Who Is Going To Replace The Dalai Lama?

We are all getting older. Our jobs either have been or will be filled by someone just receiving their sheepskin this past May. Our replacement may be two doors down the hallway. The pope can resign or die, but his replacement is only a plume of smoke from the Vatican chimney away to sitting in the ‘pope-mobile.’ In other words, we all can be replaced. Or can we?

Imagine if you hold a position that the people say not only you can’t leave, but they will see to it that you are reincarnated! According to Ardy Verhaegen*, in the mid-1970s Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and current holder of the office, told a Polish newspaper that he thought he would be the last Dalai Lama. In a later interview published in the English language press he stated “The Dalai Lama office was an institution created to benefit others. It is possible that it will soon have outlived its usefulness.” These statements caused a furor amongst Tibetans in India. Many could not believe that such an option could even be considered. It was further felt that it was not the Dalai Lama’s decision to reincarnate. Rather, they felt that since the Dalai Lama is a national institution it was up to the people of Tibet to decide whether or not the Dalai Lama should reincarnate. Interesting, eh?

From what I have read, there is a 15 year old in waiting for this “calling.’ Since this “office” has been going on before Columbus discovered America, there is joyful anticipation. However, the Peoples Republic of China may have something to say about this. During September 2007 the Chinese government said all high monks must be approved by the government, which would include the selection of the 15th Dalai Lama after the death of Tenzin Gyatso. Since by tradition, the Panchen Lama must approve the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, that is another possible method of control.

I just don’t understand why governments have a difficult time with peacemakers. Pilate and Jesus for example; but that is another story…

*Verhaegen, Ardy (2002). The Dalai Lamas: The Institution and Its History. Emerging Perceptions in Buddhist Studies, no. 15. New Delhi, India


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