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March 11, 2015 4:27 PM   Subscribe

“I don’t think the Dalai Lama would mind if you saw this through the prism of Monty Python,” said Robert Barnett, director of the modern Tibetan studies program at Columbia University. Zhu Weiqun, a Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript (in Chinese) of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.
posted by jasper411 (20 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it would be very interesting if the Dalai Lama should loudly and repeatedly announce that he will no longer reincarnate, and then Beijing's pet Panchen anti-Lama (to borrow the antipope form) "finds" a reincarnated Dalai Lama anyway.
posted by chimaera at 4:36 PM on March 11, 2015


Farce and tragedy are closely related, but I so want the reincarnation scenario to involve cartoon humiliation for Chinese officials. Eg, a few of them chasing a ghost around, falling down when they try to grab it, stomping on their hats in frustration like Yosemite Sam, while the ghost smiles at them... "now I'm over here"... "oop, nope, over here now".
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:58 PM on March 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Hey! I know Robbie Barnett! We used to be roommates. I'm not talking out of school to say he's a serious advocate for the fair treatment of Tibet and Tibetans and is considered a threat by the Chinese Government.

Off-topic, but Robbie was in Dark Crystal, and Yentl, and other films, and was often a puppeteer with Jim and Brian Henson. I think if Jim Henson and the Dalai Lama have considered you a friend, you must be doing something right with your life.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:02 PM on March 11, 2015 [33 favorites]


I love that the Chinese are getting red faced and blowing their stack that their carefully laid plans and years of meddling. Dalai Lama: Troll Level 10000.
posted by Karaage at 5:20 PM on March 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


When the iron bird flies, The Darma will go west.
posted by Oyéah at 5:34 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's tragic if the only way to prevent the tradition from being hijacked is to end it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:38 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think the road to Shambala goes through Beijing.
posted by localroger at 5:49 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's tragic if the only way to prevent the tradition from being hijacked is to end it.

It's the only certain means to that end. No matter the tradition.
posted by wotsac at 5:57 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]




If that's how the Chinese are going to play it, the Dalai Lama should have said "I've decided to reincarnate as a black girl in Brazil".
posted by uosuaq at 6:16 PM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have this dream that the Dalai Lama (who is a pretty nice guy, if you've read him) will just go into the Avatar State and visit Beijing.
posted by SPrintF at 7:58 PM on March 11, 2015


Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide,

Ahahahahahahahahahaha

i think they don't know how reincarnation works

or governments for that matter
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:13 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


>> Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide,

Ahahahahahahahahahaha

i think they don't know how reincarnation works

or governments for that matter



Actually, it was traditionally the job of the Tibetan government (together with a bunch of monks) to find the next Dalai Lama. And, prior to communism, there was also a tradition of the Chinese emperors confirming the Dalai Lama.

In some countries/cultures, there is less of a division between religion/church and state than in others. Tibet is a prime example of this, and what the Chinese are trying to do is not so much hijacking the religious process of selecting a Dalai Lama, but rather reviving an old tradition of having a say in religious matters, in particular as it relates to political power.

So, while you might dismiss this move as being obviously motivated by politics rather than spiritual motives and even find it despicable that an openly atheist organization tries to have a say in this, I don't think it is nearly as ridiculous as you seem to think, and I suspect that the Chinese know exactly what they are doing here.
posted by sour cream at 6:16 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks, yes I understand the history that the DL is officially "found" by a government body. I was commenting as a person who practices Buddhism; the idea that a government gets to choose who can reincarnate is hilarious. Because everyone reincarnates. You don't get a choice in the matter. That's the cycle of samsara (according to Buddhism).

Chinese government: hey you! You over there! In the robes. Don't die. And when you die, don't come back!

Monk: yeah I'll get right on that
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:39 AM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


In 2000 I was at a table where I worked, with a Tibetan refugee, an older Chinese woman, and a young Chinese woman. The older Chinese woman remembered the revolution and how hard it was, and the conquest of Tibet. The younger Chinese woman who plans to take her American money and retire in China talked about how China rescued Tibet from feudalism, and it was a tiny place. I pointed out to her how Tibet is larger than America, and holds the headwaters of a third of the world's water supplies. Then I asked the Tibetan woman how it was for her to be liberated by China, and she said,"It was very sad."

Tibet had one of the last polyandrus societies, an accommodation, (in my mind,) for an inhospitable climate that can't support a large population. Anyway, theft is theft, China stole something rare, and seeks to rationalize it, and seeks to trivialize, and marginalize the role of Tibetan culture, and matters of spirit. It is well known historically the Han Chinese are not Tibetan by any means, allegedly Mao ended the reign of the Chinese imperial dynasties, the Tibetans have to what, get a pass from the Chinese Empire on their religious matters? Oh please.

Now I laugh about that young Chinese woman who wants to retire back home, maybe the economic shift over time, has made her American money worth less. Perhaps Tibet will be the last time the world allows a theft of that sort, but no it is still going on in not-Palestine.
posted by Oyéah at 10:13 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Chinese government: hey you! You over there! In the robes. Don't die. And when you die, don't come back!

Monk: yeah I'll get right on that


But that is not at all what the Chinese are saying.
Just read the first paragraph: The Chinese say that he must reincarnate.
The rest of the sentence says "on their terms", but I think that is probably just the writer's hyperbole and I don't think that the Chinese imply that they have a say on when, where and how the DL reincarnates.

In fact, if you read the rest of the article, it seems that the DL stated that he intends not to reincarnate and the Chinese merely pointed out that he does not have a say in this. Now I confess that I don't know much about Buddhism, but it seems to me that the Chinese take on this is more congruent with what little I know about it: It is not up to a human being to decide whether to reincarnate or not, and not even the DL can decide that.

Again, not trying to defend the Chinese here, and what they do is clearly meddling in Tibetan religious matters, but perhaps their dogmatic position is not as ridiculous as the article makes it sound like.
posted by sour cream at 6:30 AM on March 13, 2015


But as a bodhisatva the DL may only be here in the first place because he decided TO reincarnate, in which case he could also decide NOT to.
posted by localroger at 9:26 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I pointed out to her how Tibet is larger than America

Just have to pedantically point out that this is not close to true.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:19 AM on March 13, 2015


Yeah, I didn't want to get pedantic in my post but the only beings who are free from the cycle of reincarnation are enlightened beings & bodhisattvas. As depicted in the wheel of life, Buddha is outside the cycle (top RHS) pointing to Enlightenment (the moon i.e. clear mind), indicating that he has escaped the cycle of life/death and is showing others how to do it for themselves.

I don't know the state of mind of the DL himself but its very feasible he could decide to sit the next few cycles out. He may very well choose to do so, if it is in the best interest of everyone else involved.

The rest of us suckers... well it was nice knowing you again :)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:22 AM on March 13, 2015


By the way... knowing this level of detail of Buddhist philosophy, the idea that the Chinese government could control what an ostensibly enlightened being chooses to do after death is... cosmically funny. It just shows their fear & lack of power, and the desperate attempts to use intimidation and authority to get what they want. This is a classic authoritarian / dictatorship response. All the power is in the DL's hands. If he says he ain't comin back, he ain't comin back.

What will be interesting to watch is the sh*tstorm that will erupt after his passing, as people fall over themselves to convince the public that the DL didn't really mean it, they made him reincarnate after all and that THIS Chinese-approved child is the next DL, hand over heart honest to goodness. So believe it or else.

Sadly, this may mean a lot more fracturing for the Buddhist faith; some people will accept the new DL as a DL, and some sub groups may claim he's not the real DL since HH DL XIV had already said publicly that he may not reincarnate etc etc. I fear this will serve to erode the Buddhist faith, and undermine the goodwill towards Buddhism in general. This is especially sad since the current DL has done a lot of good PR for Buddhism in the west, and western exposure to Buddhist concepts like mindfulness does the much public good, in my biased opinion. People have generally accepted him as the "pope" of Buddhism but my guess is they will be a LOT more jaded with the selection of the next incarnation, since we're all so wise to the politics behind such a decision especially now. Will people accept the next DL as sincerely as they have HH DL XIV? Who knows.

The DL will have to weigh all of these factors in making his decision to reincarnate, and whether to announce if he is or isn't. It will be interesting to see what he does.

In the end, maybe it doesn't matter too much. If you have faith in the practice and its ability to liberate the mind, then the rest is just details.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:45 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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