On April 26, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked to comment on a statement by the US State Department statement urging China to reveal the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
On May 14, 1995, six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was named the 11th Panchen Lama by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet’s highest spiritual leader and former head of state of the Tibetan government in exile.
The Panchen Lama is the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
Three days later, the Chinese government, hoping to choose its own Panchen Lama, kidnapped Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family. Their fate was never revealed.
On April 25, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s 33rd birthday, the State Department condemned the Chinese government for continuing to “deny members of the Tibetan community access to the Dalai Lama-appointed Panchen Lama” and urged Beijing to release him.
The State Department said the United States supports “the right of Tibetans to select, educate, and revere their own leaders, such as the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, according to their own beliefs and without government interference.” .
In responseChinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said his government “pursues policies of freedom of religious belief, including respecting and protecting the reincarnation of living Buddhas.”
He added: “Twenty-seven years ago, while he (the Dalai Lama) was abroad, he took the liberty of declaring a child as the reincarnation of Panchen Erdeni in order to lead a separatist political hype. anti-Chinese at the expense of religious rituals and disregard for historical conventions (Erdeni is a special title given to the Panchen Lama by the Qing emperors.)
It is misleading. In fact, the Dalai Lama holds the power to recognize the Panchen Lama, according to Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
Rituals and conventions that Wang accused the Dalai Lama of breaking include the so-called “Golden Urn Ceremonya Qing dynasty law requiring reincarnations of prominent Tibetan Buddhist monks to be selected by lot from a container.
Tibetans had followed this law sporadically until the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) enforced it in 1995. Beijing rigged the ceremony to propose a Panchen Lama of its choice, who remains rejected by most Tibetans.
The practice of finding the “reincarnation” of tulkus, or “living Buddhas” who are the reincarnated guardians of a specific lineage of Buddhist teachings, is a unique feature of Tibetan Buddhism.
The practice dates back to the 13th century and was used to resolve the issue of tulkus succession, writes Datta Karubakiprofessor of Himalayan studies at the University of North Bengal.
For centuries, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, both high-ranking tulkus, were considered the two most important spiritual leaders of the dominant Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Until 2011, when the Dalai Lama decided to give up its political role in the Tibetan government in exile and to transfer this power to an elected representative, Tibet was the only regime in the world where a Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama, was at the head of the government.
According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, once a lama dies, the search for his reincarnation begins.
“Sometimes the lamas themselves leave instructions regarding rebirth to help other monks continue their research,” Karubaki wrote.
“Sometimes the previous generation of lamas would write down where my next generation was born and what the person looked like,” Elliot Sperling, a historian of Tibet and Tibetan-Chinese relations at Indiana University, told Voice of America. (VOA) in 2016.
“In the absence of such indications, they have recourse either to astrologers, or to an oracle, who indicates in vague and obscure terms, the direction and the place where the investigations must be made as well as the various signs by which the child must be identified,” Karubaki wrote. “Signs are also found in the waters of certain sacred lakes which are interpreted as guidelines.”
Search parties are sent to find the children born around the date of the llama’s death who match the signs. They are put through a series of tests until the correct one is guessed. While most Dalai Lamas were found in Tibet, the 4th Dalai Lama was found in Mongolia and the 6th in India.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, told VOA in 2016: “These are the means that have been passed down. There are many ways to verify it (the reincarnated) , such as observing dreams or by observing the color and burning time of the butter lamp, or using certain objects, such as the rosary, and in addition to meditation Thoughts, feelings… It is not just a factor.
The 14th Dalai Lama said there had been a long tradition that the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama recognized each other. The 10th Panchen Lama said the same thing.
“The Golden Urn”
In 1995, however, the Chinese government revived the Golden Urn Ceremony to install the 11th Panchen Lama of its choosing rather than recognizing Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
“The rationale for rejecting the Dalai Lama’s choice, according to the Chinese government, was his disregard for traditional practices in recognizing high incarnations,” Sperling wrote in an article from 2012 for Studies in the History and Literature of Tibet and the Himalayas.
“It goes without saying that the underlying reason – although quite obvious – was the need for the Chinese government to retain control over the structure and content of the Buddhist apparatus with regard to what are perceived as State interests.”
“The Chinese Communist Party hoped to limit the ability of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile to independently identify reincarnations,” the publisher states. the description from historian Max Oidtmann’s book Forging the Golden Urn. “In doing so, they have elevated a long-forgotten ceremony into a controversial symbol of Chinese sovereignty in Tibet.”
Li Jianglin, a freelance writer and Tibetan history researcher, told VOA in 2016 that the Tibetan government had always tried to avoid using the Golden Urn ceremony.
“Because they never really accepted it, because it was not something of Tibetan Buddhism itself. It was forced on them for political control by another regime,” she said. .
A rejected selection
During its “Great Leap Forward” campaign in 1958, the Chinese communist regime, whose leader considered religion “poisonous,” vowed to abolish the reincarnation system in Tibet. But soon after the sudden death of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1989, China began to lead the search for his reincarnation.
According to Arjia Rinpoche, the former abbot of Kumbum Monastery who now lives in exile in the United States (Rinpoche is a Tibetan honorary term used for abbots of Buddhist monasteries and other revered spiritual masters), Beijing made Chadrel Rinpoche the leader of the research team. . Chadrel Rinpoche was abbot of Tashi Lhunpo monastery and considered by Beijing to be “politically competent”.
However, Chadrel Rinpoche insisted that only the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s supreme spiritual leader, had the power to decide the next Panchen Lama and threatened to quit the research team.
Through a messenger, Chadrel Rinpoche secretly contacted the 14th Dalai Lama in exile in India, sending photos and other information about a group of Panchen Lama candidates that the research team had found.
In January 1995, the Dalai Lama confirmed that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was the 11th Panchen Lama, but Beijing refused to accept the candidate and insisted on using the Golden Urn Ceremony.
On May 14, 1995, Chadrel Rinpoche was detained in Chengdu and placed under house arrest. He was sentenced to six years in prison in 1997 for “colluding with foreign separatist forces and revealing state secrets”.
His whereabouts are unknown since his sentence expired in 2002.
On May 16, 1995, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that it would not recognize Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the next Panchen Lama. The following day, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family were taken away by the Chinese authorities and have not been seen since.
And a rigged selection
On November 29, 1995, under the leadership of Beijing, the Golden Urn Ceremony was held at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet. Gyaincain Norbu, a 5-year-old boy whose parents were members of the Chinese Communist Party, won the lottery to become the 11th Panchen Lama.
However, according to Arjia Rinpoche, who attended the ceremony, the lottery was manipulated.
On the flight back to Beijing, he overheard Ye Xiaowen, then head of China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, tell other officials that they had slightly extended the stick bearing Gyaincain Norbu’s name in putting cotton in it. This stick was chosen, he said.
According to “Why Tibet is Burningpublished by the Tibetan Policy Institute in 2013, Arjia Rinpoche said the Chinese government forced him “to play a role in the selection of the 11th Panchen Lama”.
“I witnessed the ritual being a prank and the selection being rigged,” he said. “It was totally manipulated.”
After being confirmed by Beijing, the 11th Panchen Lama never returned to Tibet. He was placed permanently in a mansion in Beijing and was later married to a Han Chinese woman.