China readies for next Dalai Lama. Why India should be worried

Claude Arpi
Claude ArpiSep 09, 2019 | 11:43

China readies for next Dalai Lama. Why India should be worried

On August 18, a video addressed to members of the Minnesota Tibetan Association, which received a wide circulation on social media, brought joy to the Dalai Lama's followers — the Nobel laureate said that he was presently in the best of health and would live to be 110 years old. Concerns were raised about his health in April, when the 84-year-old leader was flown from Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala to Delhi, where he was admitted to a private hospital for a serious chest infection.


There is speculation around the Dalai Lama's health. (Photo: Reuters)

Fears allayed

The Dalai Lama recalled a dream in which Goddess Palden Lhamo, the special protector deity of Tibet, while riding on his back, proclaimed that he would live for 110 years. "Tibetans have not forgotten me, and I will not forget you," asserted the Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Himalayas, the Chinese are actively planning for the return of his reincarnation.

Recently, some 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks attended "a training session on reincarnation for a living Buddha in Tibet Autonomous Region, which includes government regulation on management of the reincarnation system, and was hailed by Chinese experts and officials as a necessary method to maintain religious harmony in the region," The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the atheist Communist Party of China (CPC), reported. China invented the term 'Living Buddha' to designate the tulkus — Lamas who consciously return to this world to continue what they have not achieved in their previous life. Beijing seems busy preparing to appoint its own 15th Dalai Lama.

The training session, organised by the Institute of Socialism in Tibet, the Tibet Buddhist Association and regional authorities, covers the history and rituals for the reincarnation of Living Buddhas, The Global Times reported. It lasted some 10 days. Wu Yingjie, the party boss in Lhasa, received the newly educated monks at the end of the course. Sonam Rinchin, a deputy secretary of the regional Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said that the reincarnation system was "never a religious-only issue or a living Buddha’s personal right" but an important representation of the CPC's strategies and policies in the region.


"Management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism" were notified on July 13, 2007. Article 1 spoke of "protecting religious concord and social harmony, and protecting the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism." It asserted: "Reincarnating living Buddhas should respect the religious rituals and historically established systems of Tibetan Buddhism," insisting on an old ritual rarely used, the Golden Urn, which can easily be manipulated… further "Reincarnating living Buddhas shall not be interfered with or be under the dominion of any foreign organisation or individual."

This practically bans the Dalai Lama's return from India.

CPC eyes succession

Pema Lhamo, head of the South Asia Institute of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences, explained that the training session helped the process of reincarnation, "written in government regulations and embedded in Tibetan Buddhism… not affected by any individual or the Dalai Lama's separatist clique."

China wants a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama without Dalai Lama's involvement!

But Chinese preparations are not limited to 'converting' a few monks to a 'socialist' Buddhism. Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, has been conducting an extensive 'inspection tour' on the Tibetan plateau, including a village bordering Ladakh, trying to assert himself as the Dalai Lama's heir apparent.


The Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, has been conducting an extensive 'inspection tour' on the Tibetan plateau. (Photo: Reuters)

Norbu toured areas such as Purang (near the trijunction Nepal-Tibet-India), Mt Kailash, Manasarovar Lake, the monasteries in Tholing, Ngari town, Rutok, the Pangong Lake and even a village on the Indian border. All these areas are close to the Indian border.

Norbu's border tour

The Chinese media extensively covered his three-week-long visit. Norbu travelled to Jaggang village in Rutok County "for survey and research" and visited two Tibetan families, China Tibet Online reported. "Jaggang village is located in the southern part of Rutog County, 70 km away from the county town. It is a typical plateau village," the website reported.

This is not an ordinary village. Also known as Chiakang, it is situated close to Demchok in Ladakh. This is the first time that such a 'senior' religious leader came near the Indian border, which China claims as 'disputed'. Norbu's visit was probably a message to Delhi and Dharamshala — Beijing is doing its homework on the Dalai Lama's 'succession'. For at least the next 20 years, Norbu will be the face of Tibetan Buddhism in China. Even if China selects its own Dalai Lama (with Norbu's help), Norbu will continue to 'rule' on behalf of the CPC for decades (provided, the Communist 'dynasty' lasts that long).

Incidentally, Norbu also visited a Nyingma (old school) monastery (Tirthapuri Gompa, near Mt Kailash). This shows that China plans to use him as an ecumenical leader and not just a Lama of the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism. China is clearly putting people and systems in place for the succession of the Dalai Lama. One hopes that Palden Lhamo's prediction is right.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: September 09, 2019 | 12:07
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