Elderism #76

October 2nd, 2010

“A happy life is entirely dependent on the rest of the community. I love my watch, but if I kiss my watch the watch has no ability to return affection.”

The Dalai Lama, in Evan Osnos’s long, detailed look at the future of Tibet, in the New Yorker (subscription required.) In addition to showcasing some of His Holiness’s delightfully eccentric behavior–he likes to tug on the beards of somber religious clerics; he sometimes makes decisions by putting pieces of paper inside balls of dough–Osnos offers a balanced look at how HHDL (as his Twitter followers know him) functions as both statesman and spiritual leader. Osnos says that HHDL’s romance with the West makes him vulnerable to detractors–“Although the Dalai Lama calls for full legal rights for gay men and women, he cites Buddhist doctrine, which condemns anal and oral sex, and considers it unsanctioned for Buddhists;” Osnos quotes Christopher Hitchens, who calls HHDL’s following “a Hollywood cult that almost exceeds the power of Scientology.”

About to turn 75, HHDL says his succession is an open-ended matter–he may be reincarnated as a woman, or he may eschew the traditional portents-of-divination route and decide to pick his own successor; or Tibetans may decide to do away with the institution of the Dalai Lama altogether. HHDL, we’re told, thinks about his death every day. He refers to it as “a change of clothing.”