Who is the Dalai Lama and should I listen to his teachings if I am Catholic?

Who is the Dalai Lama and should I listen to his teachings if I am Catholic?

The Dalai Lama is the temporal and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, a successive line of teachers have held this title since 1391, each believed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama.

The present Dalai Lama is the 14th person to hold this title. He was born in 1935, shortly after the death of his predecessor, and was recognized as the Dalai Lama in 1937. Since 1959 after the Chinese takeover of Tibet he has lived in exile in India. He has achieved widespread international acclaim for his nonviolent struggle for the liberation of Tibet, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Part of his international stature comes from the popularity of his teachings. The Dalai Lama professes three main commitments, first to the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness and tolerance; next to the promotion of religious harmony among major religious traditions; and finally to the struggle of the Tibetan people. He has received countless honors and met with many world leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI.

As a Catholic, you should remember our source for teaching is the magisterium of the Church – the bishops, in communion with the pope, who are the teaching authority of the Church. We look to them for teaching on matters of faith, and we trust in the Tradition that the Church has handed down to us through the centuries. Your responsibility as a Catholic is first to learn and understand what the Church teaches. You can’t turn to the Dalai Lama for this kind of teaching; he can’t be considered a source of catechesis, nor would he claim to be one. But he can offer a great deal of wisdom and insight and a powerful lived example of the human values he promotes, If you first understand and affirm the Catholic teaching in those areas, the Dalai Lama’s insight might help you to deepen your own living out of those values in a Catholic Christian way.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.