How is the Dalai Lama Chosen?

By: MRT Desk

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How is the Dalai Lama Chosen?

The process of choosing the Dalai Lama is steeped in mysticism and tradition. It involves a search for a child who is believed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. The search is conducted by senior Tibetan monks who consult oracles, interpret visions, and read spiritual signs. Dreams also play a significant role in guiding the search.

The search for the next Dalai Lama begins after the death of the current Dalai Lama or even before their death. The senior monks may find clues from the deceased body of the Dalai Lama, such as the direction it faces or its posture. If the body is cremated, the direction of the smoke is monitored as a potential indicator for the direction of rebirth.

The search also involves meditating at Lhamo La-Tso, an oracle lake in central Tibet, in the hopes of receiving a vision or insight into the whereabouts of the Dalai Lama’s rebirth. Once a potential child is identified, there are tests to verify their reincarnation. The child is presented with artifacts that belonged to the previous Dalai Lama, and if they can correctly identify them, it is taken as a sign.

An example of this process is the current Dalai Lama, who was found at the age of two after a senior monk saw his village and house in a vision at the oracle lake. The boy, named Lhamo Thondup at the time, was able to identify artifacts that belonged to the previous Dalai Lama, confirming his reincarnation.

Will Finding the Next Dalai Lama be Different?

The process of finding the next Dalai Lama is likely to be different this time due to political factors. The Chinese government claims the legal right to recognize Tibetan reincarnations and is expected to hand-pick its own candidate for the next Dalai Lama. This is seen as an attempt to ensure that Tibet’s top Buddhist leader is friendly to Beijing.

However, the Dalai Lama himself has hinted that he could reappear anywhere, possibly as a woman, and has even suggested that the Dalai Lama may no longer be needed. He has also stated that his reincarnation will not be found in Chinese-controlled Tibet. This sets the stage for a complex struggle between China and Tibetan monks in exile over the recognition of the next Dalai Lama.

Possible Locations for the Next Dalai Lama

The location for finding the next Dalai Lama is uncertain, but there are several possibilities. One option is India, where more than 100,000 Tibetans live, most of them refugees. The town of Tawang in the eastern Himalayas, near India’s border with Tibet, is a credible location for finding the next Dalai Lama. The sixth Dalai Lama was born in Tawang in 1680, making it a historically significant place for Tibetan Buddhism.

Another possibility is that the Dalai Lama identifies a reincarnation while he is still alive, possibly a well-credentialed teenage monk. This option would be popular with Tibetans and has been done before with other high-ranking religious leaders.

The Consequences of Choosing the Next Dalai Lama

The selection of the next Dalai Lama is likely to have political consequences for America, China, and India. The US Congress recently passed legislation reaffirming the rights of Tibetan Buddhists to choose the Dalai Lama’s next incarnation without interference from China. This move has angered Beijing and could further strain US-China relations.

China’s involvement in the selection process could also lead to tensions between China and India. If Tibetan monks in exile find the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation within India, it would provoke a strong reaction from the Chinese government and exacerbate existing tensions between the two countries.

Overall, the transition to the next Dalai Lama is expected to be contentious and could lead to unrest inside Tibet. The Tibetan community is well-prepared for the transition, but the involvement of China and the potential for two Dalai Lamas could create further complications and disputes over legitimacy.

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