(TibetanReview.net, Nov15’23) – China said Nov 14 that Gyaltsen Norbu, whom it had designated and appointed in Dec 1995 as the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet, had given “head-touching” blessing to more than 38,000 Buddhist adherents in Shigatse City. The Panchen Lama is Tibet’s second most prominent religious figure after the Dalai Lama, the latter being Tibet’s temporal and spiritual leader until 2011.
China installed Gyaltsen Norbu to this position on Dec 8, 1995 as the reincarnation of Tibet’s 10th Panchen Lama after disappearing another boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who had already been recognized and proclaimed as such by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama on May 14, 1995.
When the ritual began at approximately 10 a.m. on Monday (Nov 13) at Tashilhunpo Monastery, long lines of religious believers from all over the region had already stretched several kilometres, holding hada, a traditional Tibetan silk scarf that symbolizes purity and auspiciousness, reported China’s official Xinhua news agency Nov 14.
“Head touching is a ceremony carried out by a living Buddha to bless believers who consider that it will help them avoid disasters,” the report said.
China previously used to threaten to punish Tibetans who fail to come out to greet Gyaltsen Norbu, the lay name of its 11th Panchen Lama, during his visits to their local areas.
But during his recent visits to parts of eastern Tibet, residents were stated to have been offered monetary incentives by local authorities for turning out in large numbers to welcome him.
Gyaltsen Norbu has been touring Tibet since at least June this year.
Xinhua last reported on him on Sep 12, saying he had concluded a three-month tour of Tibet’s capital Lhasa.
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Gyaltsen Norbu lives in Beijing, although Tashilhunpo is supposed to be his seat monastery. China is grooming him there to play the role of being “its” spiritual leader of Tibet.
He is expected to play a key role in “recognizing” and installing its version of the reincarnation of the current Dalai Lama who lives in exile, condemned by China as a separatist despite the fact that he only seeks genuine autonomy for his Tibetan homeland.
The Dalai Lama has already made it clear that he won’t be reborn in a territory under China’s control so long as the issue of Tibet remains unresolved. But China has made it clear that it will install its own 15th Dalai Lama, come what may.
Like the disappeared Dalai Lama–recognized 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Gyaltsen Norbu was also born in Lhari County of Tibet’s Nagchu City. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was born on Apr 25, 1989 and Gyaltsen Norbu on Feb 13, 1990.
Gyaltsen Norbu is currently a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, and president of the association’s Tibet branch.
As regards the whereabouts, or, indeed, the very fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, it continues to remain one of China’s best kept secrets since May 17, 1995.