By Ashwini Bhatia
The Associated Press
DHARMSALA, India (AP) — The Dalai Lama led a ceremony on Monday, Aug. 8, to swear in a new prime minister for the Tibetan government-in-exile, who is taking over the Buddhist leader’s political role.
Harvard-trained legal scholar Lobsang Sangay took the oath of office and became the first person in Tibetan history to hold higher political authority than the Dalai Lama.
Sangay was elected in April by tens of thousands of exiled Tibetans to lead the administration based in the northern Indian city of Dharmsala.
The Dalai Lama, 76, recently decided that an elected official should lead the government, while he remains the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual head.
Sangay has vowed to follow the Dalai Lama’s approach of seeking increased autonomy for Tibet within China. China refuses to recognize Sangay’s authority.
“We are also willing to negotiate with the Chinese government anytime, anywhere,” Sangay told a huge crowd that gathered for the ceremony at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala.
Sangay said he would work to fulfill the vision of the Dalai Lama to create a truly secular democratic society.
“Tibetan leadership is far from fizzling out … we are here to stay,” Sangay said.
The Dalai Lama, who accompanied the new leader to the temple, hugged and blessed him after the ceremony.
The Dalai Lama, the 14th in a line of men said to be the living incarnation of Chenrezig, a Buddhist god of compassion, says he needed to resign as political leader because he feared chaos would erupt after his eventual death, when the Chinese government and Buddhist monks are certain to argue over the identity of his successor.
“Now, that danger is no longer there,” he said, in an earlier interview with The Associated Press. ♦