During Tibet's history, starting from the 7th century, it has existed as a unified empire and as a region of separate self-governing territories, vassal states, and Chinese provinces. In the interregnums, various sects of Tibetan Buddhism, secular nobles, and foreign rulers have vied for power in Tibet. The latest religious struggle marked the ascendancy of the Dalai Lamas to power in western Tibet in the 17th century, though his rule was often merely nominal with real power resting in the hands of various regents and viceroys. Today, most of cultural Tibet is ruled as autonomous areas in the People's Republic of China.
The 14th Dalai Lama (Religious name: Tenzin Gyatso, shortened from Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, born Lhamo Dondrub, 6 July 1935) is the 14th and current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are the most influential figure in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, although the 14th has controversially consolidated control over the other sects in recent years. He is also well known for his political activities relating to the Tibetan independence movement, although he has recently moderated his stance. Tibetans traditionally believe him to be the reincarnation of his predecessors and a manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion.
The Dalai Lama was born in Taktser, Qinghai and was selected as the rebirth of the 13th Dalai Lama two years later, although he was only formally recognized as the 14th on 17 November 1950, at the age of 15. He inherited control over a government controlling an area roughly corresponding to the Tibet Autonomous Region just as the nascent People's Republic of China wished to reassert central control over it. The respective governments reached an agreement for a joint Communist-Lamaist administration that lasted until 1959.
During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, which China regards as an uprising of feudal landlords, but the Dalai Lama regards as an expression of widespread discontent, the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he denounced the People's Republic and established a government in exile. A charismatic speaker, he has since traveled the world, proselytizing for Tibetan independence and Tibetan Buddhism, though his role in the former is diminishing. He has spoken about such topics as abortion, economics, firearms, and sexuality, and has attracted controversy for his treatment of Dorje Shugden followers, his relationship with the CIA, and other things.