By Tenzing Yangzom Bhutia
Although today when one googles “Tibet”, the result that is shown is “Tibet, a Chinese Autonomous Region”, being a Tibetan, I most strongly refuse to recognize the illegal occupation of my homeland by the Chinese and most certainly do not consider Tibet a part of China and I know I not only speak for myself when I say this.
Tibet, since time immemorial has been a country where the socio- political and cultural structure has been based on religion and Buddhist Philosophy.
Religion has played a very important role in the life of the Tibetans since the time of the introduction of Buddhism from neighbouring country-India by Tibetan King Trisong Deutsen in the 8th century.
Thus Tibet is also known as the ‘Land of religion’.
Out of the three vehicles of Buddhism – Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle), Mahayana (the Greater vehicle) and Vajrayana (the Diamond vehicle)– it is a combination of the Mahayana and the Vajrayana tradition that is followed in Tibet.
The development of the spiritual technology that could bring about controlled rebirth could be achieved only when Buddhism flowed into Tibet and fused with the great Himalayan mystics of Central Asia giving rise to the institution of the ‘tulku’ (reincarnate Lama).
Tibet cherished this as one of its greatest achievements. This method of recognizing reincarnates of great Buddhist practitioners is very common within Tibetan society.
Buddhism teaches that the sole aim of buddhas and bodhisattvas is to guide others to enlightenment.
Since the time of the Buddha, countless bodhisattvas have perfected their training in compassion and skillful means and cared for their disciples wholeheartedly, yet at the moment of passing away have had to leave the ongoing care of those disciples to others.
However, once such great beings have reached a certain level of spiritual attainment, they have the ability to remain aware through the death process and consciously choose their next place of birth.
This ability makes it possible for them to indicate the place of their next rebirth before they pass away, so that they can be clearly identified and thus resume the guidance of their students and their broader work in the world.
This is the meaning of the term “reincarnate lama.”
Tibetan reincarnate lamas such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama have engaged in this practice for over a dozen lives already.
The People’s Republic of China, an atheist Communist regime under the leadership of Mao Zedong invaded Tibet in the year 1950. During a meeting Mao Zedong had told the 14th Dalai Lama, that “Religion is poison.”
Such a Communist minded regime, which considers religion as a poison, has the audacity to declare the reincarnation of the 11th Panchen Lama and denounce the one recognised by the Dalai Lama.
It is surprising that on August 3, 2007, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs issued a decree that all the reincarnations of tulkus of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval; otherwise they are “illegal or invalid”.
Although the Chinese Communist Party is an officially atheist organization – officials are barred from practicing religion as they have for years tried to regulate the affairs of Tibetan Buddhist figures, determining who can and cannot be reincarnated.
The law itself frames reincarnation in terms of national security: “The selection of reincarnates must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups, and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country,” it says.
After having their way and taking control over the genuine Panchen Lama reincarnate, the PRC has now set it’s mind on controlling and being the sole decider of the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama.
Tibetans in Tibet are not allowed to carry or display the portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama and the punishment for doing so is severe.
Having labelled the Dalai Lama many a time “the devil”, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “a devil with horns” Chinese authorities seem so genuinely concerned with the issue of his reincarnation– it is borderline desperation.
Such typical PRC hypocrisy and double standards have become a cliché today – especially today.
This PRC’s attempt of devising ways and methods in order to gain complete control over the future Dalai Lama’s lineage reflects the insecurity of the Chinese Communist party and the threat that the popularity of the 14th Dalai Lama as a world leader and a global citizen.
Robbie Barnett, director of the modern Tibet studies program at Columbia University, said that “They want to make sure they control the next Dalai Lama, as they’ve tried to control the current Panchen Lama,”Communist policy on religion is: You run Tibet by … having a lama who is credible enough to be influential when he says you should follow the Communist Party. They don’t have enough power to control Tibet without a lama to handle it.”
The Dalai Lama, in a 2011 statement, said that reincarnation laws are “outrageous” and “disgraceful.”
He also said that “The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair.”
When asked about what he had to say over the Chinese Government’s claim of authority in deciding the next reincarnation of the Dalai lama, His Holiness replied “If the Chinese leadership believes in religion and rebirth so much, then instead of worrying about the reincarnation of a “devil” they should start by finding the reincarnation of revolutionary leaders such as Chairman Mao and Deng Xiaoping.”
“As the degenerate gets worse, and as more reincarnations of high lamas are being recognized, some of them for political motives, increasing numbers have been recognized through inappropriate and questionable means as a result of which huge damage has been done to Dharma” (Dalai 2011).
He also cites the example of the golden urn method which he says was imposed by the Qing government on the unwilling Tibetans.
According to him “this procedure was dispensed with for the 9th, 13th and myself, the 14thDalai Lama… This system was imposed by the Manchus, but the Tibetans had no faith in it because it lacked any spiritual quality.” (Dalai 2011)
However Beijing emphasizes that the Golden Urn is the only legitimate method of choice. But the Dalai lama retorts: “When I was recognized as the 14th incarnation of the Dalai lama in 1939, the priest-patron relationship between Tibet and China had already come to an end…It is well known that the then Regent of Tibet and the Tibetan National Assembly had followed the procedure for recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation… the Chinese had no involvement in it whatever. Nevertheless some concerned officials of the Kuomintang later cunningly spread lies in the newspapers claiming that they had agreed to forgo the use of the golden urn and that Wu Chung-tsin presided over my enthronement” (Dalai 2011).
The Fourteenth Dalai lama has made it very clear over the years that the responsibility of the selection or the recognition of his reincarnation will be vested only with the Dalai Lama’s Ganden Phodrang Trust and any other means and methods utilized by the PRC or any other institution other than the Ganden Phodrang Trust should be considered invalid.
The fact that today, the Chinese Communist Government is a member of the UN Human Rights Council is a complete mockery of the Human Rights issue.
Having very actively pursued and still continuing with their policy to eradicate Tibetan culture, religion, tradition and language, throwing millions of innocent Tibetans and Uighur Muslims in concentration camps and executing genocide of these minorities whilst still being a part of the UN Human rights Council could not be any more ironical.
Recently, China was elected to the Council with the lowest support ever, thus revealing its shaky global status and the fact that it is rapidly losing support within the UN. China, being a part of the UNHR Council makes one question, the future of the global human rights issue.
UN efforts over the years highlighting China’s violation of human rights in Tibet, despite the lack of political will among the member states, led to the Tibet issue attaining international attention– including the attention of several UN bodies and officials.
This was the fruit of the effort of the people of Tibet complemented by the works of international NGO’s and other international civil society groups that helped in keeping alive the Tibetan issue and to bring global sensitivity and support for it.
There have been many instances whereby the world community at large has shown a sense of solidarity and support for the Tibetan cause.
Recently in 2019, the U.S lawmakers introduced a bill in the House which looks forward to promoting further, American support for the Tibetan people especially on the crucial issue of the selection and recognition of the future Dalai Lama.
The bipartisan Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019 introduced in the House on September 13, by Rep. James McGovern, chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, which was passed by the House and is currently led in the Senate by the Commission’s Co-chair Senator Marco Rubio and others builds on the Tibetan Policy and Support Act 2002, a landmark that enshrined support for Tibet in US Law.
The bill makes it official US Policy that the succession and reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders are exclusively religious issues that the Tibetan Buddhist Community should decide on.
Under the Bill, any Chinese officials who attempt to interfere in this process will be subjected to sanctions that could include having their assets frozen and their entry to the US denied.
The bill would also allow for the allocation of development assistance funds for the skilled, entrepreneurship and cultural preservation of Tibetans in exile in South Asia and requires the Secretary of State to urge the Government of Nepal to provide legal documentation to the long term Tibetan residents who fled persecution in their homeland.
The bill further says that no new Chinese consulate will be allowed in the US until a US consulate is established in Lhasa, Tibet’s historical capital. Thus looking at the policies and the actions that majority of the world’s countries have undertaken in order to address these important issues and the various efforts of people around the world irrespective of their race, nationality, religion in bringing about general awareness and bringing important issues and questions to the forefront, makes us have faith in the religion that is humanity and to look to the future with the courage to strive for the attainment of world peace.