What does the Dalai Lama mean to a young Tibetan, grown up in occupied Tibet under Chinese rule?

One of Seven Billion Human Beings
by Jamyang Tashi 

“What does the Dalai Lama mean to you?” One of my American friends asked me this question about two years ago after we had a long conversation about the self-immolations inside Tibet that had reached media attention all over the world. My instant answer to my friend was: “It’s going to take a long time to talk about him”. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid answering but rather to see if he would be willing to listen to me explaining such a renowned person in my imperfect English. My answer had doubled my friend’s curiosity. He jerked forward and expectantly said, “Please, I have nothing but time”.

I realized that I had misunderstood his question. He wasn’t asking me to talk about the Dalai Lama. He wanted to know how I felt about the Dalai Lama. Oddly this was a new question to me. I began noticing the difference between telling who the Dalai Lama is and explaining what he means to me. I immediately found myself in a situation I had never been in before. To explain what the Dalai Lama meant to me didn’t seem to require knowing any of his biographical data but to recall my own life. At this point the question had become personal and I became very emotional, and couldn’t say anything while my friend was staring at me. I felt embarrassed not having an answer after I had told him that I had a long answer to his question. At the same time, I was getting worried that he was going to notice my internal struggle to hold down the stirring emotion that might burst out from my eyes. I can’t remember how long I had paused but at some point my friend said: “It’s ok. I think I can guess how much he means to you”. Part of me was relieved, but his question remained with me. What I am going to say below is a very common experience shared by thousands of Tibetans, and so if I had a purpose in writing such a common story, it would be for my non-Tibetan friends who are so curious about why I am so attached to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

– See the full story at: http://www.contactmagazine.net/dharamasla-life/one-seven-billion-human-beings