May skip reincarnation this time, Dalai Lama says

A centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist tradition could be brushed to the wayside if the Dalai Lama goes ahead with his ideas to thwart Chinese efforts to choose his successor.

The Dalai Lama is floating the idea of breaking a centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist tradition by naming his successororletting monks elect the next spiritual leader, according to news reports.

The Dalai Lama gestures during a speech in Ottawa during his visit in late October. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Hiscommentsin Japan come on the heels of a recent orderby China that it must approve Tibet's future spiritual leaders.

The order has fuelled concerns that China may forcibly choose a pro-Beijing leader once the current Dalai Lama is dead.

"If the Tibetan people wish to uphold the Dalai Lama system, one possibility would be to select the next Dalai Lama while I am still living,"the Dalai Lamawas quoted as saying in an interview with the Japanese national newspaper, Sankei Shimbun.

Tenzin Gyatso, who is the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, told the newspaper that among the options being consideredis the democratic selection by the high monks of Tibetan Buddhism or the appointment ofasuccessor by himself.

According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, monks search for the reincarnation of the lama after the spiritual leader's death, but Gyatsoseems to believe Tibetans may support a break in the custom.

"The Tibetan people would not support a successor selected by China after my death," the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying to the newspaper.

China's order, which came into force in September, says that all future lama appointments related to Tibetan Buddhism "must get government approval," according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The order also keeps outside sources from having "influence" on the selection process, the report said.

China's Communist-led government has already named a new 11th Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1995, the Dalai Lama chose six-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama. The boy and his family disappeared soon after and have not been heard from.

China's government later named Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama. They said Norbu and his family are being kept in a secret location for their protection.

The Dalai Lama and his followers have lived in exile in India since fleeing in 1959.

His latest comments were made during a nine-day visit in Japan where officials, who are seeking to improve relations with China, gave him the cold shoulder.

His worldwide tour also brought him to Canada in Octoberwhen he met Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

China objected toHarper's meeting with theDalai Lama, whom they view as a dangerous separatist.

With files from the Associated Press