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Commentary: Reincarnation of Tibetan living Buddha must follow the rule of law

December 27, 2007 2007-12-25

     BEIJING, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- The rule on the management of
reincarnations of Tibetan living Buddhas issued by the State
Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) on July 18 has taken effect
since Sep. 1.

     The rule, an important move by the Chinese government to safeguard
religious freedom of Chinese citizens according to law, has won staunch
and extensive support from the Tibetan Buddhist circles and believers in

     To maintain the validity and purity of all living Buddha
reincarnation and uphold the solemnity of the law, it is necessary to
reiterate the key principle already enshrined in the new rule that any
reincarnated living Buddha, appointed against the rule, is illegal and

     The Chinese government has attached importance to the reincarnation
of living Buddhas in line with Chinese law after the founding of the
People's Republic of China in 1949 and especially after the 3rd Plenary
Session of the 11th Central Committee of Communist Party of China in
1978. The location, confirmation and enthronement of the reincarnated
soul boy of the 10th Panchen Lama were completed in 1995 in line with
historical convention and and religious ritual of Tibetan Buddhism.
Since 1991, nearly 1,000 living Buddhas have been approved in Tibet,
Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan, which satisfied followers' needs.
The rule is based on past and present experience, thorough
investigation, opinions from various circles and respect for the ways of
living Buddhas' succession. The rule demonstrates that the Chinese
government has further legalized its governance of living Buddha
reincarnation. The rule is bound to have significant impact on
standardizing governance on living Buddha reincarnation, protecting
people's religious freedom, maintaining the normal order of Tibetan
Buddhism and the building of harmonious society.

     First, religious freedom is a basic right endowed by the Chinese
Constitution. China has more than 100 million religious followers
including the Tibetan Buddhism followers. To protect religious freedom
is an important indication of the protection of people's interests,
respect for and protection of human rights. Toenact and implement the
rule, which represents the government's religious freedom policy, will
help protect the religious features of Tibetan Buddhism followers and
normal religious activities of Tibetan Buddhism in accordance with the law.

     Secondly, the religious ritual and historical convention of living
Buddha reincarnation established throughout the history is an essential
feature and indispensable part of Tibetan Buddhism. They are important
measures taken by the central government to administer Tibet region and
Tibetan Buddhist affairs, and must be respected. Meanwhile, it has been
proved by history that Tibetan Buddhism could only enjoy sound
development through adapting to the social environment. The policies and
regulations on governance of Tibetan Buddhism should be improved
constantly to fit in with developments of the society and changes of
Tibetan Buddhism itself.

     Thirdly, to implement administration guided by law in an all-round
way is an important part of the rule of the country by law. The
management of living Buddha reincarnation, as a way of practicing
administrative power, must be conducted in accordance with law. Article
27 of the Regulation on Religious Affairs prescribed "The succession of
living Buddha should be carried out under the guidance of religious
groups and conform to religious ritual and historical convention. The
succession must be approved by departments of religious affairs or
governments above municipal level." The rule adds more details to the
relevant articles of the regulation and make them easier to follow.

     Fourthly, there are still problems with the reincarnation of living
Buddha although it has been generally well observed to date. Some
reincarnated soul boys were appointed against religious ritual and
historical convention, and without the government's approval. This
violated the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism and undermined the
internal integrity of Tibetan Buddhism. The personages of Tibetan
Buddhist circle strongly protested against such practice and asked the
government to strengthen its governance. Implementation of the rule
regularized living Buddhas' reincarnation and met the demand of the
Tibetan Buddhist circles and aspiration of the followers.
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