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Dalai Lama’s Remarks On Reincarnation Are A Slap On Xi Jinping’s Face: Tibet Watchers

Dalai Lama

“I am not thinking of reincarnation.”

This simple remark by the Dalai Lama is being interpreted by Tibet watchers as a slap on Xi Jinping’s face and a clear message to China to mind its own business.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who turns 89 on July 6, was responding to questions from journalists visiting Dharamshala on reincarnation. His interaction with journalists took place a day before a high profile US delegation, including former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived to meet him. The meeting is scheduled to be held at the main Buddhist temple in Dharamshala on Wednesday.

Responding to questions on his successor, the Dalai Lama replied: “I am not thinking of reincarnation. The important thing is as long as I am alive, I should use my energies to help as many people as I can.’’

The Chinese embassy spokesperson in New Delhi promptly took to X to demand that the Tibetan spiritual leader adhere to their laws, rituals and conventions in this regard.

Claiming that the Chinese government implements the policy of freedom of religious belief, the spokesperson said “ The 14th Dalai Lama himself was found and recognized following religious rituals and historical conventions, and his succession was approved by the then central government. Therefore, reincarnation of living Buddhas including the Dalai Lama must comply with Chinese laws and regulations and follow religious rituals and historical conventions.’’

Veteran Tibet watchers in Delhi said that while the Dalai Lama’s remark may appear innocuous, it was actually a slap on the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping and a stern reminder to the Chinese to keep off issues related to reincarnation.

Tenzin Lekshay, Spokesperson of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, responded to the Chinese embassy spokesperson’s post by drawing his attention to a translated version of an address on the theme of reincarnation by the Dalai Lama in September 2011.

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The text was accompanied with a black and white picture of the Dalai Lama taken at the time of his official enthronement ceremony in Lhasa, Tibet, on February 22, 1940.

In his 2011 speech, the Dalai Lama touched upon how the Dalai Lamas have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders since 1642, and warned about “an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda.’’

Vijay Kranti, Delhi based journalist and Tibetologist who first met the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in 1972, and has been documenting Tibetan culture and life for half a century, says, “ By making this assertion on reincarnation, the Dalai Lama has given a clear signal to Xi Jinping to keep off issues related to his reincarnation or that of any Tibetan reincarnated Lamas known as Tulkus in Tibetan Mahamaya Buddhism. The Chinese designs on attempting to usurp the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, is well known.’’

The Dalai Lama’s remark was thus a slap on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s face, he said.

He also trashed the statement of the Chinese Embassy spokesperson, claiming that the 14th Dalai Lama was approved by the Central government.

“ This is complete rubbish, a lie and a mischievous and shameless way of rewriting History. The fact is that the Chinese representatives present at the Dalai Lama’s dethronement ceremony in Lhasa had no special privileges. Nor did they have any status better than that of other foreign guests or dignitaries present at the Potala Palace.

“ It is laughable that the Chinese Communist Party that is notorious for condemning and destroying religion, is suddenly trying to become champion of religious rituals related to reincarnation.’’

Vijay who also heads the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE), a Delhi based think tank, drew attention to Order/5 issued by the Chinese government in 2007.

The order, later made into law, gives exclusive rights to the Communist Party of China to search, identify, instal and educate the new reincarnations of all Tibetan incarnate Lamas (Tulkus).

In the 90s, the Chinese attempts to instal reincarnates of Panchen Lama and Karmpa, failed miserably. While the whereabouts of the real Panchen Lama are not known till date, the Karmapa escaped from Chinese control.

The recent three resolutions passed by the US Congress unanimously have made it crystal clear that China has no role in selecting and installing either the Dalai Lama or any other incarnate Lama, he added.