Questions about the Dalai Lama

bluroze

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I was reading some works of the current Dalai Lama a while ago and a few questions popped into my head. What is a Dalai Lama? How does one become the official Dalai Lama? Is the Dalai Lama a vital role in the Buddhist belief and practice?

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Pathless

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Hi bluroze,

Thanks for the questions. Vajradhara or someone else will probably be able to elucidate much more than me, but I can give you a basic answer. The Dalai Lama is the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, who are currently in exile. I'm not sure if the Dalai Lama can be traced to pre-Buddhism days in Tibet or not, but certainly the Dalai Lama is the pre-eminent person in Tibetan Buddhism, perhaps somewhat like the Pope. As for your question about the Dalai Lama being a vital personage in Buddhist belief and practice, I would say again that certainly for Tibetan Buddhists, he is an important person. Moreover, most other (non-Tibetan) Buddhists would, I imagine, place some respect or veneration on the Dalai Lama, but he is of significance mainly in the Tibetan tradition.

How does one become a Dalai Lama? Hm, I'm sure it's complicated, involving many lifetimes, doctrines, and rituals. ;) The most I can say about it is that the Dalai Lama, or any Lama for that matter, from my understanding, is selected as a child by other prominent Lamas and priests. Basically, they hunt for him, and when they think they've found the child who is the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, they ask him certain questions that only the previous incarnation would know.

I'm sure that's an incomplete and muddled answer, but I couldn't resist putting my one cent in. Vajradhara, care to elaborate? :)
 
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hey

there is a really good film called 'Kundun' that you might find interesting and helpfull with this. Its about the life of the present Dali Lama from his birth up untill his exile. its very enlightening and very inspirational.

and its also just a few years old so it shouldnt be too expensive :)

peace
 

pohaikawahine

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words are always so interesting .... in the hawaiian language the word "lama" refers to a type of wood which is also used as a torch and used in the building of a sacred enclosure .... the torch is known as ka-lama and is the "night torch" or the one's that light the way into the night walk (a metaphor for the internal passage that one must pass through in meditation) .... the sacred enclosure is called pa-lama, it was a sacred enclosure used in the sacred mating of chiefs, however it also is a metaphor for the sacred enclosure also known as the inner sanctum or the holy of holies which is located in the center of the brain ....

also just a thought of interest .... the dalai lama and his people are currently in exile (a sad event) and are wandering the globe as they wait for their return "home" .... this is the same as the messages in Exodus .... the dalai lama maintains a composure of pure love despite the circumstances of him and his people because he knows that the way "home" is in the very modeling of spiritual behavior .... he is trying to take us all "home" .... if we follow "ka-lama" and meet g-d face to face in "pa-lama" we might just get there .... we need to open our eyes and see with our souls .... freedom is just a step away ..... just some thoughts to share .... he hawai'i au, pohaikawahine
 

Vajradhara

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Namaste all,

this site has some useful information:

http://www.dalailama.com/page.2.htm

so, let me take the questions as well. of course, nothing i say will be new on this :)

q. What is a Dalai Lama?

a. Good question. for the most part, they are human beings like you and i. Dalai Lama is a title which was given to the head of the Gelug-pa order by Alta Khan, of the Mongolian Khans when they were controlling much of Asia. the title means "Ocean of Wisdom".

q. does one become the official Dalai Lama?

a. there is, of course, only one of them at a time. before the ceasing of one physical manifestation, the next arising of the Dalai Lama is predicated. the current Dalai Lama has indicated that he will not take rebirth in any country that is occupied by China, for instance. in any case, one then undergoes the various tests to ensure that the being is the correct Tulku. a Tulku is a Lama that has purposefully taken rebirth to continue with their teachings, in the traditional understanding of such things. in any event, once one has passed all of these recognition tests, then they have to go through the Geshe program. the traditional Geshe program would take about 25 years to complete.

q. Is the Dalai Lama a vital role in the Buddhist belief and practice?

a. it depends on which school of Buddhism that one practices. in a literal sense, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader and political leader (at this point in time, however, they have an elected government-in-exile), however, he is not the head of his own lineage nor does this lineage have any particular sway over other schools of Buddhism.

so with regards to vital or not, yes, he is vital to the schools which are affiliated with Tibetan Buddhism in general, though not always vital to the actual practice. for non-Tibetan Buddhist forms, he is as vital as any other learned and respected religious figure, though not important to the actual practice.

the refereced link can explain this all in greater clarity, i'm sure :)

metta,

~v
 

Thomas

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Not too go too far from the topic, but we should all pray for Tibet, and her traditions.

China is currently finishing a railroad that runs from China to the capital Lhasa - whilst the track obviously runs through the country, only a very minor number of native Tibetans are employed in its construction, the majority being shipped in literally thousands of miles from mainland China to complete the task.

The purpose of the railroad is to accelerate migration of the native Chinese into the Tibetan homeland. Any expression against the railway has been criminalised.

I fear that in a few generations Tibet will lie only in the heart.

Thomas
 

inhumility

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pohaikawahine said:
if we follow "ka-lama" and meet g-d face to face in "pa-lama" we might just get there .... "pohaikawahine
But ,pohaikawahine,they say that the Buddhist don't believe in God,they are more of an atheist.What would you say?
 

pohaikawahine

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inhumility said:
But ,pohaikawahine,they say that the Buddhist don't believe in God,they are more of an atheist.What would you say?

That place we all call "home" or "the promised land" or "the garden of eden" or "paradise" is what we all have in common .... we seek to find our freedom and our sovereignty .... christians, buddhists, judiasm, islam, etc..... the path may be different, but when we get to the top of the mountain we will all see the same moon .... that is what I believe .... we are travelers on a path of knowledge and wisdom .... he hawai'i au, pohaikawahine
 

wil

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inhumility said:
But ,pohaikawahine,they say that the Buddhist don't believe in God,they are more of an atheist.What would you say?
I had understood, somewhere along the way, that it wasn't that Buddhists believed or didn't believe in G-d, that they just thought with all the rest of the involved in experienceing and learning about what exists here and now, that the discussion of what and if and how relating to G-d was superfluous in this plane of existence...
 

Vajradhara

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wil said:
I had understood, somewhere along the way, that it wasn't that Buddhists believed or didn't believe in G-d, that they just thought with all the rest of the involved in experienceing and learning about what exists here and now, that the discussion of what and if and how relating to G-d was superfluous in this plane of existence...

Namaste wil,

well, it sort of depends on the being to whom the Buddha was addressing.

Buddhist teachings are given using Upaya, or skillful means. what this means is that the teachings that are given are based on the spiritual capacity of the being to whom the Buddha was speaking.

as such, we find that this subject is treated in two different manners within the Buddha Dharma.

for a great many beings, especially those with a strong theistic bent, Buddha Shakyamuni didn't really respond to those sorts of queries. This is part of the Four Unthinkables in the Hinyana/Theraveda tradition. by the same token, for those beings that had a different view, a different teaching was given which explains that there is no root sequence to phenomena.

What we see clearly in the texts is the Buddha not accepting the
idea of an absolute that is responsible for the world. In the Digha Nikaya
(the Long Discourses) 24 the Buddha states:

"There are some ascetics and brahmins who declare as their doctrine
that all things began with the creation by a god, or Brahma."

And this god is characterized so:

"That Worshipful Brahma, the Great God, the Omnipotent, the
Omniscient, the Organizer, the Protection, the Creator, the Most
Perfect Ruler, the Designer and Orderer, the Father of All That Have Been and
Shall Be, He by Whom we were created, He is permanent, Constant,
Eternal, Unchanging, and He will remain so for ever and ever."

which is a nice characterization of the brahmanical notion of the
creatorgod one finds in the early brahmanical literature, particularly the
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, and it seems to fit for most every other
creator god notion that has come down the pike:
"There is none other God but Thee, the Almighty, the Most Exalted,
the All-Powerful, the All-Wise".

The notion of creator is rejected in terms of the Buddha in satirically retelling the creation story of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. This not "a discreet silence about the First Cause," it is not indifference.

Though the Buddha's particular rejection is not a philosophical argument
against a creator god, it is rather a religious statement that is consistent
with the underlying ontology of becoming that characterizes what the Buddha
taught. What is clear, in the broader context, is that this rejection is not tied to a particular god-notion, but addresses the notion of a "single supernatural Being" from which "all things began," given that such a notion is invariably grounded in a radically different ontological basis than what the Buddha presents.

metta,

~v
 
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