Feature

The Dalai Lama in retirement

The Dalai Lama has stepped down as the official head of the Tibetan state.

Tenzin Gyatso, aka the 14th Dalai Lama, is easing into retirement, said Melissa Mathison in Rolling Stone. Now 76, he announced in March that he would step down as the official head of the Tibetan state, a role he’d had since he was 15. In May, he transferred his governmental duties to Lobsang Sangay, the 43-year-old Harvard legal scholar who was elected Tibet’s prime minister. The move shocked his followers and critics alike, but the Dalai Lama says it was part of a plan he had all along to further democratize Tibetan politics. “I always tell people that religious institutions and political institutions should be separate,” he says. “So what I am telling others I must implement for myself.”

He stresses that his retirement is only political, not spiritual. “That does not mean the Dalai Lama ends. The institution remains, and not just for my generation,” he says. “The rest of my life, I am fully committed to these things: Promotion of religious harmony. Promotion of human values. Human happiness.”

Despite the anxieties he briefly caused Tibetans, he says his sleep has been “extraordinarily sound” since stepping down. The Chinese government, which believes Tibetan autonomy will die when he does, has dismissed his move as a “trick.” He sees it as a lesson. “I am often saying that the Chinese Communist Party should retire. Now I can tell them, ‘Do like me. Retire with grace.’”

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