Saturday, April 25, 2020
The Panchen Lama reincarnation
Since then he has been kept under detention by the People's Republic of China.
I found an old article that I had written on the subject of the Panchen Lama's reincarnation in 1995 for Blitz magazine.
It was a few months after his arrest.
It shows again that the Chinese are planning their moves well in advance, though their justifications are as lame today as they were yesterday.
How can an atheist Government be knowledgeable about something that they don't believe in?
Is it not a highly spiritual matter?
In the meantime, the young reincarnation of the Panchen Lama remains a prisoner in China. This is tragic.
By foisting its own Panchen Lama on Tibet, China commits Sacrilege
December 23, 1995
Does history always repeating itself? One can only hope that it will not in the case of the Panchen Lama. When at the end of 1950, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops walked into the Eastern Tibetan province of Kham, a weak and divided Lhasa Government could not put up any resistance to the communist troops: it was the beginning of the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet.
A couple of months later, the Dalai Lama, his government and other officials from the big monasteries, had to flee Lhasa to take refuge at Yatung in the Chumbi Valley where the British had their trade mission, near the Indian border. Soon the Communist Chinese became keen to officialise their occupation of Tibet by signing an agreement with Lhasa recognising that Tibet had been “peacefully liberated” by the PLA.
The only existing agreement on Tibet at that time was the Simla Agreement signed with Sir Henri McMahon after monthlong negotiations in Simla between British, Chinese and Tibetan delegates. In order to erase this agreement at the earliest and to record as a fait-accompli the invasion of Tibet, in April 1951 Mao Zetong summoned Tibetan plenipotentiaries to Beijing to hold negotiations and sign a new agreement with the Chinese Communist government.
Two members of the delegation left Yatung the headquarters of the Dalai Lama and after a short stop over in New Delhi to seek the support of Nehru (which they did not get) proceeded to Beijing where they met the other members who had been brought from the occupied province of Kham. The leader of the delegation, Ngabo Jigme was at that time of the invasion the Governor of Kham and he had been a virtual prisoner of the Communist since October 1950.
The negotiations were scheduled to begin immediately but the Chinese refused to start unless the delegation recognised the new Panchen Lama born in Sining, China and chosen by them. Since 1942, the Tibetans had refused to accept the Chinese candidate as he was only one of the possible choices and he had not gone through any of the usual formal rituals and procedures to recognise an incarnate lama.
A few times, the Nationalist government unilaterally announced that their candidate was the official one and he was even once enthroned by the Chinese at the Kumbum monastery in the Eastern Province of Amdo, but the Chinese Communists (like the Nationalists earlier) knew that without the stamp of Lhasa it would be very difficult to get their choice accepted by the masses, thus their insistence on having their candidate accepted by Lhasa. For more than a month, Ngabo Jigme refused to cede to the Chinese pressure.
But at the end, he was forced to put his seal as he felt that it was the only way to come to the negotiating table.
However thereafter there were no further negotiations: a 17-point “Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” was signed under duress a few days later even though the Tibetan delegates who had objected to many points (in particular to the one referring to the role of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama and putting them on the same level) were given no choice, but to paragraph the text.
The Dalai Lama and his Government in Yatung were informed much later by telegram of the agreement, when it was already too late. This was the result of an extremely weak Tibetan government dominated by the conservative power of the large monasteries who never had wanted to have contacts with the outside world, the lack of concern shown by great powers like the USA and India (Nehru always believed that China and India should be friends whatever will be the cost) and of a 15-year old Dalai Lama who was far too inexperienced to fight political masters like Mao or Zhou En-lai.
On December 8 1995, history seems to repeat itself once more: a Chinese candidate was imposed by the Communist Party on the Tibetan People and “officially” enthroned in the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse, the second largest Tibetan town. The ceremony had been kept secret by the Chinese until the last moment as they feared the backlash of an angry Tibetan population at this unilateral imposition of their candidate.
The candidate, Gyaltsen Norbu had been chosen after a mock “Golden Urn” ceremony had been organised in the Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa on 29th November by the dignitaries of the Communist Party. The parents of Gyaltsen Norbu are themselves said to be Communist Party members in Lhari. The usual traditional joy expressed by the Tibetan crowds when one of its high incarnate lamas (and specially the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama) has come back to our world to continue to fulfil his Bodhisattva vows to return again and again in order to help all sentient beings to be one day liberated from this world of suffering, was absent.
This time curfew was imposed in Shigatse, Lhasa and Chamdo, the three largest cities in Tibet and the boy had to be isolated under protection in one of the estate of the previous Panchen Lama in Shigatse after his arrival from Lhasa on 30th November. The high lamas, officials and monks of the Tashi Lhunpo were informed only on the eve of the event and threatened with dire consequences if they feign ill heath for not attending the enthronement.
The head of Religious Affairs in Beijing, Zhao Puchu had specially come from Beijing to supervise the ceremony and represent the Central government. More than 500 soldiers and members of the Public Security Bureau guarded the entrance of the monastery and screened the selected “invitees”.
The big difference with 1951 is that now the story has come to all the news agencies of the world and the wave of sympathy for the Tibetan Buddhist is widespread. Also this time the Tibetan people are united like never before around their leader: the Dalai Lama and firmly decided not to accept the “divide and rule” policy of Beijing. The fate of the Panchen Lama flashed for the first time in the news in May when on the occasion of the day of Buddha Poornima, the Dalai Lama formally announced that Gedhun Choeki Nyima, a six-year old boy from Lhari district in Tibet was the XIth Panchen Lama. This was the culmination of a long process started soon after the death of the Xth Panchen Lama in his Tashi Lhunpo monastery in 1989.
The Dalai Lama who had been performing different religious and spiritual practices for the past four years in order to recognise without fail the genuine reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, had been in touch with the Chinese-appointed head of the Search Committee, Chatrel Rinpoche who had twice consulted the Lhamoi Lhatso, the Lake of Vision in which signs are always seen to indicate the path to follow to discover the soul of a departed lama. For two years, the divination had indicated that the boy was already born in Tibet, but the time had not yet come to disclose more details. Each time this divination was confirmed by the Nechung, the State Oracle of Tibet and the Tsangpa Oracle who is specifically dealing with the Tashi Lhunpo monastery affairs. In 1994, the Nechung had confirmed that “if the Tibetans are united the incarnation will soon be found in Tibet.” It is only in early 1995, that the Dalai Lama through another divination found out that Gedhun was a “very good” candidate. It was confirmed during the following months and on May 13th, a last divination confirmed that his boy was the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama and that it was now time to announce it to the world. This was done the next day. The Chinese reaction was not long in coming. Infuriated that they had been out played by the Dalai Lama who had announced the name of the boy before them and also by the fact that the Search Committee chosen by them had passed information to Dharamsala without their knowledge, they immediately arrested Chatrel Rinpoche who is since missing and the newly recognised Panchen Lama was brought to Lhasa were he is still under house arrest. One interesting point to note here is that even after years of indoctrination, communist education and re-education, even though Chatrel Rinpoche had been specially chosen for his pro-Chinese sentiments, still at the end of the process he chose to refer the matter for the final choice to the Dalai Lama. It is symptomatic of the immense faith the people of Tibet from the most humble nomad to the greatest abbot keep in their tradition. It certainly reminded the world of the role played by the previous Panchen Lama who was born in China, chosen by the Party, educated by the Communists, “re-educated” in prison for more than 15 years and generally considered for years by Tibetans and Western Tibet watchers as a traitor, but who denounced the forty years of Chinese rule in Tibet in 1989 only four days before his mysterious death and thus becoming a hero for the Tibetans. The worse thing for the Chinese psyche is to publicly loose face, and after the Dalai Lama’s announcement they had definitively lost face (at least in their own eyes). This explains why the matter was taken up at the highest level of the State and Jiang Zemin and Li Peng personally took charge of the case. It was decided that no time should be lost to announce their own candidate. The name of Gedhun Choekyi Choekyi Nyima was immediately deleted from the list of possible candidates while only a few weeks earlier he was for the Chinese one of the very strong contenders for becoming the Eleventh Panchen Lama. For months the Beijing government did its utmost to rope in senior Tibetan lamas and monks to participate in the selection and denounce the Dalai Lama’s choice. Finally, on November 8, Jiang Zemin, the Chinese President received some 75 monks in Beijing. Most of these monks, said to have been hand-picked from Beijing itself, met in a conclave to nominate out of a list of twenty seven names the three candidates whose names would be put in the Golden Urn. A French journalist reported from Beijing that “at this occasion, the television and the press have given a prominent place to the very unusual “family photo” of Jiang and four other members of the politburo (including the Army Chief Liu Huaquing in uniform) posing with the lamas.” The journalist added: “One could read on the faces of the religious men more reserve than enthusiasm and they did not appear to be as in a hurry as the officials”. The fact that a totalitarian communist regime could start dealing with the search of incarnated souls put a smile on the lips of many, except the Tibetans who were more and more concern about the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. The question could be asked as to why the Chinese leadership chose to have a confrontation with the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet at this point of time. A few years back, the Chinese government had for the first time decided to recognise Tulkus (reincarnated lamas), when the head of the Kargyui-pa sect of Buddhism, the 17th Karma-pa was officially recognised by the Communist government. What is worth noting is that the Karma-pa had been discovered by one of his disciples, Situ Rinpoche while conducting the search in Tibet and was subsequently approved by the Dalai Lama after the appropriate tests had been performed. It is only later that the Chinese government “officially appointed” the boy as the 17th Karma-pa and enthroned him in Tsurphu, north of the Lhasa the traditional seat of the Karma-pas. The process could have been the same for the choice of the Panchen Lama as in any case the boy, being born in Tibet, was going to remain “in the hands” of the Chinese government. In the case of the Karma-pa, though he was recognised by the Dalai Lama, the Chinese has completely taken over his education and he is already been used for political purposes.
On May 1st, he was paraded with Jiang on the rostrum of Tiananmen Square on the occasion of the celebration of the Workers Day. More recently he was offered the latest luxurious Toyota by the Party Central Committee. The story of the Panchen Lama could have been similar, but for other reasons the Chinese leadership decided “not to loose face” and show that they were in full control of the situation. The draw from the Golden Urn was an easy and the only way out for the Chinese as it did not require any special religious qualifications to go through. Prof. Samdong Rinpoche, the Chairman of the Tibetan Assembly-in-exile immediately issued a clarification on this procedure which was very rarely used in Tibet.
He quoted for the purpose the previous Panchen Lama who declared in 1988 “according to Tibetan history, the confirmation of either the Dalai or the Panchen Lama must mutually recognised.” This was published in China Reconstructs, an official organ of the Chinese government. Four days before his untimely death in 1989, the Panchen Lama again said: “In the past most of the reincarnates were confirmed by the Father and the Son Aryas (meaning the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama).”
Prof. Samdong Rinpoche raised also the question which is in everybody’s mind: “Does the Chinese communist regime believes in the reincarnation theory as practised by Tibetans? If not, then the whole process adopted by them is a mockery of its own philosophy!”
Since many weeks, meetings have been organised in the great monasteries of Tibet to inform the monks that there would be serious consequences if any Tibetan accept the choice of the Dalai Lama.
Another report from Tibet says that the monks from two of the largest monasteries of Sera and Drepung were recently invited for a great prayer ceremony. But soon the monks saw a monk known for his Chinese sentiments distributing offerings followed by a battery of video cameras; they suspected some foul play and that the participation to the ceremony would later be shown as a celebration of the Panchen Lama’s recognition and their acceptance of the Chinese choice, they all walked out of the puja. In October, the Dalai Lama appealed personally to Jiang Zemin: “I am deeply concerned that the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima whom I have recognised as the incarnation of the late Panchen Lama are not known publicly since some time”.
I appeal to you for your government’s recognition to the young Panchen Lama”. The Dalai Lama in his letter further regretted that the proclamation “has further strained our relationship” and he recalled all the efforts he had made in the past years to communicate with and seek assistance of the Chinese government in the search of the reincarnation. “Unfortunately, there has been no response at all from the concerned officials of your government. On the contrary, to my great disappointment the concerned official of your government repeatedly made categorical statements that no involvement on my part will be tolerated... The recognition of the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation is in no way intended to challenge your Excellency’s government”.
The Dalai Lama concluded by another appeal to the Chinese President to seat on a negotiations table “I hold in firm belief that it is possible for us to find a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution on the Tibetan question. With this conviction, I have consistently endeavoured to enter in negotiations with your government any time, any where, keeping in mind the long-term and larger interests of both the Tibetan and the Chinese people”.
The response to the letter was that the Chinese government decided to go ahead with the confrontation approach even at the probable risks of law and order problems, riots, etc… in Tibet. If one observes the situation in China during the last few weeks and tries to read into it, one can see an hardening of the position of the Chinese leadership in three directions: vis-à-vis Tibet, Taiwan and the internal dissidence.
The main reason for this is that Deng Xiao Ping will soon pass away and the struggle for his succession has accentuated over the last months. Jiang Zemin, for the time being the favourite in the succession line has been recently travelling abroad and through his meetings with President Clinton and other heads of state in particular on the occasion of 50th Anniversary of the UN has established himself as a leader with an international stature.
But this does not seem to be enough to make of him the new emperor: he has to assure his basis in China itself and for this he has to remove the three thorns from the Communist government foot. Wei Jingsheng, the most prominent dissident was officially arrested on 21st November on the very serious charges of “engaging in activities to overthrow the government”.
Despite of the protests of many Western countries, scholars and human rights activists, the government declared that Wei was arrested in accordance with the country’s judicial procedure and that “on the contrary, some foreign organisations violated international standard by trying to interfere with the internal affairs of China.” The second case of hardening in the Chinese stand was shown when at the end of November the Xinhua News Agency announced army exercises including amphibious landing.
This was obviously targeted at Taiwan which was on the eve of the legislative polls. The Beijing’s’ TV showed clips proving that the exercises were meant to show that the armed forces were capable of defending the State sovereignty and integrity and safeguarding the unity of the motherland”. Clearly the Chinese government was trying to intimidate the voters to vote against the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party and give their favours to the pro reunification New Party.
Another compulsion that the future emperor has, is to deal with is the army. The strong feeling amongst the generals of the People’s Liberation Army was shown in a recent interview given by Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai an Assistant Chief of Staff to the New York Times. It has been a fact since 1949 that no leader can rule in Beijing without the strong support of the PLA.
The Panchen Lama episode should be seen in the same line. The future leader of China has to show that he has full control over the minorities and specially over the most restive ones: the Tibetans.
Another question in the mind of all the Tibetans and their well-wishers is: is the Panchen Lama’s “recognition” and enthronement a rehearsal for a more important recognition: the Dalai Lama’s. The Chinese always like to create precedents to be able to quote them later as historical tradition. A few weeks back the Beijing Review consecrated four pages in an article to show (with totally distorted historical facts) that the XIVth Dalai Lama had been himself recognised and enthroned by them.
The news that a Chinese spy ring was recently broken in Dharamsala added to the anguish that one day the Tibetans will have to face a succession crisis for their revered leader.
The only hope for the Tibetans now is that they remain united and that democracies like India, the European Community or the USA will take a strong position in favour of the young Panchen Lama.
Already two hundred members of the French Parliament issued an official protest against the Chinese actions and expressed their support for Gedun whom they agreed to sponsor as the youngest prisoner of conscience.
Could not the new Panchen Lama be offered asylum Fang Lizhi and many other dissidents who had to take refuge in the free world after the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China?