Dalai Lama asserts authority by naming a US-born Mongolian boy as reincarnation

By Mayank Chhaya-

On March 8, the Dalai Lama, during an empowerment ceremony in McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh, turned to a Mongolian boy sitting to his left and declared him the third most important reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism.

During the Chakrasamvara empowerment ceremony, the Dalai Lama said, “We have the reincarnation of Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoché of Mongolia with us today. His predecessors had a close association with the Krishnacharya lineage of Chakrasamvara. One of them established a monastery in Mongolia dedicated to its practice. So, his being here today is quite auspicious.”

With that he yet again asserted his and his tradition’s independence in the face of China’s over decade and half long attempts to control the all-powerful Tibetan Buddhist tradition of declaring what is known as tulkus or reincarnations.

The boy is said to be one of the twins born to a prominent Mongolian family. His father, Altannar Chinchuluun, is a professor of mathematics at the National University of Mongolia, and mother Monkhnasan Narmandakh, a business chief executive.

On November 23, 2016, during a visit to Mongolia, the Dalai Lama had announced his belief that the 10th Jetsun Damba Khutughtu had been reborn in Mongolia and that a process for identifying him had begun. A little less than seven years later he made the announcement.

While explaining the Chakrasamvara empowerment, the Dalai Lama said, “Chakrasamvara is classified as a mother tantra. It belongs to the highest yoga tantras. Whereas Guhyasamaja emphasizes the illusory body, Chakrasamvara focusses on the clear light. However, if you make the illusory body your primary practice, the clear light also arises.”

Beyond the intricacies of the tantra empowerment, the announcement of the US-born Mongolian boy, some 11 years after the 9th Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa died on March 1, 2012, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, after a prolonged illness, is fraught with political tensions with China.

Recognizing the importance and appeal of Tibetan Buddhist reincarnations the Chinese government has over the past decade and a half intensified its stranglehold on how these reincarnations are chose. Beijing has made the process utterly bureaucratic in defiance of its mystical underpinnings. For instance, on July 18, 2007  the State Administration for Religious Affairs issues the “Management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism.”

The measures make for a strange reading. For instance its Article 1 says, “These measures have been formulated in accordance with the “Regulations on Religious Affairs” in order to guarantee citizens’ freedom of religious belief, to respect Tibetan Buddhism’s practice of inheriting living Buddha positions, and to regulate the management of living Buddha reincarnation affairs.”

Article 2 says, “Reincarnating living Buddhas should respect and protect the principles of the unification of the state, protecting the unity of the minorities, protecting religious concord and social harmony, and protecting the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism.”

The wording “unification of the state” is deliberate and is aimed at ensuring that unification of Tibet takes precedence over everything, including its centuries-old Buddhist practices that the Tibetans so revere.

Article 5 of these measures is perhaps the most instructive about the Chinese government’s obsession to tightly control Tibetan Buddhist affairs. It says, “Reincarnating living Buddhas should carry out application and approval procedures. The application and approval procedure is: the management organization at the monastery applying for the living Buddha reincarnation where the monk is registered, or the local Buddhist Association, should submit applications for reincarnations to the local religious affairs departments at the level of people’s government above county-level; once the people’s government above county-level has made suggestions, the people’s government religious affairs department reports upwards, and examination and approval shall be made by the provincial or autonomous regional people’s government religious affairs department.”

Consider this language in the same article: “Living Buddha reincarnations who have a relatively large impact shall be reported to the provincial or autonomous regional people’s government for approval; those with a great impact shall be reported to the State Administration for Religious Affairs for approval; those with a particularly great impact shall be reported to the State Council for approval.”

Beijing has straightjacketed a tradition shrouded in centuries-old belief system into a bureaucratic diktat. The idea that in Article 7 they have specified “the size of the living Buddha’s impact” shows how meddlesome the state is in such affairs.

The same Article also says, “No group or individual may without authorization carry out any activities related to searching for or recognizing reincarnating living Buddha soul children.”

With this as the backdrop, the Dalai Lama declaring a US-born Mongolian boy as the third most important reincarnation is a clear message to Beijing that despite his advancing years—he will turn 88—he is not going to step aside for them ride roughshod over Tibetan Buddhism.

Related posts