The Dalai Lama is the head of Tibet's largest – but by no means only – Buddhist sect to which more than half of all Tibetans claim allegiance. His role combines the functions of Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury and the pretender to a contested medieval throne.
His personal history is fascinating. He applied, for example, to join the Chinese Communist Party, was the largest slave-owner on earth, and was – like most Dalai Lamas before him – the tool of a powerful class of feudal nobility who, between them, owned 90% of Tibet's arable land.
The nobility, knowing their their authority ended if they honored their treaty with China to free their slaves, opted instead to flee. They took with them the nation's gold reserves, thus utterly impoverishing a desperately poor country. Though his life was never in danger the nobles told him that it was and thus managed to make off with the symbol of their legitimacy, the Dalai Lama. He continues to serve their interests today, earning
over $100 million in CIA support since his flight. Many evil deeds have been done in his name since that day. To get good men like the Dalai Lama to do bad things requires religion, as Steven Weinberg observed.
You can read more in The Snow Lion and the Dragon, by Professor Melvyn Goldstein. Below is a the story of yet another episode in the Dalai Lama's life.