Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Fourteenth Assembly of the Tibetan People's Deputies

March 14, 2011

March 14th 2011

To the members of the Fourteenth Assembly of the Tibetan People’s

It is common knowledge that ancient Tibet, consisting of three
provinces (Cholkha-sum) was ruled by a line of forty-two Tibetan
kings beginning with Nyatri Tsenpo (127 BCE), and ending with Tri
Ralpachen (838 CE). Their rule spanned almost one thousand years.
During that time, Tibet was known throughout Inner Asia as a
powerful nation, comparable in military power and political
influence with Mongolia and China. With the development of Tibetan
literature, the richness and breadth of the religion and culture of
Tibet meant that its civilisation was considered second only to
that of India.

Following the fragmentation of central authority in the 9th
century, Tibet was governed by several rulers whose authority was
limited to their respective fiefdoms. Tibetan unity weakened with
the passage of time. In the early 13th century, both China and
Tibet came under the control of Genghis Khan. Although Drogon
Choegyal Phagpa restored the sovereignty of Tibet in the 1260s, and
his rule extended across the three provinces, the frequent change
of rulers under the Phagmo Drupas, Rinpungpas and Tsangpas over the
next 380 years or so resulted in a failure to maintain a unified
Tibet. The absence of any central authority and frequent internal
conflicts caused Tibet’s political power to decline.

Since the Fifth Dalai Lama’s founding of the Ganden Phodrang
Government of Tibet in 1642, successive Dalai Lamas have been both
the spiritual and temporal leaders of Tibet. During the reign of
the Fifth Dalai Lama, all the 13 myriarchies or administrative
districts of Tibet enjoyed political stability, Buddhism flourished
in Tibet and the Tibetan people enjoyed peace and freedom.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Tibet not only
lacked adequate political governance, but also missed the
opportunity to develop effective international relations. The
Thirteenth Dalai Lama assumed temporal power in 1895, but was
compelled to flee to Mongolia and China in 1904, due to the
invasion of British forces, and to India in 1910, when the Manchu
China invaded. Once circumstances allowed him to return to Tibet,
the Thirteenth Dalai Lama re-asserted Tibetan sovereignty in 1913.
As a result of what he had learned in exile, the Thirteenth Dalai
Lama introduced modern education and made reforms to strengthen the
government of Tibet. Although these steps produced positive
results, he was unable to fulfil his overall vision, as is evident
from his last political testament of 1932, the year before his
death. Despite the lacklustre political leadership and short-
comings of the regents and their administrations, the Ganden
Phodrang Government has on the whole provided stable governance for
the last four centuries.

Since I was young, I have been aware of an urgent need to modernize
the Tibetan political system. At the age of sixteen, I was
compelled to assume political leadership. At that time I lacked a
thorough understanding of Tibet’s own political system, let alone
international affairs.

However, I had a strong wish to introduce appropriate reforms in
accordance with the changing times and was able to effect some
fundamental changes. Unfortunately, I was unable to carry these
reforms any further due to circumstances beyond my control.

Soon after our arrival in India in April 1959, we set up
departments with Kalons (Ministers) in charge of education,
preservation of culture and the rehabilitation and welfare of the
community. Similarly, in 1960, aware of the importance of
democratization, the first Commission of Tibetan People's Deputies
was elected and in 1963 we promulgated the Draft Constitution for a
Future Tibet.

No system of governance can ensure stability and progress if it
depends solely on one person without the support and participation
of the people in the political process. One man rule is both
anachronistic and undesirable. We have made great efforts to
strengthen our democratic institutions to serve the long-term
interests of the six million Tibetans, not out of a wish to copy
others, but because democracy is the most representative system of
governance. In 1990, a committee was formed to draft the Charter
for Tibetans-in-Exile and a year later the total strength of the
Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (ATPD), the Tibetans in
exile’s highest law-making body, was increased. In 1991, the
Eleventh ATPD formally adopted the Charter for Tibetans-in-Exile
and assumed all legislative authority. Given the limitations of our
life in exile these are achievements of which we can be proud.

In 2001, the Tibetan people elected the Kalon Tripa, the political
leader, directly for the first time. Since then, I have been in
semi-retirement, no longer involving myself in the day-to-day
administration, but able to dedicate more time to general human

The essence of a democratic system is, in short, the assumption of
political responsibility by elected leaders for the popular good.
In order for our process of democratization to be complete, the
time has come for me to devolve my formal authority to such an
elected leadership. The general lack of experience and political
maturity in our democratic institutions has prevented us from doing
this earlier.

Given that the line of Dalai Lamas has provided political
leadership for nearly four centuries, it might be difficult for
Tibetans generally and especially those in Tibet to envisage and
accept a political system that is not led by the Dalai Lama.
Therefore, over the past 50 years I have tried in various ways to
raise people’s political awareness and encourage their
participation in our democratic process.

In my 10th March statement of 1969, for instance, I stated, “When
the day comes for Tibet to be governed by its own people, it will
be for the people to decide as to what form of government they will
have. The system of governance by the line of the Dalai Lamas may
or may not be there. In particular, the opinion of the forward-
looking younger generation will be an influential factor.”

Similarly, in my 10th March statement of 1988, I stated, “As I have
said many times, even the continuation of the institution of the
Dalai Lama is for the people to decide.” Since the 1980s, I have
repeatedly advised the Kashag, ATPD and the public that Tibetans
should take full responsibility for the administration and welfare
of the people as if the Dalai Lama were not there.

I informed the Chairman of the Thirteenth ATPD and the then Chief
Justice Commissioner that I should be relieved of functions related
to my political and administrative status, including such
ceremonial responsibilities as the signing of bills adopted by the
legislative body. However, my proposal was not even considered. On
31st August 2010, during the First Tibetan General Meeting
(organized by ATPD), I explained this again in detail. Now, a
decision on this important matter should be delayed no longer. All
the necessary amendments to the Charter and other related
regulations should be made during this session so that I am
completely relieved of formal authority.

I want to acknowledge here that many of my fellow Tibetans, inside
and outside Tibet, have earnestly requested me to continue to give
political leadership at this critical time. My intention to devolve
political authority derives neither from a wish to shirk
responsibility nor because I am disheartened. On the contrary, I
wish to devolve authority solely for the benefit of the Tibetan
people in the long run. It is extremely important that we ensure
the continuity of our exile Tibetan administration and our struggle
until the issue of Tibet has been successfully resolved.

If we have to remain in exile for several more decades, a time will
inevitably come when I will no longer be able to provide
leadership. Therefore, it is necessary that we establish a sound
system of governance while I remain able and healthy, in order that
the exile Tibetan administration can become self-reliant rather
than being dependent on the Dalai Lama. If we are able to implement
such a system from this time onwards, I will still be able to help
resolve problems if called upon to do so. But, if the
implementation of such a system is delayed and a day comes when my
leadership is suddenly unavailable, the consequent uncertainty
might present an overwhelming challenge. Therefore, it is the duty
of all Tibetans to make every effort to prevent such an eventuality.

As one among the six million Tibetans, bearing in mind that the
Dalai Lamas have a special  historic and karmic relationship with
the Tibetan people, and as long as Tibetans place their trust and
faith in me, I will continue to serve the cause of Tibet.

Although Article 31 of the Charter spells out provisions for a
Council of Regency, it was formulated merely as an interim measure
based on past traditions. It does not include provisions for
instituting a system of political leadership without the Dalai
Lama. Therefore, amendments to the Charter on this occasion must
conform to the framework of a democratic system in which the
political leadership is elected by the people for a specific term.
Thus, all the necessary steps must be taken, including the
appointment of separate committees, to amend the relevant Articles
of the Charter and other regulations, in order that a decision can
be reached and implemented during this very session.

As a result, some of my political promulgations such as the Draft
Constitution for a Future Tibet (1963) and Guidelines for Future
Tibet's Polity (1992) will become ineffective. The title of the
present institution of the Ganden Phodrang headed by the Dalai Lama
should also be changed accordingly.

With my prayers for the successful proceedings of the house.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

11th March 2011

Note: Translated from the Tibetan original, which should be
considered final and authoritative.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank