Senior Buddhist monks immediately begin a search for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, usually a child, after the death of previous Lama. One of the chief signs of the reincarnation is whether the child is familiar with possessions of the previous Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama has asserted that he was born with his eyes open, which "may be some slight indication of a clear state of mind in the womb," and thus evidence that he was the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama.
According to his Web site, the Dalai Lama considers himself “a simple Buddhist monk. … I feel that the Dalai Lama as a temporal ruler is a man-made institution. As long as the people accept the Dalai Lama, they will accept me. But being a monk is something which belongs to me. No one can change that.”