The current (14th) Dalai Lama has recently indicated that he may be the last person to hold that title. Does this stance cause any theological issues for the Gelug branch of Tibetan Buddhism or more widely Tibetan Buddhism in general? Can a tulku stop reincarnating? Does this potential lack of reincarnation conflict with the Bodhisattva vow?

I understand that there is a political element to this but I'm trying to understand the consequences if any for the tradition, theology and philosophy of the religion.

  • If I remember correctly, a while back the Dalai Lama also said that he might choose the next Dalai Lama while he is still alive. But perhaps his views have changed on this matter.
    – THelper
    Dec 21, 2014 at 21:52
  • I'm not a Gelug and definitely don't know anything about the "theology"(???) and philosophy of the tibetanians. But I expect a big impact for the followers of that path, for the people, that friends, even if only "contemporaries", of ours... I've happened to be member of the socialistic movement in the 70/80ies and have seen the impact of the collapse of the organized/nationalized socialistic world on my earlier friends (and not only on my friends but on the whole larger scene) with that desorientation, true desperation and demoralization. We, as friends of that followers of the tibetan (...) Dec 22, 2014 at 11:43
  • (...) paths shall face a huge, huge task before us non-tibetanians to be helpful and to be real friends. And by this , theology/philosophy (being interdependent related to the real people) itself shall later face massive consequences. (But it's not the place here in the comment to speculate about such an evolution) Dec 22, 2014 at 11:46

2 Answers 2


I think, as an overall, we must realize what is truly important, that is, the teaching will always be greater than the teacher. Even the Buddha is no comparison to the Dharma. Even on the Buddhas deathbed, when His disciples feared that the light-of-the-world was about to go-out, the Buddha reminded then of the power of the teaching. As long as the practices of the teachings continue, the light will always shine!!

The Buddha told Ananda that when the Dhamma has been completely forgotten a new fully enlightened Buddha will arise. He is called Maitreya. I'm here quoting Ven. Sri. Dhammananda when he says in his book What Buddhists Believe on page 76:

...The Buddha continued again: "I am not the first Buddha to come upon earth; nor shall I be the last. In due time, another Buddha will arise in this world, a Holy One, a Supremely Enlightened One, endowed with wisdom, in conduct auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of devas and men. He will reveal to you the same Eternal Truths which I have taught you. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure; such as I now proclaim."

"How shall we know him?", asked Ananda.

The Buddha replied, "He will be known as Maitreya which means kindness or friendliness."


I am in no position to speak for the Dalai Lama, though personally confident that he will never abandon Bodhichitta. But I think I can partly answer your question even so. Choosing not to be reborn as the Dalai Lama of Tibet says nothing about whether he might choose to reincarnate in some other form and position that is of greater benefit to beings, and in particular better serves the further development of Tibetan politics and culture. In other words, it certainly doesn't follow from HHDL's statement that he has foregone reincarnation altogether.

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