Atheistic China claims 'right to reincarnate' Dalai Lama

China's Communist Party is officially atheist, but that has not stopped it from making some impassioned claims on the afterlife.

PTI| Updated: Mar 13, 2015, 23:43 PM IST

Beijing: China's Communist Party is officially atheist, but that has not stopped it from making some impassioned claims on the afterlife.

Some of the strongest language at this week's annual national congress has been reserved for the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader.

The fury is over his claim in recent interviews that he may not be reincarnated, ending the Dalai Lama's seven-century lineage.

His comments undercut Beijing's plans to pick a China-friendly successor to the Dalai Lama after he dies. China's stance: The Dalai Lama doesn't control the next life. We do.

Tibet's former governor, Padma Choling, told reporters this week in Beijing that the Dalai Lama wants "to contend with the Chinese central government for the right to reincarnate."

"Can he decide when to cease to reincarnate? That's impossible." Padma said.

Zhu Weiqun, a senior government adviser, followed up in similarly caustic language, declaring Wednesday that "the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama has to be endorsed by the central government, not by any other sides."

He blasted the Dalai Lama's refusal to bend to Beijing's political demands as a "dual betrayal" to China and his faith. He said the religious leader displayed a "very unserious, very disrespectful attitude" by suggesting he might be reincarnated as a foreigner, a woman or even a bee.

"Is there anyone on earth who takes this sort of attitude toward his own reincarnation?" asked Zhu.

China's remarkable claims regarding the extent of its authority underscore the party's grim determination to control a faith and a religious leader with enormous influence over Tibetans.

"It is meant to make the Dalai Lama wholly subordinate, in all matters, to the authority of the People's Republic of China," said Elliot Sperling, a professor at Indiana University and expert on China-Tibet relations.

There was no immediate comment on China's latest statements from the self-declared Tibetan government in exile, established after the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Communist troops occupied Tibet by force beginning in 1949, but China claims it has had sovereignty over Tibet for more than seven centuries. Many Tibetans say Tibet was essentially independent for most of that time, paying no tribute or taxes, maintaining an army and waging wars, and operating their own legal and political systems.

Buddhists believe the soul is reincarnated after death in an eventual journey to nirvana, or liberation from the repeating cycle or birth and death. The Dalai Lama is considered an aspect of Buddha whose mission is to help others along the path to nirvana. Tibetan Buddhist tradition holds that a Dalai Lama can exercise some degree of control over how and when his soul is reincarnated.