After his visiting to the U.S., Dalai Lama talked to the reporter that he considers not to come back to this world again, or he could choose a person to represent his authority before he leaves this world. This is startling, even to a non-Tibetan like me. In fact, as I remember, he has made such statements couple years ago, but still, hearing these words again frightens me.
I am not a Tibetan, and thus I will not be able to feel what they feel when they hear this. However, as a Chinese Buddhist having known and familiar with the reincarnation system in Tibetan Buddhism, I feel sad and frustrated. Dalai Lama is considered the reincarnation of Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and also the most praised and worshipped goddess in Chinese culture. She represents great mercy and love, and it is widely believed that whenever a person suffers from any kinds of pain and calls her name, the Bodhisattva will come and help release the person from pain. Thus, when the representation of this icon in this world decides not to come again, does this mean that we, the pathetic human beings, are finally left for eternal pain waiting for the Judgement Day, as is described in Christian tradition?
Of course not, I personally believe (according to my religious belief) that all gods are loving and they will not leave us. Dalai Lama is only making this statement according to the difficult political situation of Tibet. He understands well that his presence represets all Tibetans, and as long as he holds the idea that Tibetans and their culture should not be suppressed by the Chinese government, China will never welcome him and his people. Indeed, this is a dilemma, and he is left with no solution but not to come again. But such a decision will have a great influence on Tibetans because it is impossible for them to imagine the world without Dalai Lama. Thus, he says it is possible to name his successor while he is alive. In fact, this could be a good way since no more reincarnation is involved, and the new successor will be a new individual without all the past history which may be a hindrance for him to rule Tibet. In other words, this new leader is more like a political ruler than a religious icon, whose lack of religious power may make Chinese government fear less.
But still, this dilemma is still not solved. If the new successor is no longer the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, he will never be Dalai Lama, even with the current Dalai Lama's consent. Tradition exists according to his internal laws, and once they are destroyed it will take a very long time for the new laws to develop and function. Tibet as a political regime has been in difficult condition, and it is undoubtedly true that their culture are greatly damaged due to the political situation. Religious belief and tradition are the reason why this culture can still survive and also the reason why Chinese government fears it so much. If Dalai Lama breaks this tradition, I wonder how this culture can be maintained without losing the essence of it. Dalai Lama says that as the time progresses, Tibetan culture should also progress and change so as to match the contemporary world. I agree with him, but I do not think that destroying the core of the culture is the best way to force an old culture to progress. Also, I believe the Chinese government will not change their attitude just because the new Dalai Lama is no longer the reincarnation of the previous ones.
I am unable to imagine a Tibet without Dalai Lama, and I am also unable to imagine a Dalai Lama who is not a Dalai Lama. Call me superstitious! I do believe in this magical reincarnation system, and I do think Dalai Lama has the wisdom and knowledge that has been passed down through such system. This is the difference between me and him. He is an old man with great wisdom and knows what life means and the rules of the world. I am only a human who tries to use my little knowledge to understand the world. Maybe his not coming back would in fact benefit his beloved people. But as a human being, I just don't think that such decisions can solve the dilemma between Tibet and China.