Tibetan dilemma: Uncertain future without the Dalai Lama | India News

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The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, turned 89 this year, a milestone celebrated by hundreds of exiled Tibetans in Dharamshala, India. Since fleeing Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama has resided in this hillside town, making it the center of the Tibetan government-in-exile. The celebrations were marked by traditional dances, songs, and the cutting of a three-tiered cake, but the Dalai Lama himself was absent, recovering from knee surgery in the United States.
The Dalai Lama’s advanced age and ongoing health issues have intensified concerns among Tibetan exiles about the future of their movement and leadership. China has stated its intent to control the selection of his successor, further complicating matters. This scenario has raised significant questions about the political and cultural fate of Tibetans in exile and in their homeland.
Why are Tibetans concerned about their future without the Dalai Lama?

  • The Dalai Lama has been a unifying figure for Tibetans, advocating for substantial autonomy and the preservation of Tibetan culture. His absence raises fears about the continuity of these efforts. As Penpa Tsering, president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, stated, “Post-fourteenth Dalai Lama we don’t know what will happen.”

What is the significance of the Dalai Lama’s birthday celebrations?

  • The birthday celebrations in Dharamshala are not only a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s leadership but also an expression of cultural and spiritual solidarity among exiled Tibetans. They serve as a reminder of their ongoing struggle for autonomy and the preservation of their heritage.

What are the concerns regarding the succession of the Dalai Lama?

  • Beijing’s claim that it will appoint the next Dalai Lama has caused significant concern among Tibetans. Historically, the Dalai Lama is believed to reincarnate, and the current Dalai Lama has hinted he will clarify succession matters around his 90th birthday. The fear is that China will install a rival leader to assert control over Tibet, undermining the legitimacy of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

How has the international community responded to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan issue?

  • Recently, a group of US lawmakers, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, met with the Dalai Lama, reiterating support for Tibetan autonomy. This meeting, along with a bill passed by the US Congress urging China to resume talks with Tibetan leaders, has been viewed as a significant step. Pelosi emphasized, “This bill says to the Chinese government: things have changed now, get ready for that.”

What is the “Middle Way” approach advocated by the Dalai Lama?

  • The “Middle Way” approach seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution. It aims to preserve Tibetan culture, religion, and identity while acknowledging China’s sovereignty. This approach has been a cornerstone of the Dalai Lama’s advocacy, but its future is uncertain without his guiding presence.

How does India factor into the Tibetan dilemma?

  • India has been a host to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles since 1959. While it recognizes Tibet as part of China, India remains a critical support base for the Tibetan cause. Observers suggest that India’s role could become more prominent post-Dalai Lama, especially in balancing its diplomatic relations with China.

What are the potential scenarios for Tibetans after the Dalai Lama?

  • There is a concern that the movement could lose momentum or become more radical. The Tibetan Youth Congress, for example, has voiced aspirations for full independence, contrasting with the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way. Penpa Tsering mentioned, “If every country keeps saying that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China, then where is the reason for China to come and talk to us?”
  • The future without the Dalai Lama is fraught with uncertainty for Tibetans. The spiritual leader’s advanced age and China’s assertive stance on his succession have amplified fears of a leadership vacuum. Nonetheless, the global Tibetan community remains steadfast in their cultural and political aspirations, drawing strength from the Dalai Lama’s enduring legacy.

(With inputs from agencies)

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