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Dalai Lama hints at full retirement within a year

by Jason Burke, The Guardian, 22 November 2010

The Dalai Lama says he may raise issue of retirement and end role permanently if agreed with Tibetan parliament in exile

New Delhi, India -- Tibetan Spiritual leader the Dalai Lama The Dalai Lama speaking in New Delhi last weekend. He has hinted strongly at full retirement after first discussing the issue with Tibetan parliament in exile.

The Dalai Lama has given the clearest sign yet that he is preparing for a full retirement from political life, possibly within a year.

Speaking during an Indian television interview, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said that he was contemplating raising the issue with the elected political leadership of the Tibetan community in exile within six months and that a final decision could be made "a few months" later.

"In order to utilise fully democracy I felt [it is] better I am not involved [and that] I am devoted to other fields, promotion of human values and peace and harmony," the 75-year-old said. "[But] firstly I have to discuss, to inform members of Tibetan parliament."

The most likely date for discussions to start would be after the elections for the Tibetan parliament in exile to be held in March next year.

Traditionally the office of the Dalai Lama combines spiritual and temporal roles. The current 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has progressively distanced himself from a direct political role and expressed a desire to live as a simple monk. He remains however official head of the central Tibetan administration in exile.

Last week, at a conference in Delhi, the Dalai Lama said that a new set of political leaders were emerging among exiled Tibetans. Since 1960 an assembly has been elected by voters in exile but since 2001 the Kalon Tripa or prime minister has been elected too. For the coming elections, 80,000 voters have registered in India, Nepal, Bhutan, US, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

The Dalai Lama also told the conference it was possible that he would be the last Dalai Lama, saying that the institution had been useful for many centuries but that this did not necessarily mean it could not be abolished if the majority of followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition so wished.

"Things change," he said last Friday though he also stressed his belief that, at least in the short term, believers would prefer to see a new Dalai Lama appointed. The question of the succession is highly controversial and risks sparking dissent within the Tibetan community. Chinese authorities are also likely to exploit any opportunities offered by the transition of power.

The present incumbent of the office told Indian television's Karan Thapar that the immediate question of the next Dalai Lama was not to be considered immediately. "I think for the moment, the next Dalai Lama issue, [let's] not hurry," he said.



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