The Dalai Lama said he may be the last person to hold the spiritual title. The Tibetan spiritual leader conceded that he may not have a successor and suggested it might be better if the centuries-old tradition ended following the tenure of a “popular” Dalai Lama, according to a wide-ranging interview with the BBC’s "Newsnight" program.
"The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease," the Dalai Lama said, according to the BBC. "There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won't come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama."
The 79-year-old is the 14th and longest-serving Dalai Lama, having held the title since 1950, according to Time. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has remained in exile since his attempt to start an uprising in Tibet against China in 1959.
Chinese intervention in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition may have also played a role in clouding the Dalai Lama’s succession. A key player in deciding the next Dalai Lama is the Panchen Lama, the second-highest-ranking figure in Tibetan Buddhism. However, the status of the Panchen Lama has been ambiguous following China’s rejection of the Dalai Lama’s choice for the position. China’s government put forth its own candidate, and the whereabouts of the Dalai Lama’s choice remain unknown, according to the BBC.
The Chinese government views the Dalai Lama as a separatist, though the leader recently began advocating for a “middle way” with China, which concedes the issue of Tibetan independence in favor of greater autonomy for the region. The Dalai Lama said that he believed hardliners in Beijing were preventing Chinese President Xi Jinping from granting Tibet greater autonomy, in comments made on Wednesday in a separate interview with France 24. The leader said he was encouraged, however, by Xi’s recent comments about the significance of Buddhism to Chinese culture and said there seem to be “some indications” that the president might be ready to discuss the issue of Tibet’s autonomy.