Although he describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama has been called one of the world's most influential people. Followers believe he is the manifestation of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, the enlightened Buddha of compassion. He has been living in exile since 1959, but he travels the world with a message of tolerance and peace and is arguably the most visible symbol of Tibet's struggle for autonomy.
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The Dalai Lama is seen here as a child. He was born Lhamo Dhondrub on July 6, 1935, in the small village of Taktser in northeastern Tibet.
His parents were peasant farmers, pictured here with two of their other sons. In 1938, the future Dalai Lama was taken to the Kumbum monastery after he was found by a delegation of monks and correctly identified several objects that belonged to the previous Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama's enthronement ceremony took place on February 22, 1940, in Lhasa, Tibet. He was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom).
Chinese troops march over the highlands after their invasion of Tibet in 1950. At age 15, the Dalai Lama assumed full political power ahead of schedule. His investiture was moved up from his 18th birthday as a result of China's invasion.
The Dalai Lama shakes hands with Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong in 1954. Up until 1959, the Dalai Lama participated in unsuccessful peace talks with Chinese officials in Beijing.
Tibetans gather during an armed uprising against Chinese rule on March 10, 1959, in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
Fearing for his life, the Dalai Lama (sixth from left) flees Tibet in March 1959 and heads across the Himalayas to India disguised as a soldier. The Dalai Lama has long denied China's assertion that he's seeking Tibetan independence. He says he wants only enough autonomy to protect its traditional Buddhist culture. Beijing rejects accusations of oppression, saying that under its rule, living standards have greatly improved for the Tibetan people. It makes centuries-old historical claims on the region.
The spiritual leader has been living in India since his arrival in 1959.
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Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visits the Dalai Lama in 1959 at the Birla House in Mussoorie, India. In 1960, the Dalai Lama moved to Dharamsala, where he established the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile.
The Dalai Lama officiates at a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony circa 1960 in Bodh Gaya, India, the site where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment.
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In 1973, the Dalai Lama meets with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican, the first-ever meeting of a pope and a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. In 1977, the Chinese government makes the Dalai Lama a conditional offer, the opportunity to return to Tibet after acceptance of Chinese rule over Tibet. The offer is rejected.
TV talk show host Tom Snyder shares a joke with the Dalai Lama in 1979 during a taping of NBC's "Tomorrow." The Dalai Lama was in New York during a 49-day tour of the United States.
The Dalai Lama arrives at Heathrow Airport in London in 1981.
In 1986, Pope John Paul II prays with representatives of 12 world religions, including the Dalai Lama. The World Day of Prayer for Peace was held at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs in Assisi, Italy.
Egil Aarvik, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, presents the Dalai Lama with the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to the nonviolent liberation of Tibet.
In 1996, the Dalai Lama meets with Nelson Mandela, the prisoner-turned president who reconciled South Africa after the end of apartheid.
US President Bill Clinton meets with the Dalai Lama at the White House in 1998. The Dalai Lama requested assistance in opening official negotiations with China regarding the future of Tibet.
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A crowd gathers at New York's Central Park to listen to the Dalai Lama speak in 1999. In 2002, he speaks out against China, stating that China should embrace democracy if the country is to be a major world power in the coming years. He also criticizes the United States-led war on terrorism, saying that the use of force to override terrorists overlooks the underlying problems that lead to terrorism.
The Dalai Lama speaks with journalists at his hotel in London in 2008. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with him and pledged Britain's full support of reconciliation between Tibet and China.
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The Dalai Lama leaves the French senate in Paris after a meeting with lawmakers at the height of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Tibet-related protests disrupted several stages of the worldwide Olympic torch relay in the run-up to the Games.
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The Dalai Lama blesses gifts during a ceremony in September 2009 to comfort victims of Typhoon Morakot in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
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United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi awards the inaugural Lantos Human Rights Prize to the Dalai Lama in October 2009, honoring his commitment to ending global injustices.
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The Dalai Lama leads a prayer session marking the beginning of the Tibetan New Year in Dharmsala, India, on February 14, 2010.
A man takes a picture of the Dalai Lama upon his arrival at the airport in Blagnac, France, on August 12, 2011. That same year, the leader approves amendments to the exiled constitution, formally removing his political and administrative responsibilities.
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The Dalai Lama embraces John Templeton after receiving the Templeton Prize during a ceremony at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on May 14, 2012. The award honors "outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality."
A Tibetan man in Katmandu, Nepal, carries a portrait of the Dalai Lama on April 25, 2012, during an event marking the 23rd birthday of Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the second-highest Tibetan religious leader.
Dave Matthews greets the Dalai Lama on stage at the One World Concert at Syracuse University in New York on October 9, 2012.
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