The Indian Himalayan Council of the Nalanda Buddhist Tradition (IHCNBT) met earlier this month to discuss the succession of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. During their meeting, the council made a resolution stating that there should be no interference in the succession planning of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and the selection the 15th Dalai Lama.
The resolution states: “If the government of the People’s Republic of China, for political ends, chooses a candidate for the Dalai Lama, the people of the Himalayas will never accept it, never pay devotional obeisance to such a political appointee, and publicly denounce such move by anyone.
“The system of recognizing reincarnated spiritual beings is a religious practice unique to Nalanda Buddhism and the philosophy of the principle of life after death . . . no government or any individual has the right to interfere in this matter.” (WION)
The resolution was deemed necessary because after China annexed Tibet in 1951 they incorporated their right to choose the 15th Dalai Lama into Chinese law. As a result, there has been an ongoing power struggle over who will choose his successor, the Chinese government or the Tibetan people.
Tibetan affairs expert Robert Barnett had this to say about the situation: “We are looking at the highly likely situation that when the 14th Dalai Lama dies, there will be two Dalai Lamas named in his place. One selected on the basis of instructions left behind by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and one chosen by the Chinese Communist Party.” (The Guardian)
The IHCNBT was formed in 2018, and named by the Dalai Lama. The organization contains Buddhist leaders from across the Indian Himalaya, including Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, and Sikkim.
Headquartered in New Delhi, the council’s primary commitment is developing an Indian Himalayan sangha and increasing harmony between the traditions of Nalanda Buddhism. They hope to do this in the following ways:
• Revive and strengthen the Nalanda Buddhist values of Karuna, Ahimsa, and Compassion(IHCNBT)
• Develop monastic education training
• Build the monasteries into learning centers
• Address the socio-economic difficulties that exist between monastics and Lay people
Speaking on the secession process, IHCNBT president Lochen Rimpoche said: “Don’t worry about the Chinese government, His Holiness [the] Dalai Lama is the supreme spiritual leader of all the Buddhist, not only the Himalayan region but other countries.” (WION)
The struggle over the succession of the Dalai Lama has garnered worldwide attention, in part because the spiritual leader has lived in exile since 1959. He now resides in Dharamsala. India shares a more than 3,000-kilometer border with China, and relations between the two countries are tense.
Other countries have also expressed interest in the issue. In 2020, the United States revised its policy on Tibet to state that only Tibetans could select the successor to His Holiness.
When the US passed the legislation, the Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA), Tibetan Central Administration (CTA) president Lobsang Sangay said: “By passing the TPSA, Congress has sent its message loud and clear that Tibet remains a priority for the United States and that it will continue its steadfast support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA.” (Reuters)
Incarnations of the Dalai Lama lineage are traditionally understood to be emanations of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. His Holiness is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and the head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
After His Holiness he dies, his reincarnation will be identified based on a variety of methods, among them visions and divinations and readings from oracles. Once potential candidates are located, they are tested in a variety of ways until a new Dalai Lama is identified.
In a first, Indian Buddhist organisation passes resolution on succession of the 14th Dalai Lama (WION)
Indian Himalayan Council Of Nalanda Buddhist Tradition
Tibet and China clash over next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama (The Guardian)
Tibetan leader welcomes U.S. bill that reaffirms rights, angering China (Reuters)
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