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Origin of the title of 'Dalai Lama' and its related backgrounder
2012-06-27 02:01


In the Ming dynasty, Tsongkapa's success in the reformation enabled the Gelug to become the largest sect in Tibetan Buddhism. "Gelug" means that Buddhism believers should do good things and never do evil things. It is also called Huangjiao (the Yellow Sect) by the Han people because its followers always wear yellow hats.

The title of "Dalai" first came from the third Dalai Lama Soinam Gyamco. "Gyamco" means the Sea in the Tibetan language, which is contained in the name of Dalai Lama of later generations.

In 1577, the 38th year of the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming dynasty, Soinam Gyamco, Tsongkapa's third-generation disciple, came to Qinghai, by traveling thousands of miles from Tibet, to publicize the doctrine of the Gelug Sect. At that time, Mongolian noble Althan Khan, who ruled Qinghai, was a Buddhist who believed in Tibetan Buddhism the most. Hearing that Soinam Gyamco had arrived, he extended a rousing welcome to the dignitary and conferred him the title of "the Overseer of the Buddhist Faith Vajra-dhara Dalai Lama" to express appreciation of his wisdom and talents.

The title has multi-ethnic language characteristics. "The Overseer of the Buddhist Faith" is the Han language. "Vajra-dhara" in Sanskrit means the ultimate Primordial Buddha, or Adi Buddha, according to the cosmology of Tibetan Buddhism. "Dalai" in the Mongolian language means the sea, and "Lama" in Tibetan means Living Buddha. All the best words in multi-ethnic languages had been granted to Soinam Gyamco.

Thanks to the support of the mighty Mongolian Khan, the newly-established Gelug Sect was able to stand firm in Tibet. Then the titles of "the first and the second Dalai Lama" were given to the former generations.

In 1653, the 10th year of the reign of the Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing dynasty, the 5th Dalai Lama, who had reached Beijing in the previous year, was granted an honorific title plus a golden certificate of appointment and a golden seal of authority by the Qing imperial court. For the first time the Dalai Lama had the administrative power as authorized by the central government. As a result, the Dalai Lama became a principal leader of theocracy in Tibet, which integrated administrative and religious powers.

Having been imperially acknowledged and granted the authority over Tibet since then, almost all the Dalai Lamas of later generations, except for the 14th Dalai Lama, were patriotic, loyal to the central government of China, and devoted to safeguarding the national unity. What people could not understand is that now that every Dalai Lama was the reincarnation of the late Living Buddha, why the patriotic quality wasn't passed to the 14th?

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