In an interview with the BBC, the Dalai Lama said that he could be the last to hold the title, but the end would occur at the best possible time.
"There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won't come next, who will disgrace himself or herself," he said. "That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama."
In Tibetan Buddhism, the second-highest figure, the Panchen Lama, helps choose the next Dalai Lama. The boy named the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama in 1995 was rejected by China, and the country selected its own candidate. No one is sure where the Dalai Lama's choice lives now.
China also says it will chose its own next Dalai Lama. But "whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not is up to the Tibetan people," the current Dalai Lama tells the BBC. "The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease."
The Dalai Lama, 79, also said that the international community needs to encourage democracy in China, which "very much wants to join the mainstream world economy." He believes "they should be welcome, but at the same time the free world has a moral responsibility to bring China into mainstream democracy — for China's own interests."