The Last Dalai Lama?


The Dalai Lama in his visit to Germany announced to one of the newspapers there that there would be no successor to his title after his passing. Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, is the 14th to take the title, but he now says that there is no need for someone to follow.

Dalai Lama is a high ranked monk in the Tibetan school of Buddhism. It is considered that Dalai Lamas are reincarnation of Avalokitesvara, considered to be the bodhisattva of compassion. Highly spiritual, Dalai Lamas have compassionately influenced Buddhists across the world. While all the previous Dalai Lamas were spiritual leaders, the fifth Dalai Lama took political control over Tibet.

The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso fled across the Himalayas to take refuge in India during the time of Tibetan refugees. He now lives in Dharamshala, a small hill station in Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Since then he has been the head of the Tibetan government in exile. In the past, he had many a times indicated that there might not be a next Dalai Lama after him. But now, the 14th Dalai Lama has formally announced in Germany saying, “Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama.”

With a lot of encouraging and guiding publications, the 14th Dalai Lama has influenced those living both in the East and the West, leaving a great impact on those who take him to be their mentor. He is not only respected across the globe, but his words are deeply imbibed by those who read and follow him. He was also been awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The current Dalai Lama has had a great impact to a wide number of people; many even travel all the way to Dharamshala to listen to his speeches and to immerse in his guidance.

While on one hand, he continues to symbolize hope, love and compassion, he has also been a victim to an array of criticism. He has been criticized for controlling the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism through building an image of himself as teacher and a mentor, and manipulating his followers in the name of religion. Major criticism against him comes for his reaction to Dorje Shugden, the recent entity of Buddhism under the Gelug School. The controversy revolving around this school came over the idea of “purity”. The controversy heated up in 1976 after the release of the Yellow book which highlighted in it the heinous acts of the Dorje Shugden against those upholding the teachings of the Gelug School. Following the release of which, the Dalai Lama started speaking against the practice of the Dorje Shugden.

There are also criticisms against him that he is in support of feudal and theocratic system of governance to emerge in Tibet once again, so that he can gain his political leverage against the common masses there. Some even accuse him of being a sell out who would do anything, or endorse any kind of product in exchange for support of his “cause”.

Others have criticized him on the lines of materialism. The Dalai Lama has featured in magazines like the Vogue; he has also lived in the luxury of money, whereas the Tibetan refugees in India and other places have been struggling for some of life’s basic facilities.

However, no activity comes free of criticism. While there are few who uphold disparagement against him, many continue to bestow their love upon the Dalai Lama. He has, and continues, to be a symbol of compassionate love.

Dalai Lamas have always been a source of guidance and wisdom, especially to the Tibetan Buddhists. The announcement that there will be no successor could only come as sad news for those who seek the guidance of the Lama through every walk of life.

Pallavi Sharma

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