There have been a succession of 14 reincarnations of Dalai Lamas within the Geluk sect that trace their lineage back to the fourteenth century. Since the 17th century the Dalai Lama has been the head of the Tibetan government, administering a large portion of the country from the capital Lhasa. The Dalai Lama is not the spiritual head of all Tibetans or even the Geluk sect as is commonly thought. That most senior spiritual leader of the Geluks is the Ganden Tripa Rinpoche, the head of the main temple of Je Tsongkhapa.
The first one in the lineage to hold the Dalai Lama title was Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588), an abbot at Drepung Loseling Monastery, established in 1416 on the northern outskirts of Lhasa by Khenpo Lekden, a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). Since Sonam Gyatso was the third in his lineage, he became known as the Third Dalai Lama and his earlier incarnations were posthumously given the title. The First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup (1391-1474), was also a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa. The most powerful of the Dalai Lamas was the fifth, Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682). The 9th thru 12th Dalai Lamas mysteriously died before reaching the age of 21, while the 6th, Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706), died in his early twenties. Differing accounts are given for their demise. Thubten Gyatso (1876-1933) was the 13th Dalai Lama. The current and 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (1935- ), has lived in exile in Dharmasala, India, since 1959.
Drepung Loseling Monastery was recreated in Karnataka State, India, southeast of Bombay. Its branch, the Drepung Loseling Institute, has been established as an Affiliate of Emory University and the North America seat of the Dreprung Loseling Monastery. Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, NY, is a branch of the main Namgyal Monastery located in Dharmasala, India, the personal monastery of H. H. the Dalai Lama. There are many Geluk dharma centers and groups located throughout the U.S.