Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dalai Lama Dilemma

The Dalai Lama, now adorably waddling into the end of his golden years, will be dead quicker than you can say "free Tibet". But there's a bit of controversy over how to choose his successor. Traditionally, Dalai Lama's are believed to be reincarnated. A team of trusted priests interprets vague, mystical signs and made-up portents to determine which young child has the D.L. all up in him. In Buddhist-controlled Tibet, an appointed regent would rule the country until the Dalai Lama came of age. Or the regent would just murder the young Dalai Lama and try again. People like to hold onto power, after all. (And make no mistake--the so-called "free" Tibet that existed before the Chinese takeover in 1959 was lorded over by an incredibly powerful religious caste system. The peace-loving Lamas enslaved Tibetans and forbade public education. Truly, a wonderful precedent.) Anyway, what with the volatile political situation in Tibet, the Dalai Lama's next reincarnation is a tricky thing. The Chinese claim they have the legal right to appoint the Dalai Lama's successor. And the Dalai Lama himself is suggesting that he might break with tradition and choose his reincarnation before his death. (How this would work is anyone's guess, but it's best not to think too hard about such things.) Regardless of how this transition turns out, we should all take a moment to step back and appreciate the wonderful life that the current Dalai Lama has led. After being ousted as the theocratic dictator of his home country, he's bravely traveled the world posing for pictures, accepting celebrity donations, and selling t-shirts in the name of freedom. And by "freedom", of course, I mean the freedom to reclaim his cushy, unelected, and undeserved position at the top of Tibetan society. More details here.

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