Dalai Lama

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This article is about the Dalai Lama lineage. For information on the 14th and current Dalai Lama, see Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama. For the song, see Dalai Lama (song).

Tibetan name



Wylie transliteration:

taa lai bla ma

pronunciation in IPA:

[taːlɛː lama]

official transcription (PRC):

Dalai Lama


Dalai Lama

other transcriptions:

Chinese name






Dli Lǎmā


Gendun Drup, 1st Dalai Lama

Gendun Drup, 1st Dalai Lama

In Tibetan Buddhism, the successive Dalai Lamas form a lineage of allegedly reborn (tulku) magistrates which traces back to 1391. They are of the Gelug sect of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists believe the Dalai Lama to be one of innumerable incarnations of Avalokiteśvara ("Chenrezig" [spyan ras gzigs] in Tibetan), the bodhisattva of compassion.[1] Between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lama was the head of the Tibetan government, administering a large portion of the country from the capital Lhasa. He is often styled "His Holiness" (HH) before his title.

The Dalai Lama is often thought to be the head of the Gelug sect, but this position officially belongs to the Ganden Tripa (Wylie: Dga'-ldan Khri-pa). Tibetans call the Dalai Lama by the name of Gyalwa Rinpoche (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་བ་རིན་པོ་ཆེWylie: Rgyal-ba Rin-po-che) meaning "Precious Victor," or Yishin Norbu (Tibetan: ་ཡིད་བཞིན་ནོར་བུWylie: Yid-bzhin Nor-bu) meaning "Wish-fulfilling Jewel".

The 14th (and current) Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on October 17, 2007.



Main article: History of Tibet

"Dalai" means "Ocean" in Mongolian, and "Lama" (bla ma) is the Tibetan equivalent of the Sanskrit word "guru", and is commonly translated to mean "spiritual teacher".[2] The actual title was first bestowed by the Mongolian ruler Altan Khan upon Sonam Gyatso in 1578. Gyatso was an abbot at the Drepung monastery who was widely considered the most eminent lama of his time. Although Sonam Gyatso became the first lama to hold the title "Dalai Lama", due to the fact that he was the third member of his lineage, he became known as the "3rd Dalai Lama". The previous two titles were conferred posthumously upon his earlier incarnations. Five Dalai Lamas were murdered by their Buddhist courtiers within 170 years.[3][unreliable source?]

The 5th Dalai Lama, with the support of Gushri Khan, a Mongol ruler of Khkh Nuur, united Tibet. The Dalai Lamas continued to partially rule in Tibet until the People's Republic of China invaded the region in 1949 and then took full control in 1959. The 14th Dalai Lama then fled to India and has since ceded temporal power to an elected government-in-exile. The current 14th Dalai Lama seeks greater autonomy for Tibet.

   Succession of reborn Dalai Lamas

The title "Dalai Lama" is presently granted to each of the spiritual leader's successive incarnations (for example, The 14th Dalai Lama's next incarnation will hold the title "the 15th Dalai Lama").

Upon the death of the Dalai Lama, his monks institute a search for the Lama's reincarnation, or yangsi (yang srid), a small child. Familiarity with the possessions of the previous Dalai Lama is considered the main sign of the reincarnation. The search for the reincarnation typically requires a few years. The reincarnation is then brought to Lhasa to be trained by the other Lamas.

   List of Dalai Lamas

There have been 14 Dalai Lamas:






PRC transcription

Other English spelling(s)


Gendun Drup



dge dun grub

Gdn Chub

Gedun Drub, Gedn Drup, Gendun Drup


Gendun Gyatso



dge dun rgya mtsho

Gdn Gyaco

Gedn Gyatso, Gendn Gyatso



Sonam Gyatso



bsod nams rgya mtsho

Soinam Gyaco

Snam Gyatso


Yonten Gyatso



yon tan rgya mtsho

Yoindain Gyaco

Yontan Gyatso


Lobsang Gyatso



blo bzang rgya mtsho

Lobsang Gyaco

Lobzang Gyatso, Lopsang Gyatso


Tsangyang Gyatso



tshang dbyangs rgya mtsho

Cangyang Gyaco



Kelzang Gyatso



bskal bzang rgya mtsho

Gaisang Gyaco

Kelsang Gyatso, Kalsang Gyatso


Jamphel Gyatso



byams spel rgya mtsho

Qamb Gyaco

Jampel Gyatso, Jampal Gyatso


Lungtok Gyatso



lung rtogs rgya mtsho

Lungdog Gyaco

Lungtog Gyatso


Tsultrim Gyatso



tshul khrim rgya mtsho

Cchim Gyaco

Tshltrim Gyatso


Khendrup Gyatso



mkhas grub rgya mtsho

Kaichub Gyaco

Kedrub Gyatso


Trinley Gyatso



phrin las rgya mtsho

Chinlai Gyaco

Trinle Gyatso


Thubten Gyatso



thub bstan rgya mtsho

Tubdain Gyaco

Thubtan Gyatso, Thupten Gyatso


Tenzin Gyatso


(currently in exile)

bstan dzin rgya mtsho

Dainzin Gyaco



1st Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup 1391-1474


2nd Dalai Lama, Gendun Gyatso 1475-1541


3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso 15431588


4th Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso, 1589-1616


5th Dalai Lama, Lozang Gyatso 1617-1682


6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso 1683-1706


7th Dalai Lama,Kelzang Gyatso, 1708-1757.


8th Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso 1758-1804


9th Dalai Lama, Lungtok Gyatso 1806-1815


10th Dalai Lama , Tsultrim Gyatso 1816-1837


11th Dalai Lama , Khendrup Gyatso 18381856


12th Dalai Lama, Trinley Gyatso 18571875


13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso 1876-1933


14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso 1935-





Throne awaiting Dalai Lama's return. Summer residence of 13th Dalai Lama, Nechung, Tibet.

Starting with the 5th Dalai Lama and until the 14th Dalai Lama's flight into exile in 1959, the Dalai Lamas resided during winter at the Potala Palace, and in the summer at the Norbulingka palace and park. Both residences are located in Lhasa, Tibet, approximately 3 km apart. In 1959, subsequent to the then ongoing Chinese occupation of Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge within India. The then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was instrumental in granting safe refuge to the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has since been in refuge in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, where the Central Tibetan Administration (The Tibetan Government in Exile) is also established. Tibetan refugees have constructed and opened many schools and Buddhist temples[citation needed] in Dharamsala.

The future of the Dalai Lama

Despite its officially secular stance, the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has claimed the power to approve the naming of high reincarnations in Tibet. This decision cites a precedent set by the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, who instituted a system of selecting the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama by means of a lottery which utilised a golden urn with names wrapped in barley balls. Controversially, this precedent was called upon by the PRC to name their own Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhists in exile do not regard this to be the legitimate Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama has recognized a different child, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, as the reincarnated Panchen Lama. This child and his family have been taken into 'protective custody' according to the PRC, and all attempts by members of the EU parliament and US government to garner guarantees of the family's safety have been denied by the PRC. There is some speculation that with the death of the current Dalai Lama, the People's Republic of China will attempt to direct the selection of a successor, using the authority of their chosen Panchen Lama.

The current Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated that he will never be reborn inside territory controlled by the People's Republic of China[5], and has occasionally suggested that he might choose to be the last Dalai Lama by not being reborn at all[citation needed]. However, he has also stated that the purpose of his repeated incarnations is to continue unfinished work and, as such, if the situation in Tibet remains unchanged, it is very likely that he will be reborn to finish his work.[6] Additionally, in the draft constitution of future Tibet, the institution of the Dalai Lama can be revoked at any time by a democratic majority vote of two-thirds of the Assembly. The 14th Dalai Lama has stated, "Personally, I feel the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose."[6]

 See also


  1. ^ His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.
  2. ^ Art Hughes. "The Thirteen Previous Dalai Lamas", Part of MPR's special report, Ocean of Wisdom: The Dalai Lama's Visit, Minnesota Public Radio, May 7, 2001. 
  3. ^ Parenti, Michael (2003). Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth.
  4. ^ a b c The title "Dalai Lama" was conferred posthumously to the first and second Dalai Lamas. The 9th Dalai Lama was officially enthroned, but never reigned.
  5. ^ "Dalai's reincarnation will not be found under Chinese control", The Indian Express, Tibetan Government in Exile, 1999-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-01-27. 
  6. ^ a b Questions & Answers, The Website of The Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.


 External links