Aug 5, 2007

Legislating Reincarnation

Sonam Gyatso, Third Dalai Lama, 16th-17th Century

In its continuing effort to crush the influence of Tibetan Buddhism within its borders, China is cracking down on the reincarnation of living Buddhas.

All the reincarnations of living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval, otherwise they are "illegal or invalid," China's State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) said in Beijing Friday.

The SARA has issued a set of regulations on reincarnation of Tibetan living Buddhas, which will take effect as of September 1.

"It is an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas," the SARA said in a statement issued Friday.

The regulations require that a temple which applies for reincarnation of a living Buddha must be "legally-registered venues for Tibetan Buddhism activities and are capable of fostering and offering proper means of support for the living Buddha."

I have to admit, this actually struck me funny when I first heard about it; the idea that a government bureaucracy could administrate the comings and goings of souls. But, it's deadly serious.

The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet’s exiled god-king, the Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk without approval from Beijing.

It is the latest in a series of measures by the Communist authorities to tighten their grip over Tibet. Reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in the Himalayan region. Anyone outside China is banned from taking part in the process of seeking and recognising a living Buddha, effectively excluding the Dalai Lama, who traditionally can play an important role in giving recognition to candidate reincarnates.

For the first time China has given the Government the power to ensure that no new living Buddha can be identified, sounding a possible death knell to a mystical system that dates back at least as far as the 12th century.

This continues and expands Chinese policies to wrest control of the Tibetan spiritual practices that largely define the occupied people. Having already decreed that only the government can authorize the appointment of its two most important spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. His holiness the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, selected the reincarnate of the Panchen Lama in 1995. But, Chinese authorities held their own selection ceremony and the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has since disappeared.

Last week hundreds of Tibetans were taken into custody for protesting the detention of another Tibetan protester, who seized the microphone at an official Chinese event and called for the return of the Dalai Lama.

The reports said the crowd of hundreds responded with a roaring yes when Runggye Adak asked whether the Dalai Lama should return.

"If we cannot invite the Dalai Lama home, we will not have freedom of religion and happiness in Tibet," Radio Free Asia quoted him as saying in a report filed from neighboring Nepal. Many Tibetans go through Nepal to reach the seat of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow, that's just incredible. . . and unbelievable. truly. i have no words here.