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A decade ago, the Dalai Lama set a significant deadline for himself.
The world's most famous living Buddhist figure said when he turned 90 he would decide whether to be reborn - and possibly end a key role for the world for more than 600 years Tibetan Buddhism, but has become a political lightning rod in China in the past few decades.
While the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is reportedly still in good health, he is now 85 and questions about his succession are mounting. along with fears that his death could spark a religious crisis in Asia.
After an unsuccessful uprising against the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he established a government in exile in Dharamsala that led thousands of Tibetans during the While the Dalai Lama originally hoped his exile would be temporary, Beijing's control over Tibet has only tightened, making his return soon unlikely. Today Beijing sees him as he is a separatist aiming to break Tibet away from China and is therefore anxious that the next reincarnation of his role corresponds to his own political goals.
Since 1974 the Dalai Lama has declared that he is not seeking independence from China for Tibet, but a "meaningful autonomy" that would allow Tibet to preserve its culture and heritage.
Over the years the Dalai Lama has questioned a number of options for his reincarnation, including choosing a new successor even in India and not in Tibet - and has even toyed with the idea of a woman taking the role.
However, experts have said that regardless of its choice, the Chinese government will almost certainly choose a new Dalai Lama in Tibet - one who is expected to do so could result in the selection of two separate Dalai Lamas - one in China and one in India.
Tenzin Tseten, a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute in Dharamsala, said the Dalai Lama is of great importance to the Tibetan people and a symbol of their "nationalism and identity". "The Tibetan people will never accept a CCP-appointed Dalai Lama," Tenzin said at the candlelight vigil during a protest in Hyderabad on March 10, 2016.
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