The decision of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to give his formal blessings and recognition to the reincarnation of one of the senior-most Mongolian Buddhist Lamas early this March may look like another common Buddhist ritual. But this step of Dalai Lama has presented a direct challenge to the authority of China’s all-mighty and ‘paramount’ leader Xi Jinping. Dalai Lama’s decision to recognise this eight-year-old Mongolian boy presents a direct affront to Xi Jinping, who has been frequently announcing on all available forums that the right to search, identify, certify and enthrone the reincarnation of every Buddhist Lama, especially of Dalai Lama, belongs exclusively to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and no one else. He has been feverishly claiming that the reincarnation of the present Dalai Lama will be certified and enthroned by the Chinese Government after he passes away.
Recognising Tenth Rinpoche
Another interesting point of Dalai Lama’s step is that he announced his recognition to the Mongolian incarnate boy as the 10th incarnation of Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche in the presence of a five thousand big congregation of Budhist monks. They had gathered in Dharamshala from many countries to take part in the Chakrasamvara Empowerment teachings of Dalai Lama.
In Mongolia, Khalka Rinpoche is the supreme head of Mongolia’s biggest Gandan Tegchinlen Monastery and is revered as one of the highest-ranking Buddhist incarnates. The congregation included over 500 Mongolian monks who had specially flown in from Mongolia under the leadership of the new incarnate of Khalkha Rinpoche himself. Giving a special honour to the young boy monk, he was seated next to Dalai Lama’s throne. The empowerment teachings event, which went on for two days, was sponsored by the Buddhist community of Mongolia.
This ceremony in Dharamshala and Dalai Lama’s public certification of the Mongolian boy as one of the most senior leaders of Mahayana Buddhist community across the world has once again put the issue of reincarnation of the present Dalai Lama under the international limelight. It is quite interesting to note that on the one hand, Beijing leaders use the choicest abusive terms like ‘Wolf in the skin of a lamb’, ‘Feudal lord of surf owners’, ‘Splitist’, ‘Traitor’ and the ‘Gang leader of the fugitives.’ But on the other hand, the same atheist Communist Government of China is today vociferously claiming that the next incarnation of the present Dalai Lama will be installed by the Communist Party of China (CPC). Xi Jinping has only made this claim louder and multifold by repeatedly insisting that even Dalai Lama or any other Tibetan has no right to recognise the next Dalai Lama.
In Tibetan Buddhism, it is believed that every sentient being is reborn into one or another life form after the end of each life cycle. But enlightened souls like the Dalai Lamas and other learned monks have the virtue of guiding their rebirth process. The six centuries-old institutions of Dalai Lama of Tibet is unique in many ways. It holds the supreme religious authority as the Pope or Shankaracharya and the temporal powers like the king in a monarchy or the President in a democratic system of governance. The title is transferred to the next heir only through reincarnation. Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of Avaloketeshwara (Sanskrit) or Chenrizi (Tibetan), the compassion manifestation of Buddha.
When a Dalai Lama passes away, the Tibetans search for, identify and install the next Dalai Lama baby boy through a typical process which involves testing of all boy children born after the death of a Dalai Lama. A major factor directing this search process is the personal indications and desires left behind by a Dalai Lama about the place, family and other elements of his choice about his next birth. Before China’s occupation of Tibet in 1951, Tibet was independent with its flag, currency, postal system and international relations. At least since 1913, when Tibet successfully pushed out a two-year-long presence of Nationalist China in its capital Lhasa, to regain its independence.
During the initial four decades of occupation, the new communist masters of Tibet tried every tool under their command to suppress religion, hoping that the absence of religion would make people understand and accept communism more faithfully. But it only provoked the Tibetan masses further to express their anger through small but frequent uprisings across Tibet. A massive uprising of Lhasa in 1987 and 1989 proved an eye-opener for the big masters in Beijing, who were given to believe by local communist leaders that everything was fine and under control in Tibet. They were surprised to note that despite the three-decades-long absence of Dalai Lama and the banning of religious activities among the masses, the personal devotion towards Dalai Lama and faith in Buddhism among the masses remained the most dominant guiding and uniting force. This forced Beijing to revise its strategy in Tibet. It was decided to use religion as a tool rather than resisting it. This was followed by loosening religious controls, opening up temples and monasteries and giving freedom to common Tibetans to visit temples.
As a first visible step to signal the change in Chinese strategy came in 1992 when Beijing decided to undertake and install the reincarnation of 16th Karma Pa, who had gone to exile and died in 1981 as a popular Buddhist teacher. The newly found six-year-old boy Ogyen Trinley Dorje was enthroned in a colouful Buddhist ceremony at Tsurphu, the Tibetan headquarters of Karma Kagyu sect. Followers of previous Karma Pa were invited from Europe and America and the ceremony was telecast live on official CCTV. The same process was repeated in 1995 to identify the incarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, whom Beijing had used against the Dalai Lama. Panchen Lama died under doubtful circumstances in 1989 in Tibet at Shigatse soon after he delivered a stinging speech holding Beijing leaders for inhuman conditions inside Tibet. A committee of senior monks of Tashi Lhunpo, the personal monastery of the late Panchen Lama in Shigatse, was formed under the leadership of a communist officer. The process became controversial when the monks identified a five-year-old boy Gedhun Choeky Nyima and secretly took the approval of exiled Dalai Lama on the authenticity of the new incarnate boy. This angered Beijing so much that Chinese security personnel took Gedhun and his parents away. Another boy of the same age, Gyaltsen Norbu, was formally installed as the new Panchen Lama.
China believes it will be easy to tame the Tibetan people once Dalai Lama is under their control. This explains why all efforts at dialogue with Dharamshala in the past have been focused only on bringing back Dalai Lama
It is strange that despite repeated international outcries, the Chinese Government has kept mum about the whereabouts of Gedhun and his family for 28 years. Ordinary Tibetan masses, too, have refused to accept Gyatsen as the ‘real’ Panchen Lama. But Beijing is tirelessly busy presenting Gyaltsen as the ‘Supreme’ Buddhist leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Beijing has placed high stakes on Gyatsen, hoping he will be a useful tool for installing the next Dalai Lama. Since the 1990s, CPC has installed scores of small and high-ranking incarnate Lamas across Tibet.
In 2007, the Chinese Government adopted a special law called ‘Order-5’ which governs the search process and certification of reincarnation of future ‘Living Buddhas’ (or Tulku in Tibetan terminology). This law gives all powers for selecting any future ‘Living Buddha’ to the respective Buddhist Association at local, provincial and national levels which, by design, is dominated and controlled by senior communist cadres. The main logic of the Communist masters of Tibet behind bringing in such a law is that the next Dalai Lama, if born outside their jurisdiction, will be a permanent source of trouble for China. China sincerely believes it will be easy to tame the Tibetan people once Dalai Lama is under their control. This explains why all efforts at dialogue with Dharamshala in the past have been focused only on bringing back Dalai Lama to China.
Spread over 14 Articles, the first Article of ‘Order-5’ claims that it aims “to guarantee citizens’ freedom of religious belief…… and to respect Tibetan Buddhism’s practice of inheriting Living Buddha positions. ” The law lays down ‘expectations’ from each selected ‘Living Buddha’ to “…protect the unification of the state” and bars any interference of any foreign organisation or individual in the process of reincarnation. It also makes it clear that only those candidates qualify to be considered whose names are recommended by the concerned ‘monastery management organization’. This automatically gives all control to the Communist officers controlling the committees. And Article-11 declares that any independent effort to search for an incarnate Lama will be treated and punished as a ‘crime’. Speaking at the 7th Tibet Work Forum, the highest platform for future planning on Tibet, in August 2020 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping openly declared, “…. Tibetan Buddhism should be guided in adapting to the socialist society and should be developed in the Chinese context.”
Exposing commies double standards
In response to these efforts of CCP to control the institution of Dalai Lama, the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetans living in exile rejected the Chinese idea of holding control of future reincarnations of Tibetan Tulkus. On September 24, 2011, Dalai Lama issued a detailed official statement about the process of reincarnation, especially his reincarnation. He asserted, “…..the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognised. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her.”
Poking fun at the double standards of the Chinese communist leaders of rejecting religion but also taking control of religious rituals, he said, “It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas.”
On March 10, 2009, which happened to be the 52nd anniversary of Tibetan people’s uprising against Chinese occupation of Tibet, Dalai Lama had already played his masterstroke on this issue in his annual address to the people of Tibet. He announced the bifurcation of the powers and the role of Dalai Lama institution. According to the new system, all political powers, so far vested in the Dalai Lama, shall pass on to the Sikyong an elected representative of Tibet, whereas Dalai Lama’s role will be limited only to spiritual matters. In practical terms this change means that even if China manages to install a Dalai Lama of its choice on Tibet, the real political powers will remain outside the control of Beijing or the CCP. This step of Dalai Lama has extended the shelf life of his political role beyond his own life time and hence to the political struggle of Tibetan people for restoration of Tibetan independence.
It is also interesting to note that in order to thwart President Xi Jinping’s designs to impose his own choice of Dalai Lama on people of Tibet, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution (HR 4331) on January 28 in 2020 which declares any attempt of China to install its own choice of Dalai Lama’s next reincarnation as ‘invalid’ and directs the US government to take strong action including imposing sanctions on all Chinese CCP leaders and officials who are part of the exercise. It also makes it obligatory for future Presidents of USA to ensure that Dalai Lama and CTA’s decision are considered as final in the selection of next Dalai Lama.