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Dalai Lama succession plans back on agenda

india Updated: Sep 16, 2011 19:13 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

After Tenzin Gyatso, who? It's a question that has been haunting Tibetans for long.

With Tibet's spiritual leader Tenzin Gyatso - better known as the 14th Dalai Lama - conceding his political and administrative powers, the question of his successor is back on the agenda.

Amid growing concerns that China may appoint its own Dalai Lama after 77 years old Gyatso, dies, the heads of four sects of the Tibetan Buddhism - Nyingma, Gelugpa, Sakya and Kagyu - and representatives of pre-Buddhist religion, Bon, would huddle in Dharamsala to discuss the issue of succession.

The Tibetans' anxiety is not unfounded. Shortly after the Dalai Lama selected five-year-old Gedun Cheokyi Nyingma as successor to the 10th Panchen Lama in 1995, China appointed Norbu Gyaltsen as the next Panchen Lama - the second most important leader in the Tibetan hierarchy.

Most Tibetans spurn the Beijing-anointed Panchen Lama as a fake, but the whereabouts of the Dalai Lama-recognised Panchen Lama is one of China's tightly-guarded secrets.

Tibetans in exile say the boy had gone missing mysteriously, while the Chinese government maintains that Nyingma is pursuing his religious studies.

Succession question gained urgency after talks between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government broke down in January 2010. The issue is expected to top the agenda of the three-day religious meeting that begins in Dharamsala on September 23.

"One of issues to be discussed would be his holiness's (Dalai Lama's) reincarnation," said Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary in the Dalai Lama office.

More than two dozen high-ranking monks, including heads of sects and representatives of sub-sects of the Karma Kagyu (headed by 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje) would attend the meet.

Apart from giving suggestions on improving Tibetan monastic studies, the Dalai Lama could drop a hint about his succession plans during the meeting.

Traditionally, a group of monks in consultation with official deity, Nechung, sets out on a "search" for the incarnation after the Dalai Lama's death.

In Tibet, the Panchen Lama would assume responsibility of the Dalai Lama in his absence. The search for the Dalai Lama was earlier limited to Tibet but the current Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after Chinese troops marched into Lhasa in 1959, announced that the next Dalai Lama would be born in free country - implying his incarnation would not be born in China-controlled Tibet.