Buddhism in Tibet has some special features as it is a blend of ancient Tibetan religion called Bon and the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism includes rich visual symbolism, high significance to rituals, ‘Tantra’ which is also a Hindu tradition and the most important feature is the existence of a ‘Teacher’ or ‘Lama’. Dalai Lama which means an ‘ocean of wisdom’ is the title conferred to the spiritual leaders of Tibet.
In Buddhist tradition, bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who chose rebirth, rather than moving on to the afterlife, in order to serve humanity. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be the reincarnations of Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion. Therefore, the Dalai Lama is considered as the spiritual leader of Tibet and one of Buddhism’s most important leaders anywhere. The concept of Dalai Lamas started only in 14th century in the Himalayan Country of Tibet. Till now, there were only 13 Dalai Lamas reincarnated. The first two Dalai Lamas were conferred the title of Dalai Lama posthumously. The current or the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the most famous Dalai Lama among all for his non-violent fight against the Chinese government and protecting Tibet from the Chinese rule. Earlier, Dalai Lamas in Tibet used to have only spiritual significance. Later, the 5th Dalai Lama took the control of Tibetan government and started influencing Tibet politically too. From then, Dalai Lamas became both the spiritual and political leaders of Tibet. The present Dalai Lama, who is the head of the state, has sought to publicize the plight of Tibetans on the global platform. He worked hard for preserving Tibetan Culture and is even awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for resisting Tibetans from using violent methods to gain freedom from Chinese govt.
The most interesting thing is that these Dalai Lamas are neither nominated by the previous Dalai Lama nor they are randomly chosen by the head priests.
High Lamas and Tibetan government officials begin a search for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama after the death of the previous Lama. These searchers look for a boy who was born around the same time as the death of the previous Lama. There are several ways and some of the important ways are: these high lamas might get a dream or by watching the direction the smoke drifts after the cremation of the previous Lama and then searching accordingly; or from some sign or vision from a holy lake called Lhamo Lhatso in central Tibet. This intensive search may go on for 3-4 years. The present Dalailama was found after 4 years of extensive search.
Once found, the officials present the boy with possessions of the previous Dalai Lama to determine whether the boy is familiar with them. If the child chooses the artifacts that belonged to the previous Lama and passed some other tests as conducted by high lamas, then that boy is believed to be a reincarnation. These are some unknown facts about the great institution of Dalai Lama.