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U.S., India Step Up Fight With China Over the Next Dalai Lama

Choosing the next spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists will be a geopolitical battle.
The 14th Dalai Lama.

The 14th Dalai Lama.

Photographer: David McNew/Getty Imagees

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama—the spiritual leader of Tibetans, who lives in exile in India—turns 86 in July. The choice of his successor is shaping up to be a struggle between India and the U.S. on the one hand and China on the other.

The Dalai Lama is believed to be a living Buddha who is reincarnated after his death. Traditionally a search for a child reincarnation is conducted, and once a boy is confirmed, he studies to prepare for his role. The current Dalai Lama was identified at the age of 2. There’s no single method of choosing a Dalai Lama, and the process can be long and complicated.