Dalai Lama must follow historical, religious tradition of reincarnation

15:30, July 19, 2011      

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The Dalai Lama recently showed special attention to his reincarnation, which is understandable as he is already an old man. The problem is that the more he talks, the crazier he looks, and the further away he is from his religion. He is like an actor or a politician, often leaving people wondering about the credibility of his words.

The Dalai Lama has made a series of assertions, saying that he would abolish the reincarnation system, that he might choose his reincarnation while alive or that his reincarnation would be found outside China. According to a July 11 article by the Russian newspaper the Independent, the Dalai Lama, who was staying in the United States, would handpick his successor from outside China.

Nothing can be accomplished without norms or standards. The reincarnation system of a living Buddha is unique to Tibetan Buddhism. It has complete religious rituals and long-standing conventions. The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must have the support of Tibetan Buddhist practitioners and the approval of the Chinese central government. If the Dalai Lama violates the historical and religious tradition of the reincarnation system, nobody will support his reincarnation.

What do the religious rituals of living Buddha reincarnations refer to? All enthronements of the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas have been required to be approved by the central government since the Shunzhi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty conferred the title to the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1653.

The Qing Dynasty released the golden urn lottery system in 1872. A stone tablet in Beijing's Yonghe Lama Temple was established during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor and is engraved with words describing earlier serious nepotism problems in the selection of the Dalai Lamas. It said that the title of the Dalai Lama had been passed on among only those with affinity, so the selected "reincarnated souls" (or the "soul boy") were all from one family that virtually maintained a monopoly on the title. Therefore, the Qing Dynasty prepared two golden urns and sent one of them to Tibet for selecting the Dalai Lamas by asking candidates to draw lots from the golden urn.

Thereafter, the religious rituals of living Buddha reincarnations were generally established. First, after a Dalai Lama passes away (people cannot be reincarnated until they die), the living Buddha and senior monks will form a team to select the soul boy. Second, the team will first select candidate boys to participate in the golden urn lottery.

Third, the team will submit the list of the candidates to the central government for approval. Fourth, the central government will assign officials to host the golden urn lottery. Fifth, the team will apply to the central government for the enthronement of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama selected through the lottery. Sixth, the central government will allocate officials to hold the enthronement ceremony for the Dalai Lama.

The golden urn lottery is the most important step of the aforementioned procedures, because it upholds the central government's conferment authority, respects the "decision by Gautama Buddha's Dharma," and helps to prevent corrupt practices during the selection of the Dalai Lamas. This system has universally been embraced by Tibetan Buddhists.

What is wrong with the Dalai Lama? Why would he violate the ritual procedure that has been inherited and abided by generations of Dalai Lama?

The Dalai Lama always talks Buddhist words. However, I am afraid that he forgot that the Shakyamuni Buddha teaches people not to indulge in the whirlpool of samsara and take being released from pain as their heavy responsibility. How to be released from pain? The Buddha believes obsession is the main source of the painful samsara. Therefore, he advises people to abandon the obsession.

Can the Dalai Lama relieve himself of the thought of splitting China in his remaining years? How could Dalai Lama, who has troubles in samsara, experience rebirth and be released from pain?

The author is Cao Shimu, a professor of the science of religion from the China Religious Culture Communication Association, and the article is translated by People's Daily Online.

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