While some religious leaders might shy away from establishing a tradition of helping women ascend to high-ranking positions, the Dalai Lama voices a more progressive view: His Holiness says he would be pleased if a woman were to succeed him.
Cathy Newman, a presenter with the United Kingdom's Channel 4 News, recently asked the Buddhist leader whether he would be happy about a woman successor. Without skipping a beat, he answered yes.
"I think [it would be] good because you see, biologically, female[s] have more potential to develop affection or love to other [sic]," the Dalai Lama told Newman. "Some scientists, they tested two person, one male, one female looking at one sort of movie. Female [was] more sensitive: response is much stronger. So therefore…now we are 21st century…female have more potential so should take more active role regarding promotion of human compassion [all sic]."
The Dalai Lama, who serves as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, has alluded previously to the possibility of a woman eventually filling his role. In 2008, a college student asked His Holiness about a women succeeding him, and he reportedly said, "It's possible!"
In 2009, he even referred to himself as a feminist. "Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?" he said at the time.
There aren't hard-and-fast gender requirements with regards to who can be the Dalai Lama. The next leader will be chosen after the death of the current Dalai Lama. Buddhist monks and Tibetan government officials will look for signs of his reincarnation in a child born around the time of his death.
Though boys candidates are certainly the norm, the role of women in Buddhism in the West is evolving, and women are playing a more equal role in the faith by rising in the ranks as teachers, HuffPost blogger Michaela Haas explained last month.
"Despite the complex historical, religious and political factors surrounding the selection of incarnate masters in the exiled Tibetan tradition, the Dalai Lama is open to change," she writes. "Why not? What's the big deal?"
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred incorrectly to the Dalai Lama's openness to a female "predecessor" instead of "successor."
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