China blocks prominent Tibetan lama from preaching

2 Min
China blocks prominent Tibetan lama from preaching

The Chinese government has canceled a Tibetan Buddhist religious event where a prominent lama was scheduled to preach, though organizers obtained permission from authorities in advance, two Tibetans with knowledge of the situation said.

The seventh Gungthang Rinpoche Lobsang Jamyang Geleg Tenpe Khenchen was to give a Kalachakra teaching in Tsoe, or Hezuo in Chinese, in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where he was born, the sources said.

The Kalachakra, which literally means “infinite wheel of time” in Sanskrit, is a sacred event where key Buddhist teachings are passed on to devotees. Only a very few qualified Tibetan Buddhist masters, including the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, can impart such teachings.

The lama is an influential religious figure from Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in Xiahe county, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in Gansu province — part of the region traditionally known to Tibetans as Amdo. In 2004, he was recognized as the seventh reincarnation of Gungthang Rinpoche by the sixth one, Jamyang Zhepa.

The Tibetan title “rinpoche” means “precious one” and is used at the end of the name of lamas who have been recognized as the reincarnation of a great teacher.

“The Kalachakra was scheduled to begin in July in Tsoe, but just when it was about to commence, the authorities canceled it,” said a Tibetan from inside Tibet, who requested anonymity so he could speak freely.

“The Chinese government cited that the month of July marks the 70th anniversary of the instituting of Kanlho prefecture, and therefore, the Kalachakra had to be canceled,” he said, referring to the Tibetan name for Gannan prefecture.

The move illustrates ongoing efforts by Chinese authorities to maintain a firm grasp on Tibetans by suppressing expressions of their Buddhist religion.

It also comes as the ruling Chinese Communist Party seeks to appoint its own Panchen Lama — the second-most revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism who is chosen by the Dalai Lama — as a state-selected proxy. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the legitimate 11th Panchen Lama, has been missing since Chinese authorities abducted him in May 1995.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have strengthened laws to control the behavior of religious teachers in an effort to curb the spread of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, demolished Tibetan religious sites, and closed down religious schools.

The Tibetan source went on to say that the venue and tents for the event had been in place since June, but that “Chinese authorities suddenly banned the Kalachakra for some lame excuses.”

Tibetan Buddhists now hope that the authorities will allow the Kalachakra to be held in August, he added.

A Tibetan who lives in exile said the event was canceled because the Chinese government aims to curb the influence of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan religious teachers.

“The Chinese government is aware that thousands of devotees from many Tibetan areas of Amdo, such as Machu, Luchu, Thewo, Tsoe, Shagdom, Jhamey, Thangkor and other regions, were going to attend the Kalachakra teaching, so the government canceled it to control and restrict these influences,” said the source who declined to be named so he could speak freely.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

The story was updated to say that the Rinpoche was to give a Kalachakra teaching in Tsoe city in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

–RFA report, July 14, 2023