Pope and the Dalai Lama


The Pope and the Dalai Lama

There are many religions that exist in the world. The meaning of religion varies for people with different cultures or beliefs. One view of religion is “Religion plays a fundamental role in bestowing meaning and significance… [It] marks off what is special and true, provides order and structure, and sets forth the projects and goals for humanity” (Herling). In order for the followers to have goals, there must be a leader. Tibetan has Dalai Lama and the Catholic has the pope. Those two are known as the leaders of their religion. The followers will listen to their teachings and try to follow those teachings. In general, the Pope and the Dalai Lama are leaders, but their positions in the society are different.

The Catholic Church was found about 2000 years ago by Jesus. According to the Bible, Jesus of Nazareth said to Simon son of Jonah, “… you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” By saying so, Jesus gave Simon the power to lead the Catholic Church. We called that position with the title “Pope.” In virtue of his position as successor of St. Peter, the Pope is the Bishop of Rome (Modesto). In other words, he is the chief pastor of the whole Church and the Vicar of Christ upon earth. According to the Bible, Jesus also told Peter, “…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Bible).” That means St. Peter will have the overall power compared to the other eleven disciples. Jesus did not mean that Peter will be the ultimate ruler in both spiritual and natural ways. Peter only has the power on the spiritual part. St. Peter or the First Pope can decide which behaviors are allowed and which are not. The reputation of the Church will be ruined if there are no rules. The rules should be just and understandable. Also, the Pope must gives out rules that do not violate the laws in the society.

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In Catholicism, the Pope is like the king. This was true in Europe during the Crusader time. The Pope was known as the high authority that allowed the military to go into battle. The battles were between the Christians and the Muslims (Dafoe). The Pope that started the war was named Urban. Nowadays, the Pope is viewed in a different way which no sword are related. His position is to maintain the teachings by preaching to encourage the authorities to care for the citizens. “In virtue of his [Pope] office as supreme teacher and ruler of the faithful, the chief control of every department of the Church's life belongs to the Pope” (Modesto). This implies that all the materials and teachings must be approved and authorized by the pope. All the mass ceremonies must follow the order that the Church has specified. If there are any doubts about the teachings, the priests must consult the bishop of the region. The bishop must not settle the issue on his own judgment, but must get the resource from Rome (Modesto). The Pope wanted to secure any incident that could damage the reputation of the church. If the bishop answers incorrectly, the teachings will not be consistent and the people will have doubts about the Church. Thus, it will cause the confusion among the Catholic people. In an interview with one Christian friend, he said, “The Pope is not the holiest man on earth (Nguyen)”. The Pope is just a normal human representing Jesus to manage the Catholic Church. So, the Pope has the ultimate power over the priests, pastors, bishops, and archbishops.

On the social life, the Pope has no power toward the authorities. The Pope is just acting as an advisor (Nguyen). The Pope is mostly focusing on the moral issues of life. The U.S president Obama talked with Pope Benedict XIV about the abortion issue during the campaign. Abortion is to take out the premature products such as the fetus, fetal membranes, and placenta from the uterus (Medicinenet.com). The discussion raised awareness for the issue globally. The discussion between two leaders was a closed-door meeting. Not only the abortion was discussed, but also the other hot issues: economic crisis, food security, drug trafficking, and youth education (Christian Century). The president Obama showed respect to the Pope and the Catholic Church regarding the abortion issue by saying that he committed to reduce the number of abortions (Christian Century). The Pope obviously cannot interfere into country's issues. The Pope can only guide the leader of the struggling country to do the right thing. The Pope has two roles. One is to lead the Catholic Church, and one is to give advice to the leaders of those countries in need of help.

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In Buddhism, the spiritual leader is called the Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama is the 14th Dalai Lama. His name is Tenzin Gyatso (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet). Before 1959, the Dalai Lama was the highest position of authority in Tibet. He has control over the country as well as the spiritual facet. In other words, Dalai Lama has the absolute power. This show that the Dalai Lama back in the day and even now is a highly respected figure. Before the year 1959, Dalai Lama has his own palace to live. That was the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet (BBC.com). However, the Chinese government took controlled over Tibet in 1959, causing Dalai Lama to lose his power (He and Barry). Unlike the position of the pope, Dalai Lama is not a position that is elected. The title “Dalai Lama” was to give only to one person. That chosen one is believed to be the reincarnation of the past lama (Sweet). This process is to let the previous one to continue his works. Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva (Nguyen). The Bodhisattva is the Buddhist term referring to those who refused to enter nirvana in order to save others (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). This represents the belief of a born-again cycle. If one is doing good things, his or her after life will be good. Buddhists believe the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of Bodhisattva therefore deserves the highest position in Tibet. The one that continue to be reborn is named tulku (BBC.com).

There are only 14 Dalai Lama in the history comparing to the Catholic Church which has more than 200 popes. The title Dalai Lama means “Ocean of Wisdom (Buzzle.com).” The meaning came to be during the third Dalai Lama (BBC.com). The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is usually limited within the country Tibet. However, the third Dalai Lama was born in Mongol. Dalai means “Ocean” in Mongolian; and Lama means “spiritual teacher” in Tibetan (Daley). When combine them together, we will have the word “Ocean of Wisdom.” It is believed that the Dalai Lama has vast knowledge, which has been cultivated through many lifecycles.

The successor of the Dalai Lama will not be selected but to be born. The Dalai Lama will leave clues or hints to the High Lamas of the Gelugpa Tradition and the Tibetan government to find the next Dalai Lama (BBC.com). The high lamas are just like the high priests in Buddhism. The clues are usually dreams, smoke, or from the oracle lake.

* One of the High Lamas may dream about the mark to identify the boy

* The smoke indicates the direction of where to find the next Dalai Lama. It's only use when the previous Dalai Lama cremated.

* The Oracle Lake is used to give the sign for vision or direction to find the chosen one. (BBC.com)

The search usually takes many years to find out the location of the next Dalai Lama. When found, the next Dalai Lama is usually just a boy. He will be asked many questions about his previous life. The question might ask the boy to describe the books he used or an object in his previous life (Buzzle.com). If the boy is confirmed as the new Dalai Lama, he will be brought back to Lhasa. That time the country will celebrate the new Dalai Lama (Buzzle.com). The people will praise the new Dalai Lama as their new leader. It is just like the new king was born.

Different from the pope, the Dalai Lama does not make new rules or laws for the followers. In the beginning, the only rule is to live happily and nicely among others. In Buddhism, people believe that they will die and will be reborn again. However, the outcome of the next life reflects on how one behaved in his or her current life (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet). As mentioned above, the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is to finish his works. The 14th Dalai Lama himself is fighting for the independence of Tibet (Dreifus). Tibet lost control to the China government in 1959. Since then, the people were restricted on the practicing of culture, language, and religion (Dreifus). Dalai Lama himself received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for many works he has done (Dreifus). He helped to make peace in other countries and help solve other countries' issues. Now he wanted to do something for his country. He expressed his anger towards the Chinese authority deliberate intention to annihilate Buddhism (He and Barry). They are still fighting for the freedom of Tibet.

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Overall, the Pope and the Dalai Lama have some similarities as well as differences. They are both rank the highest in their religion. They try to solve problem with no violence. Both give advice to the authorities. That gives them the power to lead those who believe. However, the power of the Pope is limited to the spiritual life. The Pope cannot directly control government's issues. His discussion with President Obama on the issue of abortion is an example of how he can help without having control. He consulted with the high authority of the government to find the best way dealing with the issue. In contrast, the Dalai Lama can get directly involve in political issues (Guardian.co.ul). He steps beyond his role as a spiritual leader of Tibet to fight for its independence from China. Another difference between the Pope and the Dalai Lama is the selection process. The new Pope is elected among several candidates, whose age is usually above 50. On the other hand, the new Dalai Lama has to be searched for and determined as the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama by the High Lamas. Therefore, the age of the new Dalai Lama is normally four or five years old (Buzzle.com). One becomes a leader at an old age while the other starts young. The differences in authority and selection process are not as important as their work. They are both trying to gain better life for the followers. They asked for freedom of religion and the human rights to apply to everyone.

The Pope and the Dalai Lama are the two famous spiritual leaders of the Catholic and Buddhism. Even though their beliefs are different from each other, their works are not. They are trying their best to guide their followers to a better life. The Pope and the Dalai Lama wanted to have peace without using violent; to solve problems without argument; to create the relationship between government and the citizens. The people can only live in happiness if they care for each others. Catholic and Buddhism both teach the same lesson: love one another. If their goal is the same, then the differences do not matter.