Will there be a 15th Dalai Lama?
For the past few centuries, the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama have been reincarnating in tandem based on a longstanding spiritual tradition. They spend their whole lives preparing for death. They even pick a time and place to return. So, when it comes time for the Dalai Lama to be reborn the monks are alerted and they begin to look for children born at the agreed-upon time in the predetermined area. Tests are then conducted to determine which of those children is the right one. As one example among many, they will put out a few of the exact same hats, one of which had belonged to the Dalai Lama in his former life. The child who picks the correct items is then taken to meet the Panchen Lama who questions him to determine if the boy is indeed the Dalai Lama. In turn, the Dalai Lama identifies the next Panchen Lama, and so on and so forth.
Unfortunately, after the death of the 10th Panchen Lama, a dispute between the Chinese leadership and the exiled 14th Dalai Lama resulted in two competing candidates for the 11th Panchen Lama. The search committee process involving Tibetan monks under the strict supervision of the Chinese communist regime was disrupted when the Dalai Lama did what he was supposed to and unilaterally announced the selection of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. This was even confirmed by the Nechung Oracle in Dharamsala. This is important because Tibetans will not consider a candidate for the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama unless he were identified according to Tibetan traditional means, including a search by the 10th’s senior staff based on dreams and omens, and formal recognition of the result by the Dalai Lama.
Still, in spite of this, China abducted Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the real Panchen Lama. They took him and his family into custody, to prevent him from being taken to India by the Dalai Lama’s supporters. The Chinese authorities reverted to the ancient Qing Dynasty’s Golden Urn process to select Gyaincain Norbu instead. In March of 1995, Chinese officials insisted on drawing a name from a few slips of paper in the urn. In May of that year, the Dalai Lama preempted the drawing by publicly announcing that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was the 11th Panchen Lama. Unfortunately, no one has seen him or heard from his immediate family since they were taken away by the Chinese government all those years ago. As a result of this, in a 2004 interview with Time, the 14th Dalai Lama stated:
“The institution of the Dalai Lama, and whether it should continue or not, is up to the Tibetan people. If they feel it is not relevant, then it will cease and there will be no 15th Dalai Lama. But if I die today I think they will want another Dalai Lama. The purpose of reincarnation is to fulfil the previous [incarnation’s] life task. My life is outside Tibet, therefore my reincarnation will logically be found outside. But then, the next question: Will the Chinese accept this or not? China will not accept. The Chinese government most probably will appoint another Dalai Lama, like it did with the Panchen Lama. Then there will be two Dalai Lamas: one, the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan heart, and one that is officially appointed.”
Years later, in 2011, the Dalai Lama issued an official statement concerning his reincarnation giving exact signs on how the next one should be chosen, as well as the place of rebirth. He also decreed that the Chinese appointed Dalai Lama should not be trusted. Unfortunately, in 2019, the 14th Dalai Lama stated publicly that because of the feudal origin of the Dalai Lama reincarnation system, the line of succession should come to an end. So, for centuries it has been the responsibility of the High Lamas of the Gelgupa tradition and the Tibetan government to seek out and find the next Dalai Lama following the death of the incumbent, but now the atheistic Chinese government has ruined that process forever. I just hope that someday the Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion will at least return to a town that isn’t occupied by the new global superpower. Sadly, the way it looks, once His Holiness the Dalai Lama dies, he may be gone for good.