Panchen Lama holds Kalachakra ritual after 50 year ban in China.

Having ousted the Dalai Lama from power during the occupation of Tibet, China decided to introduce its own hierarchy of Buddhism to control the Buddhist populace in its attempt to gain the support of Buddhists and to avoid being seen as an aggressive regime.

However, how successful its attempt will prove to be is still a question mark. As of now, the majority of Buddhists still support the exiled Dalai Lama, who is currently in residence in India.

Branding the Dalai Lama as a “separatist,” the regime has decided to ignore his power to recognize his successor, and has placed someone of their own choice as the Panchen Lama, a role regarded as the second-highest to the Dalai Lama in the Buddhist world. Buddhists, however, refused to accept the new Panchen Lama and decried it as an attempt by China to meddle with the religious affairs of Tibet.

Undaunted by this, China has allowed their Panchen Lama to hold an ancient ritual called the Kalachakra after nearly 50 years of it being stopped in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has been conducting the ritual overseas ever since his exile. It is supposed to awaken the dormant spiritual faculties of the participants, and as such is an important esoteric ritual for all Buddhists. The fact that China's chosen Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, has conducted this ritual is something that has not gone over well with Buddhists.

The four-day ritual has already begun at the Panchen Lama's traditional home, the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse. Sources say that around 50,000 Buddhists will attend. This is just another step taken by the Chinese government in trying to boost its appearance as a regime that encourages freedom and choice. Norbu has been used by China as the face of its religious freedom policy since 1995 and hopes to win over the Buddhists' support. The previous Panchen Lama who served under the Dalai Lama stayed on in Tibet when the holy man escaped. Initially, he was not seen as a threat by China. Later, however, they saw that he was openly criticizing the Chinese government, so they put him under house arrest. When he passed away in 1989, China seized the opportunity and banished the six-year-old child whom the Dalai Lama chose as his successor. In place of the deceased Panchen Lama, they chose their own candidate to take on the role.

Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, the director of London-based Free Tibet, has accused China of misusing Buddhism to meddle with the affairs of Tibet. She believes that the Panchen Lama doing the Kalachakra rituals under China's directions only proves her point further.

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