[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
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
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
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,
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