The Dalai Lama is a high lama in the "Yellow Hat" branch of Tibetan Buddhism.
The name is a combination of the Mongolian word dalai) meaning "Ocean" AND bla-ma (with a silent "b") meaning "teacher".the Tibetan word "lama" corresponds precisely to the better known Sanskrit word "guru".
In religious terms, the Dalai Lama is believed by his devotees to be the rebirth of a long line of tulkus who are considered to be manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara.
The line of Dalai Lamas began as a lineage of spiritual teachers; the 5th Dalai Lama assumed political authority over Tibet.For certain periods of time between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lamas sometimes directed the Tibetan government, which administered portions of Tibet from Lhasa.
The 14th Dalai Lama remained the head of state for the Central Tibetan Administration ("Tibetan government in exile") until his retirement on March 14, 2011. He has indicated that the institution of the Dalai Lama may be abolished in the future, and also that the next Dalai Lama may be found outside Tibet and may be female. The Chinese communist government was very quick to reject this and claimed that only they have the authority to select the next Dalai Lama, despite being an officially atheist nation.