VÁCLAV HAVEL EUROPEAN DIALOGUES 2021 - THE OTHER EUROPE On-line conference 11 - 12 May 2021

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935 to a farming family in Taktser, Amdo, north-eastern Tibet. He was recognised as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama at the age of two.

His Holiness was enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama in Lhasa, Tibet on 22 February 1940. He began his monastic education at the age of six.

The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are inspired by a wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, who have vowed to be reborn in the world to help humanity.

On 17 November 1950 at the age of fifteen, His Holiness was officially enthroned as the temporal leader of Tibet. A few months earlier, The Peoples Liberation Army had invaded Tibet. He tried to work with the occupying Chinese forces. But on 17 March 1959, he escaped from Lhasa to India as his life was in danger. Since April 1959, he has been living in exile in India.

In exile, the Central Tibetan Administration led by His Holiness appealed to the United Nations to consider the question of Tibet. The General Assembly adopted three resolutions on Tibet in 1959, 1961 and 1965.

In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet.

At the official invitation of President Václav Havel, His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived at Prague International Airport on 2 February 1990. He was the first foreign leader to visit democratic Czechoslovakia after Havel’s election as President. This was a start of a rare friendship between a spiritual leader and an artist and politician. This unique friendship based on mutual admiration and respect continued for the next two decades. His Holiness visited Prague 10 times. The Dalai Lama was a regular speaker and supporter of the Forum 2000, which supports the values of democracy and respect for human rights.

Aware of President Havel’s delicate state of health, the Dalai Lama came to Prague for a farewell visit on 10 December 2011. The last meeting was an emotional reunion. When President Havel saw the Dalai Lama enter his office, they had large smiles on their faces. President Havel came to Prague from his country house for their last meeting. Eight days later President Havel passed away.

The Dalai Lama continues to cherish their friendship and the support for the Tibetan people shown by the people of the Czech Republic. The Dalai Lama keeps a small statue of President Havel in his prayer room.