Dalai Lama succession issue: US rejects China’s claims, urges UN to intervene
A US envoy stated that the right to determine the successor of the Dalai Lama should be with the Tibetan Buddhists and not the Chinese Communist Party.
The United States has urged international bodies including the United Nations to take up the issue of Dalai Lama’s succession. The US in the process rejected China’s claim that it will decide the next successor of Dalai Lama.
The United States claimed that the decision on Dalai Lama’s succession is something that should be taken up by international bodies such as the United Nations, as there are many people who don’t live in China but follow the Dalai Lama.
This was stated by the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback at a press conference in Washington on November 21, 2019.
US rejects China’s claim to decide Dalai Lama’s successor
The US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom reiterated that the issue of deciding the new successor of Dalai Lama should be taken up internationally, as he is a well-known spiritual leader across the world and hence, deserves the respect and the succession process picked by his faith community. He said that the United States is going to continue to push for the same.
He said that the right to determine the successor of the Dalai Lama should be with the Tibetan Buddhists and not the Chinese Communist Party. The US Ambassador had recently visited Dharamshala in India, where the Dalai Lama has taken refuge for the past decades. During his visit, he had addressed the Tibetan community there.
Who is the Dalai Lama?
The Dalai Lama is known to be a spiritual leader of the Tibetans. The central government of Tibet had invested temporal duties to the one who held the position of the Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnation.
The 14th Dalai Lama officially assumed his position in November 1950 at the age of 15, when Tibet was forcibly incorporated as a part of the People’s Republic of China.
In the Tibetan uprising of 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India and sought refuge here. Dalai Lama’s stay in India has been one of the main bilateral contentions between India and China. India has always stood firm on its decision to offer refuge to the spiritual leader.
The Dalai Lama has since then traveled the world and spoken on issues surrounding Tibetan welfare, environment, non-violence, women’s rights, Buddhism and science, Buddhist teachings, Astronomy and interfaith dialogue.
The Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace prize in 1989 in recognition of his efforts to spread peace and non-violence. He also won the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2006. He has also authored several books on Buddhism and subjects related to it.
The Dalai Lama was also named by Times Magazine as one of the “children of Mahatma Gandhi’ and his spiritual heir.
How is the Dalai Lama’s successor chosen?
According to the traditional Buddhist belief, the Dalai Lama is believed to be able to choose the body into which he is reincarnated. The person, when found, is chosen to be the next Dalai Lama after undergoing certain trials.
Buddhist scholars of previous times believed that it is the responsibility of the High Lamas of the Gelugpa tradition and the Tibetan government to seek out the next Dalai Lama after the death of the current one. The process is long and can take years. It had taken four years to find the 14th Dalai Lama.
Though earlier the search was limited to Tibet, the current Dalai Lama states that there is a chance that he will not be reborn and even if he does, it would not in a region under the Chinese rule.
The High Lamas are aided with visions, dreams and other signs in their search for the Dalai Lama’s successor. Earlier, the direction of the smoke emanating from the previous Dalai Lama’s cremation was supposed to be an indicator of the place where the rebirth will take place.
Once the successor is found, the successor is then put through certain tests and assessed against a set of criteria to ensure that they are the genuine reincarnation. If more than one candidate is identified through the process then, the final successor is decided on the basis of drawing lots in front of the public. Once the successor is properly identified, the child along with his family is taken to Lama’s resident and taught Buddhist scriptures to prepare him to take up the spiritual leadership.
The current Dalai Lama stated during an interview in 2004 that it is up to the Tibetan people to decide whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. He said that the purpose of reincarnation is to fulfil the life tasks of the previous Dalai Lama. He said that his life currently is outside Tibet so his reincarnation will also logically be found outside Tibet. He also indicated that the next Dalai Lama could also be a woman.
However, the Dalai Lama expressed concern that China will not go along with the traditional practice of choosing the Dalai Lama and appoint its own. In that case, he said there will be two Dalai Lamas- one officially appointed and the other real incarnation.
In September 2011, the Dalai Lama had issued a statement that concerned his reincarnation giving signs on how the next Dalai Lama should be chosen, about the place of rebirth and how China should not be trusted in appointing the next successor.
However, in October 2019 the Dalai Lama stated that the reincarnation system should end due to the feudal origin of the system.