Political Embers Flare as Tawang Contends for the Dalai Lama’s Reincarnation

Tshering Chonzom Bhutia, PhD, Associate Fellow, ICS

The Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh from April 7 to 11 garnered plenty of media attention. One of the most prominently discussed questions centered around the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.

The Chinese side was unequivocal in not only objecting to the visit but also commenting on the reincarnation issue. The Chinese position, as encapsulated in remarks by scholars from important Chinese think tanks, is that the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation has to be approved by the Chinese government and selection has to be based on a combination of not just “historical rules” but also current “Chinese laws.” The reference to Chinese laws is with respect to the 2007 State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) regulation delineating procedures for the selection of reincarnated monks, including eligibility conditions, application procedures and the government and religious institutions to be approached for approval. The regulation basically excludes “any foreign organization or individual” from the reincarnation selection process, obviously in an attempt to legitimize China’s authority and exclude the Tibetan Diaspora (and others) in the selection of the next Dalai Lama.

The Chinese have consistently maintained that any reincarnation must be determined on the basis of the late 18th century procedure instituted by the Manchu Qing rulers of China. Under this “golden urn system” of selecting reincarnations, the names of prospective candidates would be placed in an urn, from which lots would be drawn to pick the real incarnation. Therefore, any other method being suggested by the Dalai Lama is seen as contrary to established rules and illegitimate, for it denies the Chinese government’s authority in the process.

Much of the recent interest in the issue was sparked by comments made by local officials in Tawang Continue reading “Political Embers Flare as Tawang Contends for the Dalai Lama’s Reincarnation”

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Dalai Lama in Tawang: Religion and Politics in Play in India–China Relations

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Amid loud protest from Beijing, the Dalai Lama is slated to visit Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh from 5–7 April. The visit follows a public meeting with the president of India in December 2016 — the first in some 60 years — and a mid-March address at a major Buddhist conference in the state of Bihar, where the Dalai Lama shared the stage with India’s minister of culture.

Beijing’s vigorous condemnation of the visit presages a fresh round of tensions in the India–China relationship. Continue reading “Dalai Lama in Tawang: Religion and Politics in Play in India–China Relations”