Friday, December 3

Tibet and China collide over Dalai Lama’s next reincarnation | Dalai Lama


A couple of years ago, during a meeting of Tibetan leaders in Dharamsala in India, Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, was asked about his reincarnation. Addressing the hall of Tibetan monks, religious teachers and politicians, the Dalai Lama asked them to look him in the eye. “Do you think it’s time now?” I ask.

It was a meeting that would end with Tibetan leaders agreeing that the reincarnation issue would be decided only by the Dalai Lama himself. But China, which annexed Tibet in 1951 and has maintained tight control over the region since then, has other ideas. He insists that the choice of the next Dalai Lama rests solely with China, and has even enshrined this right in Chinese law.

The Dalai Lama, who recently turned 86, has insisted that discussions about his death are premature (according to his own views, he will live to be 113). But a power struggle has already begun over who will choose his reincarnation after his death.

“We are looking at the very likely situation that when the 14th Dalai Lama dies, there will be two Dalai Lamas appointed in his place,” said Robert Barnett, a Tibetan expert. “One selected on the basis of instructions left by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and one chosen by the Chinese Communist Party.”

However, China is not the only country now monitoring the Dalai Lama’s succession. Since 1959, the Dalai Lama has lived in exile in Dharamsala, nestled in the Himalayas, and Tibet remains a sensitive factor in India’s relationship with China, with whom it shares a 2,000-mile border. India has control over the Dalai Lama’s movements, both within and outside of India.

But as relations with China have deteriorated to record lows over the past year due to deadly border aggression, pressure has increased on the Indian government to strengthen its policy in Tibet in order to counter China, even declaring that only the Dalai Lama can choose his successor. Last month, in what was described as a “significant departure” from previous policy, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished the Dalai Lama a happy birthday on Twitter and, according to the speaker of the Tibetan parliament in exile, is scheduled a meeting between the two this year.

Controversies over the Dalai Lama’s successor are likely to have a direct impact on India; One possible scenario proposed by the Dalai Lama himself is that he could be reincarnated in a “free country”, probably India instead of Tibet.

Last week, it emerged that several members of the Dalai Lama’s inner circle, as well as senior figures from the Central Tibetan Administration, operating out of Dharamshala, were among those selected as potential targets for surveillance with Pegasus spyware manufactured by the NSO group. The analysis suggests that it was the Indian government that selected the possible surveillance targets. The Indian government denies any surveillance.

India is not alone in seeing the succession of the Dalai Lama as a matter of geopolitical importance. Last year, in a direct attempt against China, the United States revised its policy on Tibet to declare that only Tibetans had the right to select the next Dalai Lama.

According to the teachings, each Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of the Avalokiteśvara, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is the most important spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, and on many occasions, in the past and present, he is also a political leader of the Tibetans.

Traditionally, after his death, a search is initiated in Tibet to find his reincarnation, based on signs such as where he was looking when he died, in which direction the smoke blows when he is cremated and interpreted visions of Lhamo La-tso, a lake. oracle in Tibet. Based on these visions, search parties are sent out to find children born around the date of their death that match these visions and then undergo a series of tests, until the correct one is guessed. While most Dalai Lamas have met in Tibet, one was born in Mongolia and another in an area that is now India.

But with Tibet under Chinese control, this process that led to the discovery of two-year-old Lhamo Dhondup, now known as Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in a small farming village in northeast Tibet in February 1940. it is unlikely to be repeated. It is now enshrined in law that the Chinese government must approve all reincarnations of leading Buddhist lamas (teachers), including the Dalai Lama, a position that was forcefully reiterated in a white paper on Tibet published by China in May this year. , on the 70th anniversary. of its annexation of Tibet.

Tibetans at a ceremony celebrating the Dalai Lama's 86th birthday in Lalitpur, Nepal.
Tibetans at a ceremony celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 86th birthday in Lalitpur, Nepal. Photograph: Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

This has been rejected by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan parliament in exile, which is located in Dharamshala. Penpa Tsering is the speaker of parliament in exile and works closely with the Dalai Lama. He said: “An atheistic and unbelieving government like China that interferes in Tibetan spiritual affairs is a complete no-no, it cannot be accepted. The world has turned against China. We firmly believe that no one will trust your choice. “

The Dalai Lama has also expressed concern that his reincarnation will be kidnapped and politicized with “blatant meddling” by the Chinese, and has publicly contemplated reincarnating as a woman or not reincarnating at all.

The Dalai Lama has proposed three options for his reincarnation, all a departure from the past. The first is that he will reincarnate in the traditional way, he will be reborn as a child, but outside of Tibet. The other options invoked even more Buddhist niche ideas of “emanation” and opened the possibility for the Dalai Lama to name a living successor before his death. He has rejected the legitimacy of the method proposed by the Chinese government to find his reincarnation, which involves pulling a name out of a “golden urn.”

While the Dalai Lama was once a spiritual leader only for Tibetans, he now has a large following and has become something of a global celebrity. China’s attempts to interfere with his reincarnation are likely to spark a global backlash.

For the Tibetan leadership, the issue is not considered urgent; Aside from a brief cancer scare, the Dalai Lama is reported to be in good health and he himself has said that he will begin making a decision about his reincarnation options after he turns 90.

“His Holiness the Dalai Lama has joked many times that if the Chinese are really concerned about the issue of reincarnation, they should first seek the reincarnation of Mao Zedong, the second of Deng Xiaoping. [both deceased Chinese communist leaders], and then maybe the Dalai Lama, ”Tsering said.

While there has been officially no communication between the Chinese and the Tibetans since 2010, Tsering confirmed that the back channels between the two sides remained active, and that the Tibetan leadership and the Dalai Lama were now pushing for the Dalai Lama to finally be allowed. visiting Tibet and China for the first time since he escaped.

But Tsering stressed that the issue of the next Dalai Lama was not subject to negotiation with the Chinese government. “Reincarnation is a decision that the person who is going to reincarnate must make. So we advise Chinese leaders to learn Buddhism first, ”he said.

However, the Chinese government is already preparing the ground for the selection of the next Dalai Lama. According to Barnett, the Chinese Communist Party secretly assembled 25 high-level government figures into a committee in January to begin preparing for the selection process. “We also know from personal accounts that the Chinese have spent the last 10 years winning over individual lamas within Tibet, offering them free trips to China and telling them that if they support Beijing they will not be persecuted, so when the time comes these Lamas will support the Chinese election of the Dalai Lama, ”Barnett said. “It is proving very effective.”

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama. Photograph: CPA Media / Alamy

The preparations appear to be a Chinese attempt to prevent a repeat of the chaotic events of 1995, when, without consulting the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama declared that a six-year-old boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was the next reincarnated Panchen Lama, the second most important figure of Tibetan Buddhism. Three days later, Nyima disappeared and has not been seen since.. The Panchen Lama that the Chinese government appointed in his place continues to be rejected by the majority of Tibetans.

The apparent determination of the Chinese government to select and control the next Dalai Lama is also seen as a response to the enduring popularity of the current spiritual leader, who has undermined his control of Tibet. Despite extensive “re-education” and propaganda programs and the banning of any image of the Dalai Lama within Tibet, many Tibetans still secretly revere him.

The Chinese government has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of “separatist” activities and held him responsible for the self-immolations that Tibetans still carry out in protest, and for Tibetan uprisings like those of 2008. “The fact that the Chinese government wants to a reincarnation of their choice shows that they consider the institution to be important enough to be owned and manipulated to finally solve the Tibet problem, ”said Amitabh Mathur, a former adviser to the Indian government on Tibetan affairs. “This is due in large part to the exceptional personality of the 14th Dalai Lama and the control he still has over Tibetans. Hence the desperation to have their own Dalai Lama. “


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