The Dalai Lama’s proposal of retirement from his political role in the Tibetan government-in-exile has finally been accepted by its parliament. His retirement indicates the ending of the 370-year-old tradition as Dalai Lama being the lifelong leader in the theocratic society of Tibet, Wall Street Journal says.
Dalai Lama’s retirement is to be formalized in May, and his political power will be transformed to the to-be-elected new prime minister, known as the Kalon Tripa. The 75-year-old Dalai Lama has suggested a range of options as a preparation for Tibet after his death. So far no clues are offered as to whether Dalai Lama’s own successor will be selected in the traditional manner. Even the decision whether he should be reincarnated is not clear yet.
But one thing for sure is that the Tibetan government-in-exile is separating religion from politics. Columbia University Tibetologist Robert Barnett commented, “What’s going on here is building up authority and standing of the government that’s now in India to become the representatives of the Tibetan people that can survive the death of the Dalai Lama when that comes.”
Nobody can live forever even if it’s His Holiness. For hundreds of years, Dalai Lama has always been the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan area, including Tibet Autonomous Region and its neighbored area in China. The successor of Dalai Lama is traditionally decided through reincarnation of the former one – senior lamas identify a young boy as his reincarnation after his death regarding the late Dalai Lama’s indication.
All 14 Dalai Lamas till today were selected within Tibet, which is all inside the territory of China, and that makes the main problem of Dalai Lama’s incarnation: Can they have a successor outside Tibet and cultivate him to be the next leader of the Tibet government-in-exile? If so, how can the next Dalai Lama win the belief from its Tibetan people inside China’s territory as they have on the 14th Dalai Lama today?
If going along with the tradition and selecting a successor within China, it is not hard to imagine that new Dalai will be taken into protective custody by Beijing as what they are doing to the present 11th Panchen Lama, the second highest ranking Lama after Dalai. If so, the government-in-exile will eventually lose its spiritual connection with the Tibetan people inside China, which should be avoided by every method.
Therefore, terminating the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, as both the political and spiritual leader of Tibet, is an option better than the worst. No matter what next step they are going to take, the death of the present Dalai Lama is going to be a challenge for the government-in-exile. Nobody can do better than Dalai Lama as a representative of free Tibet as well as a bond between the government-in-exile and Tibet Buddhism believers.