Buddhists from around the world came to pay their visits to the beloved Dalai Lama in huge numbers, recently, chanting and praying together for Dalai Lama’s long life and health. The clean shaved monks and the Tibetan opera singers with heavy headdresses carrying offerings as a piece of hope came all together for their spiritual leader’s wellbeing.
According to the conventional Buddhist belief, the spiritual leader is expected to be reincarnated when he dies. He’s the 14th Dalai Lama in succession. At present, he is 84 years-old with failing health which has become the biggest concern of authorities in Tibet as well as around the world.
Dalai Lama who is considered Tibetan Buddhism’s traditional high priest has consecutively reincarnated from the past 600 years. Customarily it’s the Dalai Lama who instructs the Tibetans about his future reincarnation before his death. He’s intended to help his acolytes and the other monks with aides for where to look for his next reincarnated body. However, this time the selection process might go through the sieves of politics, as a result, the Dalai Lama himself pointed out to the closure of traditional rebirth.
Sixty years ago, due to the Chinese suppression, Dalai lama with his thousands of followers fled to Northern India and as result, he lost a huge following, authenticity, and legitimacy in Tibet according to Chinese experts, which was since then overpowered by Beijing. And thus the Chinese Government seeks the right to choose the Tibetan successor.
The questionable imperial relations between the two most populous countries, the origin land of Buddhism i.e. India, where the Dalai Lama resides and China which controls Tibet; the interest of the Tibetan Buddhism community seems to be at stake.
The Dalai Lama’s Vision
According to one of his intuitions, Dalai Lama mentions he’s not expected to die soon. He believes he has plenty of time and will live to 113 years. He plans to consult with his acolytes, advisors and the Tibetan when he turns around 90.
According to the local conventional beliefs, the Dalai Lama has control over his birth, death, and reincarnation. The Dalai Lama’s official website says “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.”
Dalai Lama has always mentioned that he might reincarnate as a man or a woman, an adult or a child — or might spring into the bodies of several people simultaneously. He has said that his rebirth will occur in a “free country” — which could mean India — but also suggested that it may not happen at all. He even once said “FEUDAL” REINCARNATION SYSTEM “MAY HAVE HAD ITS DAY”
During one of his interviews in 2011, Dalai Lama told the reporters that “One thing I want to make clear: As far as my own rebirth is concerned, the final authority is myself — no one else — and obviously, not Chinese communists!”
He even forewarned the Buddhist community to not fall for the Chinese ideologies after his death. “In future, in case you see two Dalai Lamas come, one from [India], in a free country, and one chosen by the Chinese, then nobody will trust — nobody will respect (the one chosen by China),” he told Reuters in March.
Chinese Communist Vision
In 1959, when Dalai Lama fled from Tibet in disguise, India provided refuge to him and his followers. They then established a new base at a Buddhist monastery in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. He started campaigning around the world for global peace and won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize as a result of his efforts.
However, according to the Chinese communists, Dalai Lama left his authority in Tibet once he fled. In an interview, China’s Communist Party chief for the region, Wu Yingjie, apprised reporters that The Dalai Lama hasn’t done a “single good thing” for Tibet. Instead, he stood firm with his belief that Tibetans are “extremely grateful for the prosperity that the Communist Party has brought them.”
China over the years claims to have invested billions of dollars in Tibet, bringing factory jobs and development to the poverty-stricken mountainous region. That development has also brought in more ethnic Han Chinese, fuelling fears that the government is intentionally diluting native Tibetan influence.
According to experts, “China wants to pacify Tibet, which is a very religious and devotional society, by controlling the economy and also the clergy and monastic orders. In recent years, China has taken to calling Buddhism an “ancient Chinese religion.” Beijing is also bankrolling the restoration of Buddhist sites in Nepal, Myanmar, and Pakistan.
Lijian Zhao an official at China’s Foreign Affairs ministry, tweeted last month “The reincarnation of all Tibetan Buddhist holy figures, including that of the Dalai Lama, “must comply with Chinese laws & regulations,”
Local Tibetan’s Reaction
It’s difficult to grasp and understand the local reaction. More Chinese Han majority, i.e. around 6 million resides in Tibet where Beijing besieges the local monasteries with propagandas. Many have been arrested for hanging the Dalai Lama’s portrait or communicating with the exiles.
Starting in 2009, more than 100 Tibetans self-immolated to protest Chinese rule. While the rest of them who live in India strongly disregard the communist claims. India grants special residency to Tibetans and hosts its largest community outside China, followed by Nepal and the United States.
Until 2011, the Dalai Lama was considered Tibetans’ political leader as well as their spiritual leader. But that year, he handed political power to Lobsang Sangay, elected by Tibetans in Dharamshala, to which China presented its disapproval. A Tibetan official in the Chinese government, Norbu Dondrup, told reporters in March” “It’s illegal and invalid. It does not represent our people. It isn’t our people’s government.”
Cleaving the Tibetan Community
According to experts “The Tibetans themselves were never completely united in the past. They have shown greater unity in exile than they showed when they were in Tibet.” “It’s also possible that the Chinese will manipulate these differences to make the divisions.
Pemba Wangdu, an 89-year-old Tibetan man who grew up in Tibet and served prison, a follower of Dalai Lama recalls “When I got out, I was still under [Chinese government] surveillance, so I couldn’t meet with other [Buddhist] people.
I realized I didn’t have freedom of religion. I watched the destruction of our monasteries,” he recalls. He escaped to India 40 years ago to be closer to the Dalai Lama.”If His Holiness leaves this world without certainty about what comes next,” Pemba says, “there will be trouble.