Dalai Lama Drama: Next Reincarnation Might Skirt Chinese Law

The Dalai Lama
Charles McQuillan / Getty Images

Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama reacted earlier this week to claims by the Chinese government that his eventual spiritual reincarnation needed to comply with relevant pieces of Chinese law, The Telegraph reports.

Chinese leaders have in the past indicated that the religious selection process for subsequent lamas was pursuant to certain Chinese laws and regulations, according to Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry. State media in the country called attention to those laws, which are called “New Regulations on Religious Affairs and the Rules on the Management of the Reincarnation of Tibetan Living Buddhas.”

The laws recognize the spiritual phenomenon in which the soul of senior Buddhist monks, upon dying, reemerge in the body of a new child being born. Tibetans, however, have expressed concern that if such a reincarnation must be chosen by the Chinese government, the next Dalai Lama could be heavily influenced by Beijing.

The Dalai Lama as he lives today, however, has given thought to how he might address that concern in future reincarnations, indicating that a successor selected by Beijing should indeed not be trusted. He went as far as to describe a scenario in which two Dalai Lamas could exist independently, a possibility more odd as a spiritual phenomenon than when considered as a more earthly case of competing political leaders representing different interests.

“In future, in case you see two Dalai Lamas come, one from here, in free country, one chosen by Chinese, then nobody will trust, nobody will respect [the one chosen by China],” he said in an interview with Reuters.

“So that’s an additional problem for the Chinese! It’s possible, it can happen.”

In the interview, the Dalai Lama set the stage for that possibility, indicating that his next reincarnation could actually manifest in India, a place where he spent 60 years in exile after fleeing Tibet following a failed uprising against the Chinese.

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This is far from the first bit of public tension between the Dalai Lama and the ruling Chinese Communist Party. In fact, The Chinese government has worked previously to discredit the current Dalai Lama altogether.

Wu Yingjie, the leader of a parliamentary delegation from Tibet, has worked publicly to make the case that the Dalai Lama no longer carries the support of the Tibetan people.

“Since Dalai Lama defected from Tibet, he has never done a single thing that was for the benefit for the Tibetan people,” he said. “They are grateful for what the Party brings to them,” referring to the Chinese government.