Friday, May 09, 2008

Expecting to be Reincarnated? Better Get Your Permit First!

I'm a big believer in separation of church and state. Thank God our founding fathers included the establishment clause in the US Constitution! But China has no such restrictions, and this is one of the more bizarre results:
"On August 3, 2007, the [Chinese government's] State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) issued a set of regulations, effective September 1, 2007, that require all Tibetan lamas wishing to reincarnate to obtain prior government approval through the submission of a “reincarnation application.” In a statement accompanying the regulations, SARA called the step “an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas." - from "Tibet: Problems, Prospects, and U.S. Policy", Congressional Research Service report RL34445, April 10, 2008
While this might seem rather silly, it's actually part of China's attempt to control Tibet by controlling Tibetan Buddhism. China has done a similar thing with Catholicism, creating a tightly controlled "fake" Catholic church structure independent of Rome and the Pope. If you can't beat them, subvert them.


The image above is a Tibetan Thangka (painted banner) of the wheel of life, depicting the Six States of Existence of Tantric Buddhism. Image from this site, and a brief explanation of the wheel of life here. Click on the image for a larger version.

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