Chinese Government Control Freaks Decide Who Can and Can't Be Reincarnated

Claire Bernish
March 10, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) China — Officials in China are so consumed with controlling the population, they even dictate who can be reincarnated. Contrary to what might be expected of a “living Buddha” — holy men considered reincarnations of past Tibetan Buddhist luminaries — after years of preparation and spiritual work, the highest level of living Buddha must face miles of red tape.

“The highest level of living Buddhas must be approved by the central government,” Phurbu Tsering, the abbot of Sera Monastery, explained in a meeting of the Chinese legislature recently. “Other living Buddhas must be approved by local governments.”

Despite the ruling Communist Party’s official atheism, the government seeks tight control over all affairs within the country’s borders — so China’s Buddhist monks must be held to certain standards. Since a suitable successor for the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has yet to be discovered, China has decided to make reincarnation a legal matter.

Under the guise of thwarting fraudulent monks who may only be seeking money, the government has tightened the reigns on the afterlife.

“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,” said Robbie Barnett, director of the Modern Tibet Studies Program at Columbia University, reported the Los Angeles Times. “The want to make sure they control the next Dalai Lama, as they’ve tried to control the current Panchen Lama” — the second-most high-ranking leader in the Gelug branch of Tibetan Buddhism.

“We think we know about Communist policies [in Tibet], but they’re not what they appear,” Barnett continued.“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.”

Though it would seem to be an unusual or rare occurrence, imposter living Buddhas have become an issue in the country. So much so, authorities were forced to publish an official registry online containing the name, temple, and identity card number for 870 authentic living Buddhas.

If the idea of religious figures being forced to register to be allowed to reincarnate seems misguided — if not ludicrous — to you, you’re in good company.

“The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair,” lamented the Dalai Lama, who also called the law “outrageous” and “disgraceful” in a statement in 2011.

China’s strict, suffocating control over Tibet has been the source of worldwide scorn from human rights groups and activists for years. Many Tibetan monks who simply seek greater autonomy for the region are viewed by authorities as a separatist threat.

Though Tibet’s independence has been supported by such groups as London-based Free Tibet for decades, Chinese officials view the country as “inseparable” from China — and assert “the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government.”

This article (Chinese Government Control Freaks Decide Who Can and Can’t Be Reincarnated) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Image credit: Christopher Michel. If you spot a typo, email

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