The Dalai Lama has given the clearest sign yet that he is preparing for a full retirement from political life, possibly within a year.
At a television interview, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said he was contemplating raising the issue with the elected political leadership of the Tibetan community in exile within six months and that a final decision could be made “a few months” later.
“In order to utilise fully democracy I felt (it is) better I am not involved (and that) I am devoted to other fields, promotion of human values and peace and harmony,” the 75-year-old said. “(But) firstly I have to discuss, to inform members of Tibetan parliament.”
The most likely date for discussions to start would be after the elections for the Tibetan parliament in exile to be held in March next year.
Traditionally, the office of the Dalai Lama combines spiritual and temporal roles. The current 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has progressively distanced himself from a direct political role and expressed a desire to live as a simple monk. He, however, remains the official head of the central Tibetan administration in exile.
Last week, at a conference in Delhi, the Dalai Lama said a new set of political leaders were emerging among exiled Tibetans. Since 1960 an assembly has been elected by voters in exile but since 2001 the Kalon Tripa or prime minister has been elected too. For the coming elections, 80,000 voters have registered in India, Nepal, Bhutan, US, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.
The Dalai Lama also said it was possible that he would be the last Dalai Lama, saying the institution had been useful for many centuries but that this did not necessarily mean it could not be abolished if the majority of followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition so wished.