Chinese Atheism and the Political Theology of the Dalai Lama Reincarnation
My latest piece just got published at the State of Formation website. In this piece, I look at some of the recent clashes between the 14th Dalai Lama and the Chinese state, and in particular the issue of whether or not there will be a future reincarnation of Dalai Lama, and why an atheist state like China seems to care so much. Here’s a teaser from the article opening.
While it may have flown under many people’s radar, a small but fascinating brouhaha took place earlier this month between the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, and Padma Choling, the Chinese imposed governor of occupied Tibet. The debate involves whether or not the Dalai Lama would reincarnate in Tibet, or instead bring a final end to the institution with his death. At stake are issues of spiritual and political authority, particularly related to Tibetan Buddhism. What makes this such a fascinating debate is the attempt by an officially atheist country like China to intervene in the internal spiritual workings of Buddhism in the name of protecting Chinese cultural history and the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism as the Communist Party understands it.
The spat actually started last fall, when the Dalai Lama made the following remarks in an interview: “There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama.” For those not familiar with the politics of Tibet, here the Dalai Lama is referring to the possibility of China imposing a puppet Dalai Lama of their choosing who would serve the political agenda of Beijing, and not the interests of the exiled and occupied Tibetans, hence his worry about a “stupid” Dalai Lama.
Read the full piece on the State of Formation blog right here.