Who is the Dalai Lama: The charmer behind the drama

2011-10-08 17:16

Is he a cuddly, lovable man dressed in colourful robes who preaches compassion and love or a shrewd political leader who knows how to use public sympathy to further his cause?

The Dalai Lama is the 14th holy leader of the Tibetan people and also goes by the name of Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith and Ocean of Wisdom.

The Tibetan leader went into exile in 1959 after an uprising for Tibetan independence from China was defeated. Since then he, together with his inner circle, lives in Dharamsala, India, from where he fights the Tibetan cause.

As a Buddhist he has become an international symbol of peace and altruism, believing secession from China must come through peaceful, not violent, means. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

With China’s appalling human rights record, the world has been an oyster for the Dalai Lama, who visits many countries annually to preach peace, love and Tibetan independence.

But he has not quite managed to steer clear of controversy.

Few holy leaders will agree with his stance on abortion - which says in some cases, like when the baby will be retarded, it can be allowed.

Prostitution is also okay, as long as the user of the service pays up.

And as with many political leaders, there is the issue of funding.

According to reports, the Dalai Lama accepted R7.5 million from Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult responsible for releasing nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system during the 1990s.

The Dalai Lama also accepted $1 million in funding from the CIA during the Cold War era, as part of the US’ attempts to subvert the Chinese.

And then, bizarrely, he told a group of students in Seattle that if you are threatened by an assailant with a gun, you may shoot back.

Not at the head, he reportedly argued, where a fatal wound might result. But at some other body part, such as a leg.

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