The Dalai Lama’s Master Plan

I do not think I posted this article of mine on my blog here. Given the issue of His Holiness’ “retirement” I think this merits a rereading.

The Dalai Lama’s Master Plan

By Bhuchung K. Tsering
Tibetan Review
August , 2006

In a speech in Washington, D.C. on April 18, 1991, His Holiness the Dalai Lama referred to the need of a “master plan for a better world.” He said, “We need to think very deeply and hold consultations to come up with some kind of master plan for a better world. Sometimes, perhaps I think it is a little bit idealistic, but I feel our role should be based on the principles of democracy, freedom and liberty. I think the ultimate goal should be a demilitarized world. I feel very strongly about this.”

This month, I want to draw your attention to the issue of “master plan,” which is directly related to the institution of the Dalai Lama.

In his book, Mystical Verses of a Mad Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist scholar Glenn Mullin talks about the activities of the previous Dalai Lamas and includes this comment by the present Dalai Lama, “Thus these Dalai Lamas seem to have had three master plans: the first involving the First to the Fifth Dalai Lamas; the second involving the Sixth, which failed; and then the third, which involves the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and myself. But the situation for me is under great pressure, and I don’t have much room to move. Perhaps I will have to come up with some fourth master plan.”

His Holiness was referring to the way in which the previous Dalai Lamas seemed to have planned their life and action. Mullin expands this further in his book. In the First Plan period, the First to the Fourth Dalai Lamas expanded the sphere of their influence to make it possible for the Fifth Dalai Lama to assume overall leadership in Tibet.

According to the book, “The First developed a spiritual support base in Tsang, southwestern Tibet; the Second extended this to central and southern Tibet; the Third further extended it to the Kham and Amdo provinces of eastern Tibet, and also to Mongolia; while the Fourth cemented the Lhasa-Mongolia spiritual alliance, with the Dalai Lama’s office at the heart of this bond. Thus when the Great Fifth appeared on the scene, all the pieces were in place, and the role of spiritual and temporal leadership of a united Tibet fell effortlessly into his hands.”

In the Second Plan period, the Sixth Dalai Lama had a master plan to literally alter the system of succession from one Dalai Lama to another. He wanted to change it from the recognition of reincarnation to a model similar to that followed by the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism with the throne passing by blood lineage. He wanted this to do away with the power vacuum from the period of the passing away of one Dalai Lama to that of recognition, education and growth to maturity of the next. However, the book says this master plan failed because the Mongolians and Manchus, both of whose courts were patrons of the Dalai Lama, were “extremely upset” and the Mongols “forcibly removed the Sixth.”

The Third Plan period began during the time of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. All other reincarnations before him had either died young or not done anything really exceptional. According to this master plan, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, who was “prophesied to live until the age of seventy-nine or eighty,” passed away in his late fifties after warning the Tibetan people about the suffering that they would have to endure under the Chinese Communists unless they “were to act quickly.” According to the present Dalai Lama, “.the Great Thirteenth thus purposely shortened his life span because he realized that the Tibetans would not follow his advice.” As the book says, “Thus he mystically stepped aside and passed away, making way for the new reincarnation. As a consequence, when the Chinese Communists eventually invaded, they were forced to deal with a young energetic Dalai Lama, rather than with an old man.”

Since this whole issue of master plans falls in the realm of spiritualism it all depends on faith and belief. But it is interesting to conjecture whether the present Dalai Lama has a “fourth master plan,” as he is quoted in the book.

If you study the public statements by the present Dalai Lama, you might come across interesting pronouncements, whose value and significance increases as time goes by. I am referring to his statements about his life span and future incarnation and wonder whether these pronouncements could be part of his “master plan.”

During a special ceremony in Dharamsala on June 8, 2005 organized by the Tibetan leadership in exile and attended by almost all the major heads of the Tibetan Buddhist lineages, the Dalai Lama told the gathering that the current plight of Tibet necessitates him to live long so that he could continue his endeavour for the cause of his people until the issue of Tibet is resolved.

“Your collective prayers for my long life, offered as they are with complete sincerity and faith, will be answered,” he is quoted as saying.

On a few occasions the Dalai Lama has even publicly given his possible life span.

However, the Dalai Lama has also made clear how and where the next incarnation would appear in the eventuality of his passing away with the Tibetan issue remaining unresolved.

“If I die in exile, and if the Tibetan people wish to continue the institution of the Dalai Lama, my reincarnation will not be born under Chinese control,” the Voice of America Tibetan service reported him as telling a gathering of Tibetans in New York on May 25, 1997. “That reincarnation will definitely not come under Chinese control; it will be outside, in the free world. This I can say with absolute certainty,” the report continued.

Giving an indication about his successor, the Dalai Lama had this to say, “The 15th Dalai Lama will be more competent and better than the present.”

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