(An edited version of this piece was published in the August 2019 issue of Praxis Englisch, a magazine for Germans learning English.)
Tenzin Gyatso was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989. This man of courage and compassion is better known as the 14th Dalai Lama, based on a title that denotes his status as the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet. While he is a Buddhist monk, his popularity cuts across religious divides because his message focuses on harmony. He is also respected by people who do not associate with any religion. The Tibetans lovingly call him Kundun but others usually refer to him as His Holiness. His life story is beautifully narrated by artist Tetsu Saiwai in a biography titled The 14th Dalai Lama, which was published by Penguin Books in a Japanese comic book format known as manga.
In April 2019, I got an opportunity to hear the Dalai Lama speak at the global launch event of the Social Emotional Ethical (SEE) Learning curriculum hosted in Delhi by the Dalai Lama Trust, Emory University and Vana Foundation. He spoke about how the earth is being destroyed by violence and climate change, and emphasized the importance of living a happy and meaningful life while we are still alive. I was touched by his sincere appeal. His commitment to non-violence comes from his own struggles as a young man who was forced to flee his country in 1959. His life was under threat from the Chinese Liberation Army that occupied Tibet through brute force. Temples and monasteries were destroyed. His people were killed. Their farm lands were confiscated. He became a refugee in India.
Saiwai’s book does an excellent job of depicting his life journey from childhood to old age through the various phases of joy and suffering that he experienced. His visuals capture all the drama and emotion of the unexpected events that led to the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet, and the generosity of the people who helped him at every step. The Dalai Lama has not been able to return to Tibet but his time in exile has been hugely beneficial for the international community. He has spoken up for human rights, and consistently encouraged people to resolve their conflicts without bloodshed. He advocates peaceful dialogue to find solutions. He has grown frail and tired but is still using his voice to comfort, heal and transform. Our world needs more people like him.