[Buddha-l] Panchen Lama

Peter D. Junger junger at samsara.law.cwru.edu
Thu Apr 13 08:46:54 MDT 2006

>From the Guardian.

Peter D. Junger--Case Western Reserve University Law School--Cleveland, OH
 EMAIL: junger at samsara.law.cwru.edu    URL:  http://samsara.law.cwru.edu   

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Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2006 10:12:45 -0400
From: "Peter D. Junger" <junger at pdjunger.com>
To: junger at samsara.law.cwru.edu
Subject: Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Finding their religion
X-URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/china/story/0,,1753147,00.html

   Peter Walker and agencies
   Thursday April 13, 2006

   The teenage boy hand-picked by Beijing as the reincarnation of Tibetan
   Buddhism's second most important holy figure made his first appearance
   in  front  of the international media today, urging patriotism towards
   China at its first international religious meeting under communism.

   In  a  carefully  choreographed  showcase  that  highlighted  the many
   contradictions  between  China's  official atheism and its attempts to
   harness  religion  for  social  stability,  Gyaltsen  Norbu, Beijing's
   choice  as  the  11th  reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, made a brief
   speech to the World Buddhist Forum.

   "Defending  the  nation  and  working  for  the  people  is  a  solemn
   commitment  Buddhism  has  made  to  the nation and society," said the
   tall,  thin  16-year-old,  dressed in a yellow-and-maroon robe. He was
   speaking  in  Tibetan  to the monks, nuns and scholars - and scores of
   police  and  plain-clothes  security  guards - gathered in Hangzhou, a
   city in China's economically vibrant eastern coastal region.

   Norbu,  who  is  believed  to  live under strict government control in
   Beijing  and  is  virtually  never  seen  in public, was chosen by the
   Chinese  state  in  1995  as the next Panchen Lama, second only to the
   Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy.

   The  current  Dalai  Lama, now 70, fled his Himalayan homeland in 1959
   after an abortive uprising against China, which had invaded nine years
   earlier.  The  Dalai  Lama, awarded the 1989 Nobel peace prize for his
   non-violent  struggle  for autonomy in Tibet, is reviled by China as a
   "splittist", and has never been allowed to return home.

   Beijing  installed  Norbu  as  Panchen  Lama after the Dalai Lama - in
   accordance  with  centuries-old  tradition  -  had picked another boy,
   Gedhun  Choekyi  Nyima, then six. The Dalai Lama's choice vanished and
   is  believed  to have been under house arrest ever since. Human rights
   activists have called him "the world's youngest political prisoner".

   The  notion  of  Chinese  officials  overruling  the  Dalai  Lama on a
   religious  matter is ridiculed by Buddhist scholars. "Reincarnation is
   a  religious  belief  and  it  cannot  be decided by an administrative
   office,"  Thubten  Samphel, an official with the Tibetan government in
   exile, said as the conference opened.

   The  five-day  forum, attended by delegates from 30 countries, appears
   to   be   an  attempt  by  China  to  show  that  its  rapid  economic
   liberalisation comes with at least a slightly more relaxed attitude to
   social matters.

   China's   leaders  are  known  to  be  concerned  that  the  effective
   abandonment of communist doctrine in favour of all-out wealth creation
   over  recent  decades  has  left  the  nation  with a cultural vacuum,
   bringing rampant corruption and selfishness. Some experts believe they
   see religion, if carefully controlled, as one answer.

   Buddhism  and  Confucianism  are  seen  as  home-grown,  and thus less
   threatening  than Christianity and other imported faiths. Nonetheless,
   Buddhist  monks  and  nuns are routinely jailed, as are Christians who
   refuse  to  acknowledge  the  authority  of  the  Communist  party  in
   religious  affairs.  The  Buddhist forum's opening ceremony featured a
   string  of  speeches  by  Chinese  officials heralding social progress
   under  communist  rule,  as  monks  and  nuns stood silently against a
   backdrop  of  a  huge  picture  of  Buddha  flanked by the five-colour
   Buddhist flag.

   Beijing has always insisted that it "liberated" the people of Tibet in
   1950   from   an   autocratic  theocracy,  and  that  it  has  brought
   unprecedented  wealth  to what it considers to be historically part of
   greater  China. Critics counter that Chinese rule has been repressive,
   and  that  the rapid pace of development, coupled with waves of ethnic
   Chinese immigration, is swamping Tibet's unique culture.

   China  has  permitted  the  rebuilding  of  many  of  the thousands of
   Buddhist   temples  and  monasteries  destroyed  during  the  Cultural
   Revolution of 1966-76, but they remain under tight control.

   The  Dalai  Lama's  efforts  to  negotiate with Beijing have also been

   "The Dalai Lama is not only a religious figure but is also a long-time
   stubborn  secessionist  who  has tried to split his Chinese motherland
   and  break  the  unity among different ethnic groups," Qi Xiaofei, the
   deputy  head  of  China's  state administration for religious affairs,
   said yesterday.

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