honorary title in Tibetan Buddhism

A tulku (also tülku, trulku) is a Tibetan Buddhist lama who has achieved the ability to consciously determine to be reborn, often many times, in order to continue their Bodhisattva vow. The most famous example is the lineage of Dalai Lamas, who are said to be reincarnations of the previous thirteen Dalai Lamas, beginning with Gendun Drup (1391 – 1474). It is held in the Vajrayana tradition that the oldest lineage of tulkus is that of the Karmapas (spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu lineage), which began with Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193).


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Basic terms




In addition to Tibetans and related peoples, Tibetan Buddhism is the traditional religion of the Mongols and their relatives. The Mongolian word for a tulku is qubilγan, though such persons may also be called by the honorific title qutuγtu (Tib: 'phags-pa / Skt: ārya), or hutagt in the standard Khalkha dialect.

A recent Chinese word for tulku is huófó (活佛), which literally means "living Buddha". Thus the term Living Buddha is used to mean tulku.