AP Picture/Antonio Calanni
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the non secular chief of Tibet, is popping 86 on July 6, 2021. Along with his advancing age, the query of who will succeed him has develop into extra urgent.
One of the recognizable faces of Buddhism, the dalai lama is a vital determine bringing Buddhist teachings to the worldwide group.
The successor to the dalai lama is historically recognized by senior monastic disciples, based mostly on non secular indicators and visions. In 2011, nonetheless, the Chinese language overseas ministry declared that solely the federal government in Beijing can appoint the subsequent dalai lama, and no recognition ought to be given to some other candidate.
As a scholar of transnational Buddhism, I’ve studied Buddhism and its refashioning within the context of globalization. The dalai lama is a extremely influential determine, and selecting a successor is not only a spiritual challenge, however a political one as effectively.
The dalai lamas in Tibetan Buddhism
All dalai lamas are regarded as manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. Bodhisattvas are beings who work solely for the advantage of others.
For Buddhists, the last word purpose is enlightenment, or “nirvana” – a liberation from the cycle of start and loss of life. East Asian and Tibetan Buddhists, as a part of the Mahayana sect, consider bodhisattvas have reached this highest realization.
Moreover, Mahayana Buddhists consider bodhisattvas select to be reborn, to expertise the ache and struggling of the world, to assist different beings attain enlightenment.
Tibetan Buddhism has developed this concept of the bodhisattva additional into recognized lineages of rebirths known as “tulkus.” Any one who is believed to be a reborn instructor, grasp or chief is taken into account a tulku. Tibetan Buddhism has a whole bunch if not 1000’s of such lineages, however essentially the most revered and well-known is the dalai lama. The 14 generations of dalai lamas, spanning six centuries, are linked by their acts of compassion and their want to profit all dwelling beings.
Finding the 14th dalai lama
The present Dalai Lama was enthroned when he was about 4 years outdated and was renamed Tenzin Gyatso.
The seek for him started quickly after the thirteenth Dalai Lama died. Disciples closest to the Dalai Lama set about to determine indicators indicating the situation of his rebirth.
There are normally predictions about the place and when a dalai lama can be reborn, however additional checks and indicators are required to make sure the correct youngster is discovered.
Within the case of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, after his loss of life his physique lay going through south. Nonetheless, after a number of days his head had tilted to the east and a fungus, considered as uncommon, appeared on the northeastern facet of the shrine, the place his physique was stored. This was interpreted to imply that the subsequent dalai lama might have been born someplace within the northeastern a part of Tibet.
Disciples additionally checked Lhamoi Latso, a lake that’s historically used to see visions of the situation of the dalai lama’s rebirth.
The district of Dokham, which is within the northeast of Tibet, matched all of those indicators. A 2-year-old boy named Lhamo Dhondup was simply the suitable age for a reincarnation of the thirteenth dalai lama, based mostly on the time of his loss of life.
When the search get together consisting of the thirteenth dalai lama’s closest monastic attendants arrived at his home, they believed they acknowledged indicators that confirmed that they’d reached the suitable place.
Dalai lama memoirs
The 14th Dalai Lama recounts in his memoirs about his adolescence that he remembered recognizing one of many monks within the search get together, regardless that he was dressed as a servant. To forestall any manipulation of the method, members of the search get together had not proven villagers who they have been.
The Dalai Lama remembered as somewhat boy asking for the rosary beads that monk had worn round his neck. These beads have been beforehand owned by the thirteenth Dalai Lama. After this assembly, the search get together got here again once more to check the younger boy with additional objects of the earlier Dalai Lama. He was capable of appropriately select all gadgets, together with a drum used for rituals and a strolling stick.
China and dalai lama
Right this moment the choice course of for the subsequent dalai lama stays unsure. In 1950 China’s communist authorities invaded Tibet, which it insists has all the time belonged to China. The Dalai Lama fled in 1959 and arrange a authorities in exile. The Dalai Lama is revered by Tibetan folks, who’ve maintained their devotion over the previous 70 years of Chinese language rule.
In 1995 the Chinese language authorities detained the Dalai Lama’s selection for the successor of the tenth Panchen Lama, named Gendun Choeki Nyima, when he was 6 years outdated. Since then China has refused to present particulars of his whereabouts. Panchen lama is the second most necessary tulku lineage in Tibetan Buddhism.
The Tibetan folks revolted when the newly chosen eleventh Panchen Lama was detained. The Chinese language authorities responded by appointing its personal Panchen Lama, the son of a Chinese language safety officer. The panchen lamas and dalai lamas have traditionally performed main roles in recognizing one another’s subsequent incarnations.
China additionally desires to nominate its personal dalai lama. However you will need to Tibetan Buddhists that they’re in command of the choice course of.
Due to the risk from China, the 14th Dalai Lama has made quite a few statements that may make it troublesome for a Chinese language-appointed fifteenth dalai lama to be seen as respectable.
Keshav Singh/Hindustan Occasions by way of Getty Pictures
For instance, he has acknowledged that the establishment of the dalai lama won’t be wanted anymore. Nonetheless, he has additionally stated it’s as much as the folks in the event that they wish to protect this facet of Tibetan Buddhism and proceed the dalai lama lineage. The Dalai Lama has indicated that he’ll determine, on turning 90 in 4 years’ time, whether or not he can be reborn.
An alternative choice the Dalai Lama has proposed is saying his subsequent reincarnation earlier than he dies. On this situation, the Dalai Lama would switch his non secular realization to the successor. A 3rd different Tenzin Gyatso has articulated is that if he dies outdoors of Tibet, and the Panchen Lama stays lacking, his reincarnation could be situated overseas, almost definitely in India. Specialists consider the Chinese language authorities’s search, nonetheless, would happen in Tibet, led by the Chinese language-appointed panchen lama.
Lastly, he has talked about the opportunity of being reborn as a girl – however he added in interviews in 2015 and 2019 that he must be a really stunning girl. After this remark obtained widespread criticism in 2019, his workplace launched a press release of apology and remorse for the harm he had induced.
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The Dalai Lama is assured that nobody would belief the Chinese language authorities’s selection. The Tibetan folks, as he has stated, would by no means settle for a Chinese language-appointed dalai lama.
The U.S. authorities has expressed assist for the Dalai Lama. In December 2020, the U.S. Senate handed the Tibetan Coverage and Help Act, which acknowledges the autonomy of the Tibetan folks. The Biden administration reiterated in March 2021 that the Chinese language authorities shouldn’t have any function within the Dalai Lama’s succession.
Irrespective of the end result, I consider the method of discovering the fifteenth dalai lama will definitely be totally different. It would probably happen outdoors of Tibet and underneath the watch of worldwide media and a world Tibetan diaspora – with a lot at stake.
That is an up to date model of a bit printed on July 3, 2019.
Brooke Schedneck doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.