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Tibet Still Waits For Its Panchen Lama

Tibet Still Waits For Its Panchen Lama
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In his summer school “Introduction to Theology” course at a large university in midtown Manhattan, my husband found that almost a third of the students on his roster were from China. At one point the Dalai Lama was mentioned and at least one of the students from China expressed shock to hear that the exiled Tibetan leader is still alive: Apparently the student (who laughed nervously when my husband showed him that the Dalai Lama had recently visited nearby Newark) had been informed otherwise in China.

The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has lived in Dharamsala in northern India in exile since 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising. In 1995, he anointed Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a herder’s son, as the Panchen Lama, the reincarnation of one of Tibet’s highest Buddhist leaders. But Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has missing since May of 1995 when Chinese authorities placed him and his family in what is called “protective custody.” The Panchen Lama would be 22 years old now.

Tibet has been under Chinese rule since 1950 and many Tibetans fear a diluting of their numbers as more Han Chinese inhabit their country.

The Chinese Communist Party  – which is officially atheist but reserves the right to name top spiritual leaders – has chosen its own Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, in 1995. Gyaltsen Norbu is now 21 years old and speculation is rife that he may soon come to study at the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, Tibet, in an effort of Chinese authorities to lend him more legitimacy and prevent unrest in Tibet. According to the New York Times, most Tibetans still revere the memory of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima:

“We just hope he is still alive,” said Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan essayist and blogger who noted that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s visage, frozen as a 5-year-old, hangs in many homes and temples. “We are waiting for him.”

In an effort to, as it were, boost Gyaltsen Norbu’s credentials, the Chinese Communist Party made him vice president of the state-run Buddhist association and also appointed him to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory organization that meets annually in Beijing.

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28 comments

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11:24AM PDT on Aug 18, 2011

thank you

1:16PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Yes Tibet used to be a medieval society. However the way they have been treated by the Chinese dictatorship is infinitely worse. Tortures, beatings, executions, brainwashing, pogroms of entire towns or villages who don't kow-tow. It's monstrous.

To say that 'Tibet used to be bad' is an echo of the Chinese Communist propaganda which says they are 'improving the life of the common people' and 'Tibet was run by aristocrats'. What crap. Tibet was run by a theocratic system, yes, but it was basically benign although very impoverished and underdeveloped. China has invaded and colonized Tibet - not for the local people's benefit, they are kicked out of their ancient homes and lands, but for China's own ethnic colonists and governing class. The Chinese are behaving exactly like the 'imperialists' they so often deride.

3:33AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

China should protect Tibetan culture and UN should see that it is protected.

1:51AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

if china had oil...bet the west wouldnt think twice about invading and saving the chinese people...

1:13AM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

I agree, tibet deserve their homeland back. I am a proud indian, knowing we have welcomed dalai lama in Dharamshala, in northern india, foothills of the himalayas. I was honoured to attend a presentation By HH Dalai lama in NY Waldorf Astoria , when he gave thanks to 50 ys residence on Indian soil, He still looks to India as a big brother, to look after tibet.

Im not too happy, seing how chinese infiltrate tibetan cultures, w/ goal of conversion to christianity, and comunism.

We must support tibetan independance, & sovereignty.
viva TIBET, Viva Dalai Lama, Viva Buddhism/ Bodi Satwa

4:15PM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

People need to read more and do proper research. Let's look at the Dalai lama, He left in 1959. At that time not only did Tibet not have even 1 university, it also didn't appear to have any schools at all! They had no hospitals! A complete theocracy. They had 200 religious holidays a year where it was compulsory  to attend. Though as buddhists they had no death penalty,they  would beat a person to within an inch of their lives and then cast them out onto the freezing hillsides to die. Amputation was a popular form of punishment, and also punitive taxation. Eg. Paying money to secure your release from prison. Tibet was also one of the last places to outlaw slavery. 1959. After the Dalai Lama left! Essentially Tibetans who were not part of the ruling theocracy were slaves with the better off ones as serfs. I have always wondered about this grinning man who seems to be saying wise words that under scrutiny are just empty words and platitudes. But don't take my word for it. Research it for yourself.

11:45AM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

We need to boycot China the same way we did South Africa. It will take more effort but it will be worth it in the long run.

6:02AM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

@ Wayne M - Do you have any understanding of Buddhism or how (the concept of) reincarnation works? No one abused this boy (apart from the Chinese after kidnapping him). No one forced him to do anything. He was simply believed to have been the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama and revered by Buddhists and trained to be a monk. Buddhism is so far from Catholicism that you can't even compare the two.

10:17PM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

How those in power love to rewrite history.

2:06PM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

Fred K!
Excuse me, but what do you mean by "Taiwan returns to Beijing"? If the Taiwanese don't want to "return to Beijing", that's fine by me. I wouldn't want to if I were Taiwanese!

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