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"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."

Tibetan Buddhists prepare for the post-Dalai Lama era

October 5, 2009

By Stefania Moretti News
Sunday Oct. 4, 2009

The world may never know another Dalai Lama.

In a recent interview with Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger to
air on CTV, the Dalia Lama himself said he wasn't too concerned about
whether there would ever be a successor.

"If the circumstance is such that the Dalai Lama institution is no longer
relevant, then this institution will cease. No problem," he said.

Even the man appointed as His Holiness' voice in the U.K. agreed the ancient
role may all but dissolve.

"It's a big debate and unfortunately most Tibetans are not ready to discuss
the sensitive issue," says Thubten Samdup, the Dalai Lama's representative
in London for the next four years. "They want the Dalai Lama to live
forever. So it's very tricky."

Samdup spoke to earlier this summer, as he was helping to prepare for
the Dalai Lama's recent visit to Canada.

The grinning, bespectacled Dalai Lama has become synonymous in the West with
teachings of non-violence. But the 14th Dalai Lama's main purpose is to
serve as spiritual leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The Dalai Lama was born on July 6, 1935, in Taktser, northeastern Tibet. The
74-year-old is believed to be the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama.

In his early 20s, the Dalai Lama was driven out of his homeland by Chinese
authorities. About 80,000 Tibetans are said to have followed him over the
Himalayas and into India.

Now, some fear the Dalai Lama's death, especially if in exile, could spark
violent riots that have recently been associated with the Tibetan freedom
movement. His Holiness has been in hospital three times in the past year; a
sign the spiritual leader's health is in decline, Samdup said.

Traditionally, the search for the reincarnated holy child takes years after
a Dalai Lama's passing. But considering the Tibetan peoples' current
hardships, a prolonged search for the 15th Dalai Lama could create a
leadership vacuum for the Tibetan people in their struggle for autonomy.

"The Dalai Lama has been preparing for a successor for a very long time,"
Samdup said.

His Holiness has entertained the notion of breaking tradition and appointing
the 15th Dalai Lama, or at least an interim leader, he added.

"His Holiness has even questioned whether there should be another Dalai Lama
at all."

For almost 400 years, the Dalai Lama's role has fulfilled an ancient purpose
for the Tibetan people, but now times have changed. Samdup believes this
time, the Tibetan people will be content with a democratically elected

"We have to evolve with the times."

Victor Chan, who co-founded Vancouver's Dalai Lama Center for Peace and
Education back in 2005 with the Dalai Lama, hopes the centre will keep the
man's secular wisdom alive.

And when it comes to finding the next Dalai Lama: "Whomever (Tibetan
Buddhists) choose, we will certainly embrace," Chan said.

But electing the next Dalai Lama is going to be more than a little
problematic, admits Samdup.

He knows from experience. Samdup is currently heading up the international
search for prime ministerial candidates for the democratic Tibetan

The incumbent Tibetan Prime Minister is in his second term and cannot run

But since the Tibetan government has no party system, the leadership has to
actively seek out new candidates, otherwise the same old players keep
running, Samdup explained.

The Dalai Lama has given the gift of democracy to the people of Tibet,
Samdup said.

"But we are not really practicing democracy in a way that His Holiness wants
us to practice. Because right now all we are doing is waiting for a
figurehead to tell us what to do."

Samdup helped launch a website on which prime ministerial nominations from
around the world can be considered for inclusion on the next Tibetan ballot.

"Maybe there's someone in Toronto, or Sydney, Australia, for the job,"
Samdup said. "We are so spread out, let's find the best person possible."

There are an estimated 120,000 people of the Tibetan diaspora. A third of
them live in India, others mostly settling in the U.S. and Canada.

Samdup's initiative gets a lot of support from Tibetans in Canada and people
here are participating in the search for the next Prime Minister.

"Canadian-Tibetans are a lot more proactive than the Tibetans in India, for
example. They've seen the democracy here and how it works," Samdup said.

The next Tibetan government-in-exile election will run in February and March

"It's all in preparation for the eventuality when that day comes, that
unfortunate day, when the Dalai Lama dies. The day Tibetans don't want to
face, but they will. We should at least be ready," Samdup said.
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