||In 1940, Tenzin Gyatso was enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama in Tibet. During that time, Tibet was still a quiet area without any Chinese influences. Tenzin was 5 years old back then, but was treated with respect. The Dalai Lama is considered the highest authority, the spiritual and political leader by the Tibetans. A regent took over the governing tasks until the Dalai Lama was 18 years old. Meanwhile, in neighbouring China, something happened that drastically changed the calm situation in Tibet.
In 1949, Mao Zedong comes to power in China and the Chinese republic’s days are numbered. Mao founds the People’s Republic of China on the first of October that year and China becomes a communist state; a state in which people are ‘raised’ to think and live according to communist manners. In the political field there is only one party possessing all power. Mao organizes the Chinese People’s Liberation Army - known as ‘the Red Army’.
The Red Army enters Tibet in October 1950 and does not fear the Tibetan army’s resistance, as it is much smaller and poorly armed. The government of Tibet gives all the power to the Dalai Lama, who is 15 years old at that time. China decides that Tibet is an integral part of China now and gives the Dalai Lama a position in the Chinese government, in which he has little to nothing to say. This is considered the start of the Chinese oppression.
During the Tibetan New Year in 1959, riots break out and the Tibetans massively protest against Chinese domination. The Chinese react to the protest by killing thousands of Tibetans; already 87,000 people are killed in the Lhasa region only. Villages and monasteries are burned down and the Tibetan government is dissolved. The Dalai Lama flees to Dharamsala, India, where he forms a government in exile.
After this incident, more than 7,000 Tibetans cross the border and ask for political asylum in India. The diaspora of Tibetans and religious leaders leads to a spread of Tibetan Buddhism around the world, with the Dalai Lama’s influence not only limited to the community in Dharamsala. Other influential tulkus and lamas (such as Kaly Rinpoche, Ole Nydahl, Chogyam Trungpa and Khenchen Palden Sherab) found Tibetan monasteries in all parts of the world. In 1998, according to the Tibetan Planning Council, 111.170 Tibetans were living in exile (85,000 in India). A government in exile was formed just like other kinds of Tibetan institutes.
This research study focuses on the role of the 14th Dalai Lama in the Tibetan communities in exile. In more detail, it provides the reader with an insight into the changes the Dalai Lama has undergone from political- to only spiritual leader and points out his primary concerns for the Tibetan communities. In addition, research on China’s role in the influence of the Dalai Lama is carried out. A final conclusion will link existing literature and give an answer to the main question by inserting my own interpretations. A study on this subject, furthermore, helps to better understand the Tibetan diaspora around the world and China’s role in the story today.
This thesis consists of books from the Leiden University Library, focusing on the current Dalai Lama and Tibetan communities in exile and journals from different disciplines, such as sinology, anthropology, sociology, politics and religious studies.