What Happens When the Dalai Lama Dies
In the mid 6th and mid 4th centuries BCE (Before Common Era), a distinct form of religion and philosophy developed in Nepal and northern India, which was against Hinduism that largely dominated the Indian subcontinent. The teacher was Siddhartha Gautama and he was called the Buddha, literally the Awakened One, and his faith became known as Buddhism.
When Buddhism reached Tibet, a distinct form of religion developed which was quite a blend of Bon, the religion that dominated the Tibet, and the Buddhist thought. Tibetan Buddhism evolved between the 7th and 10th centuries.
Reincarnation is widely held belief in Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama are the most sanctified reincarnated Lamas.
The first in the line of the Dalai Lama was Dge-'dun-grub-pa (1391–1475). The current Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Thondup in 1935 and recognized as the incarnation of the thirteenth Dalai Lama (Thub-bstan-rgya-mtsho (1875–1933)) in 1937. Lhamo Thondup was enthroned as Bstan-'dzin-rgya-mtsho (Tenzin Gyatso), the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, in 1940, and became the head of state in 1950.
The Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelukpa (also called Dge-lugs-pa, the Yellow Hat) branch of Tibetan Buddhism, which dominates religious life in Tibet.
Like the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama is also the line of reincarnated lamas in Tibet. Before the Chinese occupied Tibet, Panchen Lama used to be the head abbot of the Tashilhunpo Monastery, second to the Dalai Lama in spiritual authority in the Gelukpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama's message to the Tibetans
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Who is the Dalai Lama?
The Dalai Lama is considered the physical manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, one of the Buddhist deities, the infinite and merciful. Until 1959, the Dalai Lama was spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet.
Despite all those allegation of cathartic alchemy of violence and separatism, the Dalai Lama has always maintained that the Tibetan people belong to China, and what they are seeking is peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect preserving historical and cultural heritage.
Tibet had been under Chinese occupation since 1949, but in 1959 the situation reached climax. Chinese invited the young Dalai Lama to talk, one of the preconditions’ was he should come without his body guards.
On March 10, Tibetans surrounded Norbulingka palace, trying to prevent the Dalai Lama from attending the talks. On the night of March 17, the Dalai Lama secretly left his palace. He crossed the Himalayas and went to India. China had great influences in Nepal at that time so the Dalai Lama did not stay in Nepal. China invaded India in 1962.
On March 21, the Chinese stormed Norbulingka palace and killed thousands of men, women and children. The Dalai Lama bodyguard regiment was disarmed and publicly machine gunned. According to the Tibetan government in exile, Chinese killed more than 86 thousand Tibetans.
More than 90 percent of the Tibetan population had participated in demonstrations in 1959, but Beijing maintains that it is not a historical truth and they were just bandits. After the occupation, Chinese did not allow Tibetans to practice their religion which they had been practicing for centuries. Beijing always blamed ‘Dalai clique’ for the backwardness of Tibet, saying they eliminated serfdom and paved the way for democracy in Tibet.
On March 10, 2008, 500 monks of the Drepung monastery marched to Lhasa to commemorate 1959 uprising. Over the days, resentment against Chinese occupation intensified as thousands took to street. More than 200 casualties were reported. Like in 1959, Beijing blamed ‘Dalai clique’ for the violence. The party Chief in Tibet even called the Dalai Lama ‘a wolf in monk’s clothing’
For the past 52 years, China is bringing more Han people and replacing Tibetans from their homeland. The Han authorities are aggravating the situations in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama now lives in Dharmashala, in the Himachal State of India. He was awarded Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989, for his commitment to peaceful settlement of Tibetan crises.
The Panchen Lama controversy
Who is the Panchen Lama?
The roots of the word Panchen lie in Sanskrit word Pandita (scholar) and Tibetan word Chen-po (great), thus Panchen literally means Great Scholar. The Panchen Lama tradition was started in the 17th century. The Panchen Lama is regarded as physical manifestations of the Amitabha Buddha.
Blo-bzang chos-kyi-rgyal-mtshan (1570–1662) was the tutor of the fifth Dalai Lama. He was the Panchen Lama of the Tashilhunpo monastery. The fifth Dalai Lama announced that when his teacher dies, he will again take birth and guide the Tibetans as Panchen Lama. And thus Blo-bzang became the first in the line of Panchen Lama tradition. The three abbots of Tashilhunpo, who preceded Blo-bzang chos-kyi-rgyal-mtshan, were later included in the list of Panchen Lamas, thus making ten Panchen Lamas so far.
Blo-bzang is believed to be incarnated as Blo-bzang-ye-shes (1663–1737). And he became the fifth Panchen Lama (the three preceding abbots were three Panchen Lamas and the fourth was Blo-bzang chos-kyi-rgyal-mtshan, the tutor of the fifth Dalai Lama, who had actually announced the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama).
The other Panchen Lamas are Blo-bzang-dpal-ldan-ye-shes (1737–1780), Blo-bzang-bstan-pa'i-nyi-ma (1781–1854), Bstan-pa'i-dbang-phyug (1854–1882), and Chos-kyi Nyi-ma (1883–1937). The tenth Panchen Lama Bskal-bzang Tshe-brtan (1938-1989) is considered little controversial figure because, he was declared Panchen Lama outside Tibet by the Chinese officials without following the exact tradition that determines the reincarnation.
In 1923 Chos-kyi Nyi-ma, the ninth Panchen Lama, went to China following the disagreement with the Dalai Lama’s government and Tashilhunpo monastery over tax arrears. After his death in 1937, Chinese government announced Bskal-bzang Tshe-brtan as the successor of Chos-kyi Nyi-ma. The new Panchen Lama was born in 1938 in Qinghai province, from Tibetan parents. He was enthroned as the head abbot of Tashilhunpo by the Communists in 1952.
The Dalai Lama fled to India following the 1959 Tibet uprisings, while the Panchen Lama remained in Tibet. However, he showed his allegiance with the Dalai Lama by refusing to denounce the Dalai Lama as a traitor. Due to his stand over the Dalai Lama, the tenth Panchen Lama had to live in imprisonment for 6 years. He was released in 1970 and died in 1989.
The eleventh Panchen Lama is more controversial figure than his predecessor. After considering the signs and following the religious guidance, the fourteenth Dalai Lama announced Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the eleventh Panchen Lama in 1995. The Panchen Lama was taken into custody and six months later China announced Gyaltsen Norbu as the eveventh Panchen Lama.
Most of the Tibetans do not recognize Gyaltsen Norbu as the Panchen Lama.
What Happens When the Fourteenth Dalai Lama Dies?
In 1995, the Dalai Lama chose Gedhun Choekyi, 6, as the eleventh Panchen Lama, the reincarnation of tenth Panchen Lama who died in 1989. The new Panchen Lama disappeared few days after his selection was announced. Six months later, Gyaltsen Norbu was anointed as the eleventh Panchen Lama by the Chinese officials. It is believed Gedhun Choekyi languishes in Prison in mainland China.
In 2011, Chinese government’s handpicked Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, 21, was sent to Labrang Monastery in the town of Xiahe. Labrang Monastery is one of the most sanctified centres of Tibetan Buddhism outside Tibet, and home to more than 1000 monks, most of whom are loyal to the Dalai Lama. Many Tibetans do not accept Gyaltsen Norbu, who has lived in Beijing all his life, as the reincarnation of Panchen Lama.
To keep the tradition of reincarnated Lama alive, after the death of the Lama, a search is made to find a child who shows the signs of the dead Lama. After the serious observations, a young boy is chosen as the reincarnated Lama. This is how the new Dalai Lama or Panchen Lama is selected.
Since the past few years, there is a heated discussion about the successor of the fifteenth Dalai Lama and the future of the Gelukpa (also called Yellow Hats) branch of Tibetan Buddhism. However, the Dalai Lama has made clear there will be the fifteenth Dalai Lama, who will be found amongst the Tibetans in exile.
When the current Dalai Lama dies, the Tibetan people, both living in Tibet and in exile, will search for a boy showing the signs of the fourteenth Dalia Lama. After the strict surveillance, the high monks will announce the fifteenth Dalai Lama. However, the Chinese officials will surely not recognize the new Dalai Lama. They will stage a drama of anointing another Dalai Lama.
If the present Dalai Lama dies, the Chinese officials are sure to enact the same Panchen Lama drama. China is trying to establish a new leader, who will be their pawn, to the 5 million Tibetans.
China is a powerful country and can easily affect international opinions. Not only the future of Gelukpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism, but also overall Tibetan Buddhism looks very bleak.
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