Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Dalai Lama’s Succession and Chinese Intervention


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Dalai Lama

Mains level: Not Much

dalai lama

The Dalai Lama has named a US-born Mongolian boy as the tenth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, the head of the Janang tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and the Buddhist spiritual head of Mongolia.

Do you know?

“Rinpoche” is a title used in Tibetan Buddhism, which is given to a highly respected teacher or lama. It literally means “precious one” and is used to indicate respect and reverence for the person. The title is often given to senior lamas or to those who are considered to be reincarnations of past masters.

Who is the Dalai Lama?

  • The Dalai Lama (a title) is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • He is believed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama and is regarded as an important figure not only in Tibet but also around the world.
  • The Dalai Lama is traditionally both the political and spiritual leader of Tibet, but after China’s occupation of Tibet in 1950, he went into exile in India and since then has been primarily a spiritual leader.
  • The current and 14th Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso, who was born in Tibet in 1935 and has been in exile in India since 1959.

Brief Outline of Tibetan Buddhism

  • Tibetan Buddhism became the predominant religion in Tibet by the 9th century AD, evolving from the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions of Buddhism and incorporating many tantric and shamanic practices.
  • It has four major schools: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug, with the Janang school being one of the smaller schools that grew as an offshoot of the Sakya School.
  • Since 1640, the Gelug School has been the predominant school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama belongs to this school.

Hierarchy and Reincarnation in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition

  • The cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is one of Buddhism’s key beliefs.
  • Tibet’s hierarchical system seemingly emerged in the 13th century, and it was around this time that the first instances of “formally recognizing the reincarnations of lamas” can be found.
  • The Gelug School developed a strong hierarchy and instituted the tradition of succession through reincarnation, with the fifth Grand Lama of the school being conferred the title of Dalai Lama.
  • Several procedures/tests are followed to recognize Tulkus (recognized reincarnations).

Key issue: Chinese interference

  • The announcement of the boy’s reincarnation has brought attention back to the larger question of the 14th Dalai Lama’s own reincarnation.
  • The issue of his reincarnation has deep ramifications on international politics, with China seeking to control the succession and take control over Tibet in the cultural sphere.

What lies ahead?

  • The question of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation is set to continue for the foreseeable future.
  • The Dalai Lama himself has not provided a definitive answer regarding what will happen, although he has suggested that there may be no Dalai Lama after him.
  • The question of his reincarnation continues to hold great political implications due to his symbolic authority and importance to millions of Tibetans across the world.

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