Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama declared his intention on Thursday to live a long life, citing an eighteenth-century prophecy that he could live to the age of 113.
Speaking in Dharamsala, India—where he has lived since fleeing his homeland in a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule—the 85-year-old Dalai Lama said that his life has been strengthened by the Tibetan people’s faith and trust.
“It is due to the unwavering faith, trust and devotion that millions of Tibetans have vested in me that I sincerely hope and pray to live as long as I could,” the Dalai Lama said, speaking on the 31st anniversary of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
“In the past decades, I have been able to significantly contribute to the flourishing of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, and it is my wish to live long enough to continue to fulfill the hopes of the six million Tibetans,” the exiled spiritual leader said.
A divination by the eighteenth-century lama Getse Pandita, who lived at the time of the 7th Dalai Lama, prophesied that the present 14th Dalai Lama would live to at least the age of 113, the Dalai Lama said, adding that the prophecy was confirmed by another lama, Kathok Getse Rinpoche, who died in December 2018.
An estimated 6.3 million Tibetans live in China, and a diaspora estimated at 150,000 reside in India, Nepal, North America, and Europe.
Uncertainties over succession
Concerns over the health of the Dalai Lama have renewed uncertainties in recent years over his possible successor after he dies, with Beijing claiming the right to name his successor and the Dalai Lama himself saying that any future Dalai Lama will be born outside of China.
Meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign leaders have meanwhile drawn the anger of Beijing, which regards the exiled spiritual leader and Nobel laureate as a separatist seeking to split Tibet from China’s rule.
In what he calls a Middle Way Approach, though, the Dalai Lama says that he seeks only a “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet as a part of China, with guaranteed protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture.
A formerly independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, following which the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world.
Chinese authorities meanwhile maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.