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Dalai Lama Says China Cannot Decide His Successor 

  • Anjana Pasricha

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets devotees at the Buddha Park in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh, India, April 5, 2017.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has said it is up to the Tibetan people to decide whether the institution of the Dalai Lama will continue and that China cannot decide on his successor.

He said he will organize a conference to discuss the issue of the next Dalai Lama before the end of this year.

The Buddhist monk spoke Saturday at a news conference during a visit to the northeast Indian town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh state, which borders China. His weeklong visit has sparked anger in Beijing, which claims a chunk of the remote Himalayan state.

Question of successor

The question of who will replace the 81-year-old spiritual leader has gained prominence with Beijing having asserted that its communist leaders have the right to approve the next Dalai Lama as a legacy inherited from China’s emperors.

But the Dalai Lama said Chinese officials have no role in identifying his successor because they are atheists and do not believe in the concept of religion.

“That’s frankly speaking quite nonsense,” he said. “In order to (for the) Chinese government taking responsibility for reincarnation in general, particularly me, first Chinese communists should accept theory of rebirth.”

The Tibetan religious leader said nobody knows where the next Dalai Lama will be born or come from.

“I think at the time of my death, maybe some indication come, (but) as of this moment no indication,” he added.

Tibetan Buddhists believe the soul of a senior lama or Buddhist monk is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death.

Fate of the institution

Saying that a final decision on the fate of the institution would be taken when he reaches his late 80s or 90, the Dalai Lama said he wanted to convene a meeting of senior monks this year to start a preliminary discussion on his succession. He said the continuation of the tradition depends on the people.

“If concerned people feel now this institution (is) no longer relevant, then this institution [will] cease,” he said.

He did not rule out the possibility of the next Dalai Lama being a woman.

Importance of Tawang

The Dalai Lama’s visit to the sensitive border town of Tawang, home to a famous Buddhist monastery, is not his first. But Chinese objections have been far more strident this time with Beijing accusing New Delhi of arranging a platform for the Tibetan leader to “hold anti-China and separatist activities” and lodging an official protest. It has warned that the visit would hurt ties with India.

The Dalai Lama and Indian officials call his weeklong Tawang stop purely religious. The Tibetan monk said he wished a Chinese official had accompanied him to know the reality.

Jayadeva Ranade at New Delhi’s Center for China Analysis and Strategy believes the strong Chinese reaction stems from the fact that Tawang was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama.

“The Chinese seem to be linking that with the next reincarnation and the location where the next reincarnation may be found. These are the reasons why they are getting more concerned,” he said.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed Chinese uprising, resides in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala. China denounces him as a dangerous separatist.

He gave a spiritual discourse to tens of thousands of devotees and is scheduled to give more in the coming days in Tawang.

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