China Cracks Down On Buddhism, Regulates Reincarnation

| by Diana Kruzman
The Dalai Lama in Boston in 2012The Dalai Lama in Boston in 2012

The Chinese government has escalated its crackdown on religion in the country by regulating who can become reincarnated in the Buddhist faith.

Reincarnation, or the process of being born again in a new body, is a central tenet of Buddhism, and allows Buddhists to select their next spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. However, the State Administration for Religious Affairs recently stated that China will require Buddhist monks to seek approval from the government before reincarnating, and listed the procedures that they must follow to comply, according to Religion News Service.

The ruling follows a 2007 law that explicitly requires Buddhist monks who want to become reincarnated “Living Buddhas” to have “recognition from the religious world and the temple” to reincarnate, Phurbu Tsering, the abbot of Sera Monastery in Tibet, said at a meeting of China’s legislature in March, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The highest level of living Buddhas must be approved by the central government,” Tsering said. “Other Living Buddhas must be approved by local governments.”

The reasoning behind the law, the State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5, was meant to preserve national security, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The selection of reincarnates must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups, and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country,” the law stipulates.

Ultimately, China’s regulation is seen by many as a way for the atheist central government to control the country’s Buddhist population, whose leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet. Now 80, he is seeking a successor, but with monks outside China unable to receive official permission to reincarnate by the Chinese government, it is unclear whether Tibet will have a spiritual leader chosen by anyone from within the Tibetan community.

Sources: Religion News Service, Los Angeles Times / Photo Credit: Christopher Michel/Flickr

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