April 13, 2017 | Forbes


There’s a fascinating story in the weekend Wall Street Journal about the Dalai Lama, who has just made a very difficult trip to northeastern India to meet with tens of thousands of his faithful followers. He’s getting older (although evidently in good shape at 81;  the trip to Tawang is challenging), and there was considerable conversation about what’s going to happen when he dies.

The Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and his successor may well be a person identified as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.  I had not realized that the about-to-depart-person has a lot to say about his/her reincarnation, including where it will occur, and indeed whether it will occur at all.  As the Journal reports, “the Dalai Lama’s rebirth represents a high-stakes collision of the metaphysical and the geopolitical.”  After all, he is an important political leader who is hated by the Chinese Communists (they call him “a wolf in monk’s clothing”) as well as the spiritual guide of the Buddhist community.

I was  also surprised at the degree of regulation imposed on reincarnation:

In 2007, China’s State Religious Affairs Bureau issued new regulations, which it termed “management measures for reincarnation,” that laid out a system of government approval and permits for rebirths. Reincarnations of key religious figures must be approved by China’s cabinet. In a swipe at Tibet’s exiled establishment, China’s rules forbid any “disruption or control” of reincarnation by “any foreign organizations or individuals.”

The Dalai Lama rejects such state intrusion, and insists that he alone will make all decisions about his spiritual path.

Closer to home, we have our own forms of reincarnation.  For the most part, they’re political, although other professions (think Hollywood,  for example) have it too.  The most famous case is undoubtedly Richard M Nixon, who, after losing the gubernatorial election in California, told the world “you won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.”  We all believed him, but barely an eyeblink later, lo and behold he was president.  Now THAT’s reincarnation!


Nowadays, the best example in Washington is General David Petraeus, left for dead after the revelations about his affair with a biographer.  He was fired from his post atop the CIA, and vanished into the fog of pundit- and consultantdom.  But he is back, albeit one step removed from full reincarnation.  His protégé, General H.R. McMaster, is the national security adviser, and he regularly—some say daily—seeks out Petraeus’ guidance on the affairs of state.

No surprise there.  Those Big Army guys stick together.  And there is no shortage of Marines, from Defense Secretary Mattis to Homeland Security Kelly to Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford.

Maybe Trump should nominate the Dalai Lama as deputy director of the office of national intelligence?

Michael Ledeen is a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.