Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Dalai Lama?

(11/20/07) Japan—In a break with tradition, the Dalai Lama says he may appoint a successor or rely on an election before his death, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun daily reported, following recent orders that China must approve Tibet’s spiritual leaders.

According to centuries of Tibetan Bud-dhist tradition, the search for the reincarnation of spiritual leaders or lamas has been carried out postmortem by monks.

“The Tibetan people would not support a successor selected by China after my death,” the Dalai Lama said in an interview on a trip to Japan. “If the Tibetan people wish to uphold the Dalai Lama system, one possibility would be to select the next Dalai Lama while I am still living...Among options being considered are a democratic selection by the high monks of Tibetan Buddhism, or the appointment of a successor by myself.”

According to the Xinhua News Agency, China’s new order states that all future lama appointments related to Tibetan Buddhism “must get government approval.” It also prevents outside sources from having “in-fluence” in the selection process. It has led to concerns that the central government may forcibly select a pro-Beijing leader once the current popular Dalai Lama is dead.
In 1995 the Dalai Lama chose six-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama, the most exalted figure of Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. The boy and his family disappeared soon after and have not been heard from since.

China’s government later named Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama and said Nyima and his family were being kept in a secret location for their own protection.

The Dalai Lama says he wants “real auto-nomy” for Tibet, not independence. He has lived with followers in exile in India since fleeing Chinese soldiers in 1959. He came to Japan for a nine-day visit but has been snubbed by Japanese officials trying to improve relations with China. 

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