Dalai Lama Comments on Succession


The Dalai Lama has said yet again that he may be the last person to hold the title, adding that he’d rather there be no Dalai Lama than for someone “stupid” to take his place.

“The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease,” the 79-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader told the BBC in a recent interview. “There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama.”

According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. It is believed that when a Dalai Lama dies, a successor is born. The title goes back, without interruption, for more than 620 years.

But the current Dalai Lama — the 14th in this unbroken line — told the BBC that it’ll be “up to the Tibetan people” to decide whether or not to continue with this institution.

This is hardly the first time that the Dalai Lama has suggested that he may be the last to hold the title. In a September interview with German newspaper Die Welt, he echoed the sentiment that it could be better to “finish with a popular Dalai Lama.”

He’s also been saying for decades that it’s up to the Tibetan people to decide whether or not the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future.

Previously, the Dalai Lama warned that the question of his reincarnation could become a politicized matter. A statement on his website says that “vested political interests” could misuse “the reincarnation system to fulfill their own political agenda.”

China, which has governed Tibet since 1951, previously declared that it will name the next Dalai Lama — a prospect that the Tibetan spiritual leader repudiates. No one has the right to choose a successor for “political ends,” he’s been quoted as saying.

Robert Barnett, a Columbia University professor and Tibet scholar, told Al-Jazeera earlier this year that the Dalai Lama’s statements about being the last Dalai Lama may actually be a bargaining tactic. “It’s a way of signaling to the Chinese, ‘This is a bargaining chip — negotiate with me before I die,’” Barnett said.

China has long been suspicious of the Dalai Lama, accusing him of being a separatist and a “wolf in monk’s clothing.” The Dalai Lama, however, has said that he supports a “middle way” approach with China and hopes for autonomy — not independence — for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959.


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