In Tibetan Buddhism, a tulku (Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་སྐུ, Wylie: sprul sku, ZYPY: Zhügu, also tülku, trulku) is someone who is recognized as the rebirth of a previous practitioner. High-profile examples include the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama and the Karmapa.
It has been estimated that as of 2012 there were about 500 tulkus across Tibet, although before the Chinese invasion there were probably a few thousand. Each tulku has a distinct lineage of rebirths. For example, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is held to be the reincarnation of each of the previous thirteen Dalai Lamas of Tibet, who are in turn considered to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig, Bodhisattva of Compassion, holder of the White Lotus. The vast majority of tulkus (and lamas) are men, although some are women.
The tulku incarnation lineage should not be confused with the lineage of Buddhist masters and their disciples, which is concerned with the oral or written transmission of particular Buddhist teachings and spiritual practice from generation to generation.