Dalai Lama names Mongolian boy as third highest Buddhist spiritual leader

By Murali Krishnan - RFI

A Mongolian boy born in the United Staes has been named by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the third most important spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.

According to media reports, the eight-year-old has dual nationality and is said to have a twin.

He is reportedly the son of a university professor and the grandson of a former Mongolian member of parliament.

Buddhism's spiritual leader

“We have the reincarnation of Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche of Mongolia with us today,” the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, told 600-odd followers at the unveiling ceremony in Dharamshala, the north Indian Himalayan town.

The ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa died in 2012 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and since then there has been a tense wait for his reincarnation.

Analysts say the move to acknowledge him as the rebirth of Buddhism's spiritual leader in Mongolia is likely to anger China.

Chinese authorities had insisted they would only recognise Buddhist leaders who the country's own special government-approved appointees have chosen.

“With this move, the Dalai Lama has finessed the Chinese," Jayadeva Ranade, president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy told RFI.

"The recognition was done quietly and without the Chinese getting wind of the move. It reasserts the Dalai Lama's prerogative to recognise, or authenticate the reincarnate monks.

“This right is something the Chinese government has been trying to usurp.”

Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of China studies at the capital's Jawaharlal Nehru University, pointed out that the Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa is considered to be a crucial leader in influencing the identification of the future next Dalai Lama and other crucial religious issues in Tibetan Buddhism.

“As the Chinese Communist party wants to control and decide about the succession of the 15th Dalai Lama, by invoking a 17th century Qing dynasty practice, the above move not only curtails China's choice but also renews the current Dalai Lama's hold over the pan-Tibetan Buddhism across the globe,” Kondapalli told RFI.

In 1995, when the Dalai Lama named a new Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in the faith, the child was swiftly arrested by Chinese authorities and replaced with a candidate of their own.

Today, he is the vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China and seen in monasteries across Tibet, spreading pro-China messages.

Implications of the move

Alka Acharya, honorary director of the Institute of Chinese Studies, maintained that the identification of successors in the pantheon has become an intrinsic element in the politics and the power dynamics of the primary contestation between China and the Dalai Lama, and therefore Tibet.

“It is unlikely that this matter will cause any major shake-up in the Buddhist world in the short to medium term. The Mongolian clergy which will have to endorse the announcement and will be subject to the larger China -Mongolia statist equation,” Acharya told RFI.

“China is determined to have complete control over the succession of the Buddhist religious clergy.”

China does not want the Dalai Lama to have anything to do with identifying the reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist Lamas, including the next Dalai Lama.

Should the current Dalai Lama, 87, die without naming his successor, the role or opinion of the just appointed Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa could be crucial, as a large number of Tibetan Buddhists do not acknowledge the China-recognised Panchen Lama.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in early 1959 from the Tibetan capital Lhasa after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

He has since worked to draw global support for linguistic and cultural autonomy in his homeland.