Lhamo Dhondup is the 14th Dalai Lama, the highest spiritual leader, and former political leader of Tibet.
Born on July 6, 1935, he assumed the title of Dalai Lama at the age of 4. In Tibetan Buddhism, the next Dalai Lama is selected because it is believed they are the reincarnation of the previous one, which can be a long process. It took four years to find the current one.
The role of the Dalai Lama as a political leader is complex. In contrast to India & China, Tibet’s geographic location makes it a territory of interest to both. Chinese aggression in the 1950’s forced the Dalai Lama into power in an independent Tibet, a role he abdicated in 2011 to make way for a democratic government. In 2020 The Dalai Lama said he was not in support of an independent state for Tibet but rather a unified “People’s Republic of China.”
The Dalai Lama has used his position to advocate many positive Buddhist principles to the world. He is a supporter of democracy, non-violent conflict resolution, religious harmony, vegetarianism, animal welfare, Marxism, the environment & women’s rights.
It is unclear how the present Dalai Lama would prefer to have his succession handled. While he is respectful of the system that gave him his role, he recognizes that there may not be a need for a Dalai Lama moving forward. In interviews on the topic, he has expressed the belief that the role has served his purpose while also declaring that the purpose of his next life is his decision to make.