Lama Steps Down from Political Leadership
The Dalai Lama announced
this week that he would formally relinquish his role as
political leader of the Tibetan exile government. The move,
which had been expected, clears the way for a new prime
minister of the government, which is based in Dharamsala,
Jay Garfield, the Doris
Silbert Professor of Philosophy and an expert on Tibetan
Buddhism, was instrumental in coordinating
a visit by the spiritual leader of Tibet at Smith in 2007.
Garfield commented on the recent announcement for the Gate.
Jay Garfield with the Dalai Lama, Sarnath, India, 2006.
Gate: What does the Dalai Lama's announcement
mean for Tibetan Buddhism?
Jay Garfield: For Tibetan Buddhism
it means absolutely nothing. His Holiness has been foreshadowing
this for many years.
this potentially move Tibet closer to China?
JG: It will
make no difference at all. The government of the People’s
Republic of China is not interested in exactly what form
of government the Tibetan exiled government has and will
not respond positively to anything that His Holiness the
Dalai Lama says or does. The spokesperson for China this
morning called his announcement “another
one of his tricks,” whatever that means.
he is trying to do is three things: One is to make it possible
for him to devote his time and attention to the things that
are appropriate for him as a spiritual leader and a religious
leader. And second, to really make clear that the government
is secular and democratic and that he doesn’t have any particular
role in it. And third, to really grant the government the
kind of autonomy and legitimacy it is going to need during
a period when there is no Dalai Lama.
there any possibility that this announcement would have an
impact on other governments in the region that are not democratic?
JG: I don’t
think so. I honestly think this will be a very low-impact
move. I think even the impact within the Tibetan community
will be relatively small. To the degree that there is impact
it will be that Tibetans will recognize more legitimacy and
autonomy in their government. But even a lot of Tibetans
are going to say, “Well,
he’s still the Dalai Lama.” So
I honestly think that while this is a kind of important move
in the gradual evolution of Tibet from a kind of theocracy
when his Holiness sat on the throne in Lhasa, to a secular,
liberal democracy as it is now, this is kind of the important
final move in that transformation. So much has already been
done. The parliament has been in place and the constitution
has been in place for so long and it’s been
so democratic that in the grand scheme of things this is
a small move.
you have any sense as to who will be elected the leader of
the government – the prime
JG: We’ll see
after the election. It’s a hotly contested
race. I really don’t know who’s going to win.