MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
The Dalai Lama shocked the world of Buddhism last month when he announced he was giving up his political powers as head of the Tibetan government in exile. For more than 50 years, the Nobel Peace laureate has been the public face of resistance to Chinese control of Tibet. His decision comes just as the government in exile is about to announce the results of an election for a new parliament and chief minister.
NORRIS: NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.
COREY FLINTOFF: The Dalai Lama's headquarters is here in Dharamsala, India, where Buddhist temples and monasteries cling to slopes that rise to the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas.
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FLINTOFF: Now, the Tibetan refugees here are trying to come to terms with the news that Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, will no longer be their political leader.
NORRIS: From the point of view of his holiness, it is for the good of the Tibetans for the long haul.
FLINTOFF: This is Chhime Chhoekyapa, the Dalai Lama's secretary.
NORRIS: From the Tibetan people's side, for many of them, it is something that is unthinkable.
FLINTOFF: This is Thubten Samphel, secretary of international relations for the government in exile.
NORRIS: You know, reincarnation is a belief. You either, you know, just believe in it or you laugh at it. We Tibetans believe human beings have the, you know, the spiritual resources to reincarnate, at - especially high-realized beings, at a time and place of his choosing.
FLINTOFF: Brahma Chellaney is a professor at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. He thinks the Dalai Lama is handing his political powers to the elected government so that even if there is a dispute, the Tibetan people will have a strong political structure to rally around.
NORRIS: I think it's a smart move because once he passes away, there will be great opportunity for the Chinese to take advantage of the situation.
FLINTOFF: People come to pray and turn the mantra wheels as they have done for 50 years. Monks chant as they renew their vows.
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FLINTOFF: Corey Flintoff, NPR News.
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