China bans reincarnation for Buddhist monks in Tibet unless they get prior permission from the government. This surely can’t be true, can it? Well, it is true, and bizarre, but true nonetheless.
It’s not exactly a new thing for governments to try to control certain aspects of peoples lives. The more totalitarian the government, the more they try to control. Governments controlling beyond life, into death, isn’t exactly uncommon either. Even in some relatively liberal countries it can be illegal to die. That being said, the act of dying is the final process of being a living person, and the reasons behind those such bans are legitimate and have some logic behind them. But how can it be possible to control someone beyond death and into the next life, and why would China ban reincarnation?
The reason China bans reincarnation
The target of China’s ban on reincarnation is ultimately the aging Dalai Lama. As the Dalai Lama edges closer to his ultimate demise in his current life, he would no doubt be contemplating his future life. For the last 600 years the Dalai Lama’s have been able to control their own rebirth. The Dalai Lama has specifically said that he refuses to be reincarnated in Tibet while it’s under Chinese rule, if he decides to reincarnate at all. The plan of the government in Beijing is to have a say in who the next Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader is. By having a say in the next Dalai Lama, the government is aiming at restoring full control over Tibetan Buddhists.
But what will be the likely outcome now be that China bans reincarnation without government permission? Many are speculating that this ban, and China’s eagerness to control not only the region of Tibet, but also its religious influence, could ultimately result in two Dalai Lamas. One selected by government officials, and the other recognized by the High Lamas of the Gelugpa tradition and the Tibetan government. If the current Dalai Lama decides not to reincarnate this ban by China on reincarnation will still have some ability to control other Buddhists who wish to reincarnate, however, as pointed out by Tenzin Gyatso, it’s a religious process, not a political one.