Tuesday, October 03, 2006

HHDL Says His Successor "Could Even Be a Finnish Woman"

As reported by Helsingin Sanomat (International Edition); October 3, 2006

Helsinki -- In Helsinki on his way back to India from an almost three-week stay in the United Satytes, Tibet's political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, says that his successor might come from somewhere other than Tibet.

"If I would die now, it would be logical for my reincarnation to come from outside Tibet", the Dalai Lama said on Saturday in Helsinki.

The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was speaking to journalists at a press conference in Finlandia Hall before addressing a larger public gathering.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, says that it will fall to his successor to continue the struggle for the autonomy of Tibet, which is under Chinese rule. He leaves it up to the Tibetans to decide how the next leader is to be chosen.

"An election is one option", he says.

Under prevailing Tibetan tradition, based on reincarnation, the leader is chosen in a ritual in which the right child is found to fill the place of the previous Dalai Lama. "My successor could even be found in Finland", joked the cheery 71-year-old Dalai Lama as flash cameras went off.

He added that a woman would be quite suitable for the post.

Talk of a successor from outside Tibet could be seen as a political statement.

In 1995 the Dalai Lama chose a six-year-old boy as his second in command, the Panchen Lama, who later disappeared. Chinese officials are refusing to say where he is.

The Dalai Lama briefly criticised Chinese policy in Tibet. He said that a cultural genocide, either deliberate or otherwise, is taking place in Tibet. China has stated that it wants to integrate Tibet more closely with the rest of the country. July saw the completion of the long-awaited direct train link from the Chinese capital Beijing to the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

The Dalai Lama also said that he was concerned for the fate of Tibet's sensitive mountain environment, which he fears could suffer at the hands of China, which is focusing on economic growth. "The world needs to teach the Chinese brothers and sisters. Nature is very important", he said.

The Dalai Lama asked a Chinese journalist attending the press conference some tough questions, but clearly preferred to focus on understanding between religions, rather than politics.

At the public gathering he answered a question about the meaning of life: "Live happy and spread happiness around you", was his instruction.

The Dalai Lama was originally scheduled to visit Finland already in the summer, but his arrival was postponed for health reasons. He was invited to Finland by the Service Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA), and the Finnish-Tibetan Culture Society.

Tuula Saarikoski, a member of the executive of the culture society, said that Finnish top political leaders had been offered a chance to meet with the Dalai Lama, but no such meetings could be arranged.

On Sunday he was scheduled to meet with the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament, Liisa Jaakonsaari.