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The Buddha Tree

Third Dalai Lama
Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588)
    He was the first to take the title Dalai Lama. The name comes from a meeting between Sonam Gyatso and the Mongol chieftain Altan Khan, whom Sonam Gyatso visited on his extensive travels. As the two exchanged complimentary titles Sonam Gyatso called Altan Khan "King of the Turning Wheel and Wisdom." Altan Khan referred to Sonam Gyatso as "All-Knowing Vajra-Holder, the Dalai Lama" (Dalai is Mongolian for "ocean." Lama is Tibetan for "guru" or "teacher. " The title is often translated "Ocean of Wisdom"). Sonam Gyatso's predecessors were named the first and second Dalai Lama posthumously. Sonam Gyatso is credited with converting many Mongols to Buddhism, and ending shamanistic customs in Mongolia, such as ritualistic animal slaughter and the sacrificing of wives to their deceased husbands. He also helped spread Gelugpa influence into eastern Tibet.


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