CREDOS: The Dalai Lama — II

Lama Surya Das

The Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, meanwhile, is the second-highest ranking Gelugpa Tibetan lama after the Dalai Lama. Human rights groups call the young Panchen Lama, who would now be 10 or 11, the world’s youngest political prisoner. After the Dalai Lama officially proclaimed him Panchen Lama in 1995, the boy was almost immediately abducted and imprisoned by the Chinese government and has not been seen in public since. It is feared that he is dead. All three of these lamas — the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and the Panchen Lama — are spiritual leaders and vital symbols of Tibetan independence both within and outside their homeland.

The Dalai Lama is also Tibet’s political leader. He remains the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which he established in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala 40 years ago, through the grace of Pandit Nehru and the Indian government, after escaping into exile himself in 1959.

From there, he leads the fight for Tibetan cultural preservation and autonomy, if not complete political freedom and independence from Chinese rule. In each of the last 10 years, he has visited 50 or more countries on his mission of peace and nonviolence. For his humanitarian work and peaceful resistance to Chinese Communist rule in formerly independent Tibet, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Historically, the Dalai Lamas, like most Tibetans, remained isolated from the rest of the globe.