China Reasserts Authority on Dalai Lama Reincarnation
A senior Chinese government official said on Monday that China will never allow the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama to be decided by any other party, reaffirming the stance of the officially atheist Communist Party of its final authority on the issue of reincarnation, despite objections from rights groups and overseas Tibetans, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself.
Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Chinese government’s top advisory body, said in a commentary in the state-run Global Times newspaper that the central government had stiffened its resolve to decide on the reincarnation of “living Buddhas, so as to ensure victory over the anti-separatist struggle.” Zhu noted that as the Dalai Lama is the first political leader of Tibet, “whoever has the name of Dalai Lama will control political power in Tibet.” (Reuters)
China’s government has accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama of being a divisive element who encourages violence and separatist activity in ethnically Tibetan parts of China. However, His Holiness has repeatedly stated that he only wants to see autonomy for Tibet, while it will remain a part of China.
Zhu insisted that the issue of reincarnation “has never been purely a religious matter or to do with the Dalai Lama’s individual rights; it is first and foremost an important political matter in Tibet and an important manifestation of the Chinese central government’s sovereignty over Tibet. For this reason, since historical times, the central government has never given up, and will never give up, the right to decide the reincarnation affairs of the Dalai Lama,” he said. “It is not only necessary, but is in line with jurisprudence, and has nothing to do with whether the rulers believe in religion or not.” (Reuters)
In 2007, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs decreed that all reincarnations born within China must obtain the approval of the government to be regarded as “valid.” Reincarnation applications must be approved by four different governmental bodies—the religious affairs department of the provincial government, the provincial government itself, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and the State Council.
In a public statement in 2011, the Dalai Lama said, “Reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit, and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her.” (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)
His Holiness has even suggested that the title of Dalai Lama could end when he dies. However, China has remained adamant that the tradition of reincarnation should continue, albeit under its own direct government supervision, and state officials say the Dalai Lama has no right to discontinue the process.
“The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease,” the Dalai Lama said in 2014. “There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama.” (BBC)
The next Dalai Lama would be the 15th incarnation over a continuous period of about 500 years. The current 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Lhasa in 1959 after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet, fleeing to India, which is now home to about 100,000 Tibetans living in exile.
China sticks to right to decide reincarnation of Dalai Lama (Reuters)
Reincarnation (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Dalai Lama concedes he may be the last (BBC)
State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 (Wikipedia)
Tibetan Government-in-exile Cautions China Against Plan to Pick Dalai Lama’s Successor (Buddhistdoor Global)