Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama. He is the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, although in March 2011 he announced plans to retire from political life. Tibet is not recognized as an independent nation, and the Dalai Lama leads the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile) from Dharamsala, India. Tibet is formally recognized as an autonomous region within the nation of China.

Photograph by Darko Sikman, MyShot
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    The 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He is still widely regarded as one of the nation-in-exile's political leaders as well, despite having stepped down from an official role in 2011.

    The Dalai Lama is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. In the Buddhist religion, a bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has chosen to postpone nirvana in order to serve humanity. Like almost all living things in Buddhist theology, bodhisattvas are reincarnated after their deaths.

    A political and religious controversy surrounds the next Dalai Lama. In 1950, China invaded Tibet. The Dalai Lama, along with thousands of refugees, fled in 1959. Tibet remains a part of China today, although the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders have continually appealed to the United Nations, China, and other countries for the establishment of a more independent region.

    China, officially atheist, has enacted laws requiring all reincarnations of senior lamas (spiritual leaders) be approved by the government. Chinese leaders insist the next Dalai Lama will be born in China (Tibet).

    The current Dalai Lama, however, has said that his successor may be found outside Tibet: "If the present situation regarding Tibet remains the same, I will be born outside Tibet, away from the control of the Chinese authorities."

    Recognizing the democratic, secular power of Tibet's government-in-exile, the Dalai Lama has even questioned the future of the position: "Personally, I feel the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose."

    • "I always consider myself a simple Buddhist monk."
      14th Dalai Lama
    • "Tibet's independent forces and the Dalai group did not criticize [the suicides enacted to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet] . . . As we know, such splittist activities at the cost of human lives is violence and terrorism in disguise."
      Jiang Yu, spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry
    • "I am not seeking separation from China. I am committed to my middle-way approach, whereby Tibet remains with the People's Republic of China, enjoying a high degree of self-rule or autonomy."
      14th Dalai Lama
    • "We oppose the underhanded visits of the Dalai Lama [to the U.S.], which he uses to engage in activities to split the motherland."
      Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry
    • "If the Tibetan situation still remains unsolved, it is logical I will be born in exile, to continue my unfinished business."
      14th Dalai Lama
    • "The title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the [Chinese] central government, and is otherwise illegal."
      Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    atheist adjective, noun

    person or organization that does not believe in any gods or spiritual beings.

    bodhisattva Noun

    in the Buddhist religion, a person who has achieved the highest spiritual enlightenment, but who postpones nirvana in order to help others.

    Buddhist Noun

    person who follows the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).

    compassionate Adjective

    having to do with sympathy and a desire to help others.

    controversy Noun

    disagreement or debate.

    Dalai Lama Noun

    leader of Tibet.

    deity Noun

    very holy or spiritual being.

    democratic Adjective

    having to do with a government led by its citizens, who vote for policies and/or representatives.

    exile Noun

    forced ejection from a country, or a person who feels forced to leave.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    invade Verb

    to enter and attack.

    nirvana Noun

    in the Buddhist religion, an end to personal reincarnations, achieved by the highest enlightenment and freedom from personal passion, hatred, and delusion.

    refugee Noun

    person who flees their home, usually due to natural disaster or political upheaval.

    reincarnate Verb

    to be born again in a new body.

    religion Noun

    a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.

    secular Adjective

    not having to do with religion or spirituality.

    theology Noun

    study of religion, faith, and spirituality.

    United Nations Noun

    international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.