The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the spiritual leader of Tibet, turns 86 on July 6. With his advancing age, the question of who will succeed him has become more pressing.
One of the most recognizable faces of Buddhism, the dalai lama is an important figure bringing Buddhist teachings to the international community.
The successor to the dalai lama is traditionally identified by senior monastic disciples, based on spiritual signs and visions. In 2011, however, the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared that only the government in Beijing can appoint the next dalai lama, and no recognition should be given to any other candidate.
As a scholar of transnational Buddhism, I have studied Buddhism and its refashioning in the context of globalization. The dalai lama is a highly influential figure, and choosing a successor is not just a religious issue, but a political one as well.