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Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has had a life unlike any other. Since fleeing from his homeland in 1950, crossing on foot the snowy Himalayas from China to India, he has become one of the world’s most recognized faces—and one of its most celebrated spiritual leaders. 

Awarded the 2012 Templeton Prize for his powerful advocacy of religious engagement with science, he has used his fame to serve as a global voice for universal ethics, nonviolence, and harmony among world religions.

Born in 1935 in northeastern Tibet, he was recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama at the age of two. His education, under strict monastic guidance, was focused on Buddhist philosophy.

In 1950, China’s invasion of Tibet led to a tumultuous period for the Dalai Lama. His efforts to maintain Tibet’s autonomy eventually culminated in his escape to India in 1959, where he has resided in exile ever since. 

While leading his community from afar, the Dalai Lama has brought into prominence the complex and compelling connections between the investigative traditions of science and the ideas of Tibetan Buddhism. 

For decades, he has encouraged the scientific world to undertake research-based reviews of the power of compassion and its potential to address the world’s fundamental problems. 

He has at the same time led Buddhist devotees to learn from the findings of contemporary science, to enrich and inform their religious perspectives. 

Upon learning of his Templeton Prize award, the Dalai Lama responded to the prize in the humble style that has become his signature.

 “When I heard today your decision to give me this quite famous award, I really felt this is another sign of recognition about my little service to humanity, mainly nonviolence and unity around different religious traditions,” he said.

Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation and son of its founder praised the Dalai Lama for offering a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centers on every single human being.”

He received the award at a bustling ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. 

“With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world’s problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer,”

—Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr.

“Religion, all major religious traditions talk of forgiveness on the basis of practice of love, compassion,”

—The Dalai Lama