Some people say that the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) has split from the 14th Dalai Lama, but the Dalai Lama, although de facto political leader of Tibetans in exile is not the head of any of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, nor of Mahayana Buddhism in general, so there is nothing to split from. Although he is considered the embodiment of religion and politics as a so-called “God King” for many Tibetans, he is not the spiritual leader for all Tibetans, for all Mahayana Buddhists, nor for the NKT.

Also, an essential tenet of all Mahayana Buddhism is that practitioners are free to choose their Spiritual Guide or spiritual leader. There is no Pope of Buddhism.

The NKT is a global Buddhist tradition founded by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and structured according to Western-inspired principles of election and organization (see the Internal Rules, especially 2, 45678). It is an independent tradition with no political or religious affiliations (§3) and its General Spiritual Director is the elected head of the tradition (5§8), not the Dalai Lama. At present, the General Spiritual Director is a Western nun, Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong; and in a few years there will be an election for the next General Spiritual Director, who will serve up to 2 four-year terms. (5§10)