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Shy and retiring

WIDalaiLama.jpgIn November the Dalai Lama caused some surprise when he announced that he might retire within six months.

Speaking to an Indian TV station, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said that he was contemplating raising the issue with the elected leadership of the Tibetan community (currently in exile) and that a final decision could be made a few months later.

This immediately raises the question of his successor, but the subject has been controversial in Buddhist circles.

His Holiness has suggested in the past that the position may have outlived its usefulness. 'Everything is possible: a conclave, like in the Catholic church, a woman as my successor, no Dalai Lama anymore, or perhaps even two.'

When he first suggested that there be no Dalai Lama in the future, there was uproar. The Indian scholar Ardy Verhaegen captured it thus: 'These statements caused a furor amongst Tibetans in India. Many could not believe that such an option could even be considered. It was further felt that it was not the Dalai Lama's decision to reincarnate. Rather, they felt that since the Dalai Lama is a national institution it was up to the people of Tibet to decide whether or not the Dalai Lama should reincarnate.'