King, Karma Puntsok Namgyal, whose Mongol patron was Choghtu Khong Tayiji of the Khalkha Mongols, attacked the Gelugpa in Lhasa to avenge an earlier snub and established two military bases there to control the monasteries and the city. This caused Sonam Rabten who became the 5th Dalai Lama's changdzo or manager, to seek more active Mongol patronage and military assistance for the Gelugpa while the Fifth was still a boy. So, in 1620, Mongol troops allied to the Gelugpa who had camped outside Lhasa suddenly attacked and destroyed the two Tsangpa camps and drove them out of Lhasa, enabling the Dalai Lama to be brought out of hiding and publicly enthroned there in 1622.

In fact, throughout the 5th's minority, it was the influential and forceful Sonam Rabten who inspired the Dzungar Mongols to defend the Gelugpa by attacking their enemies. These enemies included other Mongol tribes who supported the Tsangpas, the Tsangpa themselves and their Bönpo allies in Kham who had also opposed and persecuted Gelugpas. Ultimately, this strategy led to the destruction of the Tsangpa dynasty, the defeat of the Karmapas and their other allies and the Bönpos, by armed forces from the Lhasa valley aided by their Mongol allies, paving the way for Gelugpa political and religious hegemony in Central Tibet. Apparently by general consensus, by virtue of his position as the Dalai Lama's changdzo (chief attendant, minister), after the Dalai Lama became absolute ruler of Tibet in 1642 Sonam Rabten became the "Desi" or "Viceroy", in fact, the de facto regent or day-to-day ruler of Tibet's governmental affairs. During these years and for the rest of his life (he died in 1658), "there was little doubt that politically Sonam Chophel [Rabten] was more powerful than the Dalai Lama". As a young man, being 22 years his junior, the Dalai Lama addressed him reverentially as "Zhalngo", meaning "the Presence".

During the 1630s Tibet was deeply entangled in rivalry, evolving power struggles and conflicts, not only between the Tibetan religious sects but also between the rising Manchus and the various rival Mongol and Oirat factions, who were also vying for supremacy amongst themselves and on behalf of the religious sects they patronised. For example, Ligdan Khan of the Chahars, a Mongol subgroup who supported the Tsang Karmapas, after retreating from advancing Manchu armies headed for Kokonor intending destroy the Gelug. He died on the way, in 1634 but his vassal Choghtu Khong Tayiji, continued to advance against the Gelugpas, even having his own son Arslan killed after Arslan changed sides, submitted to the Dalai Lama and become a Gelugpa monk. By the mid-1630s, thanks again to the efforts of Sonam Rabten, the Fifth Dalai Lama had found a powerful new patron in Güshi Khan of the Khoshut Mongols, a subgroup of the Dzungars, who had recently migrated to the Kokonor area from Dzungaria. He attacked Choghtu Khong Tayiji at Kokonor in 1637 and defeated and killed him, thus eliminating the Tsangpa and the Karmapa's main Mongol patron and protector.

Next, Donyo Dorje, the Bönpo king of Beri in Kham was found writing to the Tsangpa king in Shigatse to propose a co-ordinated 'pincer attack' on the Lhasa Gelugpa monasteries from east and west, seeking to utterly destroy them once and for all. The intercepted letter was sent to Güshi Khan who used it as a pretext to invade central Tibet in 1639 to attack them both, the Bönpo and the Tsangpa. By 1641 he had defeated Donyo Dorje and his allies in Kham and then he marched on Shigatse where after laying siege to their strongholds he defeated Karma Tenkyong, broke the power of the Tsang Karma Kagyu in 1642 and ended the Tsangpa dynasty.

Records show that Güshi Khan's attacks on the Bönpo and the Tsangpa were made on his own initiative while being publicly and robustly opposed by the Dalai Lama, who, as a matter of conscience, out of compassion and his vision of tolerance for other religious schools, refused to give permission for more warfare in his name. However, the actions were supported by his Desi Sonam Rabten, who deviously went behind his master's back to encourage Güshi Khan, to facilitate his plans and to ensure the attacks took place for this defiance of his master's wishes, Desi Sonam Rabten was severely rebuked by the 5th Dalai Lama.

After Desi Sonam Rapten died in 1658, the following year the 5th Dalai Lama appointed his younger brother Depa Norbu (aka Nangso Norbu) as his successor. However after a few months, Norbu betrayed him and led a rebellion against the Ganden Phodrang Government. With his accomplices he seized Samdruptse fort at Shigatse and tried to raise a rebel army from Tsang and Bhutan, but the Dalai Lama skilfully foiled his plans without any fighting taking place and Norbu had to flee. Four other Desis were appointed after Depa Norbu: Trinle Gyatso, Lozang Tutop, Lozang Jinpa and Sangye Gyatso.
Re-unification of Tibet

Having thus defeated all the Gelugpa's rivals and resolved all regional and sectarian conflicts Güshi Khan became the undisputed patron of a unified Tibet and acted as a "Protector of the Gelug", establishing the Khoshut Khanate which covered almost the entire Tibetan plateau, an area corresponding roughly to 'Greater Tibet' including Kham and Amdo, as claimed by exiled groups (see maps). At an enthronement ceremony in Shigatse he conferred full sovereignty over Tibet on the Fifth Dalai Lama, unified for the first time since the collapse of the Tibetan Empire exactly eight centuries earlier. Güshi Khan then retired to Kokonor with his armies and [according to Smith] ruled Amdo himself directly thus creating a precedent for the later separation of Amdo from the rest of Tibet.

In this way, Güshi Khan established the Fifth Dalai Lama as the highest spiritual and political authority in Tibet. 'The Great Fifth' became the temporal ruler of Tibet in 1642 and from then on the rule of the Dalai Lama lineage over some, all or most of Tibet lasted with few breaks for the next 317 years, until 1959, when the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India. In 1645, the Great Fifth began the construction of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

Güshi Khan died in 1655 and was succeeded by his descendants Dayan, Tenzin Dalai Khan and Tenzin Wangchuk Khan. However, Güshi Khan's other eight sons had settled in Amdo but fought amongst themselves over territory so the Fifth Dalai Lama sent governors to rule them in 1656 and 1659, thereby bringing Amdo and thus the whole of Greater Tibet under his personal rule and Gelugpa control. The Mongols in Amdo became absorbed and Tibetanised.

In 1636 the Manchus proclaimed their dynasty as the Qing dynasty and by 1644 they had completed their conquest of China under the prince regent Dorgon. The following year their forces approached Amdo on northern Tibet, causing the Oirat and Khoshut Mongols there to submit in 1647 and send tribute. In 1648, after quelling a rebellion of Tibetans of Kansu-Xining, the Qing invited the Fifth Dalai Lama to visit their court at Beijing since they wished to engender Tibetan influence in their dealings with the Mongols. The Qing were aware the Dalai Lama had extraordinary influence with the Mongols and saw relations with the Dalai Lama as a means to facilitate submission of the Khalka Mongols, traditional patrons of the Karma Kagyu sect. Similarly, since the Tibetan Gelugpa were keen to revive a priest-patron relationship with the dominant power in China and Inner Asia, the Qing invitation was accepted. After five years of complex diplomatic negotiations about whether the emperor or his representatives should meet the Dalai Lama inside or outside the Great Wall, when the meeting would be astrologically favourable, how it would be conducted and so on, it eventually took place in Beijing in 1653. The Shunzhi Emperor was then 16 years old, having in the meantime ascended the throne in 1650 after the death of Dorgon. For the Qing, although the Dalai Lama was not required to kowtow to the emperor, who rose from his throne and advanced 30 feet to meet him, the significance of the visit was that of nominal political submission by the Dalai Lama since Inner Asian heads of state did not travel to meet each other but sent envoys. For Tibetan Buddhist historians however it was interpreted as the start of an era of independent rule of the Dalai Lamas, and of Qing patronage alongside that of the Mongols.

Relations with the Qing dynasty

The 17th century struggles for domination between the Manchu-led Qing dynasty and the various Mongol groups spilled over to involve Tibet because of the Fifth Dalai Lama's strong influence over the Mongols as a result of their general adoption of Tibetan Buddhism and their consequent deep loyalty to the Dalai Lama as their guru. Until 1674 the Fifth Dalai Lama had mediated in Dzungar Mongol affairs whenever they required him to do so, and the Kangxi Emperor, who had succeeded the Shunzhi Emperor in 1661, would accept and confirm his decisions automatically. For the Kangxi Emperor however, the alliance between the Dzungar Mongols and the Tibetans was unsettling because he feared it had the potential to unite all the other Mongol tribes together against the Qing Empire, including those tribes who had already submitted. Therefore, in 1674, the Kangxi Emperor, annoyed by the Fifth's less than full cooperation in quelling a rebellion against the Qing in Yunnan, ceased deferring to him as regards Mongol affairs and started dealing with them directly.

In the same year, 1674, the Dalai Lama, then at the height of his powers and conducting a foreign policy independent of the Qing, caused Mongol troops to occupy the border post of Dartsedo between Kham and Sichuan, further annoying the Kangxi Emperor who (according to Smith) already considered Tibet as part of the Qing Empire. It also increased Qing suspicion about Tibetan relations with the Mongol groups and led him to seek strategic opportunities to oppose and undermine Mongol influence in Tibet and eventually, within 50 years, to defeat the Mongols militarily and to establish the Qing as sole 'patrons and protectors' of Tibet in their place.

The Fifth Dalai Lama's death in 1682 was kept secret for fifteen years by his regent Desi Sangye Gyatso. He pretended the Dalai Lama was in retreat and ruled on his behalf, secretly selecting the 6th Dalai Lama and presenting him as someone else. This was apparently done so that construction of the Potala Palace could be finished, and to prevent Tibet's neighbours, the Mongols and the Qing, from taking advantage of an interregnum in the succession of the Dalai Lamas. Only in 1697 did he announce the Fifth's death, annoying both the Mongols and the Qing by this deception.(Laird 2006, pp. 181�)
Cultural development

The time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, who reigned from 1642 to 1682 and founded the government known as the Ganden Phodrang, was a period of rich cultural development. His reign and that of Desi Sangye Gyatso are noteworthy for the upsurge in literary activity and of cultural and economic life that occurred. The same goes for the great increase in the number of foreign visitors thronging Lhasa during the period as well as for the number of inventions and institutions that are attributed to the 'Great Fifth', as the Tibetans refer to him. The most dynamic and prolific of the early Dalai Lamas, he composed more literary works than all the other Dalai Lamas combined. Writing on a wide variety of subjects he is specially noted for his works on history, classical Indian poetry in Sanskrit and his biographies of notable personalities of his epoch, as well as his own two autobiographies, one spiritual in nature and the other political (see Further Reading).He also taught and travelled extensively, reshaped the politics of Central Asia, unified Tibet, conceived and constructed the Potala Palace and is remembered for establishing systems of national medical care and education.
6th Dalai Lama

The Sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1706) was born near Tawang, now in India, and picked out in 1685 but not enthroned until 1697 when the death of the Fifth was announced. After 16 years of study as a novice monk, in 1702 in his 20th year he rejected full ordination and gave up his monk's robes and monastic life, preferring the lifestyle of a layman.

In 1703 Güshi Khan's ruling grandson Tenzin Wangchuk Khan was murdered by his brother Lhazang Khan who usurped the Khoshut's Tibetan throne, but unlike his four predecessors he started interfering directly in Tibetan affairs in Lhasa he opposed the Fifth Dalai Lama's regent, Desi Sangye Gyatso for his deceptions and in the same year, with the support of the Kangxi Emperor, he forced him out of office. Then in 1705, he used the Sixth's escapades as an excuse to seize full control of Tibet. Most Tibetans, though, still supported their Dalai Lama despite his behaviour and deeply resented Lhazang Khan's intereference. When Lhazang was requested by the Tibetans to leave Lhasa politics to them and to retire to Kokonor like his predecessors, he quit the city, but only to gather his armies in order to return, capture Lhasa militarily and assume full political control of Tibet. The regent was then murdered by Lhazang or his wife, and, in 1706 with the compliance of the Kangxi Emperor the Sixth Dalai Lama was deposed and arrested by Lhazang who considered him to be an imposter set up by the regent. Lhazang Khan, now acting as the only outright foreign ruler that Tibet had ever had, then sent him to Beijing under escort to appear before the emperor but he died mysteriously on the way near Lake Qinghai, ostensibly from illness.

Having discredited and deposed the Sixth Dalai Lama, whom he considered an imposter, and having removed the regent, Lhazang Khan pressed the Lhasa Gelugpa lamas to endorse a new Dalai Lama in Tsangyang Gyatso's place as the true incarnation of the Fifth. They eventually nominated one Pekar Dzinpa, a monk but also rumoured to be Lhazang's son, and Lhazang had him installed as the 'real' Sixth Dalai Lama, endorsed by the Panchen Lama and named Yeshe Gyatso in 1707. This choice was in no way accepted by the Tibetan people, however, nor by Lhazang's princely Mongol rivals in Kokonor who resented his usurpation of the Khoshut Tibetan throne as well as his meddling in Tibetan affairs. The Kangxi Emperor concurred with them, after sending investigators, initially declining to recognise Yeshe Gyatso. He did recognise him in 1710, however, after sending a Qing official party to assist Lhazang in 'restoring order' these were the first Chinese representatives of any sort to officiate in Tibet. At the same time, while this puppet 'Dalai Lama' had no political power, the Kangxi Emperor secured from Lhazang Khan in return for this support the promise of regular payments of tribute this was the first time tribute had been paid to the Manchu by the Mongols in Tibet and the first overt acknowledgement of Qing supremacy over Mongol rule in Tibet.

In 1708, in accordance with an indication given by the Sixth Dalai Lama when quitting Lhasa a child called Kelzang Gyatso had been born at Lithang in eastern Tibet who was soon claimed by local Tibetans to be his incarnation. After going into hiding out of fear of Lhazang Khan, he was installed in Lithang monastery. Along with some of the Kokonor Mongol princes, rivals of Lhazang, in defiance of the situation in Lhasa the Tibetans of Kham duly recognised him as the Seventh Dalai Lama in 1712, retaining his birth-name of Kelzang Gyatso. For security reasons he was moved to Derge monastery and eventually, in 1716, now also backed and sponsored by the Kangxi Emperor he was taken to Amdo at the age of 8 to be installed in Kumbum Monastery with great pomp and ceremony.

According to Smith, the Kangxi Emperor now arranged to protect the child and keep him at Kumbum monastery in Amdo in reserve just in case his ally Lhasang Khan and his 'real' Sixth Dalai Lama, were overthrown. According to Mullin, however, the emperor's support came from genuine spiritual recognition and respect rather than being politically motivated.
Dzungar invasion

In any case, the Kangxi Emperor took full advantage of having Kelzang Gyatso under Qing control at Kumbum after other Mongols from the Dzungar tribes led by Tsewang Rabtan who was related to his supposed ally Lhazang Khan, deceived and betrayed the latter by invading Tibet and capturing Lhasa in 1717.

These Dzungars, who were Buddhist, had supported the Fifth Dalai Lama and his regent. They were secretly petitioned by the Lhasa Gelugpa lamas to invade with their help in order to rid them of their foreign ruler Lhazang Khan and to replace the unpopular Sixth Dalai Lama pretender with the young Kelzang Gyatso. This plot suited the devious Dzungar leaders' ambitions and they were only too happy to oblige. Early in 1717, after conspiring to undermine Lhazang Khan through treachery they entered Tibet from the northwest with a large army, sending a smaller force to Kumbum to collect Kelzang Gyatso and escort him to Lhasa. By the end of the year, with Tibetan connivance they had captured Lhasa, killed Lhazang and all his family and deposed Yeshe Gyatso. Their force sent to fetch Kelzang Gyatso however was intercepted and destroyed by Qing armies alerted by Lhazang. In Lhasa, the unruly Dzungar not only failed to produce the boy but also went on the rampage, looting and destroying the holy places, abusing the populace, killing hundreds of Nyingma monks, causing chaos and bloodshed and turning their Tibetan allies against them. The Tibetans were soon appealing to the Kangxi Emperor to rid them of the Dzungars.

When the Dzungars had first attacked, the weakened Lhazang sent word to the Qing for support and they quickly despatched two armies to assist, the first Chinese armies ever to enter Tibet, but they arrived too late. In 1718 they were halted not far from Lhasa to be defeated and then ruthlessly annihilated by the triumphant Dzungars in the Battle of the Salween River.

This humiliation only determined the Kangxi Emperor to expel the Dzungars from Tibet once and for all and he set about assembling and dispatching a much larger force to march on Lhasa, bringing the emperor's trump card the young Kelzang Gyatso with it. On the imperial army's stately passage from Kumbum to Lhasa with the boy being welcomed adoringly at every stage, Khoshut Mongols and Tibetans were happy (and well paid) to join and swell its ranks. By the autumn of 1720 the marauding Dzungar Mongols had been vanquished from Tibet and the Qing imperial forces had entered Lhasa triumphantly with the 12-year old, acting as patrons of the Dalai Lama, liberators of Tibet, allies of the Tibetan anti-Dzungar forces led by Kangchenas and Polhanas, and allies of the Khoshut Mongol princes. The delighted Tibetans enthroned him as the Seventh Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace.

A new Tibetan government was established consisting of a Kashag or cabinet of Tibetan ministers headed by Kangchenas. Kelzang Gyatso, too young to participate in politics, studied Buddhism. He played a symbolic role in government, and, being profoundly revered by the Mongols, he exercised much influence with the Qing who now had now taken over Tibet's patronage and protection from them.

Having vanquished the Dzungars, the Qing army withdrew leaving the Seventh Dalai Lama as a political figurehead and only a Khalkha Mongol as the Qing amban or representative and a garrison in Lhasa. After the Kangxi Emperor died in 1722 and was succeeded by his son, the Yongzheng Emperor, these were also withdrawn, leaving the Tibetans to rule autonomously and showing the Qing were interested in an alliance, not conquest. In 1723, however, after brutally quelling a major rebellion by zealous Tibetan patriots and disgruntled Khoshut Mongols from Amdo who attacked Xining, the Qing intervened again, splitting Tibet by putting Amdo and Kham under their own more direct control. Continuing Qing interference in Central Tibetan politics and religion incited an anti-Qing faction to quarrel with the Qing-sympathising Tibetan nobles in power in Lhasa, led by Kanchenas who was supported by Polhanas. This led eventually to the murder of Kanchenas in 1727 and a civil war that was resolved in 1728 with the canny Polhanas, who had sent for Qing assistance, the victor. When the Qing forces did arrive they punished the losers and exiled the Seventh Dalai Lama to Kham, under the pretence of sending him to Beijing, because his father had assisted the defeated, anti-Qing faction. He studied and taught Buddhism there for the next seven years.


In 1735 he was allowed back to Lhasa to study and teach, but still under strict control, being mistrusted by the Qing, while Polhanas ruled Central Tibet under nominal Qing supervision. Meanwhile, the Qing had promoted the Fifth Panchen Lama to be a rival leader and reinstated the ambans and the Lhasa garrison. Polhanas died in 1747 and was succeeded by his son Gyurme Namgyal, the last dynastic ruler of Tibet, who was far less cooperative with the Qing. On the contrary, he built a Tibetan army and started conspiring with the Dzungars to rid Tibet of Qing influence. In 1750, when the ambans realised this, they invited him and personally assassinated him and then, despite the Dalai Lama's attempts to calm the angered populace a vengeful Tibetan mob assassinated the ambans in turn, along with most of their escort.
Restoration as Tibet's political leader

The Qing sent yet another force 'to restore order' but when it arrived the situation had already been stabilised under the leadership of the Seventh Dalai Lama who was now seen to have demonstrated loyalty to the Qing. Just as Güshi Khan had done with the Fifth Dalai Lama, they therefore helped reconstitute the government with the Dalai Lama presiding over a Kashag of four Tibetans, reinvesting him with temporal power in addition to his already established spiritual leadership. This arrangement, with a Kashag under the Dalai Lama or his regent, outlasted the Qing dynasty which collapsed in 1912. The ambans and their garrison were also reinstated to observe and to some extent supervise affairs, however, although their influence generally waned with the power of their empire which gradually declined after 1792 along with its influence over Tibet, a decline aided by a succession of corrupt or incompetent ambans.[164] Moreover, there was soon no reason for the Qing to fear the Dzungar by the time the Seventh Dalai Lama died in 1757 at the age of 49, the entire Dzungar people had been practically exterminated through years of genocidal campaigns by Qing armies, and deadly smallpox epidemics, with the survivors being forcibly transported into China. Their emptied lands were then awarded to other peoples.

According to Mullin, despite living through such violent times Kelzang Gyatso was perhaps 'the most spiritually learned and accomplished of any Dalai Lama', his written works comprising several hundred titles including 'some of Tibet's finest spiritual literary achievements'.[166] In addition, despite his apparent lack of zeal in politics Kelzang Gyatso is credited with establishing in 1751 the reformed government of Tibet headed by the Dalai Lama, which continued over 200 years until the 1950s, and then in exile. Construction of the Norbulingka, the 'Summer Palace' of the Dalai Lamas in Lhasa was also started during Kelzang Gyatso's reign.
8th Dalai Lama

The Eighth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso was born in Tsang in 1758 and died aged 46 having taken little part in Tibetan politics, mostly leaving temporal matters to his Regents and the ambans. Although he lived almost as long as the Seventh he was overshadowed by many contemporary lamas in terms of both religious and political accomplishment. According to Mullin, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has pointed to certain indications that Jamphel Gyatso might not have been the incarnation of the Seventh Dalai Lama but of Jamyang Chojey, a disciple of Tsongkhapa and founder of Drepung monastery who was also reputed to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. In any case, he mainly lived a quiet and unassuming life as a devoted and studious monk, uninvolved in the kind of dramas that had surrounded his predecessors.

Nevertheless, Jamphel Gyatso was also said to possess all the signs of being the true incarnation of the Seventh. This was also claimed to have been confirmed by many portents clear to the Tibetans and so, in 1762, at the age of 5, he was duly enthroned as the Eighth Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace. At the age of 23 he was persuaded to assume the throne as ruler of Tibet with a Regent to assist him and after three years of this, when the Regent went to Beijing as ambassador in 1784, he continued to rule solo for a further four years. Feeling unsuited to worldly affairs, however, and unhappy in this role, he then retired from public office to concentrate on religious activities for his remaining 16 years until his death in 1804. He is also credited with the construction of the Norbulingka 'Summer Palace' started by his predecessor in Lhasa and with ordaining some ten thousand monks in his efforts to foster monasticism.
9th to 12th Dalai Lamas

Hugh Richardson's summary of the period covering the four short-lived, 19th century Dalai Lamas:

After him [the Eighth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso], the 9th and 10th Dalai Lamas died before attaining their majority: one of them is credibly stated to have been murdered and strong suspicion attaches to the other. The 11th and 12th were each enthroned but died soon after being invested with power. For 113 years, therefore, supreme authority in Tibet was in the hands of a Lama Regent, except for about two years when a lay noble held office and for short periods of nominal rule by the 11th and 12th Dalai Lamas.[a]
It has sometimes been suggested that this state of affairs was brought about by the Ambans—the Imperial Residents in Tibet—because it would be easier to control the Tibet through a Regent than when a Dalai Lama, with his absolute power, was at the head of the government. That is not true. The regular ebb and flow of events followed its set course. The Imperial Residents in Tibet, after the first flush of zeal in 1750, grew less and less interested and efficient. Tibet was, to them, exile from the urbanity and culture of Peking and so far from dominating the Regents, the Ambans allowed themselves to be dominated. It was the ambition and greed for power of Tibetans that led to five successive Dalai Lamas being subjected to continuous tutelage. (Richardson 1984, pp. 59󈞨)

Thubten Jigme Norbu, the elder brother of the 14th Dalai Lama, described these unfortunate events as follows, although there are few, if any, indications that any of the four were said to be 'Chinese-appointed imposters':

It is perhaps more than a coincidence that between the seventh and the thirteenth holders of that office, only one reached his majority. The eighth, Gyampal Gyatso, died when he was in his thirties, Lungtog Gyatso when he was eleven, Tsultrim Gyatso at eighteen, Khadrup Gyatso when he was eighteen also, and Krinla Gyatso at about the same age. The circumstances are such that it is very likely that some, if not all, were poisoned, either by loyal Tibetans for being Chinese-appointed impostors, or by the Chinese for not being properly manageable. Many Tibetans think that this was done at the time when the young [Dalai Lama] made his ritual visit to the Lake Lhamtso. . Each of the four [Dalai Lamas] to die young expired shortly after his visit to the lake. Many said it was because they were not the true reincarnations, but imposters imposed by the Chinese. Others tell stories of how the cooks of the retinue, which in those days included many Chinese, were bribed to put poison in the [Dalai Lama's] food. The 13th [Dalai Lama] did not visit Lhamtso until he was 25 years old. He was adequately prepared by spiritual exercise and he also had faithful cooks. The Chinese were disappointed when he did not die like his predecessors, and he was to live long enough to give them much more cause for regret.(Norbu & Turnbull 1968)

According to Mullin, on the other hand, it is improbable that the Manchus would have murdered any of these four for being 'unmanageable' since it would have been in their best interests to have strong Dalai Lamas ruling in Lhasa, he argues, agreeing with Richardson that it was rather "the ambition and greed for power of Tibetans" that might have caused the Lamas' early deaths.[c] Further, if Tibetan nobles murdered any of them, which is quite possible, it would more likely to have been in order to protect or enhance their personal family interests rather than out of suspicion that the Dalai Lamas were seen as Chinese-appointed imposters as suggested by Norbu. They could have also easily died from illnesses, possibly contracted from diseases to which they had no immunity, carried to Lhasa by the multitudes of pilgrims visiting him from nearby countries for personal blessings. Finally, from the Buddhist point of view, Mullin says, "Simply stated, these four Dalai Lamas died young because the world did not have enough good karma to deserve their presence".

Tibetan historian K. Dhondup, however, in his history "The Water-Bird and Other Years", based on the Tibetan minister Surkhang Sawang Chenmo's historical manuscripts, disagrees with Mullin's opinion that having strong Dalai Lamas in power in Tibet would have been in China's best interests. He notes that many historians are compelled to suspect Manchu foul play in these serial early deaths because the Ambans had such latitude to interfere the Manchu, he says, "to perpetuate their domination over Tibetan affairs, did not desire a Dalai Lama who will ascend the throne and become a strong and capable ruler over his own country and people". The life and deeds of the 13th Dalai Lama [in successfully upholding de facto Tibetan independence from China from 1912 to 1950] serve as the living proof of this argument, he points out. This account also corresponds with TJ Norbu's observations above.

Finally, while acknowledging the possibility, the 14th Dalai Lama himself doubts they were poisoned. He ascribes the probable cause of these early deaths to negligence, foolishness and lack of proper medical knowledge and attention. "Even today" he is quoted as saying, "when people get sick, some [Tibetans] will say: 'Just do your prayers, you don't need medical treatment.'"
9th Dalai Lama

Born in Kham in 1805/6 amidst the usual miraculous signs the Ninth Dalai Lama, Lungtok Gyatso was appointed by the 7th Panchen Lama's search team at the age of two and enthroned in the Potala in 1808 at an impressive ceremony attended by representatives from China, Mongolia, Nepal and Bhutan. His second Regent Demo Tulku was the biographer of the 8th and 9th Dalai Lamas and though the 9th died at the age of 9 his biography is as lengthy as those of many of the early Dalai Lamas. In 1793 under Manchu pressure Tibet had closed its borders to foreigners, but in 1815 a British scientist, Thomas Manning became the first Englishman to visit Lhasa. Considered to be 'the first Chinese scholar in Europe'[184] he stayed five months and gave enthusiastic accounts in his journal of his regular meetings with the Ninth Dalai Lama whom he found fascinating: “beautiful, elegant, refined, intelligent, and entirely self-possessed, even at the age of six.”[185] Three years later in March 1815 the young Lungtok Gyatso caught a severe cold and, leaving the Potala Palace to preside over the New Year Monlam Prayer Festival he contracted pneumonia from which he soon died.

Like the Seventh Dalai Lama, the Tenth, Tsultrim Gyatso, was born in Lithang, Kham, where the Third Dalai Lama had built a monastery. It was 1816 and Regent Demo Tulku and the Seventh Panchen Lama followed indications from Nechung, the 'state oracle' which led them to appoint him at the age of two. He passed all the tests and was brought to Lhasa but official recognition was delayed until 1822 when he was enthroned and ordained by the Seventh Panchen Lama. There are conflicting reports about whether the Chinese 'golden urn' was utilised by drawing lots to choose him.[188] In any case after 15 years of intensive studies and failing health he died, in 1837, at the age of 20 or 21.
He identified with ordinary people rather than the court officials and often sat on his verandah in the sunshine with the office clerks. Intending to empower the common people he planned to institute political and economic reforms to share the nation's wealth more equitably. Over this period his health had deteriorated, the implication being that he may have suffered from slow poisoning by Tibetan aristocrats whose interests these reforms were threatening. He was also dissatisfied with his Regent and the Kashag and scolded them for not alleviating the condition of the common people, who had suffered much in small ongoing regional civil wars waged in Kokonor between Mongols, local Tibetans and the government over territory, and in Kham to extract unpaid taxes from rebellious Tibetan communities.

In 1856 a child was born in south central Tibet amidst all the usual extraordinary signs. He came to the notice of the search team, was investigated, passed the traditional tests and was recognised as the Twelfth Dalai Lama in 1858. The use of the Chinese Golden Urn at the insistence of the Regent, who was later accused of being a Chinese lackey, confirmed this choice to the satisfaction of all. Renamed Trinley Gyatso and enthroned in 1860 the boy underwent 13 years of intensive tutelage and training before stepping up to rule Tibet at the age of 17.

In 1868 Shetra's coup organiser, a semi-literate Ganden monk named Palden Dondrup, seized power by another coup and ruled as a cruel despot for three years, putting opponents to death by having them 'sewn into fresh animal skins and thrown in the river'. In 1871, at the request of officials outraged after Dondrup had done just that with one minister and imprisoned several others, he in turn was ousted and committed suicide after a counter-coup coordinated by the supposedly powerless 'Regent' Khyenrab Wangchuk. As a result of this action this venerable old Regent, who died the next year, is fondly remembered by Tibetans as saviour of the Dalai Lama and the nation. The Kashag and the Tsongdu or National Assembly were re-instated, and, presided over by a Dalai Lama or his Regent, ruled without further interruption until 1959.
According to Smith, however, during Trinley Gyatso's minority, the Regent was deposed in 1862 for abuse of authority and closeness with China, by an alliance of monks and officials called Gandre Drungche (Ganden and Drepung Monks Assembly) this body then ruled Tibet for ten years until dissolved, when a National Assembly of monks and officials called the Tsongdu was created and took over. Smith makes no mention of Shetra or Dondrup acting as usurpers and despots in this period.

Despite his humble beginnings, being born on a straw mat in a cowshed to a farmer's family in a remote part of Tibet,] the 14th Dalai Lama had become the joint most popular world leader by 2013, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive of New York, which sampled public opinion in he USA and six major European countries.

The 14th Dalai Lama was not formally enthroned until 17 November 1950, during the Battle of Chamdo with the People's Republic of China. In 1951, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government were pressured into accepting the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet by which it became formally incorporated into the People's Republic of China. Fearing for his life in the wake of a revolt in Tibet in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India, from where he led a government in exile.

With the aim of launching guerrilla operations against the Chinese, the Central Intelligence Agency funded the Dalai Lama's administration with US$1.7 million a year in the 1960s. In 2001 the 14th Dalai Lama ceded his partial power over the government to an elected parliament of selected Tibetan exiles. His original goal was full independence for Tibet, but by the late 1980s he was seeking high-level autonomy instead. He continued to seek greater autonomy from China, but Dolma Gyari, deputy speaker of the parliament-in-exile, stated: "If the middle path fails in the short term, we will be forced to opt for complete independence or self-determination as per the UN charter".


In 2014 and 2016, he stated that Tibet wants to be part of China but China should let Tibetan preserve its culture and script.


Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
1st Dalai Lama.jpg
Gendun Drup, 1st Dalai Lama
Reign 1391�
Tibetan ཏཱ་ལའི་བླ་མ་
Wylie transliteration tā la'i bla ma
Pronunciation [táːlɛː láma]
Conventional Romanisation Dalai Lama
House Dalai Lama
Dynasty Gelug
Tenzin
The 14th Dalai Lama
Dalailama1 20121014 4639.jpg
Reign November 17, 1950 – present
Predecessor 13th Dalai Lama
Prime Ministers
See list
[show]
Tibetan བསྟན་འཛིན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
Wylie bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho
Pronunciation [tɛ̃ ́tsĩ càtsʰo]
Transcription
(PRC) Dainzin Gyaco
THDL Tenzin Gyatso
Chinese 丹增嘉措
Pinyin Dānzēng Jiācuò
Father Choekyong Tsering
Mother Diki Tsering
Born 6 July 1935 (age 81)
Taktser, Qinghai
Signature Dalai Lama's signature

The Dalai Lama /ˈdɑːlaɪ ˈlɑːmə/ (US), /ˌdælaɪ ˈlɑːmə/ (UK) is a monk of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism, the newest of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Je Tsongkhapa. The 14th and current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso.

The Dalai Lama was an important figure of the Gelug tradition. Although finding dominance in Central Tibet, The Dalai Lama was an important figure beyond sectarian boundaries. The Dalai Lama figure was important for many reasons. He was a symbol of unification of the state of Tibet, where he represented Buddhist values and traditions.

The Dalai Lama is considered to be the successor in a line of tulkus who are believed to be incarnations of Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, called Chenrezig in Tibetan.The name is a combination of the Mongolic word dalai meaning "ocean" (coming from Mongolian title Dalaiyin qan or Dalaiin khan, translated as 'Gyatso' in Tibe] and the Tibetan word བླ་མ་ (bla-ma) meaning "guru, teacher, mentor". The Tibetan word "lama" corresponds to the better known Sanskrit word "guru".

From 1642 until the 1950s (except for 1705 to 1750), the Dalai Lamas or their regents headed the Tibetan government (or Ganden Phodrang) in Lhasa which governed all or most of the Tibetan plateau with varying degrees of autonomy, up to complete sovereignty. This government also enjoyed the patronage and protection of firstly Mongol kings of the Khoshut and Dzungar Khanates (1642�) and then of the emperors of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1720�).

In Central Asian Buddhist countries, it has been widely believed for the last millennium that Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, has a special relationship with the people of Tibet and intervenes in their fate by incarnating as benevolent rulers and teachers such as the Dalai Lamas. This is according to The Book of Kadam, the main text of the Kadampa school, to which the First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup, first belonged. In fact, this text is said to have ‘laid the foundation’ for the Tibetans' later identification of the Dalai Lamas as incarnations of Avalokiteśvara. It traces the legend of the bodhisattva’s incarnations as early Tibetan kings and emperors such as Songsten Gampo and later as Dromtönpa (1004-1064). This lineage has been extrapolated by Tibetans up to and including the Dalai Lamas.
Origins in myth and legend

Thus, according to such sources, an informal line of succession of the present Dalai Lamas as incarnations of Avalokiteśvara stretches back much further than Gendun Drub. The Book of Kadam, the compilation of Kadampa teachings largely composed around discussions between the Indian sage Atisa (980-1054) and his Tibetan host and chief disciple Dromtönpa and ‘Tales of the Previous Incarnations of Arya Avalokiteśvara’, nominate as many as sixty persons prior to Gendun Drub who are enumerated as earlier incarnations of Avalokiteśvara and predecessors in the same lineage leading up to him. In brief, these include a mythology of 36 Indian personalities plus 10 early Tibetan kings and emperors, all said to be previous incarnations of Dromtönpa, and fourteen further Nepalese and Tibetan yogis and sages in between him and the first Dalai Lama. In fact, according to the "Birth to Exile" article on the 14th Dalai Lama's website, he is "the seventy-fourth in a lineage that can be traced back to a Brahmin boy who lived in the time of Buddha Shakyamuni."
Avalokiteśvara's 'Dalai Lama master plan'

According to the 14th Dalai Lama, long ago Avalokiteśvara had promised the Buddha to guide and protect the Tibetan People and in the late Middle Ages, his master plan to fulfil this promise was the stage-by-stage establishment of the Dalai Lama theocracy in Tibet.

First, Tsongkhapa established three great monasteries around Lhasa in the province of Ü before he died in 1419. The 1st Dalai Lama soon became Abbot of the greatest one, Drepung, and developed a large popular power base in Ü. He later extended this to cover Tsang, where he constructed a fourth great monastery, Tashi Lhunpo, at Shigatse. The 2nd studied there before returning to Lhasa, where he became Abbot of Drepung. Having reactivated the 1st's large popular followings in Tsang and Ü, the 2nd then moved on to southern Tibet and gathered more followers there who helped him construct a new monastery, Chokorgyel. He also established the method by which later Dalai Lama incarnations would be discovered through visions at the 'oracle lake', Lhamo Lhatso. The 3rd built on his predecessors' fame by becoming Abbot of the two great monasteries of Drepung and Sera. The stage was set for the great Mongol King Altan Khan, hearing of his reputation, to invite the 3rd to Mongolia where he converted the King and his followers to Buddhism, as well as other Mongol princes and their followers covering a vast tract of central Asia. Thus most of Mongolia was added to the Dalai Lama's sphere of influence, founding a spiritual empire which largely survives to the modern age. After being given the Mongolian name 'Dalai', he returned to Tibet to found the great monasteries of Lithang in Kham, eastern Tibet and Kumbum in Amdo, north-eastern Tibet. The 4th was then born in Mongolia as the great grandson of Altan Khan, thus cementing strong ties between Central Asia, the Dalai Lamas, the Gelugpa and Tibet. Finally, in fulfilment of Avalokiteśvara's master plan, the 5th in the succession used the vast popular power base of devoted followers built up by his four predecessors. By 1642, a strategy that was planned and carried out by his resourceful chagdzo or manager Sonam Rapten with the military assistance of his devoted disciple Gushri Khan, Chieftain of the Khoshot Mongols, enabled the 'Great 5th' to found the Dalai Lamas' religious and political reign over more or less the whole of Tibet that survived for over 300 years.

Thus the Dalai Lamas became pre-eminent spiritual leaders in Tibet and 25 Himalayan and Central Asian kingdoms and countries bordering Tibet and their prolific literary works have "for centuries acted as major sources of spiritual and philosophical inspiration to more than fifty million people of these lands". Overall, they have played 'a monumental role in Asian literary, philosophical and religious history'.
How the Dalai Lama lineage became established

Gendun Drup (1391-1474) was the ordination name of the monk who came to be known as the 'First Dalai Lama', but only from 104 years after he died. There had been resistance, since first he was ordained a monk in the Kadampa tradition and for various reasons, for hundreds of years the Kadampa school had eschewed the adoption of the tulku system to which the older schools adhered. Tsongkhapa largely modelled his new, reformed Gelugpa school on the Kadampa tradition and he also refrained from starting a tulku system. Therefore, although Gendun Drup grew to be a very important Gelugpa lama, after he died in 1474 there was no question of any search being made to identify his incarnation.

Despite this, when the Tashilhunpo monks started hearing what seemed credible accounts that an incarnation of Gendun Drup had appeared nearby and repeatedly announced himself from the age of two, their curiosity was aroused. It was some 55 years after Tsongkhapa’s death. When eventually the monastic authorities saw compelling evidence which convinced them that the child in question was indeed none other than the incarnation of their founder, they felt obliged to break with their own tradition. In 1487, the boy was renamed Gendun Gyatso and installed at Tashilhunpo as Gendun Drup's tulku, albeit on an informal kind of basis.

Gendun Gyatso eventually died in 1542 and the lineage of Dalai Lama tulkus finally became firmly established when the third incarnation, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588), came forth. He made himself known as the tulku of Gendun Gyatso and was formally recognised and enthroned at Drepung in 1546. When he was given the titular name "Dalai Lama" by the Shunyi King of China in 1578 , it was also accorded to his last two predecessors and he became known as the third in the lineage.
1st Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama lineage started from humble beginnings. 'Pema Dorje' (1391-1474), the boy who was to become the first in the line, was born in a cattle pen[ in Shabtod, Tsang in 1391. His nomad parents kept sheep and goats and lived in tents. When his father died in 1398 his mother was unable to support the young goatherd so she entrusted him to his uncle, a monk at Narthang, a major Kadampa monastery near Shigatse, for education as a Buddhist monk. Narthang ran the largest printing press in Tibet and its celebrated library attracted scholars and adepts from far and wide, so Pema Dorje received an education beyond the norm at the time as well as exposure to diverse spiritual schools and ideas. He studied Buddhist philosophy extensively and in 1405, ordained by Narthang's abbot, he took the name of Gendun Drup. Soon recognised as an exceptionally gifted pupil, the abbot tutored him personally and took special interest in his progress. In 12 years he passed the 12 grades of monkhood and took the highest vows. After completing his intensive studies at Narthang he left to continue at specialist monasteries in Central Tibet, his grounding at Narthang was revered among many he encountered.

In 1415 Gendun Drup met Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa school, and became his student their meeting was of decisive historical and political significance as he was later to be known as the First Dalai Lama. When eventually Tsongkhapa's successor Khedrup Je the Panchen Lama died, Gendun Drup became the leader of the Gelugpa. He rose to become Abbot of Drepung, the greatest Gelugpa monastery, outside Lhasa.

It was mainly due to Gendun Drup's energy and ability that Tsongkhapa's new school grew into an expanding order capable of competing with others on an equal footing. Taking advantage of good relations with the nobility and a lack of determined opposition from rival orders, on the very edge of Karma Kagyu-dominated territory he founded Tashilhunpo Monastery at Shigatse. He was based there, as its Abbot, from its founding in 1447 until his death. Tashilhunpo, 'Mountain of Blessings', became the fourth great Gelugpa monastery in Tibet, after Ganden, Drepung and Sera had all been founded in Tsongkhapa's time. It later became the seat of the Panchen Lamas. By establishing it at Shigatse in the middle of Tsang, he expanded the Gelugpa sphere of influence, and his own, from the Lhasa region of Ü to this province, which was the stronghold of the Karma Kagyu school and their patrons, the rising Tsangpa dynastyTashilhunpo was destined to become 'Southern Tibet's greatest monastic university' with a complement of 3,000 monks.

Gendun Drup was said to be the greatest scholar-saint ever produced by Narthang Monastery and became 'the single most important lama in Tibet'. Through hard work he became a leading lama, known as 'Perfecter of the Monkhood', 'with a host of disciples'. Famed for his Buddhist scholarship he was also referred to as Panchen Gendun Drup, 'Panchen' being an honorary title designating 'great scholar'. By the great Jonangpa master Bodong Chokley Namgyal he was accorded the honorary title Tamchey Khyenpa meaning "The Omniscient One", an appellation that was later assigned to all Dalai Lama incarnations.

At the age of 50, he entered meditation retreat at Narthang. As he grew older, Karma Kagyu adherents, finding their sect was losing too many recruits to the monkhood to burgeoning Gelugpa monasteries, tried to contain Gelug expansion by launching military expeditions against them in the region. This led to decades of military and political power struggles between Tsangpa dynasty forces and others across central Tibet. In an attempt to ameliorate these clashes, from his retreat Gendun Drup issued a poem of advice to his followers advising restraint from responding to violence with more violence and to practice compassion and patience instead. The poem, entitled Shar Gang Rima, "The Song of the Eastern Snow Mountains", became one of his most enduring popular literary works.

Though born in a cattle pen to be a simple goatherd, Gendun Drup thus rose to become one of the most celebrated and respected teachers in Tibet and Central Asia. His spiritual accomplishments brought him lavish donations from devotees which he used to build and furnish new monasteries, to print and distribute Buddhist texts and to maintain monks and meditators At last, at the age of 84, older than any of his 13 successors, in 1474 he went on foot to visit Narthang Monastery on a final teaching tour. Returning to Tashilhunpo he died 'in a blaze of glory, recognised as having attained Buddhahood'.

His mortal remains were interred in a bejewelled silver stupa at Tashilhunpo, which survived the Cultural Revolution and can still be seen to this day.

Like the Kadampa, the Gelugpa eschewed the tulku system.[] After Gendun Drup died, however, a boy called Sangyey Pel born to Nyngma adepts at Yolkar in Tsang] declared himself at 3 to be "Gendun Drup" and asked to be 'taken home' to Tashilhunpo. He spoke in mystical verses, quoted classical texts out of the blue and said he was Dromtönpa, an earlier incarnation of the Dalai Lamas. When he saw monks from Tashilhunpo he greeted the disciples of the late Gendun Drup by name.[69] The Gelugpa elders had to break with tradition and recognised him as Gendun Drup's tulku.

He was then 8 but until his 12th year his father took him on his teachings and retreats, training him in all the family Nyingma lineages. At 12 he was installed at Tashilhunpo as Gendun Drup's incarnation, ordained, enthroned and renamed Gendun Gyatso Palzangpo (1475-1542).

Tutored personally by the abbot he made rapid progress and from 1492 at 17 he was requested to teach all over Tsang where thousands gathered to listen and give obeisance, including senior scholars and abbots. In 1494, at 19, he met some opposition from the Tashilhunpo establishment, so, invited by the Drepung abbot he left to study in Lhasa where he was accorded all the loyalty and devotion that Gendun Drup had earned and the Gelugpa school remained as united as ever. This move shifted central Gelugpa authority back to Lhasa. Under his leadership, the sect went on growing in size and influence and with its appeal of simplicity, devotion and austerity its lamas were asked to mediate in disputes between other rivals.

Gendun Gyatso's popularity in Ü-Tsang grew as he went on pilgrimage, travelling, teaching and studying from masters such as the adept Khedrup Norzang Gyatso in the Olklha mountains. He also stayed in Kongpo and Dagpo and became known all over Tibet. He spent his winters in Lhasa, writing commentaries and the rest of the year travelling and teaching many thousands of monks and lay people.

In 1509 he moved to southern Tibet to build Chokorgyel Monastery near the 'Oracle Lake', Lhamo Latso,[] completing it by 1511. That year he saw visions in the lake and 'empowered' it to impart clues to help identify incarnate lamas. All Dalai Lamas from the 3rd on were found with the help of such visions granted to regents. By now widely regarded as one of Tibet's greatest saints and scholars he was invited back to Tashilhunpo. On his return in 1512, he was given the residence built for Gendun Drup, to be occupied later by the Panchen Lamas. He was made abbot of Tashilhunpo and stayed there teaching in Tsang for 9 months.

Gendun Gyatso continued to travel widely and teach whilebased at Tibet's largest monastery, Drepung and became known as 'Drepung Lama', his fame and influence spreading all over Central Asia as the best students from hundreds of lesser monasteries in Asia were sent to Drepung for education.

Throughout Gendun Gyatso's life the Gelugpa were opposed and suppressed by older rivals, particularly the Karma Kagyu and their Ringpung clan patrons from Tsang, who felt threatened by their loss of influence. In 1498 the Ringpung army captured Lhasa and banned the Gelugpa annual New Year Monlam Prayer Festival started by Tsongkhapa for world peace and prosperity. Gendun Gyatso was promoted to abbot of Drepung in 1517 and that year Ringpung forces were forced to withdraw from Lhasa.Gendun Gyatso then went to the Gongma (King) Drakpa Jungne to obtain permission for the festival to be held again. The next New Year, the Gongma was so impressed by Gendun Gyatso's performance leading the Festival that he sponsored construction of a large new residence for him at Drepung, 'a monastery within a monastery'. It was called the Ganden Phodrang, a name later adopted by the Tibetan Government, and it served as home for Dalai Lamas until the 5th moved to the Potala Palace in 1645.

In 1525, already abbot of Chokhorgyel, Drepung and Tashilhunpo, he was made abbot of Sera monastery as well, and seeing the number of monks was low he worked to increase it. Based at Drepung in winter and Chokorgyel in summer, he spent his remaining years in composing commentaries, regional teaching tours, visiting Tashilhunpo from time to time and acting as abbot of these four great monasteries. As abbot, he made Drepung the largest monastery in the whole of Tibet He attracted many students and disciples 'from Kashmir to China' as well as major patrons and disciples such as Gongma Nangso Donyopa of Droda who built a monastery at Zhekar Dzong in his honour and invited him to name it and be its spiritual guide.

Gongma Gyaltsen Palzangpo of Khyomorlung at Tolung and his Queen Sangyey Paldzomma also became his favourite devoted lay patrons and disciples in the 1530s and he visited their area to carry out rituals as 'he chose it for his next place of rebirth'. He died in meditation at Drepung in 1547 at 67 and his reliquary stupa was constructed at Khyomorlung. It was said that, by the time he died, through his disciples and their students, his personal influence covered the whole of Buddhist Central Asia where 'there was nobody of any consequence who did not know of him'.
3rd Dalai Lama

The Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588) was born in Tolung, near Lhasa, as predicted by his predecessor. Claiming he was Gendun Gyatso and readily recalling events from his previous life, he was recognised as the incarnation, named 'Sonam Gyatso' and installed at Drepung, where 'he quickly excelled his teachers in knowledge and wisdom and developed extraordinary powers'. Unlike his predecessors, he came from a noble family, connected with the Sakya and the Phagmo Drupa (Karma Kagyu affiliated) dynasties, and it is to him that the effective conversion of Mongolia to Buddhism is due.

A brilliant scholar and teacher, he had the spiritual maturity to be made Abbot of Drepung, taking responsibility for the material and spiritual well-being of Tibet's largest monastery at the age of nine. At 10 he led the Monlam Prayer Festival, giving daily discourses to the assembly of all Gelugpa monks. His influence grew so quickly that soon the monks at Sera Monastery also made him their Abbot and his mediation was being sought to prevent fighting between political power factions. At 16, in 1559, he was invited to Nedong by King Ngawang Tashi Drakpa, a Karma Kagyu supporter, and became his personal teacher. At 17, when fighting broke out in Lhasa between Gelug and Kagyu parties and efforts by local lamas to mediate failed, Sonam Gyatso negotiated a peaceful settlement. At 19, when the Kyichu River burst its banks and flooded Lhasa, he led his followers to rescue victims and repair the dykes. He then instituted a custom whereby on the last day of Monlam, all the monks would work on strengthening the flood defences. Gradually, he was shaping himself into a national leader. His popularity and renown became such that in 1564 when the Nedong King died, it was Sonam Gyatso at the age of 21 who was requested to lead his funeral rites, rather than his own Kagyu lamas.

Required to travel and teach without respite after taking full ordination in 1565, he still maintained extensive meditation practices in the hours before dawn and again at the end of the day. In 1569 at 26 he went to Tashilhunpo to study the layout and administration of the monastery built by his predecessor Gendun Drup. Invited to become the Abbot he declined, already being Abbot of Drepung and Sera, but left his deputy there in his stead. From there he visited Narthang, the first monastery of Gendun Drup and gave numerous discourses and offerings to the monks in gratitude.

Meanwhile, Altan Khan, chief of all the Mongol tribes near China's borders, had heard of Sonam Gyatso's spiritual prowess and repeatedly invited him to Mongolia. By 1571, he had fulfilled his political destiny and a nephew advised him to seek spiritual salvation, saying "In Tibet dwells Avalokiteshvara", referring to Sonam Gyatso, then 28 years old. At the second invitation, in 1577-78 Sonam Gyatso travelled 1,500 miles to Mongolia to see him. They met in an atmosphere of intense reverence and devotion and their meeting resulted in the re-establishment of strong Tibet-Mongolia relations after a gap of 200 years. To Altan Khan, Sonam Gyatso identified himself as the incarnation of Drogön Chögyal Phagpa, and Altan Khan as that of Kubilai Khan, thus placing the Khan as heir to the Chingizid lineage whilst securing his patronage. Altan Khan and his followers quickly adopted Buddhism as their state religion, replacing the prohibited traditional Shamanism. Mongol law was reformed to accord with Tibetan Buddhist law. From this time Buddhism spread rapidly across Mongolia[] and soon the Gelugpa had won the spiritual allegiance of most of the Mongolian tribes. As proposed by Sonam Gyatso, Altan Khan sponsored the building of Thegchen Chonkhor Monastery at the site of Sonam Gyatso's open-air teachings given to the whole Mongol population. He also called Sonam Gyatso "Dalai", Mongolian for 'Gyatso' (Ocean).

The name "Dalai Lama", by which the lineage later became known throughout the non-Tibetan world, was thus established and it was applied to the first two incarnations retrospectively.

Returning eventually to Tibet by a round-about route and invited to stay and teach all along the way, in 1580 Sonam Gyatso was in Hohhot [or Ningxia], not far from Beijing, when the Chinese Emperor invited him to his court. By now he had established a religious empire of such proportions that it was unsurprising the Emperor wanted to invite him and grant him a diploma. At the request of the Ningxia Governor he had been teaching large gatherings of people from East Turkestan, Mongolia and nearby areas of China, with interpreters provided by the governor for each language. While there, a Ming court envoy came with gifts and a request to visit the Wanli Emperor but he declined having already agreed to visit Eastern Tibet next. Once there, in Kham, he founded two more great Gelugpa monasteries, the first in 1580 at Lithang where he left his representative before going on to Chamdo Monastery where he resided and was made Abbot. In 1582, he heard Altan Khan had died and invited by his son Dhüring Khan he decided to return to Mongolia. Passing through Amdo, he founded a second great monastery, Kumbum, at the birthplace of Tsongkhapa near Kokonor. Further on, he was asked to adjudicate on border disputes between Mongolia and China. It was the first time a Dalai Lama had exercised such political authority. Arriving in Mongolia in 1585, he stayed 2 years with Dhüring Khan, teaching Buddhism to his people and converting more Mongol princes and their tribes. Receiving a second invitation from the Emperor in Beijing he accepted, but died en route in 1588.

For a lifetime of only 45 years, his accomplishments were impressive and some of the most important ones were due to his relationship with Altan Khan. As he was dying, his Mongolian converts urged him not to leave them, as they needed his continuing religious leadership. He promised them he would be incarnated next in Mongolia, as a Mongolian.

The Fourth Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso (1589-1617) was a Mongolian, the great-grandson of Altan Khan who was a descendant of Kublai Khan and King of the Tümed Mongols who had already been converted to Buddhism by the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588). This strong connection caused the Mongols to zealously support the Gelugpa sect in Tibet, strengthening their status and position but also arousing intensified opposition from the Gelugpa's rivals, particularly the Tsang Karma Kagyu in Shigatse and their Mongolian patrons and the Bönpo in Kham and their allies. Being the newest school, unlike the older schools the Gelugpa lacked an established network of Tibetan clan patronage and were thus more reliant on foreign patrons. At the age of 10 with a large Mongol escort he travelled to Lhasa where he was enthroned. He studied at Drepung and became its abbot but being a non-Tibetan he met with opposition from some Tibetans, especially the Karma Kagyu who felt their position was threatened by these emerging events there were several attempts to remove him from power. Yonten Gyatso died at the age of 27 under suspicious circumstances and his chief attendant Sonam Rapten went on to discover the 5th Dalai Lama, became his chagdzo or manager and after 1642 he went on to be his regent, the Desi

The death of the Fourth Dalai Lama in 1617 led to open conflict breaking out between various parties. Firstly, the Tsangpa dynasty, rulers of Central Tibet from Shigatse, supporters of the Karmapa school and rivals to the Gelugpa, forbade the search for his incarnation. However, in 1618 Sonam Rabten, the former attendant of the 4th Dalai Lama who had become the Ganden Phodrang treasurer, secretly identified the child, who had been born to the noble Zahor family at Tagtse castle, south of Lhasa. Then, the Panchen Lama, in Shigatse, negotiated the lifting of the ban, enabling the boy to be recognised as Lobsang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama.

Also in 1618, the Tsangpa King, Karma Puntsok Namgyal, whose Mongol patron was Choghtu Khong Tayiji of the Khalkha Mongols, attacked the Gelugpa in Lhasa to avenge an earlier snub and established two military bases there to control the monasteries and the city. This caused Sonam Rabten who became the 5th Dalai Lama's changdzo or manager, to seek more active Mongol patronage and military assistance for the Gelugpa while the Fifth was still a boy. So, in 1620, Mongol troops allied to the Gelugpa who had camped outside Lhasa suddenly attacked and destroyed the two Tsangpa camps and drove them out of Lhasa, enabling the Dalai Lama to be brought out of hiding and publicly enthroned there in 1622.

In fact, throughout the 5th's minority, it was the influential and forceful Sonam Rabten who inspired the Dzungar Mongols to defend the Gelugpa by attacking their enemies. These enemies included other Mongol tribes who supported the Tsangpas, the Tsangpa themselves and their Bönpo allies in Kham who had also opposed and persecuted Gelugpas. Ultimately, this strategy led to the destruction of the Tsangpa dynasty, the defeat of the Karmapas and their other allies and the Bönpos, by armed forces from the Lhasa valley aided by their Mongol allies, paving the way for Gelugpa political and religious hegemony in Central Tibet. Apparently by general consensus, by virtue of his position as the Dalai Lama's changdzo (chief attendant, minister), after the Dalai Lama became absolute ruler of Tibet in 1642 Sonam Rabten became the "Desi" or "Viceroy", in fact, the de facto regent or day-to-day ruler of Tibet's governmental affairs. During these years and for the rest of his life (he died in 1658), "there was little doubt that politically Sonam Chophel [Rabten] was more powerful than the Dalai Lama". As a young man, being 22 years his junior, the Dalai Lama addressed him reverentially as "Zhalngo", meaning "the Presence".

During the 1630s Tibet was deeply entangled in rivalry, evolving power struggles and conflicts, not only between the Tibetan religious sects but also between the rising Manchus and the various rival Mongol and Oirat factions, who were also vying for supremacy amongst themselves and on behalf of the religious sects they patronised. For example, Ligdan Khan of the Chahars, a Mongol subgroup who supported the Tsang Karmapas, after retreating from advancing Manchu armies headed for Kokonor intending destroy the Gelug. He died on the way, in 1634 but his vassal Choghtu Khong Tayiji, continued to advance against the Gelugpas, even having his own son Arslan killed after Arslan changed sides, submitted to the Dalai Lama and become a Gelugpa monk. By the mid-1630s, thanks again to the efforts of Sonam Rabten, the Fifth Dalai Lama had found a powerful new patron in Güshi Khan of the Khoshut Mongols, a subgroup of the Dzungars, who had recently migrated to the Kokonor area from Dzungaria. He attacked Choghtu Khong Tayiji at Kokonor in 1637 and defeated and killed him, thus eliminating the Tsangpa and the Karmapa's main Mongol patron and protector.

Next, Donyo Dorje, the Bönpo king of Beri in Kham was found writing to the Tsangpa king in Shigatse to propose a co-ordinated 'pincer attack' on the Lhasa Gelugpa monasteries from east and west, seeking to utterly destroy them once and for all. The intercepted letter was sent to Güshi Khan who used it as a pretext to invade central Tibet in 1639 to attack them both, the Bönpo and the Tsangpa. By 1641 he had defeated Donyo Dorje and his allies in Kham and then he marched on Shigatse where after laying siege to their strongholds he defeated Karma Tenkyong, broke the power of the Tsang Karma Kagyu in 1642 and ended the Tsangpa dynasty.

Records show that Güshi Khan's attacks on the Bönpo and the Tsangpa were made on his own initiative while being publicly and robustly opposed by the Dalai Lama, who, as a matter of conscience, out of compassion and his vision of tolerance for other religious schools, refused to give permission for more warfare in his name. However, the actions were supported by his Desi Sonam Rabten, who deviously went behind his master's back to encourage Güshi Khan, to facilitate his plans and to ensure the attacks took place for this defiance of his master's wishes, Desi Sonam Rabten was severely rebuked by the 5th Dalai Lama.

After Desi Sonam Rapten died in 1658, the following year the 5th Dalai Lama appointed his younger brother Depa Norbu (aka Nangso Norbu) as his successor. However after a few months, Norbu betrayed him and led a rebellion against the Ganden Phodrang Government. With his accomplices he seized Samdruptse fort at Shigatse and tried to raise a rebel army from Tsang and Bhutan, but the Dalai Lama skilfully foiled his plans without any fighting taking place and Norbu had to flee. Four other Desis were appointed after Depa Norbu: Trinle Gyatso, Lozang Tutop, Lozang Jinpa and Sangye Gyatso.
Re-unification of Tibet

Having thus defeated all the Gelugpa's rivals and resolved all regional and sectarian conflicts Güshi Khan became the undisputed patron of a unified Tibet and acted as a "Protector of the Gelug", establishing the Khoshut Khanate which covered almost the entire Tibetan plateau, an area corresponding roughly to 'Greater Tibet' including Kham and Amdo, as claimed by exiled groups (see maps). At an enthronement ceremony in Shigatse he conferred full sovereignty over Tibet on the Fifth Dalai Lama, unified for the first time since the collapse of the Tibetan Empire exactly eight centuries earlier. Güshi Khan then retired to Kokonor with his armies and [according to Smith] ruled Amdo himself directly thus creating a precedent for the later separation of Amdo from the rest of Tibet.

In this way, Güshi Khan established the Fifth Dalai Lama as the highest spiritual and political authority in Tibet. 'The Great Fifth' became the temporal ruler of Tibet in 1642 and from then on the rule of the Dalai Lama lineage over some, all or most of Tibet lasted with few breaks for the next 317 years, until 1959, when the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India. In 1645, the Great Fifth began the construction of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

Güshi Khan died in 1655 and was succeeded by his descendants Dayan, Tenzin Dalai Khan and Tenzin Wangchuk Khan. However, Güshi Khan's other eight sons had settled in Amdo but fought amongst themselves over territory so the Fifth Dalai Lama sent governors to rule them in 1656 and 1659, thereby bringing Amdo and thus the whole of Greater Tibet under his personal rule and Gelugpa control. The Mongols in Amdo became absorbed and Tibetanised.

In 1636 the Manchus proclaimed their dynasty as the Qing dynasty and by 1644 they had completed their conquest of China under the prince regent Dorgon. The following year their forces approached Amdo on northern Tibet, causing the Oirat and Khoshut Mongols there to submit in 1647 and send tribute. In 1648, after quelling a rebellion of Tibetans of Kansu-Xining, the Qing invited the Fifth Dalai Lama to visit their court at Beijing since they wished to engender Tibetan influence in their dealings with the Mongols. The Qing were aware the Dalai Lama had extraordinary influence with the Mongols and saw relations with the Dalai Lama as a means to facilitate submission of the Khalka Mongols, traditional patrons of the Karma Kagyu sect. Similarly, since the Tibetan Gelugpa were keen to revive a priest-patron relationship with the dominant power in China and Inner Asia, the Qing invitation was accepted. After five years of complex diplomatic negotiations about whether the emperor or his representatives should meet the Dalai Lama inside or outside the Great Wall, when the meeting would be astrologically favourable, how it would be conducted and so on, it eventually took place in Beijing in 1653. The Shunzhi Emperor was then 16 years old, having in the meantime ascended the throne in 1650 after the death of Dorgon. For the Qing, although the Dalai Lama was not required to kowtow to the emperor, who rose from his throne and advanced 30 feet to meet him, the significance of the visit was that of nominal political submission by the Dalai Lama since Inner Asian heads of state did not travel to meet each other but sent envoys. For Tibetan Buddhist historians however it was interpreted as the start of an era of independent rule of the Dalai Lamas, and of Qing patronage alongside that of the Mongols.

Relations with the Qing dynasty

The 17th century struggles for domination between the Manchu-led Qing dynasty and the various Mongol groups spilled over to involve Tibet because of the Fifth Dalai Lama's strong influence over the Mongols as a result of their general adoption of Tibetan Buddhism and their consequent deep loyalty to the Dalai Lama as their guru. Until 1674 the Fifth Dalai Lama had mediated in Dzungar Mongol affairs whenever they required him to do so, and the Kangxi Emperor, who had succeeded the Shunzhi Emperor in 1661, would accept and confirm his decisions automatically. For the Kangxi Emperor however, the alliance between the Dzungar Mongols and the Tibetans was unsettling because he feared it had the potential to unite all the other Mongol tribes together against the Qing Empire, including those tribes who had already submitted. Therefore, in 1674, the Kangxi Emperor, annoyed by the Fifth's less than full cooperation in quelling a rebellion against the Qing in Yunnan, ceased deferring to him as regards Mongol affairs and started dealing with them directly.

In the same year, 1674, the Dalai Lama, then at the height of his powers and conducting a foreign policy independent of the Qing, caused Mongol troops to occupy the border post of Dartsedo between Kham and Sichuan, further annoying the Kangxi Emperor who (according to Smith) already considered Tibet as part of the Qing Empire. It also increased Qing suspicion about Tibetan relations with the Mongol groups and led him to seek strategic opportunities to oppose and undermine Mongol influence in Tibet and eventually, within 50 years, to defeat the Mongols militarily and to establish the Qing as sole 'patrons and protectors' of Tibet in their place.

The Fifth Dalai Lama's death in 1682 was kept secret for fifteen years by his regent Desi Sangye Gyatso. He pretended the Dalai Lama was in retreat and ruled on his behalf, secretly selecting the 6th Dalai Lama and presenting him as someone else. This was apparently done so that construction of the Potala Palace could be finished, and to prevent Tibet's neighbours, the Mongols and the Qing, from taking advantage of an interregnum in the succession of the Dalai Lamas. Only in 1697 did he announce the Fifth's death, annoying both the Mongols and the Qing by this deception.(Laird 2006, pp. 181�)
Cultural development

The time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, who reigned from 1642 to 1682 and founded the government known as the Ganden Phodrang, was a period of rich cultural development. His reign and that of Desi Sangye Gyatso are noteworthy for the upsurge in literary activity and of cultural and economic life that occurred. The same goes for the great increase in the number of foreign visitors thronging Lhasa during the period as well as for the number of inventions and institutions that are attributed to the 'Great Fifth', as the Tibetans refer to him. The most dynamic and prolific of the early Dalai Lamas, he composed more literary works than all the other Dalai Lamas combined. Writing on a wide variety of subjects he is specially noted for his works on history, classical Indian poetry in Sanskrit and his biographies of notable personalities of his epoch, as well as his own two autobiographies, one spiritual in nature and the other political (see Further Reading).He also taught and travelled extensively, reshaped the politics of Central Asia, unified Tibet, conceived and constructed the Potala Palace and is remembered for establishing systems of national medical care and education.
6th Dalai Lama

The Sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1706) was born near Tawang, now in India, and picked out in 1685 but not enthroned until 1697 when the death of the Fifth was announced. After 16 years of study as a novice monk, in 1702 in his 20th year he rejected full ordination and gave up his monk's robes and monastic life, preferring the lifestyle of a layman.

In 1703 Güshi Khan's ruling grandson Tenzin Wangchuk Khan was murdered by his brother Lhazang Khan who usurped the Khoshut's Tibetan throne, but unlike his four predecessors he started interfering directly in Tibetan affairs in Lhasa he opposed the Fifth Dalai Lama's regent, Desi Sangye Gyatso for his deceptions and in the same year, with the support of the Kangxi Emperor, he forced him out of office. Then in 1705, he used the Sixth's escapades as an excuse to seize full control of Tibet. Most Tibetans, though, still supported their Dalai Lama despite his behaviour and deeply resented Lhazang Khan's intereference. When Lhazang was requested by the Tibetans to leave Lhasa politics to them and to retire to Kokonor like his predecessors, he quit the city, but only to gather his armies in order to return, capture Lhasa militarily and assume full political control of Tibet. The regent was then murdered by Lhazang or his wife, and, in 1706 with the compliance of the Kangxi Emperor the Sixth Dalai Lama was deposed and arrested by Lhazang who considered him to be an imposter set up by the regent. Lhazang Khan, now acting as the only outright foreign ruler that Tibet had ever had, then sent him to Beijing under escort to appear before the emperor but he died mysteriously on the way near Lake Qinghai, ostensibly from illness.

Having discredited and deposed the Sixth Dalai Lama, whom he considered an imposter, and having removed the regent, Lhazang Khan pressed the Lhasa Gelugpa lamas to endorse a new Dalai Lama in Tsangyang Gyatso's place as the true incarnation of the Fifth. They eventually nominated one Pekar Dzinpa, a monk but also rumoured to be Lhazang's son, and Lhazang had him installed as the 'real' Sixth Dalai Lama, endorsed by the Panchen Lama and named Yeshe Gyatso in 1707. This choice was in no way accepted by the Tibetan people, however, nor by Lhazang's princely Mongol rivals in Kokonor who resented his usurpation of the Khoshut Tibetan throne as well as his meddling in Tibetan affairs. The Kangxi Emperor concurred with them, after sending investigators, initially declining to recognise Yeshe Gyatso. He did recognise him in 1710, however, after sending a Qing official party to assist Lhazang in 'restoring order' these were the first Chinese representatives of any sort to officiate in Tibet. At the same time, while this puppet 'Dalai Lama' had no political power, the Kangxi Emperor secured from Lhazang Khan in return for this support the promise of regular payments of tribute this was the first time tribute had been paid to the Manchu by the Mongols in Tibet and the first overt acknowledgement of Qing supremacy over Mongol rule in Tibet.

In 1708, in accordance with an indication given by the Sixth Dalai Lama when quitting Lhasa a child called Kelzang Gyatso had been born at Lithang in eastern Tibet who was soon claimed by local Tibetans to be his incarnation. After going into hiding out of fear of Lhazang Khan, he was installed in Lithang monastery. Along with some of the Kokonor Mongol princes, rivals of Lhazang, in defiance of the situation in Lhasa the Tibetans of Kham duly recognised him as the Seventh Dalai Lama in 1712, retaining his birth-name of Kelzang Gyatso. For security reasons he was moved to Derge monastery and eventually, in 1716, now also backed and sponsored by the Kangxi Emperor he was taken to Amdo at the age of 8 to be installed in Kumbum Monastery with great pomp and ceremony.

According to Smith, the Kangxi Emperor now arranged to protect the child and keep him at Kumbum monastery in Amdo in reserve just in case his ally Lhasang Khan and his 'real' Sixth Dalai Lama, were overthrown. According to Mullin, however, the emperor's support came from genuine spiritual recognition and respect rather than being politically motivated.
Dzungar invasion

In any case, the Kangxi Emperor took full advantage of having Kelzang Gyatso under Qing control at Kumbum after other Mongols from the Dzungar tribes led by Tsewang Rabtan who was related to his supposed ally Lhazang Khan, deceived and betrayed the latter by invading Tibet and capturing Lhasa in 1717.

These Dzungars, who were Buddhist, had supported the Fifth Dalai Lama and his regent. They were secretly petitioned by the Lhasa Gelugpa lamas to invade with their help in order to rid them of their foreign ruler Lhazang Khan and to replace the unpopular Sixth Dalai Lama pretender with the young Kelzang Gyatso. This plot suited the devious Dzungar leaders' ambitions and they were only too happy to oblige. Early in 1717, after conspiring to undermine Lhazang Khan through treachery they entered Tibet from the northwest with a large army, sending a smaller force to Kumbum to collect Kelzang Gyatso and escort him to Lhasa. By the end of the year, with Tibetan connivance they had captured Lhasa, killed Lhazang and all his family and deposed Yeshe Gyatso. Their force sent to fetch Kelzang Gyatso however was intercepted and destroyed by Qing armies alerted by Lhazang. In Lhasa, the unruly Dzungar not only failed to produce the boy but also went on the rampage, looting and destroying the holy places, abusing the populace, killing hundreds of Nyingma monks, causing chaos and bloodshed and turning their Tibetan allies against them. The Tibetans were soon appealing to the Kangxi Emperor to rid them of the Dzungars.

When the Dzungars had first attacked, the weakened Lhazang sent word to the Qing for support and they quickly despatched two armies to assist, the first Chinese armies ever to enter Tibet, but they arrived too late. In 1718 they were halted not far from Lhasa to be defeated and then ruthlessly annihilated by the triumphant Dzungars in the Battle of the Salween River.

This humiliation only determined the Kangxi Emperor to expel the Dzungars from Tibet once and for all and he set about assembling and dispatching a much larger force to march on Lhasa, bringing the emperor's trump card the young Kelzang Gyatso with it. On the imperial army's stately passage from Kumbum to Lhasa with the boy being welcomed adoringly at every stage, Khoshut Mongols and Tibetans were happy (and well paid) to join and swell its ranks. By the autumn of 1720 the marauding Dzungar Mongols had been vanquished from Tibet and the Qing imperial forces had entered Lhasa triumphantly with the 12-year old, acting as patrons of the Dalai Lama, liberators of Tibet, allies of the Tibetan anti-Dzungar forces led by Kangchenas and Polhanas, and allies of the Khoshut Mongol princes. The delighted Tibetans enthroned him as the Seventh Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace.

A new Tibetan government was established consisting of a Kashag or cabinet of Tibetan ministers headed by Kangchenas. Kelzang Gyatso, too young to participate in politics, studied Buddhism. He played a symbolic role in government, and, being profoundly revered by the Mongols, he exercised much influence with the Qing who now had now taken over Tibet's patronage and protection from them.

Having vanquished the Dzungars, the Qing army withdrew leaving the Seventh Dalai Lama as a political figurehead and only a Khalkha Mongol as the Qing amban or representative and a garrison in Lhasa. After the Kangxi Emperor died in 1722 and was succeeded by his son, the Yongzheng Emperor, these were also withdrawn, leaving the Tibetans to rule autonomously and showing the Qing were interested in an alliance, not conquest. In 1723, however, after brutally quelling a major rebellion by zealous Tibetan patriots and disgruntled Khoshut Mongols from Amdo who attacked Xining, the Qing intervened again, splitting Tibet by putting Amdo and Kham under their own more direct control. Continuing Qing interference in Central Tibetan politics and religion incited an anti-Qing faction to quarrel with the Qing-sympathising Tibetan nobles in power in Lhasa, led by Kanchenas who was supported by Polhanas. This led eventually to the murder of Kanchenas in 1727 and a civil war that was resolved in 1728 with the canny Polhanas, who had sent for Qing assistance, the victor. When the Qing forces did arrive they punished the losers and exiled the Seventh Dalai Lama to Kham, under the pretence of sending him to Beijing, because his father had assisted the defeated, anti-Qing faction. He studied and taught Buddhism there for the next seven years.


In 1735 he was allowed back to Lhasa to study and teach, but still under strict control, being mistrusted by the Qing, while Polhanas ruled Central Tibet under nominal Qing supervision. Meanwhile, the Qing had promoted the Fifth Panchen Lama to be a rival leader and reinstated the ambans and the Lhasa garrison. Polhanas died in 1747 and was succeeded by his son Gyurme Namgyal, the last dynastic ruler of Tibet, who was far less cooperative with the Qing. On the contrary, he built a Tibetan army and started conspiring with the Dzungars to rid Tibet of Qing influence. In 1750, when the ambans realised this, they invited him and personally assassinated him and then, despite the Dalai Lama's attempts to calm the angered populace a vengeful Tibetan mob assassinated the ambans in turn, along with most of their escort.
Restoration as Tibet's political leader

The Qing sent yet another force 'to restore order' but when it arrived the situation had already been stabilised under the leadership of the Seventh Dalai Lama who was now seen to have demonstrated loyalty to the Qing. Just as Güshi Khan had done with the Fifth Dalai Lama, they therefore helped reconstitute the government with the Dalai Lama presiding over a Kashag of four Tibetans, reinvesting him with temporal power in addition to his already established spiritual leadership. This arrangement, with a Kashag under the Dalai Lama or his regent, outlasted the Qing dynasty which collapsed in 1912. The ambans and their garrison were also reinstated to observe and to some extent supervise affairs, however, although their influence generally waned with the power of their empire which gradually declined after 1792 along with its influence over Tibet, a decline aided by a succession of corrupt or incompetent ambans.[164] Moreover, there was soon no reason for the Qing to fear the Dzungar by the time the Seventh Dalai Lama died in 1757 at the age of 49, the entire Dzungar people had been practically exterminated through years of genocidal campaigns by Qing armies, and deadly smallpox epidemics, with the survivors being forcibly transported into China. Their emptied lands were then awarded to other peoples.

According to Mullin, despite living through such violent times Kelzang Gyatso was perhaps 'the most spiritually learned and accomplished of any Dalai Lama', his written works comprising several hundred titles including 'some of Tibet's finest spiritual literary achievements'.[166] In addition, despite his apparent lack of zeal in politics Kelzang Gyatso is credited with establishing in 1751 the reformed government of Tibet headed by the Dalai Lama, which continued over 200 years until the 1950s, and then in exile. Construction of the Norbulingka, the 'Summer Palace' of the Dalai Lamas in Lhasa was also started during Kelzang Gyatso's reign.
8th Dalai Lama

The Eighth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso was born in Tsang in 1758 and died aged 46 having taken little part in Tibetan politics, mostly leaving temporal matters to his Regents and the ambans. Although he lived almost as long as the Seventh he was overshadowed by many contemporary lamas in terms of both religious and political accomplishment. According to Mullin, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has pointed to certain indications that Jamphel Gyatso might not have been the incarnation of the Seventh Dalai Lama but of Jamyang Chojey, a disciple of Tsongkhapa and founder of Drepung monastery who was also reputed to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. In any case, he mainly lived a quiet and unassuming life as a devoted and studious monk, uninvolved in the kind of dramas that had surrounded his predecessors.

Nevertheless, Jamphel Gyatso was also said to possess all the signs of being the true incarnation of the Seventh. This was also claimed to have been confirmed by many portents clear to the Tibetans and so, in 1762, at the age of 5, he was duly enthroned as the Eighth Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace. At the age of 23 he was persuaded to assume the throne as ruler of Tibet with a Regent to assist him and after three years of this, when the Regent went to Beijing as ambassador in 1784, he continued to rule solo for a further four years. Feeling unsuited to worldly affairs, however, and unhappy in this role, he then retired from public office to concentrate on religious activities for his remaining 16 years until his death in 1804. He is also credited with the construction of the Norbulingka 'Summer Palace' started by his predecessor in Lhasa and with ordaining some ten thousand monks in his efforts to foster monasticism.
9th to 12th Dalai Lamas

Hugh Richardson's summary of the period covering the four short-lived, 19th century Dalai Lamas:

After him [the Eighth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso], the 9th and 10th Dalai Lamas died before attaining their majority: one of them is credibly stated to have been murdered and strong suspicion attaches to the other. The 11th and 12th were each enthroned but died soon after being invested with power. For 113 years, therefore, supreme authority in Tibet was in the hands of a Lama Regent, except for about two years when a lay noble held office and for short periods of nominal rule by the 11th and 12th Dalai Lamas.[a]
It has sometimes been suggested that this state of affairs was brought about by the Ambans—the Imperial Residents in Tibet—because it would be easier to control the Tibet through a Regent than when a Dalai Lama, with his absolute power, was at the head of the government. That is not true. The regular ebb and flow of events followed its set course. The Imperial Residents in Tibet, after the first flush of zeal in 1750, grew less and less interested and efficient. Tibet was, to them, exile from the urbanity and culture of Peking and so far from dominating the Regents, the Ambans allowed themselves to be dominated. It was the ambition and greed for power of Tibetans that led to five successive Dalai Lamas being subjected to continuous tutelage. (Richardson 1984, pp. 59󈞨)

Thubten Jigme Norbu, the elder brother of the 14th Dalai Lama, described these unfortunate events as follows, although there are few, if any, indications that any of the four were said to be 'Chinese-appointed imposters':

It is perhaps more than a coincidence that between the seventh and the thirteenth holders of that office, only one reached his majority. The eighth, Gyampal Gyatso, died when he was in his thirties, Lungtog Gyatso when he was eleven, Tsultrim Gyatso at eighteen, Khadrup Gyatso when he was eighteen also, and Krinla Gyatso at about the same age. The circumstances are such that it is very likely that some, if not all, were poisoned, either by loyal Tibetans for being Chinese-appointed impostors, or by the Chinese for not being properly manageable. Many Tibetans think that this was done at the time when the young [Dalai Lama] made his ritual visit to the Lake Lhamtso. . Each of the four [Dalai Lamas] to die young expired shortly after his visit to the lake. Many said it was because they were not the true reincarnations, but imposters imposed by the Chinese. Others tell stories of how the cooks of the retinue, which in those days included many Chinese, were bribed to put poison in the [Dalai Lama's] food. The 13th [Dalai Lama] did not visit Lhamtso until he was 25 years old. He was adequately prepared by spiritual exercise and he also had faithful cooks. The Chinese were disappointed when he did not die like his predecessors, and he was to live long enough to give them much more cause for regret.(Norbu & Turnbull 1968)

According to Mullin, on the other hand, it is improbable that the Manchus would have murdered any of these four for being 'unmanageable' since it would have been in their best interests to have strong Dalai Lamas ruling in Lhasa, he argues, agreeing with Richardson that it was rather "the ambition and greed for power of Tibetans" that might have caused the Lamas' early deaths.[c] Further, if Tibetan nobles murdered any of them, which is quite possible, it would more likely to have been in order to protect or enhance their personal family interests rather than out of suspicion that the Dalai Lamas were seen as Chinese-appointed imposters as suggested by Norbu. They could have also easily died from illnesses, possibly contracted from diseases to which they had no immunity, carried to Lhasa by the multitudes of pilgrims visiting him from nearby countries for personal blessings. Finally, from the Buddhist point of view, Mullin says, "Simply stated, these four Dalai Lamas died young because the world did not have enough good karma to deserve their presence".

Tibetan historian K. Dhondup, however, in his history "The Water-Bird and Other Years", based on the Tibetan minister Surkhang Sawang Chenmo's historical manuscripts, disagrees with Mullin's opinion that having strong Dalai Lamas in power in Tibet would have been in China's best interests. He notes that many historians are compelled to suspect Manchu foul play in these serial early deaths because the Ambans had such latitude to interfere the Manchu, he says, "to perpetuate their domination over Tibetan affairs, did not desire a Dalai Lama who will ascend the throne and become a strong and capable ruler over his own country and people". The life and deeds of the 13th Dalai Lama [in successfully upholding de facto Tibetan independence from China from 1912 to 1950] serve as the living proof of this argument, he points out. This account also corresponds with TJ Norbu's observations above.

Finally, while acknowledging the possibility, the 14th Dalai Lama himself doubts they were poisoned. He ascribes the probable cause of these early deaths to negligence, foolishness and lack of proper medical knowledge and attention. "Even today" he is quoted as saying, "when people get sick, some [Tibetans] will say: 'Just do your prayers, you don't need medical treatment.'"
9th Dalai Lama

Born in Kham in 1805/6 amidst the usual miraculous signs the Ninth Dalai Lama, Lungtok Gyatso was appointed by the 7th Panchen Lama's search team at the age of two and enthroned in the Potala in 1808 at an impressive ceremony attended by representatives from China, Mongolia, Nepal and Bhutan. His second Regent Demo Tulku was the biographer of the 8th and 9th Dalai Lamas and though the 9th died at the age of 9 his biography is as lengthy as those of many of the early Dalai Lamas. In 1793 under Manchu pressure Tibet had closed its borders to foreigners, but in 1815 a British scientist, Thomas Manning became the first Englishman to visit Lhasa. Considered to be 'the first Chinese scholar in Europe'[184] he stayed five months and gave enthusiastic accounts in his journal of his regular meetings with the Ninth Dalai Lama whom he found fascinating: “beautiful, elegant, refined, intelligent, and entirely self-possessed, even at the age of six.”[185] Three years later in March 1815 the young Lungtok Gyatso caught a severe cold and, leaving the Potala Palace to preside over the New Year Monlam Prayer Festival he contracted pneumonia from which he soon died.

Like the Seventh Dalai Lama, the Tenth, Tsultrim Gyatso, was born in Lithang, Kham, where the Third Dalai Lama had built a monastery. It was 1816 and Regent Demo Tulku and the Seventh Panchen Lama followed indications from Nechung, the 'state oracle' which led them to appoint him at the age of two. He passed all the tests and was brought to Lhasa but official recognition was delayed until 1822 when he was enthroned and ordained by the Seventh Panchen Lama. There are conflicting reports about whether the Chinese 'golden urn' was utilised by drawing lots to choose him.[188] In any case after 15 years of intensive studies and failing health he died, in 1837, at the age of 20 or 21.
He identified with ordinary people rather than the court officials and often sat on his verandah in the sunshine with the office clerks. Intending to empower the common people he planned to institute political and economic reforms to share the nation's wealth more equitably. Over this period his health had deteriorated, the implication being that he may have suffered from slow poisoning by Tibetan aristocrats whose interests these reforms were threatening. He was also dissatisfied with his Regent and the Kashag and scolded them for not alleviating the condition of the common people, who had suffered much in small ongoing regional civil wars waged in Kokonor between Mongols, local Tibetans and the government over territory, and in Kham to extract unpaid taxes from rebellious Tibetan communities.

In 1856 a child was born in south central Tibet amidst all the usual extraordinary signs. He came to the notice of the search team, was investigated, passed the traditional tests and was recognised as the Twelfth Dalai Lama in 1858. The use of the Chinese Golden Urn at the insistence of the Regent, who was later accused of being a Chinese lackey, confirmed this choice to the satisfaction of all. Renamed Trinley Gyatso and enthroned in 1860 the boy underwent 13 years of intensive tutelage and training before stepping up to rule Tibet at the age of 17.

In 1868 Shetra's coup organiser, a semi-literate Ganden monk named Palden Dondrup, seized power by another coup and ruled as a cruel despot for three years, putting opponents to death by having them 'sewn into fresh animal skins and thrown in the river'. In 1871, at the request of officials outraged after Dondrup had done just that with one minister and imprisoned several others, he in turn was ousted and committed suicide after a counter-coup coordinated by the supposedly powerless 'Regent' Khyenrab Wangchuk. As a result of this action this venerable old Regent, who died the next year, is fondly remembered by Tibetans as saviour of the Dalai Lama and the nation. The Kashag and the Tsongdu or National Assembly were re-instated, and, presided over by a Dalai Lama or his Regent, ruled without further interruption until 1959.
According to Smith, however, during Trinley Gyatso's minority, the Regent was deposed in 1862 for abuse of authority and closeness with China, by an alliance of monks and officials called Gandre Drungche (Ganden and Drepung Monks Assembly) this body then ruled Tibet for ten years until dissolved, when a National Assembly of monks and officials called the Tsongdu was created and took over. Smith makes no mention of Shetra or Dondrup acting as usurpers and despots in this period.

Despite his humble beginnings, being born on a straw mat in a cowshed to a farmer's family in a remote part of Tibet,] the 14th Dalai Lama had become the joint most popular world leader by 2013, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive of New York, which sampled public opinion in he USA and six major European countries.

The 14th Dalai Lama was not formally enthroned until 17 November 1950, during the Battle of Chamdo with the People's Republic of China. In 1951, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government were pressured into accepting the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet by which it became formally incorporated into the People's Republic of China. Fearing for his life in the wake of a revolt in Tibet in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India, from where he led a government in exile.

With the aim of launching guerrilla operations against the Chinese, the Central Intelligence Agency funded the Dalai Lama's administration with US$1.7 million a year in the 1960s. In 2001 the 14th Dalai Lama ceded his partial power over the government to an elected parliament of selected Tibetan exiles. His original goal was full independence for Tibet, but by the late 1980s he was seeking high-level autonomy instead. He continued to seek greater autonomy from China, but Dolma Gyari, deputy speaker of the parliament-in-exile, stated: "If the middle path fails in the short term, we will be forced to opt for complete independence or self-determination as per the UN charter".


In 2014 and 2016, he stated that Tibet wants to be part of China but China should let Tibetan preserve its culture and script.


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