The Dalai Lama turns 74 in July. He’s had recent bouts of ill health. The Chinese government wants to choose his successor.
And the result might very well be two, competing Dalai Lamas.
Both the Chinese and the Tibetan exiles are bracing for an almost inevitable outcome: the emergence into the world of dueling Dalai Lamas — one chosen by the exiles, perhaps by the 14th Dalai Lama himself, and the other by Chinese officials.
“It’s a huge but ultracritical issue, with no clear outcome or solution except one: trouble,” said Robert Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia University. “It is going to end up with two Dalai Lamas and thus with long-running conflict, unless the Chinese agree to a diplomatic solution pretty soon.”
The jockeying has put the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Communist Party in surprising positions. The Dalai Lama said late last month in an interview with The New York Times that all options for choosing his reincarnation were open, including ones that break from tradition. That could mean that the next Dalai Lama would be found outside Tibet, could be a woman or might even be named while the 14th Dalai Lama was still alive, before his soul properly transmigrated. Meanwhile, the party, officially atheist and accused of ravaging Tibetan culture, insists that religious customs must be followed.
A traditional selection process would be easily controlled by the Chinese government, since the process is rooted in the landscape of Tibet, which the Chinese seized in 1951. China has already positioned itself in other ways, including enacting a law in 2007 that says all reincarnations of senior lamas must be approved by the government.
The Communist Party has already tried its hand picking pseudo lamas who will be faithful to the Party and retain legitimacy among the people:
In 1995, when the Dalai Lama confirmed a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second-ranking leader of the Gelugpa sect, the Chinese government whisked away the boy and his parents and installed its own child lama. The Dalai Lama’s choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, now 20, is still hidden from public view, while the government’s selection shows up at official events to praise Communist policy — and is seen by many Tibetans as a fraud.
Chinese leaders also tried to groom the Karmapa, the reincarnated head of the Kagyu sect, but he fled to India in 1999, at age 14. He now sits by the Dalai Lama at prayer ceremonies here.
The people see right through this.
Read the entire story at the New York Times.