Photo by Phil Borges
Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, wants his followers to decide whether or not he reincarnates. Sorta like "American Idol," but with monks.
Unfortunstely, the Chinese government has declared authority in choosing the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Seems they’re not satisfied with micromanaging the lives of their more than 1 billion citizens (including those in Tibet) — they want to meddle in their afterlives, too. That’s right, those tainted-toy making commies r in ur Nirvana pickin ur Lamas.
But the 14th and current Dalai Lama — believed to be the reincarnation of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion — isn’t taking it sitting down, in full-lotus position or otherwise. From The Buddhist Channel website:
The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader proposed yesterday to hold a referendum among his 13-14 million followers around the world — before his death — on whether he should be reincarnated or not.
If the majority vote against it he said he would simply not be reborn, ending a lineage that tradition dictates dates back to the late 14th century, when a young shepherd was appointed the first Dalai Lama.
If the vote was in favour he said that he might appoint a reincarnation while he was still alive, breaking the 600-year-old tradition of being reborn as a small boy after his death.
His proposals not only raise some mind-bending metaphysical questions: they put China’s atheist Communist leaders in the unusual position of claiming to be the protectors of Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
The 72 year-old Lama is in excellent health, but wants to ensure that Tibet has a say in its spiritual leadership. How can you not love this guy? He’s a Progressive Democrat! Could you imagine Pope Benedictine XVI allowing the world’s Catholics to vote for their next Funny Hat Guy? Never happen.
As the Dalai Lama himself says:
"As early as 1969 I made it clear that [whether] the very institution of the Dalai Lama continue or not, is up to the Tibetan people. So [if] the majority of the Tibetan people should feel the centuries old institution of the Dalai Lama [is] no longer much relevant then the Dalai Lama institution automatically will cease. . . The very purpose of reincarnation is to carry the task which started by previous life, which is not yet accomplished. If my death comes while we are still as refugees then my reincarnation logically will come outside Tibet, who can eventually carry the work which I started."
What’s amusing to me is how the Chinese government is fighting to preserve the traditions of a nation they refuse to recognize:
“The reincarnation of the living Buddha is a unique way of succession of Tibetan Buddhism and follows relatively complete religious rituals and historical conventions,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. “The Dalai Lama’s statement is in blatant violation of religious practice and historical procedure.”
This from the country that, a handful of decades ago, tried to wipe out Buddhist monks like the Empire eradicated Jedi.
I like that the Dalai Lama is placing the choice before worldwide practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism.
Does this mean I get to vote?