It’s all the paperwork

Aw, damn, those oppressive bureaucrats in China are really oppressive – now they’re six years ago they started saying monks have to get government permission before they can reincarnate! That’s just mean.

China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

It’s an interesting notion, “the procedures by which one is to reincarnate” – what would those be, do you suppose? And how do you know you’ve performed them, and how do you know you’ve performed them correctly?

By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

I like that “by tradition” – that tiny, lightly disguised admission that actually it’s just a story.

At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it’s under Chinese control. Assuming he’s able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks.

Another admission! Two admissions in fact – “assuming he’s able to master the feat” and “supposedly.” But anyway, if Dalai Lamas can control their rebirths, why can’t they do it from India just as well as from Tibet? Or for that matter from Alaska or New Zealand? Or Disney World, or Malibu, or Omaha.


  1. thephilosophicalprimate says

    “now they’re saying…” Well, if by “now” you mean five or six years ago. I’m afraid you’ve fallen for “Old news goes viral for no apparent reason” syndrome. Check the dateline on that story.

  2. Enkidum says

    This seems pretty naive. Yes, the simple fact is that reincarnation is nonexistent and the literal conflict here is a very silly one – both the government’s position and the official Buddhist doctrine are meaningless. But there is obviously a lot more going on here than the literal doctrinal conflict – this is another way that a very ugly and violent totalitarian government seeks to impose further control on an oppressed population. I mean, you can’t be ignorant of this.

    Speaking in tongues is bullshit, but if the US government starts censoring what is said in Pentacostal churches such that they are only allowed statements that explicitly support the drug war, or what have you, then yes, the government is being oppressive.

    And yes, the Dalai Lama is a leader of a religion that is just as silly as any other. But are you seriously suggesting (Ranum, not Ophelia) that he shouldn’t be taken seriously when he talks about ways to improve the representation of Tibetans in their own government, or when he agrees that it is unrealistic for Tibet to leave China? Because he’s not being a charlatan there, he’s trying to make the world a better place.

  3. Claire Ramsey says

    I am almost certain that there will be at least two Dalai Lamas named when the time comes. When the latest Panchen Lama died (he was #10) two candidates for number 11 were identified – one by the Dalai Lama and one by the Chinese govt. The DL’s candidate and his family were disappeared in China, and China’s pick got the position.

    The trick is that “by tradition” the DL identifies/verified the next PL and vice versa. But the current so-called PL was put in place by non-traditional means, and did not get the verification of the current DL, so is not (of course) genuine. Whoever the fake PL names as the next DL, well, how to say this, he is not going to be the real DL anyway.

    No matter how you look at it or what you believe about reincarnate lamas, it’s a set-up for a mess. And a law that attempts to manage reincarnation is just silly.

    PS I don’t think that “by tradition” is a light disguise at all. I think it’s a bald faced expression of “not real or true but that’s how they do it, just so you know.”

  4. rq says

    “But I swear, it happened by accident – I didn’t mean to reincarnate! I wanted to be totally, 100%, completely Dead!”
    What’s the penalty for reincarnating without state permission?

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