By Pema Ngodup and Sonam Lhamo
An India-based Buddhist organization has declared that it would not support any Chinese-appointed successor to the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s foremost spiritual leader, and neither would the people of the Himalayan region.
“If the government of the People’s Republic of China, for political ends, chooses a candidate for the Dalai Lama, the people of the Himalayas will never accept it, never pay devotional obeisance to such a political appointee and publicly denounce such a move by anyone,” the Indian Himalayan Council of the Nalanda Buddhist Tradition said in a resolution issued Tuesday.
“The system of recognizing reincarnated spiritual beings is a religious practice unique to Nalanda Buddhism and the philosophy of the principle of life after death,” the council said.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against rule from Beijing. Now 87 years old, concerns on how succession will be handled have arisen.
Tibetan tradition holds that senior Buddhist monks are reincarnated in the body of a child after they die. The Dalai Lama has said that his successor will be born in a country outside of Chinese control.
But RFA reported in October that China has plans to install a puppet leader in place of the current Dalai Lama after his death, in an elaborate public relations strategy intended to end international support for Tibet.
China has no right to make a decision regarding the next Dalai Lama, Lochen Rinpoche, president of the Indian Himalayan Council, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Everyone who follows Nalanda tradition around the globe considers the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader, therefore the sole authority on the reincarnation of his holiness the Dalai Lama is Ganden Phodrang Foundation,” he said, referring to the Dalai Lama’s personal office.
The process of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation is a religious and cultural process, Moling Gonpo, the council’s secretary said.
“Our resolution emphasizes that only Ganden Phodrang has the sole authority when it comes to the matter of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. If the People’s Republic of China or any other entity interferes in this matter for political gain, then the [council] will never accept their outcome,” Moling Gonpo said.
Tibetans remain bitter about Chinese intervention in the selection 25 years ago of the Panchen Lama, who died in 1989.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was recognized on May 14, 1995 at the age of six as the 11th Panchen Lama, the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 10th Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is Tibet’s second-highest spiritual leader and, together with the council of high lamas, is in charge of seeking out the next Dalai Lama.
The recognition by the Dalai Lama angered Chinese authorities, who three days later took the boy and his family into custody and then installed another boy, Gyaltsen (in Chinese, Gyaincain) Norbu, as their own candidate in his place.
The Panchen Lama installed by Beijing remains unpopular with Tibetans both in exile and at home.
The resolution on the Dalai Lama’s successor came as lawmakers in the U.S. introduced the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act, a bill that if signed into law would make it official U.S. policy that a resumption of dialogue is necessary to resolve conflict between Tibet and China, and states that Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law.
The bill brought forward in the U.S. Senate also charges the Chinese government with violating Tibetans’ right to self-determination.
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, following which the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world. Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting separatism in Tibet.