Dalai Lama eyes retirement

NORTHAMPTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) — The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, said he was ready to retire in a few years but will keep championing causes to help the Tibetan people, culture and environment.

Speaking at Smith College in Massachusetts Wednesday to about 5,000 students, faculty and invited guests of the Tibetan community, Tibet’s exiled and revered spiritual leader said he already sees himself semi-retired.

“Within a few years’ time, I will retire completely,” the 71-year-old monk and Nobel Peace Prize winner said.

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The Dalai Lama has lived in Dharamsala, India, in the outer Himalayas, since 1959. He was active in establishing there the Central Tibetan Administration, Tibet’s government in exile. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Wearing a yellow-and-maroon robe, he said he was honored to have been recognized in the world for his “small contribution to the welfare of humanity.” He suggested the elected Tibetan leadership in exile can soon carry on his mission.

The Dalai Lama says he wants greater autonomy, not independence, for his predominantly Buddhist homeland, but China considers him a separatist and accuses him of continuing to promote Tibetan independence.

A boy the Dalai Lama picked as successor is believed to have been under house arrest since 1995 when he was 6 years old. Human rights groups call him the world’s youngest political prisoner.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule, nine years after the Chinese army marched into Tibet.

“The Tibetan nation is passing through its darkest period in 2,000 years,” he told the gathering.

In recent years, Smith College has collaborated with a nearby college to sustain a program of annual academic exchanges with exiled Tibetan scholars.

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