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His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

Information about the Dalai Lama in conjunction with his address to the Monmouth University community on September 21, 2021.

An honorific title given to members of a prominent Tibetan incarnation (sprul sku) lineage belonging to the Dge lugs sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lamas are traditionally revered as earthly manifestations of AvalokiteĊšvara, the bodhisattva of compassion and protector of Tibet. Although the term has become widely known outside the region, Tibetans most frequently refer to the Dalai Lama as Rgyal ba rin po che (Gyalwa Rinpoche) “Precious Conqueror,” Sku mdun (Kundun) “The Presence,” or Yid bzhin nor bu (Yishin Norbu) “Wish-fulfilling Gem.” The name originated during the sixteenth century when Altan Khan, ruler of the Tümed Mongols, bestowed the title on the Dge lugs teacher Bsod nams rgya mtsho by translating the prelate's name rgya mtsho (“ocean”) into Mongolian as dalai. The name thus approximately means “ocean teacher.” It is not the case, as is often reported, that the Dalai Lamas are so named because their wisdom is as vast as the ocean. After Bsod nams rgya mtsho, all subsequent incarnations have rgya mtsho as the second component of their name. At the time of his meeting with the Altan Khan, Bsod nams rgya mtsho was already a recognized incarnate lama of the Dge lugs. Bsod nams rgya mtsho became the third Dalai Lama and two of his previous incarnations were posthumously recognized as the first and second holders of the lineage. From that time onward, successive incarnations have all been known as the Dalai Lama. Although writings outside Tibet often describe the Dalai Lama as the head of the Dge lugs sect, that position is held by a figure called the Dga' ldan khri pa, the “Throneholder of Ganden Monastery.” The fourteen Dalai Lamas are:

  1. Dge 'dun grub (Gendün Drup, 1391–1475)

  2. Dge 'dun rgya mtsho (Gendün Gyatso, 1475–1542)

  3. Bsod nams rgya mtsho (Sönam Gyatso, 1543–1588)

  4. Yon tan rgya mtsho (Yönten Gyatso, 1589–1617)

  5. Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho (Ngawang Losang Gyatso, 1617–1682)

  6. Tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho (Tsangyang Gyatso, 1683–1706?)

  7. Skal bzang rgya mtsho (Kalsang Gyatso, 1708–1757)

  8. 'Jam dpal rgya mtsho (Jampal Gyatso, 1758–1804)

  9. Lung rtogs rgya mtsho (Lungtok Gyatso, 1805–1815)

  10. Tshul khrims rgya mtsho (Tsultrim Gyatso, 1816–1837)

  11. Mkhas grub rgyamtsho (Kedrup Gyatso, 1838–1855)

  12. 'Phrin las rgya mtsho (Trinle Gyatso, 1856–1875)

  13. Thub bstan rgyamtsho (Tupten Gyatso, 1876–1933)

  14. Bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho (Tenzin Gyatso, b. 1935)

From: Dalai Lama. (2013). In R. E. J. Buswell, & D. S. J. Lopez (Eds.), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. Credo Reference: