The debate over what happens after the Dalai Lama dies is heating up again after His Holiness made a controversial visit to an Indian border town of great spiritual and political significance this week.
As early as 1969, I had said the Tibetan people will decide if this very institution of Dalai Lama should continue or not. If this institution is no longer relevant, it should stop.
They say the next Dalai Lama or an even higher Lama… the China government will find the next one. That is nonsense. Let the China government first say they believe in rebirth and find the reincarnation of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
The Dalai Lama made these comments at Tawang, a town in northern India less than 50km south of the McMahon Line which separates India and Tibet — though China still claims Tawang as its own. The Tibetan town was the 14th Dalai Lama’s first stop after fleeing Lhasa in 1959, and was also the home of the 6th Dalai Lama. Locals are hoping that it will eventually become the birthplace of the 15th Dalai Lama as well.
“We pray His Holiness lives for a thousand years but when the time comes we want him to reincarnate here,” a senior monk said. “The 6th Dalai Lama had made some predictions too about it.”
Many believe that the Dalai Lama is sending a message to China with his trip to Tawang, showing Beijing that his next reincarnation could be born outside of its control, something that is sure to get under the Chinese government’s skin. Prior to the Dalai Lama’s visit, China made its opposition known to the Indian government.
Despite being a non-religious state, China has claimed that it has a role to play in the reincarnation process of the leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, choosing its own Panchen Lama in 1995 and spiriting away the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama. As Wang Dehua, co-director for South Asia Studies at Tongji Univeristy told PTI:
The government of the People’s Republic of China has proclaimed the power to approve the naming of “high” reincarnations in Tibet, based on a precedent set by the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty.
In my opinion it’s ridiculous for the Dalai Lama to say he changed the centuries-old tradition, because the tradition was already changed in 1959. The central government will definitely support the Dalai Lama’s successor if he or she is selected according to Chinese laws and historical rules, and the Tibetan people’s will.
Still, the Dalai Lama continues to enrage Beijing and worry his followers by saying nothing definite about his reincarnation — continuing to doubt if it will even happen.
“Ladakh wants me to reincarnate in Ladakh. China wants me to reincarnate in China, European countries want me there. One soul… how to divide it?” the 81-year-old spiritual leader laughed. “At the time of my death, some indication may come, at the moment, no indication. At the moment, I have no destination.”
Heck, at the moment, he is not even sure about what sex he will be reincarnated as if it happens. When asked if his successor could be a woman, he responded: “That might also happen.”
Last month, HBO’s John Oliver confronted His Holiness over his vagueness about his own reincarnation, worrying that the Chinese government could take advantage of his ambiguity by choosing its own Dalai Lama.
“That’s also, one of the foolish acts. Short-sighted. Without using human brain properly, ” His Holiness responded. “It’s harmful. Our brain usually has the ability to create common sense. The Chinese hardliners, in their brains, that part of the brain is missing.”
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