The Dalai Lama has outlined a timeframe for deciding whether to continue the institution of the Dalai Lama, but has said that China should have no say in who succeeds him if it does continue.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, aged 76, said that he would make the decision when he is ‘about 90.’
‘When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not,’ he said in a statement posted on his website today.
‘(R)eincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas.’
The Dalai Lama and his followers fled China in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. The movement is now based in Dharamsala in India, but has been a regular thorn in the side of China, which has consistently suggested he is a separatist troublemaker.
Indeed, China has frequently been keen to punish countries that are seen to be encouraging his movement. In 2008, for example, the annual China-EU talks shelved for the first time in 11 years after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with him.
More specifically, there’s also a financial cost for meeting the Dalai Lama, at least according to a recent study published by the Social Science Research Network. According to the authors, both from the University of Goettingen in Germany, ‘Our empirical results support the idea that countries officially receiving the Dalai Lama at the highest political level are punished through a reduction of their exports to China.’
Using data from the United Nations and World Bank, the authors found ‘official’ meetings between the Dalai Lama and the leadership of a country resulted in a cut in exports to China from that country of an average of 8.1 percent. This effect, the authors said, lasts about two years.
In his statement, the Dalai Lama made abundantly clear he is unhappy with any such meddling by China.
‘Today, the authoritarian rulers of the People’s Republic of China, who as communists reject religion, but still involve themselves in religious affairs, have imposed a so-called re-education campaign and declared the so-called Order No. Five, concerning the control and recognition of reincarnations, which came into force on 1st September 2007, he said. ‘This is outrageous and disgraceful. The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair.’