The reincarnation custom is a very old tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The first ever
incarnated lama in the history of Tibetan reincarnation was Karmapa Pakshi. He was
recognised as the reincarnation of Karmapa Dusum Kyenpa some eight hundred years
ago. From this, the custom of reincarnation spread like a fire among the four schools of
This way of selecting Tibetan spiritual leaders made the leadership
succession smooth and by and large provided stable and, in most cases, inspired and
inspirational spiritual leadership.
This tradition of reincarnation of Lama is a very private and personal custom & practice of the Buddhist devotees and preachers. This is a unique bond between the Lama’s and their believers ever since this tradition set off.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there are numerous lamas, tulkus, Rinpoches. And these
individuals were always a reincarnation of their previous forms. Since, His Holiness the
Dalai Lama is the holiest spiritual leader of Tibet, he used to recognise Lamas and tulkus.
Likewise, the masses with their full beliefs accept those Lamas as their legitimate
spiritual guide. Such practice used to go smoothly and created the entire system stable
until the CCP’s involvement.
Revisit the history of the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism, shows many high
lamas or tulkus incarnations spread to different countries who follow Tibetan Buddhism.
The 6th Dalai Lama was born in Tawang.
His Holiness the Jetsun Dampa is considered as the third highest lama in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy and the spiritual leader of the Gelug Lineage. He is the Bodg Khan of Mongolian.
And the 9th Jestun Dampa was born as Jampal Namdol Chokyi Gyaltsen near the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet. This indicates the spiritual linkage between these two countries. As of now, the 10th Jetsun Dampa was already recognised by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. But his identity has been kept as secret due to fear of CCP’s interference. Some experts claim that the Jetsun Dampa becomes the next potential person who could recognise the next Dalai Lama.
Because as of now the Panchen Lama is not there, Jetsun Dampa will be a very crucial figure in this matter. Many people who understand the unique spiritual relation between the Mongolians and Tibetans would consider this fact to the utmost importance. As stated above, the 10th Jetsun Dampa has not been revealed.
China is considered to be interfering by initiating policies and rules concerning
the reincarnation of Lamas. In 2007, it passed a national legislation law with
regards to reincarnation. The law basically excludes any foreign organizations or
individuals from the reincarnation selection process, obviously in an attempt to
legitimize China’s authority and exclude the Tibetan Diaspora on this matter.
Individuals are now required to submit an “application for reincarnation” to
the government approval. According to the new law the next Dalai Lama has to be based on a combination of not just historical rules but also current Chinese Laws. China has continuously stated that any reincarnation must be determined on the basis of the late 18th Century procedure instituted by the Manchu Qing rulers. In 2011, new ordinances were
introduced which stationed party officials at monasteries for direct
The Tibetans who are spiritually connected with His Holiness from ancient times
find China’s claim baseless and unreasonable. His Holiness himself stated that apart
from considering the legitimate methods by senior Lamas and following the old
traditions of selecting Dalai Lama, no recognition and acceptance should be given to
any candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s
Republic of China.
His Holiness has further given a concrete explanation on how the 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. However, for the Tibetans and the believers of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness is their ultimate spiritual guide, so any external interference means nothing.