will the real reincarnated Buddha please stand up?

Starting September 1, all reincarnated living Buddhas will first have to be approved by the Chinese government.

Excerpts from a recent news story on the website phayul.com:

“…The measures, which are deliberately targeted at one of the core belief systems of Tibetan Buddhism, reveal the Party’s agenda to undermine and supplant the Tibetan religious hierarchy and weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders including the Dalai Lama….

The new “management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism”, which are described by the official press as “an important move to institutionalize the management of reincarnation” [emphasis added] were passed by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) for implementation from September 1. The Chinese authorities use the term ‘Living Buddhas’ to describe reincarnate lamas or tulkus, individuals who have consciously decided to be reborn, often many times, for the benefit of all others…

In the measures, the State Administration for Religious Affairs states that reincarnations of ‘living Buddhas’ who do not have government approval are “illegal or invalid” [emphasis added], which is intended to convey that the Tibetan system of recognizing and educating reincarnate lamas is no longer relevant, because it is the government that decides whether a reincarnation is a legitimate religious figure or not. The government intends this to apply even to tulkus who have been recognized some years ago by Tibetan religious authorities, as part of their systematic attempts to undermine the traditional religious hierarchy in Tibet….

These measures on reincarnation, and the fact that China continues to hold in custody the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, are also part of the government’s efforts to ensure they are in a position of control over the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama [emphasis added]. But the Dalai Lama has clearly placed on record on numerous occasions that if the present situation regarding Tibet remains the same, he will be reincarnated outside Tibet away from the control of the Chinese authorities. Tibetans believe that individuals such as the Dalai Lama who have gained a high enough degree of meditative stabilization can choose their next rebirth…”

The notion that the Chinese government will now “govern” reincarnation strikes me as not only ridiculous but also Kafka-esque. The idea that “living Buddhas” need to be “approved” by the Chinese government would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. It sounds like a good Seinfeld episode where instead of the Soup Nazi there would be the Buddha Nazi: “WHAT?!? YOU DON’T HAVE OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT APPROVAL TO BE A BUDDHA! GO AWAY! NO ENLIGHTENMENT FOR YOU TODAY!”

(Sigh)…don’t they know that everyone has buddha-nature?

I am curious to know what Chinese Buddhists think of this ruling. But since the number of readers from China stopped at 30 a long time ago which leads me to believe that this blog has been blocked in China, I guess we won’t be getting any comments posted from that country. That’s OK – I’ve been banned from more than a few places in my life (insert winking smiley.)

“I vow to awaken for the benefit of all beings, and to realize its immense value, and to know that it is possible in this life regardless of conditions.”

BOYCOTT THE 2008 OLYMPICS IN BEIJING

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