Who is the Dalai Lama?

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Lamaism, a Buddhist sect in Tibet. The title, first bestowed on a Lamaist leader in 1578, translates as “teacher whose wisdom is great as the ocean.” The title has been bestowed 13 times since: Followers believe that the Dalai Lama is continually reborn. Monks go in search of a young boy who was born at about the same time as the Dalai Lama died. They seek other signs of continuity as well before identifying the “new” Dalai Lama, who the monks educate and train to assume the leadership role.

The Dalai Lama, pictured in December 2004, was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1989 for his nonviolent efforts to free Tibet from China.

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