Tenzin Gyatso, the future leader of Tibet, is born to a peasant family in Takster, Tibet, on July 6. He will be crowned Dalai Lama at the age of two. The boy was named the 14th Dalai Lama in 1937 after being declared the reincarnation of a famous Buddhist spiritual leader.
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Who is the leader of the Tibetan Buddhist?
In Tibetan Buddhism, a spiritual leader is known as a lama, or Tibetan Bla-ma (“superior one”). Originally applied solely to heads of monasteries or outstanding teachers, the word “guru” (Sanskrit: “venerable one”) is now extended out of courtesy to any respected monk or priest. The phrases “lamaism” and “lamasery” are incorrectly used in the West to refer to Tibetan Buddhism and a Tibetan monastery.
Who is the current spiritual leader of Buddhism?
The 14th Dalai Lama is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is the top monk of Tibetan Buddhism and was traditionally in charge of Tibet's administration until 1959, when the Chinese government assumed control. Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet's capital, was his official residence until 1959.
Which God is Worshipped in Tibet?
Mahakala is the guardian god of Mahayana Buddhism and all Tibetan Buddhist schools. He is represented in a variety of ways, each with its own set of features and characteristics. In certain circumstances, he is said to be the emanation of different entities, such as Avalokitevara (Wylie: spyan ras gzigs) or Cakrasavara (Wylie: ‘khor lo bde mchog). Mahakala is frequently represented with a crown of five skulls, which symbolizes the metamorphosis of the five kles (negative diseases) into the five wisdoms.
The number of arms is the most noticeable difference in Mahakala's manifestations and portrayals, but other features might also differ. For example, Mahakalas in white, with numerous heads, without genitals, standing on varied numbers of various things, carrying various tools, with various adornments, and so on can be found.
What religion is Dalai Lama?
The young Dalai Lama was ordained as a Buddhist monk and transported (without his family) inside the huge Potala Palace (the Dalai Lamas' palace and seat of Tibetan administration), where he began a rigorous monastic education under the guidance of eminent scholars. However, state affairs remained in the hands of the regent, who ensured Tibet's neutrality during WWII. Despite his distance from worldwide affairs, the Dalai Lama heard about it from publications and newsreels, as well as from an Austrian mountaineer.
Is the Dalai Lama Buddha?
His personal situation has reached a critical juncture. The Dalai Lama is seen as a living Buddha of compassion, a reincarnation of the bodhisattva Chenrezig, who gave up Nirvana to aid humanity. Originally, the title exclusively referred to the most revered Buddhist monk in Tibet, an isolated area approximately twice the size of Texas hidden behind the Himalayas. The Dalai Lama, however, has had full political control over the hidden kingdom since the 17th century. That changed with Mao Zedong's conquest of Tibet, putting an end to the present Dalai Lama's reign. He was compelled to flee to India on March 17, 1959.
The leader of the world's most isolated people has become the most famous face of a religion practiced by approximately 500 million people worldwide in the six decades afterwards. However, his influence stretches beyond his own faith, with many Buddhist practices, such as mindfulness and meditation, pervading the lives of millions more around the world. Furthermore, after his banishment, the poor farmer's son, who was once referred to as a “God-King,” has been accepted by the West. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and his life was immortalized in Martin Scorcese's 1997 film. Thanks to supporters ranging from Richard Gere to the Beastie Boys to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who calls him a “messenger of hope for millions of people throughout the world,” the cause of Tibetan self-rule has remained alive in Western imaginations.
However, as the Dalai Lama's health has deteriorated and China's political strength has grown, the Dalai Lama's influence has declined. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which expelled him from Tibet, is now attempting to co-opt Buddhist precepts, as well as the succession process. Despite being officially atheist, the party has shown that it is as adaptable to religion as it is to capitalism, claiming a place for faith in the nationalism that Beijing has reactivated under Xi Jinping. The CCP said in January that over the next five years it will “Sinicize” Buddhism, completing a multimillion-dollar rebranding of the faith as an ancient Chinese religion.
Why is Dalai Lama a spiritual leader?
Dalai Lamas are thought to be the reincarnation of Avalokitesvara, a Buddhist deity and embodiment of compassion. Dalai Lamas are enlightened beings who have opted to postpone their own afterlife in order to serve humanity. In Mongolian, the word “dalai” means “ocean” (the name “Gyatso”comes from the Tibetan word for ocean). “Lama” is the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit word “guru,” which means “spiritual teacher.” The title Dalai Lama roughly translates to “Ocean Instructor,” implying a “spiritual teacher as deep as the ocean.”
Why did China take over Tibet?
The People's Republic of China (PRC) annexation of Tibet, dubbed the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” by the Chinese government and the “Chinese invasion of Tibet” by the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan diaspora, was the process by which the PRC took control of Tibet.
After attempts by the Tibetan government to gain international recognition, efforts to modernize its military, negotiations between the Tibetan government and the PRC, a military conflict in the Chamdo area of western Kham in October 1950, and the eventual acceptance of the Seventeen Point Agreement by the Tibetan government under Chinese pressure in October 1951, these regions came under Chinese control. In the eyes of some Westerners, Tibet's absorption into China amounted to annexation.
The Tibetan government and social structure remained in force in the Tibetan polity under Chinese control until the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when the Dalai Lama fled into exile and the Tibetan government and social structures were dismantled.
Where is Dalai Lama?
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was asked about his reincarnation during a summit of Tibetan leaders in Dharamshala, India, a few years ago. The Dalai Lama urged the monks, religious teachers, and Tibetan officials in the room to gaze into his eyes. He inquired, “Do you think it's time now?”
It was a summit that ended with Tibetan officials deciding that the Dalai Lama would be the sole authority on the subject of reincarnation. China, on the other hand, seized Tibet in 1951 and has maintained strict control over the territory ever since. It believes that only China has the authority to choose the next Dalai Lama, and has even enshrined this right in Chinese law.
The Dalai Lama, who turned 86 this year, has said that speculation about his death is premature (according to his own visions, he will live to 113). However, a power struggle has already begun over who will choose his rebirth once he dies.
“We're looking at the very real possibility that when the 14th Dalai Lama dies, two Dalai Lamas will be named in his place,” Tibetan specialist Robert Barnett said. “One picked in accordance with His Holiness the Dalai Lama's instructions, and one chosen by the Chinese Communist Party.”
China, however, isn't the only one keeping an eye on the Dalai Lama's succession. Tibet has remained a contentious aspect in India's relationship with China, with whom it shares a 2,000-mile border, since 1959, when the Dalai Lama went into exile in Dharamshala, a Himalayan town tucked in the Himalayas. India has complete control over the Dalai Lama's travels both within and outside of the country.
However, as relations with China have deteriorated to historic lows in recent months as a result of deadly border aggression, there has been increased pressure on the Indian government to strengthen its Tibet policy to counter China, including declaring that only the Dalai Lama can choose his successor. Last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished the Dalai Lama a happy birthday on Twitter, in a “major shift” from previous policy, and a meeting between the two is scheduled this year, according to the president of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.
The Dalai Lama's successor controversy is likely to have a direct impact on India; one scenario proposed by the Dalai Lama himself is that he could be reincarnated in a “free country,” most likely India rather than Tibet.
Last week, it was revealed that numerous members of the Dalai Lama's inner circle, as well as prominent leaders in the Tibetan Central Administration, based in Dharamshala, had been identified as potential targets for surveillance by the NSO group's Pegasus spyware. According to the evidence, the possible surveillance targets were chosen by the Indian government. The Indian government denies that it is being watched.
India isn't the only country that sees the Dalai Lama's succession as a geopolitical issue. Last year, the US altered its Tibet policy to state that only Tibetans had the right to choose the next Dalai Lama, a direct hit at China.
Each Dalai Lama is said to be a reincarnation of Avalokitevara, the Buddha who epitomizes all Buddhas' compassion. He is the most senior spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as a political leader of the Tibetans at various times in the past and present.
After he dies, a hunt for his reincarnation begins in Tibet, based on signs like where he was looking when he died, which direction the smoke blows after he is burned, and visions translated from Tibet's Lhamo La-tso oracle lake. Search parties are dispatched based on these visions to discover children born around the time of his death who match the visions, and they are then subjected to a battery of tests until the right one is divined. While the majority of Dalai Lamas were born in Tibet, one was born in Mongolia and the other in what is now India.
However, now that Tibet is under Chinese control, the process that led to the discovery of two-year-old Lhamo Dhondup now Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in a small farming community in north-eastern Tibet in February 1940 is unlikely to be replicated. All reincarnations of senior Buddhist Lamas (teachers), including the Dalai Lama, must now be approved by the Chinese government, according to Chinese law. This position was reaffirmed in a Tibet white paper produced by China in May this year, on the 70th anniversary of its occupation of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan parliament in exile, which meets in Dharamshala, have both rejected this. Penpa Tsering is the president of the Dalai Lama's parliament-in-exile, and he collaborates closely with him. “A non-believer, atheist government intruding in Tibetan spiritual concerns is a definite no-no, it cannot be accepted,” he stated. The international community has turned against China. We are convinced that no one will trust their decision.”
The Dalai Lama has also expressed anxiety that his rebirth will be stolen and politicized by the Chinese in “brazen tampering,” and has openly considered reincarnating as a woman or not at all.
The Dalai Lama has proposed three reincarnation choices, each of which is a break from the past. The first is that he will be reincarnated as a child in the conventional manner, but outside of Tibet. The other choices cited even more esoteric Buddhist notions of “emanation,” allowing the Dalai Lama to designate a living successor before his death. He has dismissed the Chinese government's proposed process for determining his rebirth, which entails drawing a name from a “golden urn.”
While the Dalai Lama was formerly simply a spiritual leader for Tibetans, he today has a worldwide following and is considered a celebrity. Any attempt by China to meddle in his rebirth would almost certainly result in a global response.
The matter is not viewed as urgent by the Tibetan leadership; aside from a brief cancer scare, the Dalai Lama is said to be in good health and has stated that he will begin considering his reincarnation choices after he approaches 90.
“If the Chinese are truly interested about reincarnation, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has suggested many times in joke that they should look for Mao Zedong's reincarnation first, Deng Xiaoping's second, and then possibly the Dalai Lama,” Tsering said.
While there has been no official communication between the Chinese and Tibetans since 2010, Tsering confirmed that back channels between the two sides remained open, and that the Tibetan leadership and the Dalai Lama were now pushing for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to visit Tibet and China for the first time since his exile.
Tsering, on the other hand, made it clear that the Chinese government would not negotiate on who would be the next Dalai Lama. “Reincarnation is a decision that the individual who will be reborn must make. As a result, we would advise the Chinese leadership to first study Buddhism,” he stated.
The Chinese government, on the other hand, is already laying the basis for the next Dalai Lama's appointment. According to Barnett, the Chinese Communist Party covertly formed a committee of 25 senior government individuals in January to begin the selection process. “We also know from personal testimonies that the Chinese have spent the last ten years wooing individual Lamas inside Tibet, offering them free flights to China and promising them that if they back Beijing, they will not be prosecuted,” said Barnett. “It's proving to be incredibly successful.”
The preparations appear to be a Chinese attempt to prevent the chaotic events of 1995, when the Dalai Lama announced that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a six-year-old boy, was the next reincarnated Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, without consulting the Chinese authorities. Nyima vanished three days later and has not been seen since. Most Tibetans reject the Panchen Lama who was installed in his place by the Chinese government.
The Chinese government's apparent eagerness to choose and control the next Dalai Lama is also perceived as a reaction to the current spiritual leader's persistent popularity, which has weakened their authority over Tibet. Despite significant “re-education” and propaganda programs, as well as the prohibition of any depiction of the Dalai Lama within Tibet, many Tibetans privately revere him.
The Chinese government has often accused the Dalai Lama of “separatist” actions, holding him responsible for Tibetan protests such as self-immolations and uprisings like that in 2008.
“The Chinese government's desire for a reincarnation of their choice demonstrates that they regard the institution as important enough to be owned and managed in order to finally resolve the Tibet issue,” said Amitabh Mathur, a former Tibetan affairs adviser to the Indian government. “This is largely due to the 14th Dalai Lama's remarkable personality and the power he still wields over Tibetans. As a result, they are desperate to have their own Dalai Lama.”
Who is Shiva in Buddhism?
The British Library owns a five-volume series of Ofudaalbums, from which we've featured a few pieces in earlier AAS blog entries. One of these included a photograph of Daikoku, which drew the eye of the British Museum's East Asian Money Curator. She pointed out several intriguing coin-shaped charms featuring Daikoku and Ebisu images.
Daikoku and Ebisu are not only two of Japan's Seven Deities of Good Fortune, but they have also served as significant votive gods for providing good fortune in response to Japanese prayers since the dawn of time. They are thought to be guardians of the land's and sea's natural resources, and while one holds an annual gathering of eight million gods, the other guards their empty shrines. Daikoku and Ebisu are sometimes assumed to be father and son, however there are a variety of different reasons why they are linked together.
Ebisu is the deity linked with sea items, while Daikoku is the tutelary god of farming. This combination includes practically all conceivable food sources, which is one of the most important factors in human society's evolution. Because Japan has historically been a country based on agriculture (rice) and fishing, wishing for abundant rice harvests and good fish catches was firmly ingrained in people's daily lives and attitudes.
Daikoku is seen riding on rice bags, while Ebisu is represented with a fishing rod and a large fish, and these images directly represent their roles: guaranteeing a good harvest and a great catch of fish. These were not, however, their primary responsibilities. When we trace the history of Daikoku and Ebisu back to ancient traditions, we see that their very existence is a story of perpetual change.
In truth, Daikoku is a hybrid of the Japanese Shinto god kuninushi and Shiva, one of Hinduism's most important deities. What was Shiva's method? “How did “The Destroyer” become this merry joyful figure with a great bundle of goodies on his back?
The solution has something to do with Buddhism's growth throughout East Asia. Many sutras were translated into Chinese by Chinese monks who traveled to India, the birthplace of Buddhism, to learn about the origins of the Buddha's doctrines. Because Chinese is an ideographic language with no phonetic symbols, early Chinese scholars had to match every unusual foreign term with the closest Chinese ideograph equivalent.
As one of the deities defending the Buddha, Shiva was integrated into Tantric Buddhism. Shiva's avatar is Mahkla, which means “huge” Plus “darkness or blackness” in Chinese and corresponds to the ideographs + (Dà hi). Shiva was therefore converted into Dàhi tin in the Buddhist pantheon, a courageous guardian of Buddhism against all demons who oppose Buddha's virtues.
When Shiva = Dàhi arrived in Japan, he was not only welcomed as a Buddhist Deva, but he was also combined with a Japanese divinity. The Japanese Shinto god kuninushi can be phonetically transcribed as Daikokunushi, which sounds extremely close to Dàhi in the Japanese phonetic reading ‘Daikoku.' In Japan, Buddhism and Shinto beliefs are intertwined and have affected each other over time, resulting in a mingling of the two. As a result, Daikoku can be both a Buddhist Deva and a kuninushi avatar.
kuninushi is the god of the completed world between heaven and hell, known in Japanese as ‘Ashihara no Nakatsukuni,' which literally means ‘Ashihara no Nakatsukuni.' “The physical land of Japan is represented by the “middle country of reed beds.” Kuninushi constructs the landmass and communities, establishes farming, and cares for the sick. He dwells in Izumo and blesses all excellent connections. All Japanese gods gather at his enormous temple once a year for an annual meeting to report to one another – sort of like a divine summit meeting!
There are a few notable exceptions, such as Ebisu. He stays at his own shrines to keep an eye on those who are praying and to keep an eye on the empty shrines where the gods have gone to the great temple in Izumo.
Ebisu is a Shinto god from Japan who has never been mixed with other religious deities. Because Japan is surrounded by water, ancient Japanese people naturally worshipped the sea. Marine flotsam is frequently used to represent Ebisu. He is the god of what the sea brings forth and represents visitors from across the sea. Hiruko is frequently related with Ebisu.
Hiruko was born to Izanagi and Izanami as an inadequately formed kid while they attempted to construct the land of Japan. Hiruko lacked the necessary bodily structure to become an island like Awaji or Shikoku. He was thrown into a small boat and abandoned at sea. Hiruko made it through the ordeal and washed up on the beach. Hiruko became associated with sea visitors bringing forth marine riches as a result of this mythology, and Ebisu was later identified as Hiruko.
Ebisu is also linked to Kotoshironushi, one of Kuninushi's sons who enjoys fishing and has a strong connection to the water. In kuninushi's negotiations with Upper Heaven (Takamagahara), Kotoshironushi was a major god in reaching an agreement to pass on the job of ruling Japan to the Sun Goddess's offspring. In exchange, kuninushi demanded that a large shrine be built in Izumo in his honor. As a result, when all the other gods are gathering at his father's shrine, Ebisu, who is affiliated with Kotoshironushi, performs an essential role in patrolling.
Daikoku and Ebisu continued to flourish and create Japan, delivering a diverse range of land and sea produce that resulted in wealth accumulation and societal change. Daikoku and Ebisu, the major guardian deities of happiness and good fortune, appear frequently in the form of charms or amulets, which makes sense to the Japanese – and anyone interested in Japan and its culture.
This essay first appeared on the Asian and African Studies blog of the British Library.