What Is the Dalai Lama's Role?

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and is also in charge of governing Tibet. Tibet was annexed by the Chinese government in 1959, and the Dalai Lama leads the Tibetan government in political exile. The Dalai Lama has been living in Dharamsala, India since 1959. There have been 14 Dalai Lamas in the history of Buddhism. Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th and current Dalai Lama as of 2015.

The Dalai Lama's main commitments are promoting compassion, forgiveness and self-discipline; promoting religious unity and understanding; and preserving Tibet's Buddhist culture. The Dalai Lama speaks against China's occupation of Tibet, and seeks Tibetan independence. Hence China frowns upon political leaders who meet with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lamas are believed to be physical manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who is the patron saint of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is a revered spokesman of peace, and has traveled to more than 67 countries to spread his message of non-violence, and religious tolerance. The 14th Dalai Lama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and has written more than 110 books. After the death of a Dalai Lama, the High Lamas of the Gelugpa Tradition search for a Tibetan boy through visions, smoke and a sign from an oracle lake.