The Dalai Lamas: The Institution and Its History 

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Item Code: IDD285
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Ardy Verhaegen
Language: English
Edition: 2002
ISBN: 9788124602027
Pages: 203
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.75"
Weight 480 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket:

From the fifteenth century on, the Dalai Lamas emerged as the pre-eminent spiritual and secular leaders of Tibet. In his foreword to this book Tenzin Gyatso the Fourteenth Dalai Lama states that "Buddhism, with its powerful central message of compassion ... transformed Tibetan from the powerful warlike nation that dominated Central Asia in the seventh century to the more peaceful and religious people they are today." With China's continued occupation of Tibet threatening the "very existence of a distinct Tibetan identity and culture" the Dalai Lama feels it his "primary responsibility to take whatever steps I must to save my people and their unique heritage from total annihilation."

Author Ardy Verhaegen not only "succinctly tells the story of each of the Dalai Lamas and their contribution as human beings to Tibet's destiny," as the Dalai Lama points out, but also the historical narrative within which these eminent personalities played out their lives. Starting with the spread of Buddhism and its introduction into Tibet, Verhaegen chronicles the development of that country's unique religious culture, the rise to prominence of the Dalai Lamas, and the role of the Dalai Lama institution within the social-political structure of Tibet and Asia. Descriptions of the workings of the institution itself and the current struggles of Tibetan culture to survive outside its historical borders round out this volume.  

Richly annotated, this introduction to the institution of the Dalai Lama is of value to both serious students of Tibetan history and culture and all those interested in one of the more fascinating stories of out times. The perilous flight of the Dalai lama into exile and the subsequent success of the Tibetan diaspora community against tremendous odds are having profound implications for humanity at large. Ironically, while imperiled within Tibet itself, the spiritual legacy of the land of snows has spread through its incarnate lamas and teachers such that the principles of peace, compassion and individual enlightenment inherent in Tibetan Buddhist culture and embodied in the Dalai Lama now enjoy favour worldwide. The awarding of the 1989 Noble Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama is indicative of this esteem, not only towards His Holiness but also the institution he represents.   

About the Author 

Ardy Verhaegen is an independent scholar and writer with special interests in the lives of outstanding spiritual figures and contemplative spiritual practices. He has served as a teacher in residence at the world-famous Esalen Institute, lectured at a number of universities and collages, and continues his writing, teaching, consulting and coaching work in the areas of spirituality, personal human development and life transitions.


HISTORICALLY the Dalai Lamas as individuals and as an institution have been closely concerned with the welfare of Tibet, her people and their culture. Of course, when we think of Tibetan culture, we generally mean Buddhist culture, because of the profound and pervasive effect that Buddhism has had on so much of the Tibetan way of life. It was Buddhism, with its poweful central message of compassion that transformed Tibetans from the powerful warlike nation that dominated Central Asia in the seventh century to the more peaceful and religious people they are today. Buddhism, with its fundamental humane values of compassion and wisdom, provided the inspiration for art and literature and the widespread establishment of monasteries and nunneries that became the major source of education.

And, of course, it is within the context of Buddhism that the Dalai Lamas came to prominence. The early Dalai Lamas excelled as spiritual teachers and practitioners. They were truly great. Their influence steadily increased and extended, each in a different area, so the Great Fifth Dalai Lama's emergence, not only as a widely regarded spiritual leader, but also as the country's ruler seems a natural consequence. His impact was so deep that the government he established has continued to command popular confidence up to recent times, even when the person of the Dalai Lama was absent or unable to be effective.

As I have already indicated, I have great admiration for my predecessors. The First, Second, and Third Dalai Lamas in particular were highly accomplished in spiritual and scholarly matters, whereas the Fifth and Thirteenth Dalai Lamas were in addition politically adept.

I believe they were each able to make a significant contribution to improving the lives of the Tibetan people as a whole. Nevertheless, I imagine that for all their greatness, each of them found themselves in a situation similar to my own.

As a Buddhist monk I live the life of a religious person. As a Tibetan and as Dalai Lama, I have a special responsibility towards Tibet and its people. Because the people of Tibet have placed their trust and hope in me, I have a moral responsibility to speak up for them. In this capacity I try to raise public awareness of the real situation inside Tibet and the true nature of our freedom struggle. It is in this context that I welcome this book that succinctly tells the story of each of the Dalai Lamas and their contribution as human beings to Tibet's destiny.

The continued occupation of Tibet today poses an increasing threat to the very existence of a distinct Tibetan national and cultural identity. Therefore, I consider that my primary responsibility is to take whatever steps I must to save my people and their unique heritage from total annihilation. This is not a struggle to preserve old institutions, such as the institution of Dalai Lama. It is a struggle for national survival and the preservation of Tibetan culture that has some potential to serve humanity and to keep the peace in the part of the world in which we live.

As Dalai Lama myself, I do not claim to have high realisations or any other quality, but there is something within me, as I believe there was within each of my predecessors, that is the result of certain karmic formations and prayers made over many lives. Because of this I was born at this critical juncture when we Tibetans are facing great trouble. In the more than four decades since we lost our freedom, I think we have made some contribution to keeping the Tibetan spirit and a sense of hope alive. However, it is now clear that these efforts alone are not sufficient to bring about a positive solution. Therefore, I appeal to everyone who reads this book to support the Tibetan people in whatever way you can, as human beings who are presently prevented from exercising the rights and freedoms that many of us take for granted.



SINCE his flight from Tibet to India in 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has emerged as perhaps the most widely respected and popular religious leader in the world. His popularity exceeds that of the approximately one hundred and forty thousand Tibetans in exile whose spiritual and political head he is. Although the Dalai Lama has no formal status in other Buddhist communities, he is popularly, though mistakenly, regarded as the "pope of Buddhism". During his time in exile in Dharamsala in north India, he has attempted to preserve Tibetan culture by establishing institutions such as TIPA, the Tibetan Institute for the Performing Arts, to reform the political constitution of Tibet through the Tibetan Government in Exile, to restore the great monasteries of Tibet in India. Sera Monastery, one of the largest monasteries of Tibet and the world, with over 5,000 monks, has been re-established in Bylakuppe in south India and now has nearly 5000 monks and students. He has also sought to engage other religious and secular traditions in dialogue and worked tirelessly to present the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism in numerous books and addresses around the world. In 1989, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He has become, as Verhaegen notes, "a global figure". Yet few know that His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso is the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. And that "Dalai Lama" is not his personal name, but "the name of an office" that is currently held by "a human being ... who chooses to be a Buddhist monk," as Tenzin Gyatso explains in his Freedom in Exile, The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama. It is the merit of this important study by Ardy Verhaegen that he helps us to understand the institution of the Dalai Lama and its history.

This study was initially undertaken as an Independent Study project at the University of Waterloo and has since been revised for publication. It is divided into four parts. Part 1 sets the stage for the emergence of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet. Part 2 takes us through the history of the Dalai Lamas from their beginnings in the 1400s down to the present. Part 3 focusses on the workings of the institution of the Dalai Lama, and Part 4 explores the situation of the current Dalai Lama since 1959. What is especially important about this study is that it documents the emergence of the institution or office of the Dalai Lama and gives us a coherent history of the fourteen holders of this office. Thus it moves us beyond the more anecdotal 1984 study by Inder Malik of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet. Although Verhaegen does not know Tibetan and thus did not have access to Tibetan sources, he has reviewed virtually all the English-language sources to put together this account of the Dalai Lamas. His documentation is extensive and impressive, and his footnotes, liberally laced with comments, are an important review of the English-language sources for the study of Tibetan Buddhism and its central institution.

Verhaegen's interpretation of the institution of the Dalai Lama is plausible and grounded in the historical emergence of the office. He is a sympathetic reader of his sources, and what emerges is a portrait of the institution and history of the Dalai Lamas that clarifies and enlightens.



THIS study presents a history and description of the institution of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan society from its inception to the present. Since the rapid growth and acceptance of Tibetan Buddhism in the West and since the personality and status of the current Dalai Lama are of topical interest- such a study seems timely.

The introductory section is a survey of early Tibetan history up to the time of the appearance of the Dalai Lamas. Central to this survey will be an overview of the tenets and structure of Buddhism, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, its introduction and spread throughout Tibet, and its development into different schools or sects. In my approach to Tibetan history I agree with Klieger who states,

Indigenous Tibetan history is not a secular history - the chronicles of important people and events cannot be readily interpreted without an implicit understanding of the Buddhist ideological framework in which they were written.

Part two, the major portion of this study, explores the history of the Dalai Lamas. Each of the Dalai Lamas is profiled within the context of historical events of the times. Once again I have followed Klieger when he states, "Since Shakabpa's seminal study, other scholars have interpreted the institution of the Dalai Lama within the context of Buddhist understanding". The section following this historical survey examines the structure and workings of the institution itself within the greater context of Tibetan culture and civilization. The final section looks at the current status of the institution of the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama himself within the Tibetan community and the world at large. Throughout each of these sections such issues as the relationship between the secular and spiritual roles of the Dalai Lamas, the relationship between the Dalai Lamas and the people of Tibet as well as to other spiritual and secular leaders, and the role of the Dalai Lamas in preserving Tibetan cultural and spiritual values are addressed.

The sources used are almost all written by Western scholars, though most of them combine Tibetan and Western sources in their writings. The problem presented by these sources is that those of Tibetan origin tend to be concerned with history from a particular religious point of view, while earlier Western sources are focussed on the secular aspects of Tibetan history. Scholars such as Klieger, in his reference to Shakabpa, have addressed this problem in recent decades. It should be noted, however, that just as Tibetan works understandably had a strong pro-Buddhist bias, some of the earlier Western observers, such as Waddell, portrayed "a skeptical image of Tibetan spiritual life".

In order to strike a balance between these polarities the example of more recent scholars such as Snellgrove, Richardson, Shakabpa, Mullin, Michael and Smith Jr. has been followed. These writers seem to have a good understanding of both the Western and Tibetan points of view. Another important matter is the usage of Tibetan words. The text follows the examples of Mullin, Stein, Michael, Smith Jr., Shen & Liu and Shakabpa, using the common phonetic system of transliteration of Tibetan names and terms. Even amongst the sources just cited there are differences as to correct phonetic renderings, but this is a minor problem. One final note: since this book is a general introduction to the institution and history of the Dalai Lamas the extensive use of annotation is deliberate, intended to provide the serious student with as broad a reference base as possible.

I am indebted to Professor Darrol Bryant of the University of Waterloo whose depth of knowledge, consistent support and gentle encouragement were instrumental to the development of my research and manuscript. Professor Robert Litke of Wilfred Laurier University gave invaluable advice regarding the preparation of my manuscript and the broad perspective necessary to keep me in touch with my wider objectives. Dr. James Somerville, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Xavier University, Cincinnati, and Ruth Sutter, historian and independent scholar, both graciously and generously reviewed my manuscript, providing insightful suggestions and editorial commentary. The kind advice of Dr. Al Evans of the University of Waterloo was instrumental in my initiating this project and helpful throughout its duration. Deserving of special thanks is the Independent Studies Program at the University of Waterloo, within which the spirit of individualized scholarship is encouraged and nurtured.

Venerable Bhikshuni Tenzin Kalsang, the founder and spiritual director of Tengye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Toronto, was generous with her library and advice. Much gratitude is due to Diane Edgerton for her professional editing of the manuscript. Kim Elliott, my long time friend, patiently provided technical expertise. Particular appreciation goes to my wife, Maureen Kennedy, who performed the always under-appreciated task of typing the manuscript. Her continuous encouragement and occasional prodding helped to keep me on track. To these and the many others especially Heidi Ponzo, who provided support, suggestions, and materials I offer my gratitude.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is deserving of special thanks for taking the time out of his ever-busy schedule to prepare the foreword to this volume. His tireless support of scholarship in the area of Tibetan culture, which, as he states, is generally synonymous with Buddhist culture, is but one facet of a life dedicated to the service of humanity in general and the Tibetan people in particular. His life is an example to those who work for peace in the world and for those who seek peace of mind. It is my belief that Tenzin Gyatso will be regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest Dalai Lama.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this book to the people of Tibet, possessors of one of the great wisdom traditions bequeathed to mankind. Their stories and culture have fascinated and inspired me. Their courage, determination, and dignity in the face of grave and dangerous circumstances cannot but move one to admiration and appreciation. May their struggle for self-determination be met with sympathy and understanding. It is my hope that this book will play some small role in furthering that process.




  Observations iii
  Foreword vii
  Preface ix
  Introduction 1
1. Developments in Tibet up to the Advent of the Dalai Lamas 5
  The Land and the People 6
  Buddhism 10
  The Spread and Development of Buddhism in Tibet 17
  The Second Diffusion of Buddhism and Founding of the Religious Schools 21
2. A History of the Dalai Lamas Within the Context of Their Times 27
  Dalai Lama I 31
  Reincarnation of the Dalai Lamas 37
  Dalai Lama II 39
  Dalai Lama III 48
  Dalai Lama IV 54
  Dalai Lama V 59
  Dalai Lama VI 70
  Dalai Lama VII 81
  Dalai Lama VIII 95
  Dalai Lama IX 101
  Dalai Lama X 102
  Dalai Lama XI 104
  Dalai Lama XII 106
  Dalai Lama XIII 108
  Dalai Lama XIV 120
3. How the Institution of the Dalai Lama Works 135
  Discovery and Recognition 135
  Education 136
  The Household and Daily Life of the Dalai Lama 138
  The Role of the Dalai Lama in the Governance of Tibet 140
  The Spiritual Role of the Dalai Lama 143
4. Tibetan Identity & Culture and the Dalai Lama Since 1959 147
  The Struggle for Tibetan Identity and Culture 147
  Tibet Under Chinese Rule 151
  The Fourteenth Dalai Lama Emerges as a Global Figure 155
  Concluding Remarks 164
  Glossary 167
  • The Dalai Lamas of Tibet
  • Chronological Table
  Bibliography 181
  Index 187


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