The Dalai Lama is the highest religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism and, until the annexation of Tibet by the China in 1959, was also the highest political leader of that country. Dalai Lama is a Mongolian title meaning "Ocean of Wisdom" and the Dalai Lamas are manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, whose name is Chenrezig in Tibetan and Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth to serve humanity.
The Dalai Lama is the leader of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, but he has received the highest teachings and empowerments of all the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He also presents core teachings from all of these main schools.
At this writing, the current Dalai Lama is His Holiness the 14th the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. He was born to a farming family as Lhamo Dhondrub on 6 July 1935, in the village of Taktser in the northeastern region of Tibet. At the age of two the child named Lhamo Dhondup was recognized as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. Lhamo Dhondrub was, contemporaneously with being elevated to the status of Dalai Lama, renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - "Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom." Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yeshe Norbu, the "Wishfulfilling Gem" or just Kundun - "The Presence."
His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. At 23 he sat for his final examination in the Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, during the annual Monlam (prayer) Festival in 1959. He passed with honours and was awarded the Lharampa degree, the highest level geshe degree (a doctorate of Buddhist philosophy).