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No free hand to China on Dalai Lama reincarnation

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(TibetanReview.net, Oct05’22) – The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has denied reports which appeared in a section of the online media over the past few days that the exile spiritual leader of Tibet was planning to announce that he will not reincarnate in order to save Tibetan Buddhism from attempts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to control his reincarnations.

The hindustantimes.com Oct 1 cited officials close to the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner as saying the Dalai Lama has neither taken any such decision nor has he plans to announce anything like this in the future.

“His Holiness has often told us that he will live up to 113 years of age and continue serving the people of Tibet and Buddhist world at large,” it quoted an unnamed senior official as saying. No decision on reincarnation has been taken, the official has added.

The speculation and reports that the Dalai Lama was planning to make the impugned announcement stemmed from a bitterwinter.org piece on Sep 30, which said, “As long as the CCP controls reincarnations, the only way for the Dalai Lama to prevent the Chinese from installing a Dalai Lama of their own may be to announce that he will not reincarnate.”

“On Sep 24, 2011, he openly stated that the question of his reincarnation, which is voluntary, was under consideration,” the piece noted.

The piece further said: “Since the CCP has been suspected of trying to install a false Dalai Lama when Tenzin Gyatso will die, the Dalai Lama promises to live 16 more years as the supreme guarantee of the survival of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan identity. Then, the reincarnation system may be the victim of the next bloodless self-immolation by the highest authority in Tibetan Buddhism, to save Tibetan Buddhism from the CCP’s atheistic persecution.”

Well, this may be an overly simplistic assumption as any such decision will give China a free hand to deal with the Dalai Lama reincarnation issue as it pleases. This is because Beijing will then not have to contend with a reincarnation recognized as genuine by the Tibetan Buddhist world and others on the legitimizing basis of the Dalai Lama’s own decision, plans, and instructions. The only issue to the Chinese government would be the legitimacy and credibility of its choice, which it will be least bothered about. This is because it can enforce its will with brute force and coercion, something it has always done in all matters that the Tibetan people find antithetical to their desire and conscience.

The issue of the 11th Panchen Lama remains a stark reminder of what will happen should the Dalai Lama announce an end to his reincarnation. And there is actually a reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama recognized and proclaimed by the Dalai Lama fully in keeping with the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and practices. It is another matter, of course, that we do not know whether the original candidate, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, is even alive today after the Chinese government disappeared him, with his family, just three days after the Dalai Lama announced his recognition of him as the 11th Panchen Lama way back on May 14, 1995.

It is a fact, of course, that Gyaltsen Norbu, China’s very own 11th Panchen Lama, both of whose parents have been CCP cadres, entirely lack legitimacy and credibility from the Tibetan Buddhist point of view. However, this does not stop him from playing the role of the Panchen Lama assigned by Beijing, including as a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, and the president of the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China.
The situation will obviously be very different in the case of a 15th Dalai Lama who will be born and recognized outside a Chinese controlled territory in keeping with the intention expressed by the current Dalai Lama on numerous occasions. He will represent a formidable challenge to a Chinese government-appointed 15th Dalai Lama as the latter’s legitimacy will rest solely on the brute force of an atheist government best known for persecuting religious believers as enemies of the state.

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