Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Searching for Rinpoches...

Sitar of the United Front and Drukhang on the right
Find your rinpoche...

In April 2015, the State Council Information Office published a White Paper on Tibet. It was entitled “Tibet's Path of Development Is Driven by an Irresistible Historical Tide”.
In the section about ‘religious freedom’, it was mentioned that ‘currently, Tibet has 1,787 sites for different religious activities, over 46,000 resident monks and nuns, and 358 Living Buddhas; there are four mosques and over 3,000 Muslims, and one Catholic church and 700 believers.”
358 rinpoches in an atheist country was surprising.
However a month later, on May 21, 2015, an article, Fake Lamas flourish as China's middle class grows, in China.org gave different figures.
It affirmed that according to the China's State Administration for Religious Affairs, there were ‘only’ 1,700 real Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism as of 2007. The site even commented: “The small number of masters is not enough to meet the spiritual needs of the rapidly growing number of wealthy men and women in China.”
Being probably adept of the Middle Path, the Chinese Buddhist Association has now announced that 870 Rinpoches have been ‘verified’, for whatever ‘verified’ means.
On January 18, a new search engine was launched, at the Guangji Temple in Beijing by officials of the United Front Work Department and the Buddhist Association of China.
China Tibet Online announced: “The system published information on the first group of 870 Rinpoches and is the first online query system to release information about religious personnel.”
Users can check information on their Rinpoches via the Internet.
But why having announced 358 Rinpoches in April and now have a database of ‘at least’ 870 'living Buddhas'?
The Communist Party seems very confused when it deals with ‘reincarnations’.
According to China Tibet Online, the Vice president of China’s Buddhist Association and President of the Tibetan Branch, the 7th Drukhang Rinpoche Thubten Khedrup affirmed: “the query system going online is an important step for China’s Buddhist Association to promote religious education and further standardize matters related to reincarnation of Rinpoches.”
Drukhang (3rd left), a 'real' rinpoche?
The article does not say if Drukhang himself is included in the database.
What about the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa Ogyen Dorje?
The State Administration for Religious Affairs affirmed that "anybody claiming to be a living Buddha who is not on the list should be considered a fake."
The South China Morning Post checked and the Dalai Lama is not on it.

Fake Rinpoches
Inaugurating the search engine, Drukhang said that in recent years some fraudsters have been posing as Rinpoches in Tibet and inland China, harming the interests of believers and ruining the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism: “Now that there is a Rinpoche query system, net users can check to see if a Rinpoche is genuine or not, which will help protect the legitimate rights and interests of Tibetan Buddhism. It will also help promote community awareness of Tibetan Buddhism and Rinpoche groups.”
The search engine has eight categories of information: name, religious name, Buddhist name, date of birth, religious sect, Buddha permit number, monastery and a photo.
What is the Buddha Permit Number remains a mystery?
Is it the rinpoches’ Party Card number?
A mobile app for the search engine, in case if you have an android phone, is available.
However to search the database for a living Buddha, you have to provide a mobile phone number and only after receiving a verification code, you will be able to start your search. Further, a limit of only five searches per day is allowed. In other words, it will take you half a year to search the entire database.
The website does not forget to remind its readers that in 2007 the State Bureau of Religious Affairs introduced the ‘State Bureau of Religious Affairs Order No. 5’, to “legalized the system of management for reincarnation and in 2010 China’s Buddhist Association started issuing certificates to Rinpoches.”
It added that Rinpoches approved by the government have already received the certificates.
It is not mentioned if there is a possibility to apply online if one wants to register as a rinpoche.

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