NEW DELHI - The supreme religious post of the Dalai Lama should be abolished if Tibet became autonomous and democratic, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said in an interview published here.
'If I were to die in the next few months or before we were able to return to Tibet, there will be a new Dalai Lama,' the 69-year-old spiritual leader was quoted as telling the Hindustan Times newspaper on Tuesday.
'But if we cease to be a refugee community and live in democratic Tibet, then I don't think there should be a successor to me after I die,' he reportedly said.
His comments came as thousands of Tibetans prepare to celebrate his 70th birthday next month in north India, where the spiritual leader based himself after fleeing his homeland in 1959 when China crushed a Tibetan uprising.
The office of the Dalai Lama was founded in the 15th century, and two centuries later the fifth holder of the post departed from his purely religious role to unite Tibet politically, assuming temporal as well as spiritual powers.
A successor to the Dalai Lama is chosen by searching for the reincarnation of the incumbent, but the spiritual leader in the interview questioned the age-old ritual, arguing the complex search for successors was flawed.
Born Lhamo Dhondrub on July 6, 1935 the Dalai Lama was discovered as the 14th incarnation of Tibetan Buddhism's supreme religious leader as a toddler and enthroned at the age of four on February 22, 1940, in Lhasa.
'Some reincarnations have not been true,' the Dalai Lama told the English-language daily, but he added that he was certain he was the incarnate of the fifth incumbent who held the post for 67 years after being named the Dalai Lama in 1617.
He said he had had vivid dreams of a past life as a boy.
'Moreover, even though I was a very lazy boy, I always knew as much as my tutors on such subjects as Buddhist philosophy,' he said.
'That can only be explained if I had a past life memory,' he said, arguing that he was not the reincarnation of his immediate predecessor.
The Dalai Lama, awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to Tibet's non-violent liberation, has given up his original demands for his homeland's independence and instead talks of a 'meaningful autonomy' to preserve Tibet's culture, language and environment.
During Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in April, India recognised Tibet as part of China and pledged not to allow its territory to be used for anti-China political activities.
In return Beijing accepted Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan sliver reaching into Tibet, as Indian territory.
The Dalai Lama said he had no major disagreement with India over its decision, saying his concerns were more about Tibetan autonomy than Chinese sovereignty.
In the wide-ranging interview, the Dalai Lama accused China of wiping out all traces of Tibetan culture and flooding the region with immigrants, saying that in most cities now 'Tibetans have been reduced to a minority'.
He conceded, however, that China had made remarkable economic progress -- 'almost a miracle' -- and that Tibet could gain from the country's growing prosperity if it were granted full autonomy and democracy.
'Today, when the whole world is coming together, I am not saying that we want to separate,' he said. 'We only want to preserve our culture and live in a democratic society. By opposing us, it is the Chinese who are being splittist.'
India has played host to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile since the spiritual leader fled Tibet disguised as a soldier in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. There now are more than 200,000 Tibetan refugees living in India by official count.