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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Dalai Lama: Who will succeed him?

By Melissa Bell
kampala
Could the Karmapa Lama succeed the Dalai Lama? (Abhishek Madhukar/Retuers)

On the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama made his most forceful assertion to date that he would retire from political service to move the Tibetan refugee community away from theocratic rule and toward democracy. Though his desire to cede political control has been well known for some time, Tibetans have been reticent to let him step down.

The government-in-exile is not recognized by any country and the change "seems unlikely to alter much for many Tibetans," the Post's Simon Denyer writes from Dharmsala, the Indian town now the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Denyer writes:

Tsering Shakya, a Tibetan scholar at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said the Dalai Lama's move comes in part in response to criticism from China that rule by a reincarnated monk was anachronistic.

"The Dalai Lama will remain very powerful," Shakya said. "In Tibet, he is a god, and he is their leader. It is not possible to just change centuries of traditional practice."

On March 20, Tibetans in exile will go to the polls to elect a new prime minister. Among the candidates are Lobsang Sangay, a Tibetan legal scholar at Harvard, who is widely seen as the frontrunner in the race; Tenzin Tethong, a former representative for the Dalai Lama, and Tashi Wangdi, a Tibetan civil servant.

The Dalai Lama may be relinquishing his political role, but his spiritual role remains in tact. The successor for his spiritual role remains a larger question. On Tuesday, Chinese authorities announced that the Dalai Lama would not be allowed to pick his successor, a possibility the Dalai Lama suggested in a way to avoid Chinese government intrusion in the process. Traditionally, the Dalai Lama's successor is chosen after death and the new candidate is considered a reincarnation of the prior Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities have already announced the new Dalai Lama would have to meet approval from Beijing. The fear of Chinese oversight in the succession process is very real in the Tibetan community. The second highest Tibetan official, the Panchen Lama was identified by the Dalai Lama to be Gedhun Choekyi Nyima 16 years ago, but Nyima disappeared and has not been seen since. He is believed to be under some form of house arrest. China chose another boy as the Panchan Lama in 1995.

One candidate for spiritual succession, Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker, is the Karmapa Lama, a 24-year-old monk often seen at the side of the Dalai Lama. "He is a surprisingly fitful figure: Internet-savvy, barred from traveling widely by Indian officials, some of whom suspect he is a Chinese spy, and deeply curious about the West. The notion that he might slip easily into the sandals of the Dalai Lama has always struck me as an unexamined proposition," Osnos writes.

By Melissa Bell  | March 10, 2011; 1:02 PM ET
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Comments

Tibet is a sovereign nation, occupied by IMPERIALIST China!

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | March 10, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Not one mention of the fact that the Chinese government kidnapped the Panchen Lama 13 years ago, when he was 6 years old and replaced him with a fake Panchen Lama. This is the figure that will lead the transition and search for the reincarnated Dalai Lama. The entire Buddhist structure will be predicated on communist meddling, and will no longer be representative of anything good or wholesome. This article sounded like an official communist manifesto released by a state run paper; sickening.

Posted by: davideconnollyjr | March 10, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Re: The government-in-exile is not formerly recognized by any other country and ...

You meant to say "formally", and "other" should be omitted, as "government in exile" does not count as a country.

Posted by: TonyD2 | March 10, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The whole notion of "Chinese authorities" in Tibet is an appeasement travesty of the highest order.

What gave China the right to overrun that sovereign nation in the first place?

And why have we condoned it for so long?
--because we are powerless to stop it?
--or because it is just more convenient to let it go on?

This ongoing communist bullying is indeed sickening.

Posted by: rlene | March 10, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

The whole notion of "Chinese authorities" in Tibet is an appeasement travesty of the highest order.

What gave China the right to overrun that sovereign nation in the first place?

And why have we condoned it for so long?
--because we are powerless to stop it?
--or because it is just more convenient to let it go on?

This ongoing communist bullying is indeed sickening.

Posted by: rlene | March 10, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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