Who Is Dalai Lama and What Does He Do?
Dalai Lama is a Tibetan Buddhist leader, this title is given by the Tibetan people for the foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism, the newest of the classical schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Dalai Lama is considered by his followers to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. As head of Tibetan Lamaism (the Tibetan form of Buddhism) he has authority over believers in Tibet and Mongolia. According to the current Dalai Lama, the Tibetan word “lama” corresponds precisely to the better known Indian word “guru”.
The Dalai Lama is an important figure of the Geluk tradition, which is politically and numerically dominant in Central Tibet, but his religious authority went beyond sectarian boundaries. While he has no formal or institutional role in any of the religious traditions, which were headed by their own high lamas, he is a unifying symbol of the Tibetan state, representing Buddhist values and traditions above any specific school.
Since the time of the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century, his personage has always been a symbol of unification of the state of Tibet, where he has represented Buddhist values and traditions. For certain periods of time 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.
The traditional function of the Dalai Lama as an ecumenical figure, holding together disparate religious and regional groups, has been taken up by the present 14th and current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, who lives as a refugee in India. He has worked to overcome sectarian and other divisions in the exiled community and has become a symbol of Tibetan nationhood for Tibetans both in Tibet and in exile.