Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Buddhist reincarnation is now regulated by the Chinese government.

China, in one of the most ludicrous displays of totalitarianism in history, has restricted Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without permission from the government. Based on a statement that was given from the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the ruling, which will be applicable as of March 2015, stringently states the processes an individual must follow in order to reincarnate is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

However China’s ulterior motives lie just beyond the irony, which include: to put a stop to the influence of Tibet’s political leader a spiritual expatriate Dalai Lama and to suppress the religious establishment of the region’s Buddhists, after more than a half century since China plundered the tiny Himalayan nation. By stopping all Buddhist monks located outside of China from the act of reincarnation, the new ruling allows Chinese heads of government to select the next Dalai Lama, whose spirit, by years of tradition, is reawakened in the form of a new human to resume the duty of ending suffering.

Currently at the age of 72, the Dalai Lama, who has been residing in India since 1959, has started to prepare for his succession, saying that as long as Tibet is under the control of the Chinese, he refuses to be reborn there. Under the assumption that he has mastered the act of controlling his own rebirth, seeing that 600 years is the life span of Dalai Lamas, it is starting to look like an instance where there could be two Dalai Lamas: one that is selected by the Buddhist monks and the other selected by the Chinese government.

According to Paul Harrison, a Stanford University Buddhism scholar, “It will be a very hot issue. 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.”

So the next question is what part of the world will the next Dalai Lama be born in? Harrison, along with a few other Buddhism scholars, have concluded that he will come from one of the 130,000 Tibetan exiles that are spread across Europe, North America and India. So will the next Dalai Lama be American born seeing that approximately 8,000 Tibetans current live in the U.S.? If so, according to Harrison, he will be warmly welcomed into a society that has grown familiar with the concept of reincarnation over time.

According to surveys conducted by the Barna Group, roughly a quarter of Christians in the U.S. have taken on the reincarnation concept and have welcomed it as their preferred view as it relates to the ending of life.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter