Because we all share this planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. This is not just a dream, but a necessity.- The Dalai Lama
With so much violence in the world today, it is our duty as parents and teachers to teach our children about compassion, showing them kindness and respect, and giving them examples and role models to follow. Studying great leaders who embody peace helps kids to make better decisions and learn from others wisdom as well as from their mistakes.
The Buddhist religion was founded in India over 2500 years ago, and is currently practiced by over 500 million people all over the world. The countries with the largest number of Buddhists are: China (especially Tibet), Thailand, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Viet Nam, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Laos, and Nepal among others. Every country has different ways to worship, but the universal goal of Buddhism is to achieve a state of enlightenment- freedom from suffering- through acts of compassion on all living things.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, though Buddhist around the world follow his teachings of non-violence and kindness.
Dalai is translated from Mongolian as “ocean” and lama in Tibetan Buddhism is “perfect teacher.” In fact lama refers to a religious master, specifically a Tibetan or Mongolian Buddhist monk.
The first Dalai Lama was Gendun Drup, who lived from 1391–1474. Buddhists believe in “reincarnation,” the idea that when someone dies, his or her spirit returns in another body. Thus, they believe that each Dalai Lama is reincarnated from the previous one. When the 13th Dalai Lama died, a search party of the religious leaders began to look for the next Dalai Lama. They followed the signs and visions, and found a young child who lived in a humble house near the Kumbum Monastery in Tibet. The current Dalai Lama (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet) was born on 6 July 1935, and named Lhamo Thondup (later called Tenzin Gyatso). He stayed in the monastery until he was 4 years old, when he began the long trip to Lhasa. Traditionally, the Dalai Lama lives in the Potala Palace, though the current Dalai Lama has been in exile since 1959.
In 1989, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the 14th Dalai Lama, in recognition of his non-violence struggle for the liberation of Tibet. According to the Nobel Prize Committee:
He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people. The Dalai Lama has developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all mankind as well as nature. In the opinion of the Committee the Dalai Lama has come forward with constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems.
To hear the Dalai Lama spread his message of peace in Vancouver to a large group of young students:
And to hear him speak with an 11 year old, 6th grader:
Here is a great interview for kids of the Dalai Lama in National Geographic Kids.
For adults to learn more, please see the official Dalai Lama page “His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.”
For a wonderful and simple biography of the Dalai Lama, how the monks found him and brought him to the Potala Palace, his life as a child, his harrowing escape from Tibet to India, and his Nobel Peace Prize, look for the book “The Dalai Lama” by Demi. This is suitable for children ages 6 and up, though the glorious art and clear storytelling will be appreciated by all ages.
A great resource for older children, especially for biography projects or learning about Buddhism, Learning from the Dalai Lama: Secrets of the Wheel of Time by Karen Pandell with Barry Bryant is packed with information about Tibetan monks, their beliefs, and their ancient traditions.