From New America Media
After struggling for almost five decades, speculation is growing on who will lead and guide the Tibetans after the 14th Dalai Lama “Tenzin Gyatso”.
Speculation grew last November, when the exiled Tibetan leader hinted at a press conference, that a female Dalai Lama may succeed him. Many attendees were surprised, since history has never seen a female Dalai Lama.
His comments came after a historic Tibetan’s exile meeting ended, which discussed the future course of action in their nearly 50 years of freedom struggle.
In the context of Tibetan Buddhism, the possibility of a female incarnation of the Dalai Lama, or other reincarnating lama lineages, is known collectively as tulku. Tulku is used to refer to the corporeal existence of enlightened Buddhist masters.
“Although there are female lamas, or living Buddhas, men are predominant and it is rare for reincarnated lamas not to share the sex of their predecessors,” said His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This comment follows his surprising remarks that he might choose his successor before his death, or even hold a referendum on whether he should be reborn at all.
“If people feel that the institution of the Dalai Lama is still necessary, then it will continue,” he said.
“All the Dalai Lamas, ‘til now, have been male,” says the Dalai Lama. “Now, we want a female Dalai Lama. Women have to play a more important role to play in today’s context.”
And then in his characteristic style, he adds, in a lighter vein, “The female Dalai Lama will be more attractive, so we will have more followers.” But then, is he a feminist?
“Yes, I am a feminist and a humanist too,” he says.
The Dalai Lama scotched all rumors of his possible retirement, saying, “There is no point or question of retirement. It is my moral responsibility ‘til my death to work for the Tibetan cause.”
“My body and flesh is all Tibetan. I remain committed to the Tibetan cause,” he says.
“There are various ways of doing it [having a successor],” says the Dalai Lama. “The point is whether to continue with the institution of the Dalai Lama or not. After my death, Tibetan religious leaders can debate whether to have a Dalai Lama or not. The successor can be a young girl. Girls show more compassion. Also, women are dominating things all over the world.”
Tibetan girls were delighted. They said it was unexpected but not unlike the Dalai Lama to say this.
“No one expected the Dalai Lama to say such a thing,” says Tenzing Nyesang a young Tibetan women outside the temple, minutes after his speech. “But one expects the progressive leader to have such an outlook towards equality of women.”
Tibetan women in exile have been quick to adapt to the new social life in exile and have contributed in the field of social welfare, community building, economics and the political struggle of Tibet in particular. Tibetan women have established themselves as a strong force in assisting the Tibetan government in exile through social and political activities and are the backbone of the refugee community.
Life in exile has given Tibetan women an opportunity to raise their issues to the international community, by working with international womens’ groups and attend various conferences related to women’s causes. Participating in these international gatherings has enhanced the outlook of Tibetan womens’ perspectives and taught them to work on a variety of issues concerning women in the global village. This has helped focus the international community on the Tibetan cause from a woman’s point of view.
As refugees, Tibetan women are displaced people who cannot return home for fear of persecution. Tibetan women refugees have had to adapt to a new way of life and at the same time struggle to maintain the Tibetan culture and identity in which the best effort to restore things are being done by them.
Even as the Dalai Lama stated that there is no question of his retirement until the Tibetan cause is resolved, he is still a visionary, looking ahead, keeping with the times, and breaking tradition.