The identity of the next Dalai Lama is in flux. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gatso, has floated the idea that the next great teacher could be a woman, but this will all be meaningless in the grander scheme of things, given that the People’s Republic of China, which absorbed Tibet in the 1950s after a short war, stated that it will be this entity which approves any new monks. This decree was made in September 2007.
The Chinese Government stated that they will have the power to approve new monks, and that includes the approval of the fifteenth and next Dalai Lama. The establishment does the same with all religions and will only approve flock leaders, if they are deemed to be fitting with what the government will tolerate in terms of preaching, teachings and advising the faithful.
A spokesman for the Dalai Lama said that if the Chinese Government decided to go down this avenue, then its decision would be devoid of meaning.
The Dalai Lama is a firm believer that force can never be used to impose beliefs on people, especially in terms of religion. He argues that a state government cannot approve a Bishop or an Imam, and therefore should have no role whatsoever in appointing the next Dalai Lama once he dies. Tibetans believe that each and every Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of the previous one and the current teacher believes that a woman could in fact take his role.
However, he has also stated that while the organisation that he heads is still relevant today, things might not always be like that. In fact, back in 1969, he was quoted as saying that Tibetan people should have the power to make the choice of whether the institution should continue or not. While support and interest may be waning in Tibet itself, there is no doubt that the Dalai Lama and his approach to world politics and life in general are greatly revered in the West – particularly amongst ordinary people who appreciate his no-nonsense attitude.