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Barbara O'Brien

The Panchen Lama Is Still Missing

By April 24, 2014

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These week Tibetan Buddhists are observing the 25th birthday of His Holiness Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, 11th Panchen Lama, who hasn't been seen since 1995. Tibetans still call him a political prisoner of China, but I suspect it's highly unlikely he and his family are still alive. We can always hope, of course.

If you aren't familiar with this story -- the Panchen Lama is a lama of the Gelug school and the second highest lama of Tibetan Buddhism. The highest lama is, of course, the Dalai Lama. In 1995 His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama identified six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reborn 11th Panchen Lama, and a few days later he and his family disappeared. China chose another boy, Gyaltsen Norbu, and had him enthroned as Panchen Lama later that year. China maintains the fiction that Gyaltsen Norbu is legitimately serving as Panchen Lama, but if you read between the lines of press releases it appears Gyaltsen Norbu is kept sequestered from other Tibetan monks even when performing official ceremonial duties.

One of the Panchen Lama's traditional duties is to choose the reborn tulku of the Dalai Lama, so this whole farce is about Beijing's plans to name and enthrone the 15th Dalai Lama after His Holiness the 14th has died.

April 24, 2014 at 7:01 pm
(1) buddhacrone says:

And to think I used to have a vast respect for the Chinese. It’s so completely sad that they have blown that absolutely. Maybe they weren’t so great historically as I thought. But then, sometimes I’m gullible.

April 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm
(2) george deane says:

I recall that when the Chinese installed their own version of the Panchen Lama one commentator referred to him as the “reincarnated puppet.”

April 25, 2014 at 7:32 am
(3) zen-nurse says:

It’s difficult to condemn an entire country, especially one as large as China, due to the actions of some. But watching China, they seem to be repeating all the mistakes the US made in being an industrial power. I pray for and feel very bad for the average person in China. It is heading for a social/political and environmental disaster. Their proud history is being tramped in the dust.

I feel your pain, buddhacrone.

April 26, 2014 at 4:04 am
(4) Karma Uggie says:

I I think China isn’t perfect either. They still have an xxellent history of brilliant thinkers despite their power mongering leaders attempts at mind and body control

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