(TibetanReview.net, Jan20’16) – China said Jan 18 that it had formally launched online an initial list of what it called authentic Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism. It said the initial list has names and descriptions of 870 “Living Buddhas” on the websites of the Buddhist Association of China, the State Bureau of Religious Affairs and China Tibet Online (ie, Tibet.cn) and could be viewed in Chinese and Tibetan.
The database was launched by the Buddhist Association of China at its office in the Guangji Temple in Beijing. The database contains eight categories of information about the “Living Buddhas” listed there: Given birth name, religious name, Buddhist name, date of birth, religious sect, Buddha permit number, their temple and a photo, said China’s online Tibet news service eng.tibet.cn Jan 18.
The report said data about the “Living Buddhas” in Garze (Tibetan: Karze) Prefecture and Muli (Mili) County in Sichuan Province were currently being verified and will be announced soon.
The report cited 7th Drukhang Rinpoche Drukhang Thubten Khedrup, Vice president of the Buddhist Association of China and President of its Tibetan Branch, as saying the online query system was an important step for the association to promote religious education and further standardize matters related to reincarnation of “Living Buddhas”.
China uses the term “Living Buddha” to refer to Tibetan Buddhist religious figures called “Tulkus” who are believed to be spiritually realized beings who have committed themselves to serve sentient beings by taking rebirth in such time and place as they deem most appropriate for rendering their services.
With an eye on controlling Tibetan Buddhism in general and especially the reincarnation of the present Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, China’s State Bureau of Religious Affairs announced in 2007 a document called “State Bureau of Religious Affairs Order No. 5”, mandating the recognition of all reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhism to be carried out under the supervision of the atheist Chinese government which will give the final approval also. Pursuant to it, the Buddhist Association of China in 2010 started issuing certificates to such approved “Living Buddhas”.
The report said that those who attended the online database launch ceremony included leaders from the Central United Front Work Department and State Bureau of Religious Affairs.
China’s official Chinadaily.con.cn said Jan 19 that the database was launched after an incident involving Baima Aose, whose original name was Wu Darong, during which he held what was purportedly a Living Buddha enthronement ceremony for Chinese actor Zhang Tielin. Baima later issued an apology and resigned from all his posts after a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Sichuan province denied having previously recognized him as a “Living Buddha”.
The report also cited Venerable Master Xuecheng, the Buddhist Association of China’s president, as saying the association was considering expanding the database soon to cover information about all 72,000 Buddhist monks in Chinese Buddhism.
Although the database only includes details about “Living Buddhas” approved by the government of China, the Chinese media claims that the online verification facility will help the public differentiate real religious figures from fakes. In particular, China’s official Global Times newspaper Jan 19 quoted Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee, as saying, “The system will strike a heavy blow to the Dalai Lama, as he has been utilizing his religious status to ratify Living Buddhas at will – which is against religious tradition – in an attempt to control Tibetan monasteries and divide the country.”