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On the Administration of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism According to Law
March 23,2021   By:en.humanrights.cn
March 23,2021 -- The reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism must be managed by the law, adhering to the principles of religious rituals, domestic search, lot-drawing from a golden urn and government approval. Managing reincarnation affairs according to law is a paramount principle. This principle had been implemented ever since the formulation of the reincarnation system of living Buddhas. From the Yuan Dynasty, the central governments of China have standardized and legalized the reincarnation system of living Buddhas by conferring influential living Buddhas and making relevant rules and regulations. In the Qing Dynasty, the system of lot-drawing from a golden urn was adopted for the reincarnation of major living Buddhas; in the Republic of China, the Measures for the Reincarnation of Lamas were promulgated; and in the People’s Republic of China, the Measures for the Administration of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism were issued. All these show that the government has been gradually improving its law-based administration over the reincarnation of living Buddhas.
 
The 10th Panchen Erdeni passed away in Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region on January 28, 1989. Under his last wishes, the central government issued Decisions on the funeral and reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama and set up a committee to search for his reincarnated soul boy. The search committee was in charge by Tashilhunpo Monastery, and the Buddhist Association of China and the Tibetan Branch of the Buddhist Association assisted in the search. Tashilhunpo Monastery gave alms to temples, held religious assemblies praying for an early reincarnation, and observed images presented in the sacred lakes of Yamdroke and Lamu Nacuo to get inspiration, including the birth place of the soul boy and his zodiac. In 1994, the search committee sent three groups consisted of eminent monks to Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan Province. They found 18 boys from more than 40 counties within 54 days. In September of the same year, 7 more candidates were found during the second search which lasted for more than 30 days. Finally, three boys with extraordinary traits were selected from 25 candidates to go through the lot-drawing ceremony in Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
 
In the early morning of November 29, 1995, the lot-drawing ceremony for the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama was held in Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. In strict accordance with religious rituals and historical customs, Mater vbrog-mi-byams-pa-blo-gros, an eminent monk, solemnly drew a lot from the golden urn in front of the statue of Shakyamuni in Jokhang Temple, and Gyaltsan Norbu from Lhari County was chosen as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. On November 29, 1995, the State Council officially conferred the title of the 11th Panchen Lama to the boy. State Councilor Li Tieying, a representative from the State Council and member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee made a special trip to Tibet to supervise and preside over the enthronement ceremony. According to historical conventions, later the 11th Panchen Erdeni came to Beijing to express his thanks to the central government and was received by President Jiang Zemin.
 
On February 13, 1997, the 6th Reting Rinpoche, Tenzin Jigme Thutob Wangchuk, passed away in Lhasa. The monks in Reting Monastery requested the government and relevant authorities to search for his reincarnated soul boy. A research team led by Reting Monastery was sent to search for the soul boy. Based on the divination of Khrorutshernam (Cuoru Cilang), a master in the Tibetan calendar and the Director of the College of Tibetan Medicine, Reting Monastery sent a search team to watch sacred signs in Lake Ramlaco in Shannan prefecture. On the basis of revelations received after watching the lake, the search team searched in 31 towns and villages inside Tibet for more than one year. At last, through strictly adhering to religious rituals and historic conventions, Suonam Phuntso was identified as the soul boy. According to history conventions, the searching group reported this result to the government of Lhasa and the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Under the approval of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and with its authorization, the government of Tibet Autonomous Region approved Suonam Phuntso as the 7th Reting Rinpoche. He is the third grand living Buddha approved by the government since the peaceful liberation in Tibet.
 
On July 4, 2010, the lot-drawing ceremony for the soul boy of the 5th Dezhub Rinpoche was held in Lhasa in front of the statue of Shakyamuni in Jokhang Temple. Lobsang Dorje was drawn as the reincarnated soul boy and was approved by the government of Tibet Autonomous Region as the successor of the 5th Dezhub Rinpoche, Jampel Kelsang Gyatsho. This was the first reincarnation selected through the lot-drawing ceremony after the promulgation of the Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism in 2007. The principles of religious rituals, historic conventions, domestic search, lot-drawing from a golden urn, and government approval were carried out throughout the whole procedure from searching to identification.
 
The reincarnation system of living Buddhas was initially established to solve the problem of leadership succession in different Tibetan Buddhism sects and monasteries, which means it has never been a purely religious affair. Since the beginning of the reform and opening up till now, there have been 91 important living Buddhas in Tibet who were identified and approved by the law, including the 11th Panchen Lama of Tashilhunpo Monastery, the 17th Karmapa Rinpoche of Tsurphu Monastery, the 7th Reting Rinpoche of Reting Monastery, and the 6th Dezhu Rinpoche of Zagor Temple. Today, based on religious rituals and historic conventions and by drawing experience from the past, China manages the affairs of Tibetan Buddhism under the Regulations on Religious Affairs and the Measures for the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism. Besides, authorities in Tibet and Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan, Sichuan Province have also made implementation rules to apply the measures. The Measures for the Administration of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism includes 14 articles, stipulating the preconditions and principles for reincarnation, the approval procedures, and punishments for violations. It legally underpins China’s management of the reincarnation of living Buddhas.
 
Every country in the world manages its religious affairs according to law. This is irrelevant to "atheism" or "theism." It is the inevitable requirement of national sovereignty and part of the governmental responsibility. Managing religious affairs according to law is to manage the affairs that are closely related to the whole nation’s interest and public interests. It includes protecting legal behaviors, stopping illegal ones, resisting external interference, and fighting against crimes. Its ultimate goal is to protect the lawful rights and interests of the religious community and religious people. Therefore, it is bound to be widely supported by these people.
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