I met my lover by chance,
You, the barmaid, married us;
If any bad karma results,
I ask you to take care of it.
I first learned about the 6th Dalai Lama at a café in Lhasa while I enjoyed a Lhasa Beer. To be honest, I preferred the name Lhasa Beer and the label with an image of the Potala Palace to the beer itself and I told the waitress so. The waitress then told me that there was a long history of alcohol in Tibet and that the 6th Dalai Lama loved to drink. I thought she was joking.
Tsangyang Gyatso, 6th Dalai Lama, was born in the late 1600s. Like the Dalai Lamas before and after him, he is thought to be an emanation of Avalokitsvara or Chenrezig. Unlike the Dalai Lamas before and after him, his birth was kept hidden for many years.
This happened because of the 5th Dalai Lama’s influence over the politics of the time: when he died, the Regent was worried that the news would create political upheaval, so he kept the 5th Dalai Lama’s death a secret until the 6th Dalai Lama was old enough to assume power.
When young, we form our habits,
As a youth, I grew fond of beer.
When I die, dry out my bones,
And grind them up for yeast to brew more beer.
What no one foresaw was that the 6th Dalai Lama would not be all that interested in his duties as a monastic and political leader—he was more interested in women, beer and living life.
He also didn’t care much what people thought of him—a true rogue yogi.
Where my lover comes from or where she stays
Is my business and no one else’s.
People may point their fingers at us,
But I don’t need approval for what I do.
In 1705, the Manchus and some Mongolian allies invaded Lhasa and overthrew the 6th Dalai Lama. They did so under the pretext that he was a lush and womanizer, but their real aim was for more political power.
They installed another Dalai Lama in his place, but the Tibetan people didn’t recognize the new fellow. They preferred their all-too-human 6th Dalai Lama and I don’t blame them. I find it a lot easier to identify with humans than well-edited semi-gods.
The 6th Dalai Lama was exiled to Beijing and died en route; some say he was murdered. Today we are left with his poems, many of which show a great sense of humor and understanding:
When it comes to cultivating your mind,
Better to be like a donkey than a horse;
While the horse is still being saddled,
The donkey has reached the mountain pass!
Quotes from this article were taken from: White Crane: Love Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Geoffrey R. Waters, trans. White Pine Press, Buffalo, NY 2007
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