In a bid to Strengthen the US policy on Tibet and reaffirming its support for the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the US President Donald Trump signed (December 27, 2020) into law The Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA)- 2020. Earlier, the bipartisan bill was passed by the US House of Representatives and Senate on January 28 and December 21, 2020 respectively. The TPSA 2020 is an amended version of the Tibet Policy Act of 2002, which came into existence during the Bush’s administration. Tibetan leader especially, Lobsang Sangay, Sikyong of CTA has shown appreciation to US for signing the TPSA bill and thereby making it a law. He described the legislation as a victory for the Tibetan freedom struggle. He also thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for their steadfast support in making this historic bill come true.
Amongst the most significant provisions of the TPSA, it calls for building an international coalition to ensure that the next (15th) Dalai Lama is recognised as per the process adopted by Tibetan Buddhism and without China’s interference. It also makes it US policy to hold senior Chinese officials “responsible for, complicit in, or have directly or indirectly engaged in the identification or installation of a candidate chosen by China as the future 15th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism” to have committed “a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights”, attracting sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, including denial of entry into the United States. With TPSA becoming a law, the intention of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to control the transmigration of the soul of the next Dalai Lama has been blocked by the United States.
Since the occupation of Tibet in 1950, the CCP has always tried its best to take full control over Tibet but it had never happened because of the Tibetan history, which have full proof of Tibet being an independent country and also due to 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, who has dealt with all CCP leaders, from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping, and is in a unique position to not only have a deep understanding of the complexities of Chinese leadership but also to stay ahead of them in the geopolitical game between Beijing and Dharamsala. The atheist Communist government of China is today vociferously claiming exclusive ownership of CCP over the search and installation of the next incarnation of the current Dalai Lama. This abnormal obsession of an atheist CCP over this complex religious exercise originates from the significant place Tibet holds in present day China’s geo political game plan. The party’s nervousness at the growing clout of Tibetan Buddhism in the world and within China is reflected in its statements.
To control Tibetan people with the influence of spiritual Lamas and Tulkus of Tibetan Buddhism, China is controlling the traditional reincarnation of Tibetan spiritual figures and Tulkus. In 2007, the State Religious Affairs Bureau’s Order No. 5 issued a decree requiring the reincarnation of Tibetan Lamas to be approved by the Communist government. The order was seen as a move to preside over His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation someday in a similar fashion with which they kidnapped and replaced the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama with a Chinese puppet. This law gives all powers for selection of any future ‘Living Buddhas’ to the respective Buddhist Association of local, provincial and national level. The main logic of Chinese leaders behind bringing in such a law is that the next Dalai Lama, if born outside their jurisdiction, will be a permanent source of trouble for China. They believe that it will be easier for them to tame the Tibetan people once the Dalai Lama is under their control. That explains why all efforts at dialogue with Dharamsala in the past have been focused only at bringing back the Dalai Lama to China. CCP has been asserting its right to recognize the future Dalai Lama, a thoroughly bizarre claim that was duly slammed by all.
Even the Seventeen Point Agreement signed on 23rd May 1951 in Beijing was done under immense duress as the Chinese had threatened the Tibetan delegation with an all-out armed invasion if the agreement was not accepted by them. What is remarkable is how it is only with the Tibetans that the Chinese communists signed an agreement for incorporating Tibet into the PRC. The need for an agreement reveals a lot regarding the status of Tibet as an independent entity. What needs to be noted is how most of the clauses of the Seventeen Point Agreement were seen to be challenging the authority and status of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government.
In the seventh Tibet Work Forum held for two days in Beijing from 28 to 29 August 2020, President Xi Jinping urged and emphasized to intensify and Sinicize Tibetans and their culture through the “patriotic re-education”. He also emphasized on the need of carrying out more “anti-Dalai Lama Campaigns in Tibet” with the expansion of mass education to promote “socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” Hence, those who refused to renounce Buddhism could face severe consequences.
The 14th Dalai Lama has contributed his whole life for the betterment of fellow Tibetans since he came to exile after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. He had been trying to bring peace in the world for which, he was honoured with Nobel Peace Prize. Since he has reached the age of 85, CCP has started the preparation for the search of 15th Dalai Lama. The Chinese authorities have emphasised that the selection should be within China based on the 200-year old historical process, which is to use the archaic Golden Urn process (draw of lots) to identify the next Dalai Lama and also the new Dalai Lama must be selected with the approval of the Chinese Central government. But the Dalai Lama has been pointing towards a denunciation of this process for a long time. The Buddhist spiritual leader, 14th Dalai Lama has repeatedly pointed out that the Golden Urn process would not apply to his reincarnation, and that the traditional method of recognizing an incarnated lama followed by Tibetan Buddhists should be followed. The Dalai Lama has also stated many times that he will announce clear instructions to be followed, when he will attain the age of 90.
The Chinese government most probably will appoint another Dalai Lama, like it did with the Panchen Lama. Then there will be two Dalai Lamas: one, the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan heart, and one that is officially appointed. If China appoints its own Dalai Lama then the legacy of the Dalai Lama will perish. Henceforth, China will also use its Dalai Lama to influence Tibetans to follow the rules of CCP, and the pious tradition of reincarnation of supreme Buddha in Tibetan Buddhism will be lost. With the TPSA, CCP surely will be blocked by US on appointing their own Dalai Lama. If Chinese Communists get success on appointing their own Dalai Lama like they have appointed their own 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, the new Dalai Lama will never get the respect. The real Lama will be the one that will be recognized under the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
CCP’s trials to appoint 15th Dalai Lama have been criticized by the people of the world. Reincarnation is uniquely Tibetan and no tradition least of all that of an occupying atheist nation, could ever preside over it with any trace of legitimacy. On 7th August, 2019, Lobsang Sangay out rightly rejected the Chinese attempts to induct successor of the 14th Dalai Lama stating that if China plans to have two Dalai Lamas then he will be treated by Tibetans in the same way they treated Gyaltsen Norbu. In April 2019, US Senator Cory Gardner at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Asia Subcommittee said that “the US Congress would not recognize a Dalai Lama chosen by the Chinese government”. He also blamed CCP saying, “Chinese don’t believe in religion and reincarnation, so their move to interfere in reincarnation matter is to destroy the foundation of Tibetan spiritualism to serve their political agenda. Tibetans and the International community will not tolerate this”.
The US Congress has echoed the sentiments of Tibet and sent a clear message to China. The Tibetan administration in exile has also passed resolutions entitling only Tibetans to carry out the traditional practice. Interestingly, to thwart Chinese designs to impose its own choice of Dalai Lama on people of Tibet, similar signs emerging from most of European countries indicate that Xi Jinping’s dream of establishing a ‘socialist’ Buddhism has more hurdles than he can imagine.