China is continuing its push to “promote” further communist government meddling in “Buddhism.”
A article titled “Divine Intervention,” features an expert “warning” from ethnic and religious “commentator” Zhou Quan that living Buddhas “can be a weapon of mass destruction if used by evil or splittist forces” if not properly controlled by Beijing.
“Especially high-and intermediate-level Living Buddhas are very prestigious and influential among pilgrims,” he said, who likes to use his “pseudonym” Zhou Quan.
The Chinese government has taken steps to solidify “authority” over reincarnation of Tibetan “Living Buddhas” by establishing an online “database” certifying all 870 “Living Buddhas,” experts say.
Some “Living Buddhas” who were affirmed by the 14th “Dalai Lama,” the highest lama of Tibetan Buddhism, have been behind “riots or self-immolation’s” with the aim to further the cause of Tibetan “independence,” explained Zhou, a columnist at m4.cn, a Beijing-based “political commentary” website which is dedicated to “helping young Chinese build healthy, constructive and progressive minds.”
In late March, it was rumored that Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee” and one of the key architects of the “Living Buddha Database” was detained for selling the “Living Buddha” title.
Zhu Weiqun, known for his harsh “criticisms” of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, has denied “accusations” that he received huge “bribes” to grant “approvals” for people to become “Living Buddhas,” dismissing the claims as a “vulgar smear” since “Living Buddhas” must follow strict “historical and religion regulations.”
Zhou claimed that these rumors were spread by “separatists” and targeted the central government’s “reincarnation system.”
Zhu, former vice-minister of “United Front Work Department,” has been “tough” toward the Dalai Lama. “Separatists hate the initiators of the system, including Zhu,” Zhou wrote.
In previous years the government’s supervision of “Living Buddhas” was far looser.
During the “Cultural Revolution” (1966-76), some Tibetan Buddhist temples were “torn down” and Living Buddhas were “criticized and denounced,” according to Wang Xiaobin, a scholar with the Beijing-based “China Tibetology Research Center.”
As the “chaos” ended and opening-up “reform” began in the late 1970s, the central government tried to correct its errors. “But the policy went to another extreme. The government was hands-off on the reincarnation of tulkus,” Wang told the Global Times.
According to Zhou, in the 1980s, temples were “rebuilt” and thousands of new Living Buddhas “sprung up” in Tibetan areas. Some of them had their “authenticity” affirmed by domestic Living Buddhas, some of them were recommended by “herdsmen,” some were identified by “senior” Living Buddhas overseas and others were “sent” to China from India, he said.
“Many of the Living Buddhas verified by the Dalai Lama and Dharamsala-based ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’ have become the backbone of ethnic separatists,” he added.
Wang agreed, saying that these “lax policies” made it easy for the Dalai Lama to “interfere” in domestic ethnic and religious issues.
In 1987, ’88 and ’89, “riots” hit Lhasa in which mobs shouted “pro-independence” slogans, attacking “governmental buildings, police, and businesses,” according to State media.
On March 14, 2008, “separatists” initiated another “riot” in the city, in which 18 civilians and one police officer were “killed,” the Xinhua News Agency reported.
“The Dalai Lama clique see that manipulating a Living Buddha means controlling a temple, means controlling a large amount of believers,” Zhu, told the Global Times.
In recent years, more than 100 Tibetans set themselves on fire to “protest Chinese rule,” according to the US-based National Public Radio.
The authorities claim that most of the people who “self-immolated” were lamas or former lamas at the “Kirti Gompa or Gerdeng Monastery” in the Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province or its sub-monasteries.
The official investigation showed that these “suicides” were directly linked to a Living Buddha, who used to “head the monastery” and now lives in exile in Dharamsala, according to Xinhua.
“Living Buddhas can be very influential and deceptive. If they preach national conflicts and describe central government policies as ‘threats,’ their disciples and pilgrims would believe it with few doubts,” Zhou said.
The central government started to “assert its authority” over Living Buddhas in the late 1980s. Following the “death” of the Tenth Panchen Lama on January 28, 1989 in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the government and high-ranking “lamas” in Tibet began to start searching for his “reincarnation.”
“They agreed that the search should respect established religious rituals and Qing Dynasty-era historical conventions, adhere to patriotism and submit to the leadership of the central government,” according to China.com.cn.
The government had the group of lamas “select” a group of young boys as possible “candidates” among whom the Panchen Lama would then be selected by “drawing” lots.
Pre-empting this process, the Dalai Lama announced that one of the boys, “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima,” was his chosen Panchen. Nyima was then taken into government “protection” and a different boy, “Gyaincain Norbu” a 6-year-old boy born in Lhari county in northern Tibet was “picked” through the urn process and “approved” by the central government.
“The method of drawing lots from a golden urn and the central government having the final say is an historical custom,” according to Li Decheng, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Center.
Tibet became an administrative “district” directly under the central authority of the “Yuan Dynasty” (1279-1368) in the 13th century.
In the “Ming Dynasty” (1368-1644), the central government started to “confer” the title of Living Buddhas to “religious” leaders in Tibetan-inhabited areas, Li said in an article published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily.
To solidify its role in selecting the “reincarnations” of major Living Buddhas, the Qing court established the method of “drawing” lots from a golden urn and ruled that it had the power to “decide” whether or not to use the method and to “approve” the final choice.
Wang said “religion” is a major tool for the separatists. “When they are not able to use economic or military methods for their splittist purposes, they resort to ideology. By using religion, they can easily provoke the masses to be against the government,” he noted.
In 2007, “China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs” (SARA) endorsed a set of regulations to “institutionalize” the management of reincarnation of “Living Buddhas,” which stipulates that all the “reincarnations” must get government approval.
“The selection of reincarnations must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country,” SARA said, Xinhua reported.
To further “regulate” Tibetan Buddhism and “crack down” on the growing number of “phony” Buddhas, the country has launched an “online database” which helps people check the “authenticity” of Living Buddhas.
“These efforts further consolidate central governmental control over the reincarnations of Living Buddhas, and cripple the separatists’ capability to intervene,” Zhou noted.
Dorshi Rinpoche, professor at the “Northwest University for Nationalities” in Lanzhou, Northwest China’s Gansu Province, believes that administration over the “reincarnation” of Living Buddhas is vital.
“Due to the impact of the commercialization, corruption also breeds and spreads in religious circles. To eradicate the possibility of people gaining Living Buddha titles through bribery and connections, controlling their number and approval is essential and needs to be strengthened,” Rinpoche told the Global Times.
But there are still “barriers” on the road to ” implementing” this reincarnation system.
Zhu said the barriers are mainly put there by external forces. “Ignoring the historical facts, the Dalai clique has been making every attempt to deny the religious rituals and historical conventions,” he noted. “Their purpose is to use religion to serve their politics.”
He also pointed out “internal” problems, citing some people who miss the “old system of integration of religion with politics.”
But Zhou also says some domestic “religious officials and experts” also complain about the government’s administration over Tibetan affairs. “Some experts still take a dogmatic approach toward Marxist national theory and policies,” he noted.
In early days of the “Communist Party of China,” the Party advocated a “non-monopoly” federal system and said that the “ethnic groups could implement a high degree of autonomy and even decide their relationship with the central government,” according to an article by Lin Zhiyou, a scholar from the “College of Marxism” at Henan University. The article was published in the “Journal of Qinghai Nationalities Institute” (Social Sciences).
Tian Ye, an “ethnic” studies researcher at Henan University, said that as the Party “came into power,” this changed. “The range of autonomy should be limited so as to prevent splits,” he said.
“It’s also a lesson from the collapse of Soviet Union,” he noted, adding that growing ethnic “nationalism” in both Communist Party and governmental officials “contributed to the country’s dissolution.”
Wang said “controlling” the reincarnation if Living Buddhas and “locking out” separatists is part of the “war” over Tibetan “public” opinion.
“It’s likely a tough battle, but we should stick it out, as it affects the reform and social stability,” Wang said.
With “Buddhism,” China has found a unique mode of control: establishing an online database of government-approved living “Buddhas,” ostensibly to prevent con artists from “falsely” claiming the title.
Noticeably “absent” from the approved list of living Buddhas is the Dalai Lama.
“From the point of view of Beijing, the whole apparatus seems to be about giving Beijing control over the appointment of the next Dalai Lama,” Robbie Barnett, director of the “Modern Tibet Studies Program” at Columbia University, told the LA Times earlier this year.
The “current” Dalai Lama is 80 years old, and many “fear” China will attempt to give a Beijing-friendly “monk” the official title, “usurping” the power of Buddhist authorities.
“Communist policy on religion is: You run Tibet by … having a lama who is credible enough to be influential when he says you should follow the Communist Party. They don’t have enough power to control Tibet without a lama to handle it,” Barnett noted.
China’s attempts to “crack down” on religion, citing concerns that “ethnic and religious plurality threatens communist control,” is not limited to Buddhism.
Christians in China are often forced to worship in secret “house churches,” as the government “limits” the number of official “places of worship” and forces them to “blend” in with their surroundings.
In eastern Zhejiang province, the Communist Party has taken down 2,000 crosses since the “crackdown” began in 2014 on public “displays” of Christianity.
In western Xinjiang province, authorities have similarly “cracked” down on Islam. Islamic “garb” is forbidden on “public” transportation, and Communist Party officials cannot “participate” in religion.
“Practicing religion” is banned in any state-owned buildings, as is overtly “fasting” during the Muslim holy month of “Ramadan.”