(TibetanReview.net, May01, 2015) – China said Apr 30 that the young man whom it had appointed as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995 in place of the one recognized by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had led a prayer service in Beijing on Apr 30 for people affected by the Apr 25 earthquake in Nepal and Tibet. And it described him as the highest-ranking lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, lay name Gyaltsen Norbu, reported the official Xinhua news agency, presided over a dharma assembly in Yonghe Lama Temple in downtown Beijing that lasted one and half hours. It added that he recited from scriptures and prayed with 210 monks from the Lama Temple and an elite Buddhist college.
The report added that he donated 200,000 yuan (US$ 32,800) to the quake affected areas in Nepal and Tibet as a vice president of the Buddhist Association of China.
China’s online Tibet news service eng.tibet.cn also reported on the prayer service in Beijing but did not mention the Dalai Lama or anything about religious ranking.
The report said the death toll in Tibet stood at 25, with four missing and 797 injured. Xinhua had also reported Apr 29 that the quake had toppled 2,535 houses and damaged 25,821 others across 19 counties, affecting nearly 300,000 people, among whom 52,433 were displaced. A total of 85 temples were also damaged, the report added.
In Nepal, the death toll had reached 5,489 on Apr 30 morning, with over 10,000 injured. Sindhupalchowk was the worst-hit district with 1,587 people killed. Some 134,864 houses were destroyed and 92,971 were damaged.
China’s official media has on occasions in the past described Gyaltsen Norbu as the second highest-ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism without mentioning who the first was. On the other hand, top ethic Tibetan leaders under Chinese rule have also suggested on occasions that the Dalai Lama could no longer be described as a religious leader, that he no longer had a popular following in Tibet. And China’s foreign ministry spokespersons routinely say the Dalai Lama is not just a religious figure but a political exile working to split China.