The line of Dalai Lamas goes back to a Brahmin boy from the time that Buddha lived. The Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is always a reincarnation of his predecessor. All Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of the enlightened being Chenrezi, who chooses to be reborn to help others become enlightened. Chenrezi is the patron saint of Tibet and the Bodhisattva (enlightened being) of Compassion. The current Dalai Lama is believed to be the 74th manifestation of the Bodhisattva.
The 14th (and current) Dalai Lama's name is Tenzin Gyatso. He was identified by mystical clues and visions that led the Tibetan government in the direction of his home. A vision of a sacred lake and monastery led them to the house of the future Dalai Lama, who then was a three-year-old boy named Lhamo Thondup. The search party came disguised as travelers and observed the child for signs. When the boy correctly identified possessions that had belonged to his predecessor and said that they were his, the identification was official [source: Dalai Lama]. In 1950, he became Tibet's spiritual leader and took his monk's vows.
Gyatso was sent to a monastery where he was given a scholarly education, including a doctorate in Buddhist studies. He learned philosophy, Sanskrit, music, arts and medicine. Along with these studies he was given an education in foreign relations to prepare him for his role as political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. In 1950, at the age of 16, Tenzin Gyatso officially assumed political power. He then began his lifelong struggle for the Tibetan people.
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