DHARMSALA, India (The Blaze/AP) -- The Dalai Lama said Saturday if he is to be reincarnated he will leave clear written instructions about the process, but that the matter is unlikely to come up for a number of years.
The Tibetan spiritual leader said in a statement that when he is "about 90" he will consult Buddhist scholars to evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue at all. He is 76.
The statement came after a meeting between the Dalai Lama and the leaders of the four Tibetan Buddhist sects, the first since he transferred his political role earlier this year to an elected prime minister.
China reviles the Dalai Lama as a separatist, although the Nobel Peace Prize laureate insists he is only seeking increased autonomy for Tibet. Beijing has left little doubt that it intends to be deeply involved in choosing the next Dalai Lama. That concern has led the current Dalai Lama to contemplate ideas that break with the ancient system in which each dead Dalai Lama is reincarnated in the body of a male child.
In May, the Dalai Lama formally stepped down as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, giving up the political power that he and his predecessors have wielded over Tibetans for hundreds of years. Though he remains the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, his decision to abdicate is one of the biggest upheavals in the community since a Chinese crackdown led him to flee Tibet in 1959 into exile in India.
China insists that religious law requires that the Dalai Lama's reincarnation be born in a Tibetan area under Chinese control. However, the Dalai Lama has said his successor will be born in exile and has even floated the idea of choosing his own successor while still alive - perhaps even a woman. China, though, isn't likely to back down. Time Magazine's Hannah Beech has more:
But just to ensure China's control over Tibet—which the Tibetans feel was essentially independent when the Chinese marched in starting in 1950 and the Chinese believe was an integral part of their territory for centuries—Beijing has reiterated that it has the right to pick the 15th Dalai Lama. China claims historical precedent on the matter, contending that emperors who ruled over China long ago performed that very task.
In his statement Saturday, he said if the institution of the Dalai Lama were to continue, then he would leave behind "clear written instructions about it."
"Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People's Republic of China," he said.
In the statement, he also described how the rebirth process takes place:
There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life.
We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarise themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence.
On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.
The Dalai Lama has lived in the Indian hill town of Dharmsala since fleeing Tibet. China says Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries.