The Dalai Lama is a high lama in the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Tsongkhapa (1357–1419). The name is a combination of the Mongolian word dalai meaning "Ocean" and the Tibetan word བླ་མ་ bla-ma (with a silent "b") meaning "guru, teacher".
According to Tibetan Buddhist doctrine, the Dalai Lama is the rebirth in a line of tulkus who are metaphorically considered to be manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteśvara. The Dalai Lama is often thought to be the leader of the Gelug School, but this position belongs officially to the Ganden Tripa, which is a temporary position appointed by the Dalai Lama who, in practice, exerts much influence. The line of Dalai Lamas began as a lineage of spiritual teachers; the 5th Dalai Lama assumed political authority over Tibet.
For certain periods between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lamas sometimes directed the Tibetan government, which administered portions of Tibet from Lhasa. The 14th Dalai Lama remained the head of state for the Central Tibetan Administration ("Tibetan government in exile") until his retirement on March 14, 2011. He has indicated that the institution of the Dalai Lama may be abolished in the future, and also that the next Dalai Lama may be found outside Tibet and may be female. The Chinese government rejected this and asserted that only it has the authority to select the next Dalai Lama.
The 14th Dalai Lama (religious name: Tenzin Gyatso, shortened from Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, born Lhamo Dondrub, 6 July 1935) is the 14th and current Dalai Lama, as well as the longest lived incumbent. Dalai Lamas are the head monks of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and is also well known for his lifelong advocacy for Tibetans inside and outside Tibet.
The Dalai Lama was born in Taktser, Qinghai (also known to Tibetans as Amdo), and was selected as the rebirth of the 13th Dalai Lama two years later, although he was only formally recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama on 17 November 1950, at the age of 15. The Gelug school's government administered an area roughly corresponding to the Tibet Autonomous Region just as the nascent People's Republic of China wished to assert central control over it. There is a dispute over whether the respective governments reached an agreement for a joint Chinese-Tibetan administration.
During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, which China regards as an uprising of feudal landlords, the Dalai Lama, who regards the uprising as an expression of widespread discontent, fled to India, where he denounced the People's Republic and established a Tibetan government in exile. He has since traveled the world, advocating for the welfare of Tibetans, teaching Tibetan Buddhism and talking about the importance of compassion as the source of a happy life. Around the world, institutions face pressure from China not to accept him. He has spoken about the environment, economics, women's rights, non-violence, interfaith dialog, reproductive health, sexuality along with various Mahayana and Vajrayana topics.