Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Reincarnation stuck in Authority and Bureaucracy

by Salman Hameed

It seems that Dalai Lama wants to change the tradition of a reincarnate successor and the Chinese government is insisting on sticking with this metaphysical transition - as long as the reincarnation is approved by the Chinese government. Of course, all of these issues are deeply political, and the deeper question is about who has the authority to direct the future of Tibetan Buddhism. Nevertheless, I find it interesting the way bureaucracy is bring brought in the issues of paranormal/metaphysical. From the New York Times, China Says Dalai Lama has to Reincarnate (tip from Laura Sizer):
It is unclear how the 76-year-old Dalai Lama, who lives in India and is revered by many Tibetans, plans to pick his successor. He has said that the succession process could break with tradition -- either by being hand-picked by him or through democratic elections.
But Padma Choling, the Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet, said that the Dalai Lama had no right to abolish the institution of reincarnation, underscoring China's hardline stance on one of the most sensitive issues for the restless and remote region.
The Chinese government says it has to approve all reincarnations of living Buddhas, or senior religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. It also says China has to sign off on the choosing of the next Dalai Lama.
Oh - and did I mention that there is already a controversy of the previous reincarnation candidate?
In 1995, after the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the Chinese government put that boy under house arrest and installed another in his place.
Many Tibetans spurn the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama as a fake.
In all of this, I don't think that most Tibetan Buddhists think about the "physical evidence" for the reality of the claims of reincarnations. I think there are there are two different questions: Is their any evidence of reincarnation ("no"), and Do people believe that reincarnation happens and that it serves a particular role in their lives ("yes")? And in the latter case, physical evidence may even be irrelevant to the discussion.

In any case, read the full story here.


Mohamed said...

It’s sad that the Tibetans are not allowed to control their own faith tradition. Also, this is an interesting situation because in breaking with tradition isn’t the Dalai Lama himself violating the Buddhist faith? Or is he the one who decides what's proper or not for Buddhism?

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