Belief Beat

The Dalai Lama turned 75 today, celebrating with hundreds of cheering followers in Dharmsala, India, where they have lived in exile since fleeing Tibet after the failed 1959 uprising against China. His fans, Buddhist and otherwise, around the world are also wishing him a happy birthday.

It’s a bittersweet milestone, however, given that the aging spiritual leader has been experiencing health problems, and Chinese officials plan to choose his successor despite protests from the Tibetan Buddhist faithful. (China, whose Communist government is officially atheist and doesn’t keep track of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, has recently made some negative headlines for its “re-education” of Tibetan monks.)

In an interview with the Associated Press last month, the Dalai Lama commented on what his death would mean for his followers:

“When I pass away, when I die, of course (there will be) a setback. Very serious setback,” the Dalai Lama said quietly in a recent interview in his private hilltop compound, speaking in his often-tangled English. His words spill out in bursts, and he can veer suddenly between resignation and determination. “But then, this younger generation will carry this on. There is no question.”

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