Last week, the Dalai Lama announced that he is giving up his political role. This news came as a shock to many and left the Tibet polity all shaken up. However, this desire is not new. The only difference is that his earlier pronouncements on the issue were wishes and suggestions. But this time, it seems he has made a firm decision.
The Dalai Lama’s decision has put six million Tibetans in a fix. A vast majority of them, particularly the senior leaders, want their 75-year-old god-king to continue. Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in- exile, also wants him to stay. However, this is not because Tibetan leaders are scared of taking on the challenge. It is because they cannot think of doing anything without the Dalai Lama leading them. A decision on this will be taken during the Tibetan Parliament, which begins today. If the decision is ‘yes’, then the House has to amend the charter that gives the Dalai Lama sweeping powers in all spheres of governance, including dissolution of Parliament. Election, if needed, will be held on March 20.
If the Tibetan Parliament accepts the Dalai Lama’s decision, there would be serious implications not only for China but also for India. New Delhi may have to redo its Tibet policy because the younger generation of Tibetans is not as flexible as the Dalai Lama. And that could put both India and China in a spot. But any change is good and, in this case, it is a must. As the Dalai Lama himself said, an elected political leadership will create the right kind of atmosphere for the future.
India must shed its fear of an uncertain future and welcome the change. China, too, is scared of the unknown. The Dalai Lama, though an institution in himself, is a single person to handle. But with an elected political head, Beijing will have to deal with too many divergent views.
A democratically elected political head will spoil their ‘after-Dalai’ plan. The Dalai Lama wants to foil any such move by China. China watchers feel Beijing is just waiting for the post-Dalai Lama days so that they could have their own Dalai Lama. On this too, the Dalai Lama has made it clear that the next Dalai Lama, if any, will be born only in a democratic country and not in China! This has put China in a fix and a recent statement by the Chinese leadership said that the Dalai Lama has no right to change the established norms of Tibetan Buddhism and that he can’t choose his own successor. But the Dalai Lama has no such compulsions. For him, the best way is the one that suits Tibetans the best.
Despite the Dalai Lama initiating the move to end his political leadership, his spiritual leadership will continue. And after him 26-year-old Karmapa Rinpoche will take over. It would be in the interest of the Tibetans themselves if they allow the Dalai Lama to fulfil his wishes in his lifetime. n firstname.lastname@example.org