Friday 23 February 2018

Tibetans have deep respect for religion


I WAS reading recently about a new book that has just been published about the Dalia Lama, the 76 year old exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.

Going by the reviews I've read, this new book is far from flattering to him, and indeed it seems that it has been written in an attempt to damage his reputation and lessen his influence. For decades now, China has had a problem with Tibet, and particularly with the Dalai Lama, whom, according to transcripts revealed through WikiLeaks, they call ' the personification of evil and deception'. Tibetan Buddhism has a religious hierarchy with the Dalai Lama at the top, followed by the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama is traditionally involved in recognising the Panchen Lama, and the Panchen Lama is part of the process by which each new Dalai Lama is chosen. China is looking to the future, and to what happens after the death of the current 76-year-old Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India. To that end, in 1995 the Chinese Communist Party chose a six year old to be the new Panchen Lama, Tibet's second-highest ranking religious leader. With the endorsement of its own Panchen Lama, China wants to choose a successor to the current Dalai Lama and seek to control him. And this is where it gets interesting. Because the Dalai Lama isn't simply elected or chosen by the religious leaders, instead they believe he is the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, and the current man is the 14th manifestation. So when the 13th Dalai Lama died a search party was sent to locate the new incarnation when the boy who was to become the 14th was about two years old. It is said that, amongst other omens, the head of the embalmed body of the 13th Dalai Lama at first facing south-east, had mysteriously turned to face the northeast, indicating the direction in which his successor would be found. This, combined with a vision a High Lama had, indicated that a village called Amdo was where they should search. The vision also indicated a monastery with a gold and turquoise roof, and another vision of a small house with odd guttering. A monastery at Amdo fitted the description given by the High Lama and, after a careful search of the neighbouring villages, the house was identified. A boy named Lhamo lived there and was about three years old at the time. The search party went to his home and observed him without revealing their reasons. They came back a few days later with the intention of performing the final test, where they presented some items to the child, including a mala, or rosary, and a bell that belonged to the deceased Dalai Lama. Lhamo instantly identified the items shouting "It's mine, it's mine!" And so the 14th Dalai Lama was discovered. The Chinese are attempting to interfere with this ancient process, with the obvious aim of controlling who the 15th Dalai Lama will be, thereby attempting to bring to an end the Tibet 'problem', and quelling any unrest in the region. It seems that they don't realise that their efforts will in all likelihood end in failure. Why - because the Tibetan people believe in the Dalai Lama, and they believe in the process of finding the next one. The deep rooted respect they have for religion in Tibet is the same. The Chinese won't change that by simply imposing their choice as Dalai Lama . And maybe there's a lesson in that for all of us; God's ways are not our ways, and it seems that when it comes to the 15th Dalai Lama, God has his own plan in that too. One of the enduring images from his recent trip to Ireland was where he was walking across a running track at the University of Limerick. His short walk was interrupted briefly by an earthworm, and he duly paused and changed direction to avoid walking on it. In doing so he displayed his appreciation for life of all forms because in Buddhism the death of an animal is considered equal to that of a human.

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