The last Dalai Lama? Who should have the last word?

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

We’ve all read the news by now that the Dalai Lama has speculated that he may be the last Dalai Lama. This was reported by the German newspaper Die Welt and subsequently picked up by other newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the HuffPost, to name a few. But according to the VoA, Tibetans are saying that the Dalai Lama’s statement has been taken out of context and, hence, is misleading.

Nevertheless, we must remember that the Dalai Lama has, for several years, cited various scenarios that may be likely with regard to his succession. This time too, his comment isn’t conclusive and appears to be a view that he has always held. (Read more about this in the second answer to the question on the last Dalai Lama on his official website).

As early as in the 1970s, the Dalai Lama told a Polish newspaper that:

The Dalai Lama office was an institution created to benefit others. It is possible that it will soon have outlived its usefulness.

Given this background, the Dalai Lama’s recent comment highlights just another of those possibilities related to his succession that have already been deliberated at length. In the end, as the supreme head of the Tibetan people (and no amount of devolution of powers will ever change that), the Dalai Lama will, I believe, do whatever is in the best interest of the Tibetan people and Tibet, just as he has all his life.

And so, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Chinese government has no right whatsoever to dictate to the Dalai Lama what he should and should not say and do. According to Reuters, the atheist-Chinese government told the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, that he should respect Tibet’s age-old practice of reincarnation. This is ironic coming from China, given that its government has, over the years, attempted to destroy Tibetan Buddhism, either by demolishing thousands of Tibet’s centuries-old monasteries or by disrespecting Tibetan cultural and religious traditions by indoctrinating the people with Chinese versions of these customs and then subjecting Tibetans to untold torture for practicing them the Tibetan way?

So perhaps, the Chinese government is not in the best position to be dictating terms to the Dalai Lama, particularly owing to the fact that despite all its efforts over half a century, the Chinese government has failed miserably at one thing — and that is in turning the Tibetan people against the Dalai Lama.

I profess to being just one among the millions of other Tibetans who feel a deep sense of devotion, gratitude, awe and wonder each time I have been in the presence of the Dalai Lama, our precious one. This is an innate sentiment that has determined the fate of the Tibetan people in that, our unquestionable faith in the Dalai Lama has made it impossible for the Chinese government to honestly boast of having complete control over all things Tibetan.

It’s not that they haven’t tried. They have — in every scheme, program, plan, campaign, tactic, propaganda, and project. And yet, they have failed.

Yes, they definitely conquered the Tibetan plateau (not that it was terribly difficult to conquer a nation armed with just prayers and prayer beads) and also managed to occupy Tibet after passing off many areas of erstwhile Tibet as their own (which means, these regions are no longer even categorized under the Tibet Autonomous Region — a separation that the Chinese regime itself masterminded after the occupation of Tibet and which constitutes less than half of historic Tibet). The Chinese regime also implemented countless strategies to force the Tibetan culture and language into oblivion or to a very-watered-down version of their former self. They even tried winning the hearts of the Tibetan people through development projects, a majority of which have come under immense criticism for the tremendous harm done to the environment and for the fact that many of them are aimed at benefiting Han Chinese migrants in Tibet. Various forms of religious and patriotic re-education programs were also introduced in Tibet, along with the launch of ten-million-something campaigns to pitch the Tibetan people against the Dalai Lama.

And yet, they have failed in all their efforts, making it ever more clear why the Chinese government will never have the last word in determining the future of the Tibetan people. Ultimately, it is the Tibetan people, as his Holiness has always said, and the Tibetan exile government, which was created to represent and promote the true aspirations of the Tibetan people, that should determine and chalk out the future of the Tibetan people and Tibetan history — whether it is in ending an age-old tradition of recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation or in requesting the Dalai Lama to be reborn as the 15th Dalai Lama to lead the Tibetan people once again.


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