Deity Goes into Retirement: Tibetans Face Uncertainty in Post-Dalai Lama Era

By Erich Follath in Dharamsala, India, SPIEGEL

Aug. 27, 2011

The Dalai Lama has officially retired from politics, claiming he wants to live as a “simple monk.” It’s a watershed moment for Tibet, amid fears of Chinese meddling and controversy over the new generation of leaders. Meanwhile the Chinese authorities continue to brutally crack down on protests by Tibetan monks.

He certainly doesn’t want to end up like the Queen. “With all due respect, and she’s a very nice lady in person, but having to recite bad speeches written by someone else? It’s not for me,” says the 14th Dalai Lama, known among the faithful as “Ocean of Wisdom” and “Buddha of Compassion.” He dabs at beads of sweat on his forehead, careful not to endanger a fly that has landed there. “I would feel like a puppet.”

For this reason, a political compromise was inconceivable for the man many worship as a “god-king.” That was despite the entreaties of his Tibetan followers, no matter how much they begged him to at least remain the ceremonial leader of the government-in-exile, which he established more than 50 years ago in the Indian town of Dharamsala after the Chinese Communists had forced him to flee from the Tibetan capital Lhasa. The Dalai Lama no longer wants to hold any political responsibility.

 

Arne Dedert/AFP/Getty Images

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“It has nothing to do with resignation, or health reasons, only with insight,” he said in a recent interview with SPIEGEL in the French city of Toulouse, where he was giving lectures on Buddhism, before traveling to Germany this week as the guest of the Hessian state government in the western city of Wiesbaden. “I have taken a close look at all forms of government. A democratic parliament with an elected prime minister is the only modern and functioning one. Monarchy: yesterday. Theocracy: from the day before yesterday. I believe in the separation of church and state. But what sort of a hypocrite would I be if I didn’t draw any conclusions from this realization?”

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