After Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham, he is probably the most recognized religious figure on our planet. He is the voice of Buddhism to the nations and is often called the "god-king" of Tibet. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. His recent books, Ethics for a New Millennium and The Art of Happiness became best-sellers. He is treated with immense respect by secular media and draws crowds up to 300,000 at his public talks.
These titles and accolades belong to Buddhism's leading apostle, the Dalai Lama. Born as Lhamo Thondup in 1935 in northeast Tibet, he was chosen as the 14th Dalai Lama (Tibet's highest religious figure) at age 2. He was enthroned in 1940 and became political leader of Tibet at age 15, just after Mao's armies began their takeover of Tibet. In exile since 1959, the Dalai Lama has become a world leader in ethics, politics, and religion.
He has also become the de facto leader of millions of spiritual seekers in the West. Christians who want to evangelize our culture do well to understand the extent of his influence, especially in pop culture, as well as the nature of his beliefs. To this end Christianity Today sent me to the Dalai Lama's home-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, to ask him about the popularity of Buddhism, his faith's relation to other faiths, and, most of all, what he thinks about Jesus.