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article imageAtheist China seeks role in religious choice of future Dalai Lama

By R. C. Camphausen     Jul 1, 2010 in Politics
Dharamsala - Considering that Tenzin Gyatso, the present and 14th Dalai Lama, is 75 and has had various problems with his health, it is only prudent to contemplate his future incarnation. But who will decide? Religious Tibetans or the atheist Chinese government?
The Chinese chairman of the so-called Tibet People’s Congress, Qiangba Puncog, has stated that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must follow protocols laid down in what he says are ‘traditional’ requirements for recognizing a reincarnation. He states that these rules, or religious rituals, involve casting a lot drawn from a golden urn, and claims that these are historical conventions have been passed down since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). He also claims that such an incarnation needs the approval from the Chinese government in Beijing.
People who do know about the actual tradition differ from this point of view, because they know that the position of the Dalai Lama has actually been created by the Mongolian leader Altai Khan in 1578, though two previous Dalai Lama’s were posthumously recognized, creating a date for the 1st official Dalai Lama as being 1391.
The current Dalai Lama, having lived in exile in India for years on end, has stated that he may, in disregard of all tradition, choose his reincarnation while still alive, and that his next incarnation may as well be found outside Tibet -- a country occupied by China since more than half a century. This would be, almost equal to Chinese interference, a complete break with tradition because the ancient Tibetan way to recognise an incarnation is by testing a child whether or not he -- yes they've always been male -- recognizes possessions owned by the previous incarnation.
Traditionally, a highly developed Tibetan lama (monk, priest), would indicate shortly before his death in which vicinity he'd expect to be reborn, and after his actual death search-parties would go out in order to find potential reincarnations. If a baby would fit, in a temporal sense, it it would be presented with several items once possessed by the deceased. Should the baby show clearly that it recognized such items, or would perhaps even quote the deceased or have intimate knowledge about his life, he'd be recognized as the incarnation, with an appropriate education regime being started right away.
This system, in fact, proves against all Chinese claims that Tibet was a feudal society, that temporal and religious power was not something inherited, but could suddenly elevate the offspring of poor farmer family and make him turn into the country's most elevated leader.
Naturally, the present Chinese government claiming leadership over Tibet - occupied since 1951 - does not want a new incarnation of Tibet's spiritual leader. Instead, it is is trying to create new rules as to how such as leader is to be chosen.
More about Dalai lama, Tibet, China, People congress, Qiangba puncog
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