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Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is the highest religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism and, until the Peoples Republic of China instituted direct control in 1959, was Tibet's most powerful political leader. Dalai Lama is a Mongolian title meaning "Ocean of Wisdom", The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, whose name is Chenrezig[?] in Tibetan and Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth to serve humanity.

The current incarnation of the Dalai is Tenzin Gyatso.

Upon the passing of the Dalai Lama, his monks institute a search for the Lama's reincarnation, who is usually a small child. Familiarity with the possesions of the previous Dalai Lama is considered the main sign of the reincarnation. The search for the reincarnation typically requires a few years which results in a gap in the list of the Dalai Lamas. The reincarnation is then brought to a monastery to be trained by the other Lamas. The process is not always peaceful. Rival groups of lamas each "discover" a child and claim it is the true reincarnation. This has historically turned into political struggle to decide who is the real Dalai Lama. It is not unlike the Pope and the Antipope stories in the Christian world.

The government of the People's Republic of China has asserted the power to approve the naming of high lamas in Tibet and has exercised this power in the naming of the Panchen Lama[?], who is empowered to recognize the new Dalai Lama. Most observers believe that with the passage of the current Dalai Lama, the PRC will attempt to force a selection of a successor and that this risks creating a schism and leadership vacuum in the Tibetan independence movement.

The Dalai Lama is the leader of the Gelugpa[?] sect of Tibetan Buddhism, but he has received the highest teachings and empowerments of all the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He also presents core teachings from all of these main schools.

List of Dalai Lamas

  1. Gedun Drub, 1391-1474
  2. Gedun Gyatso[?], 1475-1542
  3. Sonam Gyatso, 1543-1588
  4. Yonten Gyatso[?], 1589-1616
  5. Lozang Gyatso[?], "The Great Fifth," 1617-1682
  6. Tsangyang Gyatso[?], 1683-1706
  7. Kelzang Gyatso[?], 1708-1757
  8. Jamphel Gyatso[?], 1758-1804
  9. Lungtok Gyatso[?], 1806-1815
  10. Tsultrim Gyatso[?], 1816-1837
  11. Khendrup Gyatso[?], 1838-1856
  12. Trinley Gyatso[?], 1856-1875
  13. Thubten Gyatso[?], 1876-1933
  14. Tenzin Gyatso, 1935 - present

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