China bans reincarnation
Tuesday, September 18th, 2007
The Chinese government has outlawed the practice of reincarnating for Buddhist monks in Tibet without their permission.
In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.” But beyond the irony lies China’s true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region’s Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.
From Wikipedia’s article on the Dalai Lama:
Despite its officially secular stance, the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has claimed the power to approve the naming of high reincarnations in Tibet. This decision cites a precedent set by the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, who instituted a system of selecting the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama by means of a lottery which utilised a golden urn with names wrapped in barley balls. Controversially, this precedent was called upon by the PRC to name their own Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama and the majority of Tibetan Buddhists in exile do not regard this to be the legitimate Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama has recognized a different child, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, as the reincarnated Panchen Lama. This child and his family have been taken into ‘protective custody’ according to the PRC, and all attempts by members of the EU parliament and US government to garner guarantees of the family’s safety have been denied by the PRC. There is some speculation that with the death of the current Dalai Lama, the People’s Republic of China will attempt to direct the selection of a successor, using the authority of their chosen Panchen Lama.
The current Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated that he will never be reborn inside territory controlled by the People’s Republic of China, and has occasionally suggested that he might choose to be the last Dalai Lama by not being reborn at all. However, he has also stated that the purpose of his repeated incarnations is to continue unfinished work and, as such, if the situation in Tibet remains unchanged, it is very likely that he will be reborn to finish his work. Additionally, in the draft constitution of future Tibet, the institution of the Dalai Lama can be revoked at any time by a democratic majority vote of two-thirds of the Assembly. The 14th Dalai Lama has stated, “Personally, I feel the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose.”