Dude, Where's My Country?

Back in the day, encountering the Dalai Lama might have involved a long climb up a Himalayan peak with the help of a couple of sherpas. Now, it simply requires clicking on the Ticketmaster website. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso never wanted to be an internationally touring, cross-marketing sensation with rock-star appeal. "I am just a simple monk," he is fond of saying. "I do nothing." His nothing involves rising at 4 a.m. for meditation, palling around with the Beastie Boys, jet-setting to visit the pope, collecting honorary degrees, and writing bestselling books.

Of course, he did not ask for all this. He was just a 2-year-old peasant living in the countryside when a group of Tibetan leaders came a-looking for the successor to the 13th Dalai Lama. One of these men had had a vision of a monastery with roofs of jade and gold and a house with turquoise tiles; little Lhamo Dhondrub's pad fit the bill. Another member of the search party was wearing a rosary that had belonged to Lama number 13. The little boy recognized it and demanded that it be given to him. Another of the leaders asked the child to guess all their names. He did. With that, he was declared the latest incarnation of Buddha.

The toddler was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso -- in other words, Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom. He was scooped up and sent off to school, where he would have been content -- until the Chinese charged into Tibet and kicked him to the Himalayan curb. Apparently, having one-quarter of the Earth's population wasn't enough -- the commies also wanted to "re-educate" the Tibetans, use their natural resources, and build nuclear power plants on their land. In 1950, 80,000 Chinese soldiers invaded Tibet, and the Dalai Lama, then 16 years old, was summoned to become head of state and defend his people. He tried -- nonviolently and, alas, unsuccessfully. In March 1959, a massive demonstration against the Chinese occupation took place in Lhasa; it was brutally crushed by the Chinese army. His holiness escaped into exile in India -- and some 80,000 Tibetan refugees followed.

In the 45 years since then, the DL has been scheming how to get his country back and, while he's at it, create world peace. But not everyone takes him seriously. The Chinese government refuses to recognize his authority; presidents Clinton and Bush were careful to meet with him at home rather than in official offices; Elton John called him a "fucking asshole" for failing to condemn the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks. Through it all, the Dalai Lama always smiles and calls for peace, compassion, and happiness -- in his books, during his lectures, on his DVDs, with his punk albums, or with his remote-control action figures. -- Deirdra Funcheon The Dalai Lama speaks at 3 p.m. Sunday, September 19, at the Office Depot Center (2555 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise). Tickets cost $15 to $96.50. Call 954-523-3309, or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

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