In an interview this week with the BBC, the Dalai Lama reiterated a curious point he has made in the past: His successor, the 15th in the holy line of his Tibetan monastery, could be female. "The female biologically has more potential to show affection... and compassion," he said.
The BBC journalist appears a bit startled and eventually asks the Dalai Lama whether he's joking. It's not totally clear whether he is, but the 80-year-old spiritual leader goes on to make a quip about his own handsomeness. On that front, he has a point, judging by these pictures from his youth:
I say #Dalai, you say #Lama. The photo journey of the 14th reincarnation of his holiness the Dalai Lama. http://t.co/NritO3MPxs— Mogil (@emogil) July 8, 2015
Love this photo of the Dalai Lama as a cute young hipster in 1959. [Getty Images] http://t.co/aoEmCaFrKe pic.twitter.com/BTYoXBPnT7— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) July 8, 2015
The question of succession is particularly vexing for the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India after fleeing Chinese authorities in 1959. Despite his many overtures, Beijing has remained vehemently opposed to him. There are suspicions that, after the Dalai Lama's death, Tibetan monks closer to the government will pick a successor more amenable to the Chinese leadership.
The wider context of the Dalai Lama's interview with the BBC had little to do with his own future and that of the Tibetan cause. He was asked about the refugee crisis facing Europe, which is struggling to cope with a massive influx of desperate people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. The holy man spoke out against European leaders and politicians who demonize the refugees because of their faith. "Islam is like any other religion," the Dalai Lama said.