DHARMSALA, INDIA – Senior religious figures representing four schools of Tibetan Buddhism on Wednesday unanimously endorsed the Dalai Lama’s sole authority to choose his successor, guaranteeing legitimacy that a possible Chinese appointee would lack.
Over 100 lamas, including nine high lamas, or senior Buddhist priests, representing all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, adopted a special resolution to that effect on the first day of the 14th Tibetan Religious Conference, which lasts until Friday.
“The authority of decision concerning the way and manner in which the next reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama should appear solely rests with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama himself,” the three-point resolution says. “If the government of the People’s Republic of China for political ends chooses a candidate for the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan people will not recognize and respect that candidate.”
The Nobel Peace laureate’s succession has been a topic of increasing interest of late because of his advanced age.
Chinese claims of having a say in naming a successor has raised concerns among Tibetans about a possible legitimacy contest between a successor chosen by Dalai Lama himself and the one chosen and backed by China.
“It is a question of credibility, legitimacy,” Lobsang Sangay, president of the Tibetan government-in-exile said. “China could appoint one. But the appointee will have zero credibility. Fake is always fake.”
Last month, Tibetan Buddhists from around the world gathered here and passed a resolution at the 3rd Special General Meeting seeking continuation of the reincarnation tradition and vesting the rights to choose a successor on the Dalai Lama himself.
Wednesday’s resolution adopted by senior religious figures of Tibetan Buddhism puts a religious seal of approval on October’s resolution, thereby significantly, if not completely, eliminating the possibility that the legitimacy of a successor appointed by the Dalai Lama is questioned.
“The Karmic bond between the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan people having been inseparable and the present status of the Tibetan people being extremely critical, all Tibetans genuinely wish for continuation of the institution of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama in the future,” the resolution says.
“We therefore strongly supplicate to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for the same,” it adds.
Sangay said with followers as well as senior lamas having prayed to the Dalai Lama, 84, for ensuring continuation of the reincarnation tradition, he is confident that the spiritual leader will oblige.
“It is now up to His Holiness to decide when, where and whether,” Sangay said.
The spiritual leader says he will name his successor when he reaches the age of 90.
The Tibetan Religious Conference is held every three years.
Special general meetings are held only when the need arises. The first such meeting was held in 2008 following Chinese repression of an uprising in Tibet. The second was held in 2012 to dissuade Dalai Lama followers from committing acts of self-immolation.
The third, held last month, was focused on countering Chinese attempts to hijack Tibetan Buddhism by interfering with the process of succession to the 14th Dalai Lama.