China trains Tibetan monks in the atheist government’s reincarnation regulation

Tibetan child monk in monestry, Litang, Kham, TIbet. (Photo courtesy: Alex Saurel)

(, Aug26’19) – Contending that the reincarnation system was “never a religious-only issue or a living Buddha’s personal right”, China said Aug 25 that it carried out a training session on reincarnation for “living Buddhas” in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Some 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks attended the training session launched on Aug 23 and focused mainly on the atheist Chinese government’s regulation on management of the reincarnation system.

The trainees were brought over from Tibetan Buddhist monasteries across the region, including the Sera and Drepung monasteries, reported China’s official Aug 25, citing the official Aug 24.

The report said the training session was being organized by the Institute of Socialism in Tibet, the Tibet Buddhist Association and regional authorities in charge of religious affairs. It cited a staff member of the Tibet Buddhism College in Lhasa as saying the training was to continue for seven to 10 days.

In particular, the report cited Suolang Renzeng, a deputy chief of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee, as saying at the training that the reincarnation system was “never a religious-only issue or a living Buddha’s personal right” but an important representation of the Communist Party of China’s strategies and policies in the region.

China issued Measures on the Management of Reincarnation of Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism in 2007 in response to remarks by Tibet’s top religious figure, the exile-based Dalai Lama, that he will only reincarnate in a country outside China’s control if the Tibet issue remained unsolved during his lifetime. The regulation banned Tibetan Buddhist masters from reincarnating outside the People’s Republic of China.

Indeed, the report cited Bianba Lamu, head of the South Asia Institute of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences, as saying “holding such a training session suggested that reincarnation, written in government regulations and embedded in Tibetan Buddhism, will be carried out properly and not affected by any individual or the ‘Dalai Lama’s separatist clique’.”

Confirmation by the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s centuries-old spiritual leader, is often considered an important authentication of a reincarnate lama of Tibetan Buddhism.

Lamu has said strict regulations and implementation could help rule out monks not deserving the title of Living Buddha.

“Living Buddha” is a peculiar Chinese term used for Tibetan reincarnations. The proper Tibetan term is “yangsi” or “tulku”.


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