19 June, 2021

Prayer Flags Aflutter In A Chill Wind

The Lama is ageing...and China is waiting. Tibet's cycle of rebirth gets a new spin.

Francis Michaelangelo
Prayer Flags Aflutter In A Chill Wind
The battle over choosing the next Dalai Lama has begun. One that threatens to strip Tibetan Buddhism of perhaps its most thrilling and mysterious of practices—reincarnation. At the heart of the conflict is the 14th Dalai Lama, now 72 years old, who is preparing himself and his people for life after him.

It was China that made the first attack—a few weeks ago—by issuing new regulations that seek to "institutionalise the management of reincarnation of living buddhas". They stipulate that from September 1, 2007, new reincarnates need the approval and recognition of China's religious department. A more sinister rule bars any Buddhist monk outside Tibet from seeking reincarnation for himself or any 'living buddha'. Clearly, it aims at ending the influence over the Tibetans of the Dalai Lama and hundreds of other living buddhas or 'tulkus', living and preaching among the exile community as well as in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile based at Dharamshala have been anticipating something like this for some time...
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