Succession of the 14th Dalai Lama

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The question of the succession of 14th Dalai Lama in a lineage of Dalai Lamas will be decided by Tibetan Buddhist hierarchs based on the doctrine of reincarnation.[1] The selection process may prove controversial, as the officially atheist Chinese government has expressed unusual interest in choosing the next Dalai Lama and claims it has the right to do so,[2] something heavily contested by Tibetan Buddhist religious authorities.[1][3]

Tibetan tradition[edit]

Following the Buddhist belief in the principle of reincarnation, the current Dalai Lama is believed to be able to choose the body into which he is reincarnated. That person, when found, will then become the next Dalai Lama. According to Buddhist scholars it is the responsibility of the High Lamas of the Gelgupa tradition and the Tibetan government to seek out and find the next Dalai Lama following the death of the incumbent. The process can take a long time. It took four years to find the 14th (current) Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. The search is generally limited to Tibet, although the current Dalai Lama has said that there is a chance that he will not be reborn, and that if he is, it would not be in a country under Chinese rule. To help them in their search, the High Lamas may have visions or dreams, and try to find signs. For example, if the previous Dalai Lama was cremated, they can watch the direction of the smoke to suggest where the rebirth will take place. When these signs have been interpreted and a successor found, there are a series of tests to ensure that they are the genuine reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. They assess the candidate against a set of criteria, and will present the child with various objects to see if they can identify those which belonged to the previous Dalai Lama. If a single candidate has been identified, the High Lamas will report their findings to eminent individuals and then to the Government. If more than one candidate is identified, the true successor is found by officials and monks drawing lots in a public ceremony. Once identified, the successful candidate and his family are taken to Lhasa (or Dharamsala) where the child will study the Buddhist scriptures in order to prepare for spiritual leadership.[4]

Statements by 14th Dalai Lama[edit]

In a 2004 interview with Time, the current Dalai Lama stated:

The institution of the Dalai Lama, and whether it should continue or not, is up to the Tibetan people. If they feel it is not relevant, then it will cease and there will be no 15th Dalai Lama. But if I die today I think they will want another Dalai Lama. The purpose of reincarnation is to fulfill the previous [incarnation's] life task. My life is outside Tibet, therefore my reincarnation will logically be found outside. But then, the next question: Will the Chinese accept this or not? China will not accept. The Chinese government most probably will appoint another Dalai Lama, like it did with the Panchen Lama. Then there will be two Dalai Lamas: one, the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan heart, and one that is officially appointed.[5]

The Dalai Lama stated in 2007 that the next Dalai Lama could possibly be a woman, remarking, "If a woman reveals herself as more useful the lama could very well be reincarnated in this form".[6] In 2010 he stated that "twenty or thirty years ago", when discussing whether a woman could be a Dalai Lama in the future, he said yes but "I also said half-jokingly that if the Dalai Lama's reincarnation is female, she must be very attractive. The reason is so that she will have more influence on others.”[7] On 24 September 2011, the Dalai Lama issued a statement concerning his reincarnation giving exact signs on how the next one should be chosen, the place of rebirth and that the Chinese appointed Dalai Lama should not be trusted.[8]

Statements by Chinese government[edit]

In 2015, the Tibet regional governor Mr. Padma Choling (白玛赤林) stated:

Whether [the Dalai Lama] wants to cease reincarnation or not ... this decision is not up to him. When he became the 14th Dalai Lama, it was not his decision. He was chosen following a strict system dictated by religious rules and historical tradition and also with the approval of the central government. Can he decide when to stop reincarnating? That is impossible.[9]

Choling statement disregards that indeed the Dalai Lama can decide whether to reincarnate or not as that is essential part of the Bodhisattva concept. The irony that an atheist Marxist government is involved in the afterlife and re-incarnation did not go unnoticed,[10] As joked by Jonathan Kaiman for the Los Angeles Times: "In China, it's not easy to become a “living Buddha.” First come the years of meditation and discipline. Then comes the bureaucracy. (...) Although the ruling Communist Party is an officially atheist organization – officials are barred from practicing religion – it is perennially uncomfortable with forces outside of its control, and has for years demanded the power to regulate the supernatural affairs of Tibetan Buddhist figures, determining who can and cannot be reincarnated." [11]

On August 3, 2007, State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 was issued by China which states that all the reincarnations of tulkus of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval, otherwise they are "illegal or invalid". [12]

Further analysis[edit]

Several analysts have stated that even if China picks a future Dalai Lama, it will lack the legitimacy and popular support needed to be functional, as Tibetan Buddhists all over the world would not recognize it, [13] similar to how the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama lacks any international recognition or support from Buddhist organizations.[13][14] According to Tibetan scholar Robert Barnett "This is one of the chief indicators that China has failed in Tibet. It's failed to find consistent leadership in Tibet by any Tibetan lama who is really respected by Tibetan people, and who at the same time endorses Communist Party rule."[13] Lobsang Sangay, Sikyong (prime minister) of the Tibetan government-in-exile, said: "It’s like Fidel Castro saying, 'I will select the next Pope and all the Catholics should follow'".[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pistono, Matteo (March 9, 2011). "China and the (Next) Dalai Lama". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 15, 2011. 
  2. ^ Lu, Kang. "Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on May 26, 2017". 
  3. ^ O'Brien, Barbara (March 11, 2011). "The Dalai Lama steps back, but not down". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved March 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Online article in The Guardian dated 27 August 2008
  5. ^ Perry, Alex (October 18, 2004). "A Conversation with the Dalai Lama". Time. Retrieved March 15, 2011. 
  6. ^ Spencer, Richard (December 7, 2001). "Dalai Lama says successor could be a woman". London: Retrieved November 19, 2010. 
  7. ^ Aktuell, Buddhismus; Doepke, Michaela (January 2011). "Interview with the Dalai Lama about the Full Ordination of Women". Retrieved July 26, 2017. 
  8. ^ Statement of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, on the Issue of His Reincarnation Website of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet September 24, 2011. Accessed December 26, 2014. Archived December 30, 2014.
  9. ^ McDonell, Stephen (March 10, 2015). "China accuses Dalai Lama of profaning Buddhism by signalling end to reincarnation". Retrieved July 26, 2017. 
  10. ^ BUCKLEY, CHRIS (March 11, 2015). "China's Tensions With Dalai Lama Spill Into the Afterlife". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  11. ^ Kaiman, Jonathan (March 8, 2016). "In China, the state decides who can come back from the dead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  12. ^ 国家宗教事务局令(第5号)藏传佛教活佛转世管理办法 [State Religious Affairs Bureau Order (No. 5) Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas] (in Chinese). Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China. n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c Wong, Edward (June 6, 2009). "China Creates Specter of Dueling Dalai Lamas". New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  14. ^ Tseten, Dorjee (May 19, 2016). "China's Worst Kept Secret: 5 Facts About the Abduction of Tibet's Panchen Lama". Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  15. ^ Beech, Hannah (Mar 12, 2015). "China Says It Will Decide Who the Dalai Lama Shall Be Reincarnated As". Retrieved 5 October 2017.