BERLIN (AFP) - The Dalai Lama has told a German newspaper that he should be the last Tibetan spiritual leader, ending a centuries-old religious tradition from his Himalayan homeland.
His comments to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper echo his previous statement that "the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose", but were even more explicit.
"We had a Dalai Lama for almost five centuries. The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular. Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama," he said.
"If a weak Dalai Lama comes along, then it will just disgrace the Dalai Lama," he added with a laugh, according to a transcript of the English language interview.
He also said: "Tibetan Buddhism is not dependent on one individual. We have a very good organisational structure with highly trained monks and scholars."
China has governed Tibet since 1951, a year after invading, and the Dalai Lama fled across the Himalayas to India after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2011 retired from political duties and has upgraded the role of prime minister of the Tibetan exile community. But he is still the most powerful rallying point for Tibetans, both in exile and in their homeland, and remains the universally recognised face of the movement.
Asked by the German newspaper how much longer he may carry on his advocacy duties, the 79-year-old said: "The doctors say I could become 100 years old. But in my dreams I will die at the age of 113 years.
"I hope and pray that I may return to this world as long as sentient beings' suffering remains. I mean not in the same body, but with the same spirit and the same soul."
On the question of whether he may ever be able to return to Tibet, he said: "Yes, I am sure of that. China can no longer isolate itself, it must follow the global trend towards a democratic society."