China, exiled Tibetans brace for dueling Dalai Lamas

June 7th, 2009 - 12:16 pm ICT by ANI  

Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh), June 7 (ANI): For centuries, the selection of a new Dalai Lama has been steeped in the mysticism of a bygone world.

His closest aides look for divinations in a sacred lake. Monks scour villages for boys precocious in their spiritual attunement.But all that is about to change, a New York Times report says.

The current Dalai Lama and his followers in exile in India are competing with China for control of how the 15th Dalai Lama will be chosen.

The issue is deemed urgent for the Tibetans because the current Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of all Tibetans and the charismatic face of the exile movement, will turn 74 in July, and has had recent bouts of ill health.

Both the Chinese and the Tibetan exiles are bracing for a world of dueling Dalai Lamas - one chosen by the exiles, perhaps by the 14th Dalai Lama himself, and the other by Chinese officials.According to Robert Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia University, “it is going to end up with two Dalai Lamas and thus with long-running conflict, unless the Chinese agree to a diplomatic solution pretty soon.”

The Dalai Lama said late last month in an interview with The New York Times that all options for choosing his reincarnation were open, including ones that break from tradition.

That could mean that the next Dalai Lama would be found outside Tibet, could be a woman or might even be named while the 14th Dalai Lama was still alive, before his soul properly transmigrated.

Meanwhile, the party, officially atheist and accused of ravaging Tibetan culture, insists that religious customs must be followed.

The Chinese government would easily control a traditional selection process, since the process is rooted in the landscape of Tibet, which the Chinese seized in 1951.

China has already positioned itself in other ways, including enacting a law in 2007 that says all reincarnations of senior lamas must be approved by the government.

In Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives, religious leaders have been debating whether to bypass the traditional process.

Meanwhile, many Tibetans say they will honor whatever the Dalai Lama decides to do.

The figure of the Dalai Lama, head of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, is without rival in influence among Tibetans and many Buddhists worldwide.

He is revered as the reincarnation of Chenrezig, a deity who has chosen to remain on earth to help people achieve enlightenment.

Many of China’s six million Tibetans keep photos of him in their mud-walled homes, monasteries and nomadic tents, or hidden in the folds of their clothes, even though the government has outlawed all images of the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959.

The Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist, though he demands only genuine autonomy for Tibet.

The Communist Party, aware that Buddhism is central to Tibetans, has tried to select and prop up lamas who will support the government while still retaining legitimacy among the people.

In 1995, when the Dalai Lama confirmed a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second-ranking leader of the Gelugpa sect, the Chinese government whisked away the boy and his parents and installed its own child lama.

The Dalai Lama’s choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, now 20, is still hidden from public view, while the government’s selection shows up at official events to praise Communist policy - and is seen by many Tibetans as a fraud.

Chinese leaders also tried to groom the Karmapa, the reincarnated head of the Kagyu sect, but he fled to India in 1999, at age 14. He now sits by the Dalai Lama at prayer ceremonies here. (ANI)

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