China Bans Reincarnation Without Permission

In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, 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.” But beyond the irony lies China’s true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region’s Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. 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.

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. “It will be a very hot issue,” says Paul Harrison, a Buddhism scholar at Stanford. “The Dalai Lama has been the prime symbol of unity and national identity in Tibet, and so it’s quite likely the battle for his incarnation will be a lot more important than the others.”



  • There can only be one!

  • Think-then-Think-again

    This is disheartening. I love the Dalai Lama.

  • detailedsubset

    It’s a good job Buddhists get reborn rather than reincarnated then…

  • Karma Drimnema

    China actually instated this law several years ago. Having said that, there will be two “Dalai Lama”, however there will only be one who will have the love and admiration of Buddhists around the world. There will only be one who is recognized as the true Dalai Lama, we will know who he, (or she since he has said he may come back as a woman), is. We all know that the one who will be appointed by the Chinese government is simply their way of gaining control of and eradicating Buddhism. This has been the plan since they kidnapped, and presumably killed, the Panchen Lama in May 1995.
    This simply will not work. Silly Chinese government.

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