10 Things You Didn't Know About the Dalai Lama

Compiled by the U.S.News & World Report library staff.

Tibetan spiritual leader in-exile His Holiness the Dalai Lama gestures while interacting with media representatives in Dharamsala on March 18, 2008. Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama appealed for calm in Tibet and 'good relations' with China, but offered to quit as head of the exile movement if violence worsens.

Compiled by the U.S.News & World Report library staff

1. The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born Lhamo Dhondup on July 6, 1935 to peasants in Taktser, a village in northeastern Tibet. He was one of five children in the family.

2. He was found by Tibetan monks when he was 2 years old. The monks tested the boy to see if he was the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. He passed the tests and had physical traits that the monks were looking for such as moles in certain places and long ears. At 2, he was renamed Tenzin Gyatso, took the throne at age 4 and became a monk at age 6.

3. The Dalai Lama grew up in Tibet's thousand-year-old Potala Palace in Lhasa. But he has lived in exile in India since the Chinese Army crushed an uprising in his homeland in 1959.

4. In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his work advocating nonviolent means to free Tibet from China.

5. His Holiness's hobbies include meditating, gardening, and repairing watches.

6. The Dalai Lama first visited the United States in 1979. He toured for seven weeks, during which he spoke at a number of universities including UCLA, Georgetown, and Harvard. A service in his honor was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

7. It was a long-time dream of the Dalai Lama to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston. During his 1979 visit to the United States he was scheduled to tour the space center, but the tour was cancelled at the last minute.

8. President Bush in October 2007 joined with congressional leaders in a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama in recognition of his human-rights work. In doing so, the White House said, Bush became the first sitting U.S. president to meet the Dalai Lama in public. Previous meetings with Bush and his predecessors have been so-called private meetings, a diplomatic charade intended to avoid angering Chinese leaders who seek to deny international recognition of the Dalai Lama.

9. The Dalai Lama is extremely interested in science and has for many years been involved with research looking into how meditation affects the brain. He has spoken at numerous scientific conferences on the subject and once explained, "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality."

10. The Dalai Lama has an interest in machines, which he developed as a young boy. As a teenager he repaired a movie projector by himself, without its guide or any instructions. He has been known to say that he would have become an engineer if he hadn't been a monk.

The Boston Globe
Current Biography
Facts on File World Digest
Globe and Mail
The New York Times
USA Today
The Washington Post
Wisconsin State Journal