To countless Tibetans, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader and a head of state in absentia. But to people around the world, Tenzin Gyatso is not only the greatest and most public advocate for Tibetan rights and the virtues of Tibetan Buddhism, but for interfaith tolerance and peace as well. For decades and from exile since 1959 he has worked to resolve tensions between Tibet and the People's Republic of China. And like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. before him, the Dalai Lama done so in a manner defined by nonviolence and tolerance. In 1989, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
The Dalai Lama's humility has endeared him to presidents and religious leaders of several countries, affording him the opportunity to raise awareness and drum up support for Tibet on a global scale. His 1998 book, The Art of Happiness, sold more than 1.5 million copies in the U.S. and made him a New York Times bestselling author for nearly two years. Yet little the 14th Dalai Lama can do seems to endear him to the authorities in Beijing, who have rebuffed his overtures, label him a "wolf in monk's robes," and seem intent on waiting for the iconic figure to die. For all the global compassion and sympathy the Dalai Lama has won, his lasting legacy may be one of sad, crestfallen failure.