Tibet’s spiritual leader plans to step down as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, his spokesman said.
The Dalai Lama, 75, has scaled back his duties leading Tibet since 2001, when the Tibetan movement first directly elected a political leader. Since then, his government role has been mainly ceremonial as he travels around the world giving speeches. His spokesman said he would discuss retiring with the next session of parliament in March. Though it might not be too easy to get away; the speaker of Tibet’s parliament said that a retirement requires consideration, since it would mean a sweeping political change.
(See pictures of The Dalai Lama’s White House visit.)
“Retirement” would mainly mean stepping away from ceremonial duties as head of government, like signing resolutions. The Dalai Lama would still remain an advocate for the Tibetan movement and a Buddhist spiritual leader.
The Dalai Lama, who was born Tenzin Gyatso, is the highest-ranking Buddhist priest and seen as an incarnation of the original Dalai Lama from the 1300s. Finding a replacement requires a formal search party, though many expect the 26-year-old monk Karmapa to one day take his place.
Still, many worry the current Dalai Lama’s retirement would mean a weakening of the Tibetan struggle against Chinese rule. Many hope he will still be the main negotiator for independence from China.
(See TIME’s 10 Questions with the Dalai Lama.)
“This [retirement] does not mean that he will withdraw from leading the political struggle,” said his spokesman, Tenzin Taklha. “He is the Dalai Lama, so he will always lead the Tibetan people.” (via AFP)