Monday, March 30, 2009

Punching Lamas

Nutshell synopsis:
It's a familiar formula that still never fails to jar and enrage: The Chinese as saviours of that which they have destroyed; protectors of that which they despise.

De-coding the cryptoganda

News from China

There's lots of "Panchen Lama" in the news this week, what with the Chinese government's Serf's Emancipation Day being forcibly observed in Tibet, and their "World Buddhist Forum" featuring their very own child star, the puppet Panchen Lama.

So, looks like it's time for my semi-annual Panchen Lama blog.

A Tale of Two Lamas
People often ask me: "Will the Panchen Lama be the next Dalai Lama?"

First of all, not really, as they're two separate offices. Once you've been recognized as a Panchen Lama, you cannot become a Dalai Lama and vice versa.

Second, depends on exactly to whom you're referring.

The PL usually referred to as the "real" one, Gedun Chokyi Nyima, at left, hasn't been seen since 1995.

The "PL" currently appearing at the Forum is a hand-picked Chinese stand-in, and he would become something like "a new Dalai Lama," if the Chinese government had their way.
A five-year-old boy was chosen by the Dalai Lama as successor to the 10th Panchen Lama in 1995, but he has disappeared from public view since his selection became known. China's critics ... called him the world's youngest political prisoner. (from the Boston Globe)
The Chinese puppet "Panchen Lama," known by Tibetan loyalists as "Panchen Zuma" or Fake Panchen, is being trotted out as the key guest at China's own "World Buddhist Forum."

Conspicious by their absence: all the world's most famous Buddhists, like His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, HH the Gyalwa Karmapa, and Vietnamese Rev. Thich Nhat Hanh, among others.

I wonder whether any of the participants in this "conference" disputed or boycotted the absence of HHDL - as Tutu, DeKlerk and many others are in the case of South Africa's failure to issue Him a visa for an international peace conference?

Of course, we all know it's not safe for the Dalai Lama to go to China. But it seems any real Buddhist leaders worth their mani mantras ought to boycott such a conference being held in China.

Like McCartney's post-Beatles re-education campaign to depict himself (rather than Lennon) as the real "artistic" one, the Chinese government continues to rewrite history and cast itself as a saviour and proponent of Buddhist culture and religion.

Note that many of these "news" stories are from the official Chinese press, such as People's Daily. I give you clips as they are delivered to me by Yahoo News Alerts (Keyword: Buddhist).

Experts: Protection of intangible Buddhist heritage in China significant
People's Daily Sun, 29 Mar 2009 23:13 PM PDT
Buddhist experts attending the World Buddhist Forum over the weekend called for enough attention to the protection and inheritance of the intangible Buddhist heritage. "Buddhist culture is an important part of the intangible cultural inheritage in China"....

What a nice statement. Too bad China was and is one of the prime destroyers of that intangible culture.

In a similar vein:

Chinese Buddhists urge international cooperation in scripture researches
China Economic Net
Sun, 29 Mar 2009 19:23 PM PDT
Buddhist experts attending the World Buddhist Forum here called for international cooperation in researching and protecting the Tripitaka, the encyclopedia of Buddhist culture.

And here are appearances by the stage-managed Chinese Panchen:

China's Panchen Lama criticizes "unscrupulous" foes
Boston Globe Fri, 27 Mar 2009 01:01 AM PDT
The young Tibetan anointed by China as its Buddhist figurehead for the region said Tibet faces assaults on stability from an "unscrupulous" individual, in what appeared to be a thinly veiled denunciation of the Dalai Lama.

Panchen Lama, businessmen weigh Buddhism's impact on business
China Economic Net

Sun, 29 Mar 2009 19:22 PM PDT
Singing, listening and taking notes, the 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, attended a forum Sunday here with businessmen and monks, where they discussed
Buddhist philosophies related to business.

I thought the Chinese kid's name was Gyancain Norbu...??

...and on the stories can tell which news sources are China-approved and which are not by whether they specify "the China-backed Panchen." This Taiwanese paper carefully notes the irony of "officially atheist China turning to Buddhism":

China turns to Buddhism to calm Tibet, Taiwan tensions Sat, 28 Mar 2009 18:18 PM PDT
WUXI, China -- The Beijing-backed Panchen Lama addressed an international Buddhist audience in English on Saturday, as officially atheist China turned to Buddhism as a balm for internal unrest and international tensions.

It's a familiar formula that still never fails to jar and enrage: The Chinese as saviours of that which they have destroyed; protectors of that which they despise.

Related reading: 

Himalayan Tragedy: The Story of Tibet's Panchen Lamas 

1 comment:

John said...
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