Tuesday, March 19, 2013

China’s ‘Living Buddhas’

The Chinese Panchen Lama and former Premier Wen Jiabao
My article China’s ‘Living Buddhas’ appeared on March 17 in the The Statesman

Spiritualisation Of The Atheist Party
AFTER 115 cardinals elected a new pontiff to St Peter’s throne, white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
The same morning, although a new Emperor had just been selected in the Middle Kingdom, nobody could see white smoke over the Great Hall of People. This was probably due to the heavy pollution in the Chinese capital, but Xi Jinping had succeeded Hu Jintao as China’s new ‘core’ leader.
Paradoxically, the atheist Communist Party of China (CCP) is becoming more and more interested in spiritual matters. The CCP has started promoting reincarnated Lamas, known in China as ‘Living Buddhas’ in a big way.
On March 11, China Tibet Online published a photograph of the ‘Chinese’ Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu (Bainqen Qoigyijabu in Pinyin) casting his vote. The caption of the young Lama reads: “The 11th Panchen Lama fulfills his role as a Chinese Peo-ple’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member.”
The Communist Government seems determined to fully play the ‘Panchen’ card against the Dalai Lama.
CPPCC’s members were to ‘elect’ their chairman, vice-chairpersons, secretary-general (Zhang Qingli, former hardliner party boss in Tibet got the post) and the Standing Committee members of the 12th CPPCC National Committee. While Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo was unanimously ‘elected’ chairman, 23 vice-chairpersons were also nominated, amongst them Pagbalha (or Pagphala) Geleg Namgyai, another Tibetan ‘Lama’.
Born in 1942 in Litang in Kham Province, he was recognised at an early age as 11th Pagbalha Hutugtu (a Mongol title for a high incarnation). He collaborated with the Chinese from the start. In 1950-52, he was a member of Chamdo People’s Liberation Committee; in 1956-59, he became a member of preparatory committee for the Autonomous Region of Tibet. During the following years, he occupied many honorific posts in Beijing as well as in Lhasa.
The old ‘spiritual’ puppet was a deputy to the second to the fifth National People’s Congress (NPC); vice-chairman of Standing Committee of the eighth and  ninth NPC and vice-chairman of  the third to the seventh CPPCC National Committee.
Coming back to the Chinese Panchen Lama (the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the real Panchen Lama is still under house arrest somewhere in China), the Chinese news agency announced, ‘Panchen Lama takes higher advisory post’, explaining: “Three years after making his political debut, the 11th Panchen Lama, a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has been entrusted with a more important role of advising China on state affairs. He was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, China’s top political advisory body.”
Xinhua added: “The elevation comes amid anticipation that the Panchen Lama, who turned 23 in February, will make greater political contributions through his religious influence.” It quoted Rinchen Gya, the chairman of the Qinghai province’s CPPCC: “The 11th Panchen Lama’s participation in politics will help build up reverence among the Tibetan people.”
It is doubtful, as he is persona non grata in several regions of Tibet. Xinhua however commented: “The new post will increase the Panchen Lama’s involvement in social and economic issues, as he will attend bimonthly meetings to discuss state affairs in the coming five years.”
Though the Panchen Lama was not ‘double-promoted’ as vice-chairman, he made it to the Standing Committee, leaving Pagphala as the lone Tibetan as the CPPCC’s vice-chairman.
Apart from Pagphala and the Panchen Lama, Dupkang Tupden Kedup, another ‘Living Buddha’ has also been elected to the Standing Committee of the CPPCC. He is presently vice-president of the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China. Soon after his election, Kedup declared: “Earth-shaking changes have taken place in Tibet with the support from central government in recent years.” Kedup is ‘recognized’ by Beijing as the  seventh Dupkang Rinpoche (reincarnated lama) from Nagchuka (or Nagqu), north of Lhasa.
Let us not forget that there were several thousands rinpoches in pre-1950 Tibet; it is not difficult for Beijing to find a few spokespersons.
Kedup, like his CPPCC colleagues, praised Beijing’s policy: “Since the Democratic Reform (i.e. the invasion) in Tibet in 1959, great changes occurred in Nagqu. In the past, there was no electricity or hospitals, only several tents. However, nowadays tall buildings, schools, hospitals, mobile phones and cars can be seen everywhere in Nagqu. I appreciate the CPPCC system for the advice from the CPPCC members are valuable and had always been attached great importance to by the central government.”
Beijing seems to rely more and more on its own-appointed ‘Living Buddhas’.
Dorje Phagmo, the only female reincarnation in Tibet is, like the Panchen Lama, a member of the CPPCC’s Standing Committee. In 2008, she had declared that she was upset and angered by riots in Lhasa and accused the Dalai Lama of violating Buddhist teachings. She publicly stated that “since Tibet’s incorporation into Communist China it had been transformed from the backward feudal society of largely illiterate serfs with little medical care that she knew as a child. Old Tibet was dark and cruel, the serfs lived worse than horses and cattle.”
The fact that Tibet needed to be ‘incorporated’, shows that it was independent earlier.
Born in 1942, at the age of five, the Lady Lama was chosen as the incarnation of the abbess of Samling monastery, near Lhasa. After the incidents of 2008 and a few months before the Olympic Games, she told the Chinese press: “The sins of the Dalai Lama and his followers seriously violate the basic teachings and precepts of Buddhism and seriously damage traditional Tibetan Buddhism’s normal order and good reputation.”
In January 2013, a 16-year old boy, recognized by the Communist Party as the 7th Reting Rinpoche was made the youngest member of Tibet’s CPPCC, even though the 5th Reting, a Regent in the 1930s and early 40s, was a controversial figure who nearly provoked a civil war in Lhasa.
Beijing is trying its best to increase its control over reincarnations of Tibetan lamas (and ultimately the Dalai Lama’s), thus legitimising the Communist rule over the Himalayan region. China has even revived the title of Huthuktu, an ancient Mongol title given by the Manchus or the Mongols to Lama-rulers (in some cases to reincarnations of Regents). Reting, like Pagphala, has also been termed Huthuktu by Beijing.
It seems that Beijing has now decided to bring out its entire battery of ‘Living Buddhas’ to explain the tense situation on the Roof of the World; this, at a time when the Dalai Lama is ‘secularising’ Tibetan society. Because, and this is ironical, on March 10, 2011, the Dalai Lama took a revolutionary decision, in order ‘to benefit Tibetans in the long run’, he retired as Tibet’s temporal leader, delinking his political and spiritual roles. He then stated: “As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect.”
The truth of the matter is that the rule by reincarnation is not suited to a modern nation, mainly because it can too easily be manipulated. Take the example of the 10th Panchen Lama’s reincarnation. There are two contending candidates, one chosen by the Dalai Lama (Gedun Choeki Nyima, presently kept under confinement) and one selected by Beijing (Gyaltsen Norbu). Ditto for the Karmapa lineage ~ there are today three Karmapa candidates.
But the atheist regime in Beijing seems today more attached to this flawed system of governance. One can only hope that President Xi Jinping will soon realise that the Communist Party is on the wrong track when it uses something it does not know, spirituality.

1 comment:

RAJ47 said...

Why not write a piece on reincarnation application?