The successor to the Dalai Lama is traditionally located by senior monastic disciples, based on spiritual signs and visions. In 2011, however, the Chinese foreign ministry declared that only the and no recognition should be given to any other
The Dalai Lama’s succession today is not just a religious issue, but a political one as well. Here’s how the Dalai Lama is chosen.
The Dalai Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism
The Dalai Lama is a highly influential figure.
"Dalai Lamas are ‘manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion’" - All of the Dalai Lamas are thought to be manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. The 14 generations of Dalai Lamas, spanning six centuries, are linked through their acts of compassion.
For Buddhists, the ultimate goal is enlightenment, or “nirvana” – a liberation from the cycle of birth and death. East Asian and Tibetan Buddhists, as part of the Mahayana sect, believe bodhisattvas have reached this highest realization.
Furthermore, Mahayana Buddhists believe bodhisattvas choose to be reborn, to experience the pain and suffering of the world, in order to help other beings attain enlightenment.
Tibetan Buddhism has developed this idea of the bodhisattva further into identified lineages of rebirths called “tulkus.” Any person who is believed to be a rebirth of a previous teacher, master, or leader, is . Tibetan Buddhism has hundreds, if not thousands of such lineages, but the most respected and well-known is the Dalai Lama.
Locating the 14th Dalai Lama
The current Dalai Lama was enthroned when he was 4 ½ years old and renamed Tenzin Gyatso.
In the case of the 13th Dalai Lama, after his death, his . However, after a few days his head had tilted to the east, and a fungus, which was viewed as unusual, appeared on the northeastern side of the shrine containing the body. This was interpreted to mean that the next Dalai Lama could have been born somewhere in the northeastern part of Tibet.
Disciples also checked Lhamoi Latso, a lake that is traditionally used to see visions of the location of the Dalai Lama’s rebirth.
The district of Dokham, which is in the northeast of Tibet, matched all of these signs. A 2-year-old boy, named Lhamo Dhondup, was just the right age for a reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, based on the time of his death.
When the search party, consisting of the 13th Dalai Lama’s closest monastic attendants, arrived at his house, there were immediate signs that this was the one they were looking for.
Dalai Lama Memoirs
The 14th Dalai Lama recounts in that he remembered recognising one of the monks in the search party, even though he was dressed as a servant. The search party did not show who they were to the villagers, to prevent any manipulation of the process.
As a little boy, he remembers asking for the rosary beads the monk wore around his neck. These beads were previously owned by the 13th Dalai Lama. After this meeting, the search party came back again to with further objects of the previous Dalai Lama. He was able to including a drum used for rituals and walking stick.
China and Dalai Lama
Today the selection process for the next Dalai Lama remains uncertain.
In 1950, China’s communist government invaded Tibet. The Dalai Lama fled in 1959 and set up a government in exile.
In 1995, the caused the disappearance of the Dalai Lama’s choice for the successor of the Panchen Lama, the second most important tulku lineage in Tibetan Buddhism, when he was 6 years old. The Chinese government .
China also wants to appoint its own Dalai Lama. But it is important to Tibetan Buddhists that they are in charge of the selection process.
Because of the threat from China, the 14th Dalai Lama has made a number of statements that would make it difficult for a Chinese appointed 15th Dalai Lama to be seen as legitimate.
For example, he has stated that the institution of the Dalai Lama might not be needed any more. However, he has also said it was up to the people if they wanted to this aspect of Tibetan Buddhism and continue the Dalai Lama lineage.
Another option the Dalai Lama has proposed would be for him to appoint his reincarnation before he dies. In this scenario, the Dalai Lama would to the successor. A third alternative Tenzin Gyatso has is that if he dies outside of Tibet, his reincarnation would be located abroad, most likely India.
The Dalai Lama is confident that no one would trust the Chinese government’s choice.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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