File photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
File photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.(Photo: PTI)
  • 1. Who Is the Dalai Lama?
  • 2. How Is the Dalai Lama's Successor Determined?
  • 3. What Is the Process of Finding the Dalai Lama?
  • 4. Has Dalai Lama Announced Retirement?
  • 5. What Has He Said About His Succession? Will He Reincarnate?
  • 6. How Has He Warned the Chinese?
  • 7. Where Does This Leave Tibetans?
How Is the Dalai Lama ‘Found’ & Will There Be Another?

Almost 60 years ago, in 1959, India granted political asylum to His Holiness Dalai Lama, who was forced to flee Tibet after Chinese suppression of a national uprising. On 31 March 1959, the Dalai Lama established a shadow Tibetan government, based in India’s Dharamshala.

Protesters in Tibet have since then have repeatedly called for the protection of Tibetan culture and identity, for freedom from China, for human rights and for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama has not only announced retirement from being a political head, but has also said that he wants to “voluntarily” put an end to the process of Dalai Lama succession. He has said that in the place of the Dalai Lama, he wishes for a democratically elected government for Tibet.

Here’s all you need to know about who a Dalai Lama is, how a successor is determined, and the controversies surrounding the 14th Dalai Lama’s succession.

  • 1. Who Is the Dalai Lama?

    The name Dalai Lama is a combination of Mongolic word Dalai – which means “ocean” or “big” and the Tibetan word Bla-ma which translates to “master” or “guru”. Put together, the Dalai Lama essentially means “Ocean of Wisdom”.

    The title was created by the Ming Dynasty in the year 1578 to refer to the successors of the line of tulkus, who is considered a reincarnate of the custodian of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism. They are also believed to be the manifestations of Avalokiteśvara, a Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the patron saint of Tibet. They have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders of Tibet for 369 years since 1642.

    The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th of his kind. He was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, at the age of two in 1937.

    However, it was only in 1950, after the Chinese invasion of Tibet, that he was called upon to assume full political power. Almost a decade later, following suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, the Dalai Lama escaped the country and went into exile.

    Since then, he has been living in Dharamsala, located in India’s Himachal Pradesh. The Central Tibetan administration, under the Lama’s guidance, continues to govern the controversial Tibetan region.
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