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Dalai Lama: Successor could be chosen via method similar to selection of pope

The Dalai Lama fields questions in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun and other media outlets in Dharamsala in northern India on Nov. 5, 2018. (Mainichi/So Matsui)

DHARAMSALA, India -- The Dalai Lama, the exiled supreme leader of Tibetan Buddhism, said Nov. 5 that the selection of his successor could be done in a way the pope is selected by the Catholic Church in an election by cardinals.

"The kind of pope system is ... possible to choose among the high lama, or high scholars," the 83-year-old Dalai Lama said in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun and other media outlets. He said naming his successor by himself is "also possible," explaining that there were some precedents of past leaders making selections while they were still alive.

Finding his "reincarnation" after his death -- like what was said to have happened with the second Dalai Lama and other leaders -- would be another way of choosing his successor, he said. If this method is not chosen, said the Dalai Lama, "When I become very old ... I will ask if they want to keep the way to choose the next Dalai Lama." He added it is "up to the Tibetan people" whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not.

As for his health, the Dalai Lama said he was diagnosed with cancer two years ago but it was cured after radiation therapy.

Tibet is controlled by China, and religious activities in the region including Buddhism are restricted by Beijing in an apparent bid to reduce the influence of the Dalai Lama and curb a potential separation movement.

Regarding the relationship with China, the Dalai Lama said he is not seeking independence. He said historically Tibet was an independent nation but "today for mutual benefit Tibet remains in the People Republic of China."

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