The 14th Dalai Lama, Nobel laureate, Tenzin Gyatso, has played an important role for Tibet and Tibetans for the past several year. He must ensure that he continues this task in his lifetime and in the future. This would only be possible if the Dalai Lama recognises his reincarnation now and does not wait for a later time.
Given the fact that the line of Dalai Lamas has provided political leadership for nearly four centuries, it will be difficult for Tibetans in general and those in Tibet in particular to envisage and accept a political system that is not led by the Dalai Lama. It is, therefore, imperative for the institution of the Dalai Lama to continue uninterrupted. There are lineages within the Tibetan system and it is for the Tibetan people to raise their voice and demand the continuance of the institution of the Dalai Lama.
The present Dalai Lama has on various occasions himself taken up the issue of his reincarnation. On one occasion, he even went to the extent of saying that his reincarnation could be a woman. On another occasion, he claimed there would be no institution of Dalai Lama after him. The 14th Dalai Lama's most authoritative statement on his reincarnation was made in September 2011 in which he outlined the various means by which a proper reincarnation could be recognised.
The statement is also significant because in it the Dalai Lama recognises the value of his linage and the role Tibetans the world over can and should play in recognising the legitimate reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama.
What prompted the Dalai Lama's decision in 2011 to make this statement was the 2006 Chinese decision to declare its own rules for recognition of high lamas (tulkus). More important, were the increasing internal differences among the Tibetan community along religious and ethnic lines. These differences, perhaps accentuated by Chinese prodding, became apparent in the 2016 elections to the Sikyong (Tibetan government-in-exile).
The Tibetan Youth Congress has long advocated Rangzen (Independence) in opposition to the Dalai Lama's Middle Way. The other social force that stands in contradiction is the Shugden (protector deity associated with the Dalai Lama's Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism) cult.
To most it appears that the Tibetans have agreed that the Middle Way is the best method of dealing with the Chinese. What happens to the Tibetan youth movement, which seeks independence from China, once the present Dalai Lama passes on?
That is a question which even the Dalai Lama cannot answer. Given the uncertainty that could potentially surround a post-Dalai Lama scenario and the possibility that Beijing will pre-empt the situation by announcing its own candidate as the next Dalai Lama, it is imperative to identify the 14th Dalai Lama's successor now.
The pitfalls of carrying out such an exercise is fraught with danger and will require considerable skill and effort. We have the examples of the Karmapa and the Panchen Lama. In both cases there has been more controversy and this has hit at the root of the Tibetan system.
Therefore, much caution will have to be exercised; the advantage of starting early is that the ground rules can be set well in advance and with the consent of the Dalai Lama.
The experience of the 2015-16 Sikyong elections demonstrated that the transnational linkages of the Tibetan question continue to be alive and kicking. The Chinese continue to interfere in the affairs of politics within the Tibetan community using local proxies. The community itself also used its traditional linkages within Tibet to work towards their goals, little realising that interests of the Tibetan community as a whole could be damaged.
Some reports indicate that the Dalai Lama's inner circle shares information with the Dalai Lama only to please. It is unfortunate that the Dalai Lama who is the spiritual head of all Tibetans is being given palatable information.
One hopes that the Dalai Lama has other sources of information which give him a fair view of the world around him.
This is the bane of governmental systems across the world where, agencies and departments tend to only feed information to the top which is palatable.
That is precisely why the Tibetan community must look within and take the courage to tell the Dalai Lama that it wants the lineage of the Dalai Lama to continue.