- Order Number 5—from China's State Administration of Religious Affairs, this law (announced in August, 2007) covers "the management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism." The law stipulates that Buddhist monks cannot reincarnate without prior permission from the Chinese authorities. O yes—and only monks in monasteries in China can apply for permission to reincarnate. So the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, living in exile in India, need not apply to become the Fifteenth. He's disqualified. When The New York Times originally covered this story, Slavov Zizek tried heroically to bring that paper's noted sobriety to the law, but most Tibetans in exile, at least, took a different tack to Order Number 5. They laughed out loud, and they laughed long and hard. So you can laugh too. Long and hard.
- Four years later, the Dalai Lama responded officially to this ridiculous development. Here are the last two paragraphs of that response—it's a fascinating text. You can view the entire statement here.
As I mentioned earlier, reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas. Such brazen meddling contradicts their own political ideology and reveals their double standards. Should this situation continue in the future, it will be impossible for Tibetans and those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to acknowledge or accept it.
When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.
So, the only real question now is this—just how much would you give, and how badly do you want, to be a fly on the wall when His Holiness is "about ninety," and he decides, which he will, that the Tibetan people need a Fifteenth Dalai Lama, and there's a meeting of the Gaden Phodrang Trust to figure out where and when and how and why and in what form and with which parents and in which house the Fifteenth will reincarnate? Just how much do you want to hear that conversation?
In the meantime, Your Holiness, thanks for these past seventy-plus years.
Had you not lived and worked as tirelessly as you have, and with the spectrum of commitments and values that have distinguished those seventy years, the Tibetan people in exile would be living quite different lives, and the 6 million Tibetans living in Tibet would have less hope than they now have for securing their independence, and all of us would be poorer in the ways that matter: spirit, compassion, and the potential to find the nonviolent solution to problems we'd never assumed were susceptible to such a dangerous idea.
So thanks for this fourteenth appearance. By any estimation—even according to the Chinese—it's changed the world.