Dalai Lama

Background

Late in the 18th Century the ancient kingdom of Tibet is made a protectorate of China's powerful Qing Dynasty. Tibet declares its independence following the Chinese republican revolution of 1911-1912. Autonomy for Tibet is formally granted by the new Chinese Government in 1913, although by now the country has come under British influence. Tibet remains independent until 1950, when the Chinese return.

Traditional Tibetan society is ruled by a Buddhist theocracy headed by the Dalai Lama, or 'All-embracing Lama', who is considered to be the reincarnation of his deceased predecessor and an emanation of Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas.

Autonomous Tibet excludes areas in surrounding provinces like Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan that contain large Tibetan populations and were part of the ancient kingdom.

Mini biography

Born Lhamo Thondup on 6 July 1935 in Taktser, a village in Qinghai Province. He is the ninth child of peasant farmers.

1937 - He is identified as the successor to the 13th Dalai Lama and taken to Kumbum monastery in Qinghai Province.

1939 - He is moved to the holy city of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, where he is formally recognised as the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama. As Dalai Lama he is both the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and the monarch of Tibet, although the latter role will not be formally bestowed until he turns 18.

1940 - In February the young Dalai Lama, along with his brother Lobsang, moves to the secluded monastery of Potala, 200 metres above the valley of Lhasa. Also known as the Potala Palace, the 1,300 year-old monastery is the traditional residence of the Dalai Lamas. It is here that the Dalai Lama's formal education and training begins. While at Potala he is known as Kundun.

1947 - When his brother leaves Potala and returns to their parents, Kundun is separated from his family for the first time. He concentrates on his studies, saying later, "I began to think less of myself, and more of others and became aware of the concept of compassion. It was this sense of spiritual elevation, which was attended on the mental plane by a sense of improved intellect, by better powers of memory, greater proficiency in debate, and increased self-confidence."

While concentrating on his theological studies, he also shows an interest in the outside world.

1949 - The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Tse-Tung takes control of China, including the provinces on the Tibetan Plateau outside the jurisdiction of the Dalai Lama's government.

In August the CCP declares that all of Tibet is part of the newly formed People's Republic and that Chinese forces will enter the autonomous region to liberate it from British and American imperialists.

1950 - On 7 October, China makes good its threat and invades.

Though it is the usual practice for the Dalai Lama to be formally inaugurated as monarch at 18 years of age, Kundun is forced by circumstance to take the throne on 17 November. Aged 15, he is now the head of state, head of government and spiritual leader for all Tibetans.

Later he says, "We had reached a state in which most people were anxious to avoid responsibility rather than to accept it. We were more in need of unity than ever before, and I, as Dalai Lama, was the only person whom everybody in the country would unanimously follow."

At the urging of the Tibetan Government, he travels to southern Tibet so he can easily escape across the border to India if the situation deteriorates. On 4 January 1951 he reaches the Chumbi Valley on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. He will spend the next seven months there.

Speaking 40 years later, the Dalai Lama says that more than one sixth of Tibet's population died as a direct result of the Chinese invasion and occupation.

However, the Chinese invasion will not be all bad for Tibet. The country's antiquated economic system is reformed. Feudal serfdom and bonded indenture are abolished. Land and livestock are distributed among farmers and nomads. The standard of living of the average Tibetan improves.

1951 - With Britain and the United States reluctant to intercede directly, the Dalai Lama sends the governor of Kham to Beijing to open a dialogue with the Chinese. Negotiations begin in April. In May the delegation is forced to sign a 17-point agreement incorporating Tibet into the People's Republic of China. The Dalai Lama returns to Lhasa on 17 August.

"We were helpless," he says later. "Without friends there was nothing else we could do but acquiesce, submit to the Chinese dictates in spite of our strong opposition, we had to swallow our resentment. We could only hope that the Chinese would keep their side of this forced, one-sided bargain."

1954 - He travels to Beijing for discussions with Mao Tse-Tung and other Chinese leaders, including Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. The Chinese push for the creation of a committee to oversee the establishment of Tibet as an autonomous region within the Republic (the Tibet Autonomous Region).

The committee consists of 46 Tibetans and five Chinese. However, it soon becomes apparent that its main purpose is to undermine the Dalai Lama and entrench Chinese control over Tibet.

1955 - At the end of the year, a US-backed armed revolt against the Chinese breaks out in eastern Tibet. The Dalai Lama does not approve of the violence but is uncertain how he should respond.

"I knew the Chinese were trying to undermine my political authority, and in so far as I opposed the people's violent tactics, I was helping the Chinese to destroy the people's trust in me," he says.

"Yet even if the people lost faith in me as their secular leader, they must not lose faith in me as religious leader, which was much more important. Thus I began to think it might be in the best interests of Tibet if I withdrew from all political activities, in order to keep my religious authority unaffected. To withdraw, I would have to leave the country. Bitterly and desperately I hated the idea."

1956 - He is invited to India to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the death of the Buddha. While in the country he holds discussions with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai about the situation in Tibet. In Delhi, the capital of India, he visits the site of Mahatma Gandhi's cremation.

"As I stood there I wondered what wise counsel the Mahatma would have given me if he had been alive," he says. "I felt sure he would have thrown all his strength of will and character into a peaceful campaign for the freedom of the people of Tibet.

"I wished fervently to have had the privilege of meeting him in this world. But, standing there, I felt I had come in close touch with him, and I felt his advice would always be that I should follow the path of peace. I had and still have unshaken faith in the doctrine of nonviolence, which he preached and practiced. Now I made up my mind more firmly to follow his lead whatever difficulties might confront me. I determined more strongly than ever that I could never associate myself with acts of violence."

The Dalai Lama returns to Tibet in April, amid growing unrest.

1959 - In January he completes his Geshe Lharampa degree (doctorate of Buddhist philosophy) after taking preliminary examinations at three monastic universities - Drepung, Sera and Ganden - and a final examination at the Jokhang, Tibet's holiest shrine, in Lhasa. During the final exam 80 Buddhist scholars test him on logic, metaphysics, Buddhist theology and monastic practices. He passes with honours.

In March the unrest in Tibet boils over into the 'Lhasa Uprising'. On 10 March thousands of Tibetans surround the Norbulingka summer palace in Lhasa after rumours spread that the Chinese are plotting to kidnap the Dalai Lama.

On 17 March, as the confrontation turns violent, and with his life and liberty in danger, the Dalai Lama flees Lhasa. Disguised as a Tibetan soldier he makes a perilous journey to the frontier with India, crossing the border on 31 March, eight days after the Chinese have occupied the Potala Palace.

"There was nothing dramatic about the crossing of the frontier," he says. "The country was equally wild on the other side and uninhabited. I saw it in a daze of sickness and weariness and unhappiness deeper than I can express. ...

"There was nothing I could do for my people if I stayed and the Chinese would certainly capture me in the end."

He seeks, and is granted, refuge in India, setting up a base at Dharamsala (also known as 'Little Lhasa') in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India. About 80,000 Tibetan refugees follow him.

From his base at Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama works to publicise the plight of Tibet. Appeals to the United Nations (UN) result in the General Assembly adopting resolutions in 1959, 1961 and 1965 calling on China to respect the human rights of Tibetans.

Over the coming years, the Dalai Lama travels widely around the world to speak to political and religious leaders and their communities about the situation in Tibet and to explain the principles of Tibetan Buddhism. Among the countries he visits are the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Greece, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Vatican, Australia, Taiwan and various states in Europe.

1963 - The Dalai Lama oversees the establishment of a Tibetan government-in-exile at Dharamsala. The government-in-exile adopts a democratic constitution based on Buddhist principles.

1966 - Mao Tse-Tung launches the 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution', a decade-long period of political upheaval during which China's traditional respect for learning and the experience of age is turned on its head. Cultural artefacts are damaged or destroyed, cultural expression is severely curtailed, and religious practices are suppressed.

Tibet fares particularly badly during the Revolution, with many thousands of Tibetans losing their lives and many monasteries being ransacked.

1972 - Détente between the US and China results in the Dalai Lama being blocked from travelling to the US. The US also ceases its earlier support for Tibetan guerillas resisting the Chinese occupation.

1973 - The Dalai Lama meets Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. Meetings with Pope John Paul II take place in 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988, and 2003.

1974 - The Dalai Lama appeals to Tibetan guerillas to lay down their arms.

1979 - The Chinese allow Tibetans to rebuild parts of some monasteries destroyed following the occupation and during the Cultural Revolution. Direct contacts are also established with the Dalai Lama, who is allowed to send representatives on four fact-finding missions.

The embargo preventing the Dalai Lama from visiting the US is lifted.

1981 - The Dalai Lama meets with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other leaders of the Anglican Church.

1983 - In response to the positive developments in relations with China, the Dalai Lama expresses his desire to visit Tibet. Arrangements are made to send a delegation to Tibet in 1984 to begin preparations for a visit by him in 1985. However, the political atmosphere in China changes. The delegation is stopped and the Dalai Lama's visit never eventuates.

Later requests by the Dalai Lama that he be allowed to travel to Tibet are also rejected by the Chinese.

1987 - The Dalai Lama proposes a five-point peace plan as a first step towards resolving the conflict in Tibet. The plan calls for the designation of Tibet as a Zone of Ahimsa (peace zone); an end to Chinese immigration to Tibet; respect for the fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms of the Tibetan people; the protection of Tibet's unique natural environment; and the beginning of negotiations on the future of Tibet and relations between the Tibetan and Chinese people.

Under the "peace zone", the entire Tibetan Plateau would be demilitarised then transformed into the world's largest natural park. The government would concentrate on the active promotion of peace and environmental protection. Organisations dedicated to the furtherance of peace and to the protection of all forms of life would be welcomed.

"It would be a place where people from all over the world could come to seek the true meaning of peace within themselves, away from the tensions and pressures of much of the rest of the world," the Dalai Lama says. "Tibet could indeed become a creative centre for the promotion and development of peace."

Meanwhile, protests erupt in the streets of Lhasa in September and October and again in March 1988. The protests, which for the most part are led by monks, are spurred by Chinese attempts to rein in the growing influence of Tibetan monasteries and by the increasing immigration of Chinese into the country. The protests are violently suppressed by the Chinese administrators, with at least six people dying in 1987 and at least nine more (including policemen) in 1988. Many more are badly injured.

China condemns the protests and defends its occupation of the Tibet Autonomous Region, citing the improvements it has brought to standards of living and the recent opening of the region to foreign correspondents.

1988 - In March the protests spread across the northeastern border of the Tibet Autonomous Region to the neighbouring Chinese province of Qinghai, where a sizeable Tibetan minority lives. This time the Chinese bring in the military to reestablish order. Two men who unfurl the banned Tibetan flag in Lhasa are shot dead on the spot.

On 15 June, while travelling in Europe, the Dalai Lama elaborates on the five-point peace plan and proposes the creation of a fully self-governing, democratic Tibet "in association with the People's Republic of China." In return, Tibet would abandon claims for full independence and accept Chinese control of foreign policy and defence.

This represents "the most realistic means by which to reestablish Tibet's separate identity and restore the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people while accommodating China's own interests," he says.

"Whatever the outcome of the negotiations with the Chinese may be, the Tibetan people themselves must be the ultimate deciding authority."

1989 - Violence flares in Lhasa when Tibetans demonstrate against the Chinese occupation. It is estimated that more than 200 Tibetans are killed. Hundreds of monks and nuns are imprisoned. Thousands of ordinary citizens are detained or arrested and imprisoned, and torture is said to be commonplace. Martial law is declared in Lhasa in March.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his consistent resistance to the use of violence in his people's struggle to regain their liberty."

"The Dalai Lama has come forward with constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems," the Nobel Committee states.

"The committee wants to emphasise the fact that the Dalai Lama in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people."

Presenting the award on 10 December, the chairman of the Nobel Committee says, "It would be difficult to cite any historical example of a minority's struggle to secure its rights, in which a more conciliatory attitude to the adversary has been adopted than in the case of the Dalai Lama. It would be natural to compare him with Mahatma Gandhi, one of this century's greatest protagonists of peace, and the Dalai Lama likes to consider himself one of Gandhi's successors.

"For perfectly understandable reasons the policy of nonviolence is often regarded as something negative, as a failure to formulate a well-considered strategy, as a lack of initiative and a tendency to evade the issue and adopt a passive attitude. But this is not so: the policy of nonviolence is to a very high degree a well thought-out combat strategy. It demands singleminded and purposeful action, but one that eschews the use of force. Those who adopt this strategy are by no means shirking the issue: they manifest a moral courage which, when all is said and done, exceeds that of men who resort to arms. It is courage of this kind, together with an incredible measure of self-discipline, that has characterised the attitude of the Dalai Lama."

Full copy of the presentation speech.

Speaking at the presentation ceremony, the Dalai Lama says, "I accept the prize with profound gratitude on behalf of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace. I accept it as a tribute to the man who founded the modern tradition of nonviolent action for change - Mahatma Gandhi - whose life taught and inspired me. And, of course, I accept it on behalf of the six million Tibetan people, my brave countrymen and women inside Tibet, who have suffered and continue to suffer so much. ...

"The prize reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated. ... Because violence can only breed more violence and suffering, our struggle must remain nonviolent and free of hatred."

Full copy of acceptance speech.

On 11 December the Dalai Lama delivers his Nobel Lecture.

"Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature," he says.

"That is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent on each other in so many ways, that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside those communities, and we must share the good fortune that we enjoy. ...

"The realisation that we are all basically the same human beings, who seek happiness and try to avoid suffering, is very helpful in developing a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood; a warm feeling of love and compassion for others. This, in turn, is essential if we are to survive in this ever shrinking world we live in. For if we each selfishly pursue only what we believe to be in our own interest, without caring about the needs of others, we not only may end up harming others but also ourselves."

Full copy of the lecture.

1990 - Czechoslovakia's newly installed president, Vaclav Havel, invites the Dalai Lama to his country for an official state visit. It is the first time a head of state has extended such a invitation to the Dalai Lama.

1993 - The Chinese suspend official dialogue with the Dalai Lama and begin a new crackdown in Tibet.

1994 - Restrictions are placed on Tibet's religious and cultural practices. Tibetans are required to denounce the Dalai Lama. Pictures and images of the Dalai Lama are banned. Students and government employees are forbidden from possessing religious possessions or participating in religious ceremonies. The construction of new monasteries is banned. Entry into the Buddhist priesthood is restricted.

1996 - On the order of the Chinese, all images of the Dalai Lama are removed from temples and public sites in Tibet.

2002 - Following a policy review, the Chinese Government appears prepared to soften its stance on Tibet. Six high-profile Tibetan political prisoners are released and the Dalai Lama's elder brother, Gyalo Thundup, is allowed to make a private visit to Tibet in July and to meet with officials there.

In September, two envoys from the Dalai Lama are also allowed to travel to China and Tibet, becoming the first delegation to visit the region since 1985 and signalling a reopening of official contact between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government. However, the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region claims that the envoys' visit is a personal one to "meet some relatives and pay some homage to the monasteries of Tibet."

On his return to Dharamsala, the senior envoy, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, says he hopes the 16-day visit will open "a new chapter in our relationship (with Beijing)." He says that talks held with Chinese officials in Beijing and Lhasa during the visit were frank and cordial.

2003 - The Dalai Lama's envoys make a return visit to China at the end of May, resuming the negotiations begun on their first trip.

At the end of August, the Tibet Autonomous Region's new governor, Jampa Phuntsog, says that the Dalai Lama can only return to Tibet if he stops political activity and becomes a Chinese citizen.

A commentary published on 1 September in the 'People's Daily', the Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, states that "the Dalai Lama is by no means a purely religious person. He has proven to be a political plotter scheming to separate the Tibet Autonomous Region from China."

The Dalai Lama says he is willing to return to Tibet as long as China does not insist on any "complicated preconditions."

On 13 October the Dalai Lama proposes the formation of a group of nonaligned, world figures to help resolve conflicts and prevent wars.

"If we created a group of thinkers and spiritual people who are respected around the world but don't represent a country, a continent or economic interests, I think we could be listened to," he says.

"We would be representatives of humanity and I have the profound conviction that if we went into conflict zones, we could do something."

2004 - Talks between the Dalai Lama's senior envoy, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, and Chinese authorities resume in China in September.

In October the Dalai Lama tells 'Time' magazine that he is not expecting "some major breakthrough."

"The Tibetan issue is very complicated, and China is oversuspicious and very cautious. It will take time. However, meeting face to face is very, very important," he says.

"Some Tibetans accuse me of selling out their right to independence," he says when questioned about criticism of his proposal for limited autonomy.

"But my approach is in our interest. Tibet is backward. It's a big land, rich in natural resources, but we lack the technology or expertise (to exploit them). So if we remain within China, we might get a greater benefit, provided it respects our culture and environment and gives us some kind of guarantee."

2005 - On 10 March, the 46th anniversary of the Lhasa Uprising, the Dalai Lama restates his position on Tibet's relationship with China.

"I once again want to reassure the Chinese authorities that as long as I am responsible for the affairs of Tibet we remain fully committed to the Middle Way Approach of not seeking independence for Tibet and are willing to remain within the People's Republic of China," he says.

Four days later he is quoted as saying, "This is the message I wish to deliver to China. I am not in favour of separation. Tibet is a part of the People's Republic of China. It is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. Tibetan culture and Buddhism are part of Chinese culture. Many young Chinese like Tibetan culture as a tradition of China. ...

"So, for our own interest, we are willing to be part of the People's Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality and our environment."

Meanwhile, a fourth round of talks between the Dalai Lama's envoys and Chinese authorities takes place, this time in Switzerland.

2006 - On 15 February the Dalai Lama's envoy Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari returns to China for a fifth round of talks. After 10 days Gyari reports that "this round of discussion ... made it clear that there is a major difference even in the approach in addressing the issue."

"However, we remain committed to the dialogue process and are hopeful that progress will be possible by continuing the engagement. ...

"There is a better and deeper understanding of each other's position and the fundamental differences that continue to exist in the positions held by the two parties."

The Dalai Lama says, "In the fifth round of talks ... the two sides were able to clearly identify the areas of major differences."

In March the Dalai Lama announces that he has asked the Chinese to allow him to make a pilgrimage to a Buddhist site in mainland China. Soon after the Governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region publicly acknowledges the talks between the Dalai Lama's envoys and China, saying "we will have further discussions in the future."

On 5 July the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Champa Phuntsok, says that the talks have made no substantial progress.

"So far we have only seen the changes in tactics of the Dalai Lama and the goal is to achieve the independence of Tibet in disguise," Phuntsok says. "Still the channel between the Dalai Lama and the central government remains unimpeded," he adds.

The comments mark an apparent hardening in China's position on Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile, Canada bestows honorary citizenship upon the Dalai Lama.

At the end of the year the Dalai Lama says that it is in Tibet's interest to be a part of the People's Republic of China "provided they give us meaningful autonomy."

However, the modernisation that could come with Chinese economic development needed to be balanced with respect for Tibet's religious traditions and language.

"Intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place in Tibet," the Dalai Lama says.

The Dalai Lama reiterates that "we are fully committed for dialogue with China in spite of Chinese government's criticism and repression toward us."

2007 - In September the Chinese government announces that all future appointments of senior lamas must get government approval. The Dalai Lama counters that his successor might be chosen during his lifetime, either by him or through a vote among senior lamas. The Dalai Lama also suggests that his successor could be a woman.

On 17 October the US presents the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony held in Washington and attended by US President George W. Bush. The medal is the US's highest civilian honour.

The presentation of the award delights Tibetans but infuriates the Chinese. Celebrations in Tibet to mark the occasion are suppressed by the Chinese security forces.

2008 - On 10 March, the 49th anniversary of the Lhasa Uprising and just five months before the opening of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, protests against the Chinese occupation break out in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The protests, which are led by Buddhist monks, are the biggest and most sustained to be staged in the Tibet Autonomous Region since 1989. They spread throughout the region and east into the neighbouring Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan.

After four days the protests, and the ensuing government crackdown, become violent. The Chinese Government admits that 18 are killed. The Tibetan government-in-exile claims that at least 209 die. Over 1,300 are arrested.

In Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama says, "Repression (in Tibet) continues to increase, with numerous unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and politicisation of religious issues. ...

"Despite these unfortunate developments, my stand and determination to pursue the middle way policy remain unchanged. "

The Chinese authorities accuse the Dalai Lama of fomenting the protests. "This was carefully planned by the Dalai clique in a bid to separate Tibet and sabotage Tibetan people's normal life of stability and harmony," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang says.

"These protests are a manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people under the present governance," the Dalai Lama replies. "I therefore appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue."

Talks between the Dalai Lama's envoys and representatives of the Chinese Government take place in Shenzhen in southern China on 4 May.

"There were large differences over both the cause and the nature of the recent unrest in Tibet," the Dalai Lama later reports.

"Now the time has come for the Chinese government to conduct a thorough realistic review. They have poured in billions. But they have failed to bring satisfaction to Tibetan life. They have to find out what's wrong."

Further talks are held on 1 and 2 July.

Meanwhile, on 14 July, 'The Australian' newspaper reports that "internal Communist Party documents have revealed China is planning a program of political repression in Tibet."

The paper quotes speeches by Zhang Qingli, the party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, to Communist Party members.

"So you, the leaders of work units, must guard your gates and manage your people well," Zhang is quoted as saying.

"Let leaders of street committees be vigilant and keep watch on all outsiders.

"Propaganda and education are our party's greatest advantages. These are the most useful weapons with which to defend ourselves against the Dalai Lama group. So let the propaganda department work more actively to expose its plots. ...

"Each department should make full use of those religious people who love the motherland and love religion, in order to make the administrative committees work with vigour. ...

"We must clean out the monasteries and strengthen the administrative committees. After that we will absolutely control them."

The Australian report also states that, according to a restricted Chinese publication, 242 soldiers were killed or wounded during the March uprising and 120 homes and 908 businesses were destroyed.

On 16 July the Chinese Government scotches hope of a breakthrough in the negotiations with the Dalai Lama, saying the political position of the two sides was "totally contrary."

"The central government will never discuss the future of Tibet with the Dalai Lama," Dong Yunhu, the director-general of the information office of the State Council, says.

"What we can discuss with him is his future and that of some of his supporters. ...

"Independence, semi-independence or independence in disguise are totally out of the question."

On 25 October the Dalai Lama announces that he has "given up" on trying to reach any agreement with China.

"I have been sincerely pursuing the middle way approach in dealing with China for a long time now but there hasn't been any positive response from the Chinese side," he says. "As far as I'm concerned I have given up."

"The issue of Tibet is not the issue of the Dalai Lama alone. It is the issue of six million Tibetans. I have asked the Tibetan government-in-exile, as a true democracy in exile, to decide in consultation with the Tibetan people the future course of action."

The meeting of 581 Tibetans is held in Dharamsala from November 17-22. Participants recommend the continuation of the Dalai Lama's "middle way" approach to China.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama's envoys return to Beijing for another round of talks with Chinese officials.

2009 - On 10 March, the 50th anniversary of the Lhasa Uprising, the Dalai Lama hardens his criticism of the Chinese intervention in Tibet.

"Having occupied Tibet, the Chinese Communist government carried out a series of repressive and violent campaigns that have included 'democratic reform', class struggle, communes, the Cultural Revolution, the imposition of martial law, and more recently the patriotic reeducation and the strike hard campaigns," the Dalai Lama says.

"These thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth. The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. ...

"Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them. Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction. ...

The Dalai Lama reiterates his position that "Tibetans are looking for legitimate and meaningful autonomy ... within the framework of the People's Republic of China."

"I am disappointed," he says, "that the Chinese authorities have not responded appropriately to our sincere efforts to implement the principle of meaningful national regional autonomy for all Tibetans, as set forth in the constitution of the People's Republic of China."

2010 - On 8 August the Dalai Lama tells the US ambassador to India that the US should engage China on climate change in Tibet.

According to a confidential report of the meeting that is later obtained and released by the Wikileaks website, "The Dalai Lama argued that the political agenda should be sidelined for five to 10 years and the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau. Melting glaciers, deforestation, and increasingly polluted water from mining projects were problems that 'cannot wait.'

"The Dalai Lama criticised China's energy policy, alleging that dam construction in Kham and Amdo have displaced thousands of Tibetans and left temples and monasteries underwater. He recommended the PRC (People's Republic of China) compensate Tibetans for disrupting their nomadic lifestyle with vocational training, such as weaving."

2011 - On 10 March the Dalai Lama announces that he is stepping down as leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

"As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect," the Dalai Lama says.

"My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run."

The Dalai Lama's political retirement formally takes effect in May. He retains his spiritual role. Political authority now rests with the elected prime minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

On 16 July, during a tour of the US, the Dalai Lama meets with President Barack Obama. It is their second meeting since Obama became president in 2009. The Chinese Government strongly objects to the meeting.

2012 - At the end of March it is announced that the Dalai Lama has won the 2012 Templeton Prize. The prize "honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works." It is one of the world's leading religious awards and comes with a US$1.7 million endowment.

The Dalai Lama donates the bulk of the prize money (US$1.5 million) to the Save the Children in India charity. The remainder is given to the Mind and Life institute and to a fund supporting Tibetan monks taking science degrees.

Meanwhile, the two envoys who had represented the Dalai Lama in talks with Chinese officials since 2002 resign at the start of June, citing a lack of "substantive dialogue."

2015 - China hardens its stance on negotiations with the Dalai Lama. A white paper issued by the State Council Information Office in April states that the "Tibet issue" and "a high degree of autonomy" are "not up for discussion."

"Any negotiations will be limited to seeking solutions for the Dalai Lama to completely abandon separatist claims and activities and gain the forgiveness of the central government and the Chinese people, and to working out what he will do with the rest of his life," the report says.

"Only when he makes a public statement acknowledging that Tibet has been an integral part of China since antiquity, and abandons his stance on independence and his attempts to divide China, can he improve his relationship with the central government in any meaningful sense," it says.

"The central government hopes the Dalai Lama will put aside his illusions in his remaining years and face up to reality."

In May the Dalai Lama urges fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to advocate for the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma. The Rohingya are descended from immigrants from Bangladesh but despite having lived in Burma for centuries are denied citizenship and other basic rights. Since 2012 they have been subjected to sustained and violent anti-Muslim attacks by the country's Buddhist majority, causing many to seek refuge in impoverished camps or flee Burma completely.

"I met her two times, first in London and then the Czech Republic. I mentioned this problem and she told me she found some difficulties, that things were not simple but very complicated. But in spite of that I feel she can do something," the Dalai Lama says.

Comment

Like many other true heroes, the Dalai Lama has attained his standing because of events beyond his control and with which, in an ideal world, he would rather not have to deal. The Dalai Lama often describes himself as just a simple monk from Tibet, and one can sense his yearning for a simpler, more contemplative life.

"Mahatma Gandhi I admire," he says. "Before India won her independence he was the leading figure, but afterwards he chose to remain outside the government. In the future my personal wish is to relinquish if possible, my political responsibilities, and in some remote pleasant place, practice yoga and meditation and study the teaching of Lord Buddha."