It was a straightforward question, and the Dalai Lama had a ready answer.
At a packed talk this morning in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, a journalist asked the Dalai Lama whether and how he would reincarnate in the future.
“You said you might not return. My question to you is where are you going to go?”
“To hell,” the Dalai Lama retorted, bursting out in hearty laughter.
He then struck a serious note, saying that his favorite daily Buddhist prayer contains the line: “So long as sentient beings’ suffering remains, I will remain in order to serve, to share their suffering.”
Like all Buddhists, he said he is in a continual pattern of rebirth. Once he dies, he’ll be reborn in another body, “but where born I don’t know.”
“If something useful,” he continued in his slightly fractured English, “as I mentioned earlier, half joke, if something useful, some benefit, at least to some needy people or needy sentient beings, I’m ready to go there (to hell).
“If not much work, I’m going to heaven!” he said, to more guffaws.
Earlier in the talk, the Dalai Lama said perpetuation of his lineage is not set in stone. If future Dalai Lamas are not serving their followers, then Buddhists should not be disheartened when the line comes to an end.
“Dalai institution evolved 600 years ago. It happened. Then about 300 years ago, Dalai Lama institution became head of both temporal as well as spatial. At a certain time, it happened. At a certain time, it will go. It is not important,” he said.
The Dalai Lama seems to revel in the image that China paints of him as a troublemaker, and a demon.
At the end of the talk and a news conference, the head of the correspondents club announced that the Dalai Lama had been made an honorary member, a typical gift bestowed on high-level speakers.
“Media people are troublemakers so I want to join as one member of troublemakers (club)!” he said, laughing heartily.