The Dalai Lama, a Beacon of Hope

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche tells us what His Holiness the Dalai Lama means to the Tibetan people.

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
4 June 2024
The Dalai Lama speaking to a crowd of over 20,000 in Arunachal Pradesh, India. Once part of Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh has many Buddhist monasteries. Photo by Tenzin Choejor / OHHDL

His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is a living testament to the power of resilience and compassion. His Holiness’ path has not been easy, and yet, despite challenges and the loss of his homeland, his love for all beings has never wavered. His journey, marked by his recognition as the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion, and his role as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, is a beacon of hope and inspiration. 

As a child, I remember hearing many stories from my father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, about His Holiness’ great compassion and selflessness, and how he is the embodiment of wisdom. When I first met His Holiness, all my father’s stories rang true, and every time I’ve met him since, I’ve felt the unconditional love and boundless joy that radiate from him. 

“The Dalai Lama has been a bridge-builder and a symbol of hope, unity, and inspiration for the Tibetan people.”

No matter how painful the circumstances for the Tibetan people are, His Holiness navigates them with insight and conviction. Encouraging harmony, he’s been a guiding light and unifier for Tibetans. By embodying innate compassion and wisdom, he is able to face challenges, both within himself and in the world, with clear vision and love.

His Holiness has shown the world how to traverse the troubled waters of our time by realizing that we all share the desire to be happy and free from suffering. He encourages the cultivation of warm-heartedness toward all sentient beings through forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance, and contentment. His Holiness gently reminds us that any negative thought, emotion, or action against one being is against all beings. He shows us how to transcend the notion of ourselves as singular and independent, and recognize our interdependence or, as he says, our “oneness.”

Buddhists in Bombay, India, protest Chinese occupation in Tibet. In Tibet, it’s illegal to have photos of His Holiness. Photo: Dinodia Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

This peaceful, compassionate perspective is perhaps most evident through his decades-long nonviolent opposition to the occupation of Tibet, as well as his advocacy for both the fundamental rights of Tibetan people and environmental protections of their homeland. His Holiness has tirelessly amplified the preservation of Tibetan cultural identity, spiritual heritage, and political life. In doing so, he has always taken the long view to imagine what is possible. 

By creating a democratic constitution in 1963 for a Tibetan government in exile and then relinquishing his political control in 2011, he has strengthened the secular and democratic structure of the Tibetan movement and provided the kind of autonomy and legitimacy it will need when he’s no longer with us. His 1987 Five-Point Peace Plan, updated in 1988 to propose a self-governing, autonomous Tibet within China, is a “middle way approach” toward harmony, peace, freedom, and truth. 

I continue to see His Holiness as open to change, forever hopeful, and with a courageous and confident outlook. Holding space in our hearts during these most difficult moments is the practice. We’re encouraged to live by His Holiness’ example. By opening his heart unconditionally, he is a model, offering opportunities to radically change how we care for each other and our planet.

His Holiness has often said that, just as a mother would care for a child with love, warm-heartedness, and a boundless generosity of spirit, we should care for each other and be in harmony with nature. His message reminds us of our responsibility to work toward ecological stability and peace. He has said that this begins with shifting perspectives of the mind and that “the ultimate source of mental peace, or hygiene of emotion, is wholeheartedness.” 

In the face of ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza, in the face of human degradation of Mother Earth, His Holiness is fearless and resolute, encouraging us to nurture our planet and be at peace with each other. We survive and thrive by the hands and hearts of many across time and space: our ancestors; those who tend to our precious environment and provide sustenance; and those who cook and clean, build, design, and create are the concentric circles of care and connection around us. Understanding this, His Holiness has been a bridge-builder and a symbol of hope, unity, and inspiration for the Tibetan people. 

From a young age, His Holiness has been interested in education and particularly the study and advancement of science. Shortly after his escape from Tibet and settlement in India, he and his sister, Jetsun Pema, advocated for and established Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV), which provides integrated care and education for Tibetan orphans and refugee children. Through TCV schools and the Norbulingka Institute, in Himachal Pradesh, His Holiness has ensured that the language, unique cultural heritage, arts, and stories of the Tibetan people remain alive.   

I wish His Holiness a long life, and may his enlightened activities and timeless wisdom continue to flourish for all generations to come.

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a meditation master in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the guiding teacher of the Tergar Meditation Community, a global network of meditation groups and centers. His books include Turning Confusion into Clarity and In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying .