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The Dalai Lama test: We bet you didn't know these 15 things about him

Salma Rehman | Updated on: 7 July 2015, 17:30 IST

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama turned 80 on 6 July. A mascot of peace, he continues to be the driving force behind Tibet's long drawn struggle for autonomy in China. While we all might be aware of his political struggle through years, here's are a few interesting fascinating aspects about the man behind the spiritual being.

1. The Dalai Lama was originally born as Lhamo Dhondup. After being declared the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama at the age of two, he was renamed as Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the faith, Ocean of Wisdom).

2. During his monastic training in Tibet at the age of five, the only distraction in his life were his favorite playmates - two white mice.

3. A strict follower of the Vinaya rules, the 14th Dalai Lama wakes up at 3 am in the morning and makes sure to go to bed by 7 pm.

4. The spiritual leader is a non-vegetarian. He turned vegetarian for a short time. But he developed jaundice and had to go back to eating meat.

5. He was the first Buddhist leader to meet a Pope. On 30 September 1973, he met with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. Subsequently, his meetings with Pope John Paul II became a regular affair.

6. The Dalai Lama's life is well documented through books and films. American filmmaker Martin Scorsese made a biopic Kundun based on his life and teachings in1997. He has also written two autobiographies, My Land and My people which was released in 1962 and the second - Freedom in Exile which was released in 1991.

7. His Holiness has a fetish for watches. He received his first watch - a gold Rolex - from former US president Franklin D Roosevelt.

8. The Dalai Lama is fascinated by science. He once stated that if not a monk, he would have become an engineer. He says: "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change."

9. The 14th Dalai Lama has appeared in several non-fiction films like Monk with a Camera, Dalai Lama Awakening (2014), Bringing Tibet Home (2013), The Sun Behind the Clouds (2010) and Dalai Lama Renaissance (2008).

10. The spiritual leader is a big critic of the US policy on fighting terrorism. He has also criticised the CIA for using the Tibetan independence movement to destabilise all communist governments.

11. An advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons, Dalai Lama currently serves on the Advisory Council of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

12. The 14th Dalai Lama has referred to himself as Marxist when it comes to socio-political ideology. He is a staunch critic of capitalism.

13. He also calls himself a feminist. He once famously said: "Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?"

14. The spiritual leader has given contrasting statements on homosexuality. In an interview with OUT magazine in 1994 he called it acceptable behavior based on the mutual consent of partners. He later denied giving the statement calling homosexual relations as "sexual misconduct".

15. The most interviewed and photographed monk, the Dalai Lama is also very social media friendly. He has 11.4 million followers on Twitter and 11,662,709 Facebook likes.


First published: 6 July 2015, 19:51 IST