China’s central government’s jurisdiction over Dalai Lama’s reincarnation reaffirmed at international seminar

A replica of the golden urn and ivory slats donated by Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong to the eighth Dalai Lama are displayed at a museum in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, August 11, 2014. Photo: cnsphoto

Tibetology Scholars from China and Overseas Share Studies and Discuss Fixed Religious Rituals and Historical Conventions of the Living Buddha’s Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism at a Side Event of the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, during which the jurisdiction of the Chinese central government over The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama was reaffirmed.

The event, namely the “International Webinar on Religious Rituals and Historical Customs of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas”, was held Monday from an offline location at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing.

“The affairs related to the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama belong to the internal affairs of Tibetan Buddhism in China, which should respect the wishes of the Chinese Tibetan Buddhist community and the majority of religious believers, and accept the management of the Chinese government,” Zheng Dui, senior researcher and director general of the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), said at the event in Beijing on Monday.

“It not only has a sufficient historical basis, but also conforms to the provisions of current law, which cannot be undermined by any separatist force,” he stressed in his keynote address.

Ten experts and scholars of related studies delivered speeches at the event, demonstrating the development of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, the historical religious rituals and customs of reincarnation, and the practice of Sinicization in Tibetan Buddhism.

The reincarnation of living Buddhas is an institution of succession unique to Tibetan Buddhism and is governed by fixed religious rituals and historical conventions. The institution of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama has existed for several hundred years, according to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 14th Dalai Lama himself was found and recognized as a result of religious rituals and historical conventions and his succession was approved by the central government at the time.

The cases related to Xizang (Tibet) have been a tool used by the United States and other Western countries to smear China on human rights and other issues. In December 2021, the United States appointed Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya as “Special Coordinator for Tibet”. A year earlier, then-US President Donald Trump signed the so-called “Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020” into law – a bill that grossly interfered in the internal affairs of the China.

For some time, overseas “Xizang Independence” forces and Western politicians have been pushing the issue of the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama for political purposes, ignoring the tradition of Buddhism and acting as a negative influence on religion.

The central government and relevant local governments in China have never let up or given up on their handling of the reincarnation of the Living Buddha. China’s central government today adheres to historical conventions of the reincarnation of Living Buddhas, managing the social and public affairs of the reincarnation of Living Buddhas, while supervising the institutionalized and regulated processes based on relevant laws, Zheng said. .

Xiao Jie, deputy director of the CTRC’s Institute of Contemporary Studies, noted that the reincarnation of living Buddhas has been practiced in China for hundreds of years. It has long been known as religious rituals and historical conventions, and has been confirmed by Chinese laws and regulations.

He believed that some countries proposing that “Tibetan Buddhism has become a world religion” and consider the Chinese government’s handling of the reincarnation of living Buddhas as “infringing on the freedom of religious belief”, is a great distortion of reincarnation. living Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhas.

“The main believers of Tibetan Buddhism are in China, and in the familiar environment of this group of people, it is undoubtedly reasonable to seek out and identify the living reincarnated Buddha in the way they are used to, which also reflects the Chinese government’s people-oriented concept,” Xiao said.

Managing the reincarnation affairs of living Buddhas, including the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, is a social responsibility that the Chinese central government must shoulder throughout history, said institute director Wang Yanzhong. of Ethnology and Anthropology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences noted.

“The question of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama has never been a purely religious question, nor the personal power of the Dalai Lamas in the past, but a major political question involving the ownership of sovereignty,” said Fang Sanping, a researcher at the Sichuan Institute of Tibetology. , highlighted during the webinar.

“After hundreds of years of development and evolution, the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation system has formed a complete set of religious rituals and historical conventions, the core of which is that the central government is the highest authority and has the highest decision-making power,” Fang said.

Jewon Koondhor, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC and vice president of the Xizang branch of the Buddhist Association of China, explained at the event that after more than 1,300 years of development, Tibetan Buddhism has completed its integration with the local natural geographical environment, humanities and folk sciences. culture with the characteristics and background of Chinese culture.

“This historical process has fully proven that the localization and sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism is an inevitable requirement for the survival and development of the religion itself,” said Jewon Koondhor, a Tibetan returned from Switzerland and also vice president. of Xizang. Overseas Chinese Autonomous Region.

Sarbottam Shrestha, first vice president of Arniko Society in Nepal, said at the event that the living Buddhas’ reincarnation system is one of the emblematic characters of the sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism. He said the adaptation of religions to socialist society is an important component of the sinicization of Buddhism and other religions in China.

During the webinar, Birgit Kellner, Director of the Institute for Asian Cultural and Intellectual History of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, shared the achievements of cooperation between Chinese and Austrian experts in the protection of Sanskrit texts from Xizang Autonomous Region (southwest China).

She noted that the Sanskrit texts of Xizang have rich historical and cultural value, and their protection and study have become part of Chinese government policy. She hopes to maintain close communication with her Chinese colleagues and further promote academic research on Sanskrit.

Thelma J. Longworth