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Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize as more than 'simple Buddhist monk'

The Dalai Lama has won the Templeton Prize for exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension by spreading his message of compassion worldwide.

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The Chinese themselves seem to be skeptical. Chinese journalists refer to him as a “splittist,” and a government spokesman recently blamed him for self-immolations taking place in Tibetan areas of China, as well as a recent such protest in India.

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Last year, the Dalai Lama retired as the temporal head of Tibet, ending 400 years of religious monarchy. “I deliberately, voluntarily, happily, proudly end that,” he said on NBC’s "Today" show last July 18.

Despite his retirement, the Dalai Lama visited 18 countries last year. He is attuned to social media. He has his own Facebook and Twitter accounts. His pithy quotes are easy to find on the Web (example: Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. On Brainyquote.com)

His books deal with a variety of subjects ranging from “The Art of Happiness,” subtitled “A Handbook for Living,” to an examination of modern science and different philosophies ("The Universe in a Single Atom").

As Howard Cutler, co-author with the Dalai Lama, noted, "The Art of Happiness" started showing up on TV sitcoms, game shows, and even "Sex and the City." One NFL quarterback attributed his preseason success to the book.

“Clearly, there was a kind of universal appeal to the Dalai Lama’s basic message: Yes, happiness is possible – in fact we can train in happiness in much the same way we train in any other skill,” wrote Mr. Cutler in the 10th anniversary edition of the book, released in 2009.

Celebrities seem to want to be around him. Berthrong recalls one event in New York at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine with the Dalai Lama, who was accompanied by actor Richard Gere as well as several Buddhist monks.

“In walks Barbara Walters with an entourage of 29 people,” he recalls. “The Dalai Lama says, 'Here I am with only four attendants, she has 29 people, she must be a very enlightened person, I should go meet her.' ”

The Dalai Lama walked over and introduced himself. They have been friends ever since, says Berthrong. “He forms friendships, and people hold on to them.”

Berthrong says the Dalai Lama loves a good laugh. He recalls one time when the Dalai Lama was introduced to a man who had a question about His Holiness’s reincarnation. “What do you remember about your previous lives?” the man asked.

“The Dalai Lama looked at him and replied, ‘No, I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast.’ ”

The man looked startled, and the Dalai Lama explained that according to Buddhism traditions, what gets reincarnated are the predispositions and characteristics. “That is what passes on,” Berthrong recalls the Dalai Lama saying. “If I had been born in some place like Italy in the 15th century, I would have been a priest or a cardinal. My talents are as a religious person.”

IN PICTURES: The Dalai Lama's career

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