China’s Panchen Lama carries out rite

Reuters, BEIJING

Fri, Jul 22, 2016 - Page 6

A youth named by China as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, but reviled as a fake by many Tibetans, yesterday began an important Buddhist rite, the first time in 50 years it has happened in Tibet, Chinese state media said.

China selected Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995 in a drive to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama had previously announced his own choice of a six-year-old boy, but the youngster was taken away by authorities and has since vanished from public view.

The Kalachakra ritual is an esoteric, but for Buddhists important, rite for activating dormant enlightenment, and has not been carried out in what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region for half a century.

The Dalai Lama has carried out the rite overseas.

Xinhua news agency said China’s Panchen Lama had begun the ritual at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama.

Monks from the monastery would join those from Labrang, another important seat of Tibetan Buddhism in Gansu Province, for the four-day event, the report said.

About 50,000 Buddhists were expected to attend, it said.

China has gradually exposed its Panchen Lama in public roles in the hope he will achieve the respect commanded by the Dalai Lama among Tibetans and globally. He visited Hong Kong in 2012.

The London-based group Free Tibet said the ritual would be the biggest religious platform that Beijing has given its Panchen Lama to date.

“The officially atheist Chinese government has long tried to impose its authority on Tibet by co-opting Tibetan Buddhism,” Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said. “Its decision to have Gyaltsen Norbu preside over a ritual as important as the Kalachakra marks a stepping up in these efforts.”

Tibetan nongovernmental organizations in Dharmsala, India, yesterday sponsored a protest against the Chinese-organized Kalachakra.

Dharmsala is home to the Dalai, Lama, the Tibetan-government-in-exile and a large Tibetan community.

Additional reporting by AP