July 24, 2024

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Who will succeed the Dalai Lama? – message

Who will succeed the Dalai Lama?  – message

The Sino-Tibet conflict remains unresolved, as do potential successors to the 89-year-old Dalai Lama. Backgrounds.

This is about: The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, currently has a distinguished visitor: a delegation from the US Congress as his guest in exile in India. Since China took over Tibet in the 1950s, the Buddhist leader has been exiled there. President Biden will soon sign legislation urging China to resolve the Tibet conflict, the head of the US delegation said.

Leah Burger

SRF Religious Teacher


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Leah Burger studied Religious Studies, Politics and Gender Studies at the University of Zurich. He has been working at SRF since 2015, including as a producer of the talk show “Shavinsky”. He has been working as a special religious teacher since 2019.

Debate on Dalai Lama’s Succession: The Dalai Lama celebrates his 89th birthday on July 6. But the debate over his succession has been going on for a long time. “On a political level, he relinquished his power in 2011,” explains SRF religion editor Leah Burger. After that there is an elected parliament. “Nonetheless, the Dalai Lama is still an important figure on the political stage. This visit by the American delegation of high-level representatives shows that.” Regarding his reincarnation and spiritual succession, the Dalai Lama once said that he would like to comment on his succession when he turns 90, i.e. in one year.

Here the Dalai Lama strikes a new note.

Who can succeed the Dalai Lama? In the past, the Buddhist leader has outlined various options for his successor. “He said, for example, that even a woman could inherit him,” says Burger. Another option is popular voting. “Both suggestions are unusual and inconsistent with previous tradition.” Usually they are men and the selection process is complicated. “Here the Dalai Lama strikes a new note.”

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The Dalai Lama will turn 90 in 2025. From this day on, the spiritual leader likes to comment specifically on potential successors.

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China’s role in succession: China occupied Tibet in 1950 and considered it as its own territory. That is why China wants to control the Dalai Lama’s succession. “In these Sino-Tibetan contacts, the so-called golden casket was already used.” A kind of lottery that determines the reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama. China now argues that this is a way to prevent fraudulent elections. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite: China is trying to influence the election,” says Burger. This Chinese influence over other prominent figures was also seen in the election of the Panchan Lama. “China Determines Official Succession.”

Panchan Lama


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After the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama is the highest official of the Gelukpa Buddhists, who make up the majority of Tibetans.

Role of Panchan Lama: The eleventh Panchan Lama was abducted in 1995 and to this day there is no trace of him. After the abduction, China appointed its own successor, a new Panchen Lama with a positive attitude towards China. “The Panchan Lama plays an important role in discovering the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama,” explains the expert. It confirms this rebirth, as well as vice versa. Traditionally, both impart religious teachings to each other and have a teacher-student relationship. “The whole thing shows that the Panchen Lama is a very important figure in gaining influence in Tibet,” says Burger.