This name was given in 1578 by Altan Khan, the ruler of Mongol Empire, to the Tibetan Buddhist monk Sonam Gyatso, adhering to the Gelug and Khenpo school of the monastery of Drepung in Lhasa, the largest monastery in Tibet. Sonam Gyatso was considered a tulku, or a reincarnated Lama, and therefore, granted the title of Dalai Lama to his previous incarnations, Gendun Gyatso and Gendun Drup, thus becoming the third.
Thereafter, with the support of Mongol monarchs, the fifth Dalai Lama also became the absolute ruler of Tibet. His residence became the Potala Palace, the new symbol of both temporal and spiritual power of the nation along with the Summer Palace, the Norbulingka, also in Lhasa.
The Dalai Lama is revered as a manifestation of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. Outside of Tibet, he is considered the head of the Gelug. The Dalai Lama is the most famous example of tulkus, i.e. reincarnated Lama when a Dalai Lama dies, the Panchen Lama, the Reting Rinpoche and other eminent monks qualified initiate investigations to discover his reincarnation using the oracles, interpreting omens and dreams.
Once that reincarnation is identified, usually, when he is still a very young child, he is consecrated and enthroned officially as a novice, beginning his course of study, but until his majority, the executive power is exercised by a regent. According to an ancient tradition, the reincarnated child's family are granted a peerage and landed property.
By tradition, the Dalai Lama exert a profound influence in Mongolia, where the main religion is Tibetan Buddhism. The various incarnations of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara have been in close contact with Tulku lineage at the head of the school Gelug of Tibetan Dharma in the land of Khan.
The fourteenth Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso, born in Taktser in Amdo. Since 1959, due to the political and military occupation of Tibet by China, he is based in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, in north India. The then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru strove to ensure the survival of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, endangered in the same Tibet due to a strong campaign promoted by the Chinese authorities to make the land as an entirely Chinese outpost.
Head of the Tibetan government in exile until 11 March 2011, Tenzin Gyatso has received Nobel peace prize in 1989 for non-violent resistance against China. He teaches Buddhism around the world, earning esteem and respect for the most part of foreign countries, and vigorously supports the Tibetans refugees in the construction of temples and preservation of their culture.