China /

Dalai Lama Names 8-Year-Old Mongolian Boy as Reincarnation of Buddhist Leader

The US-born child’s identity has not been revealed out of concern he will be targeted by the Chinese government

The Dalai Lama has named the 10th reincarnation of the Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. 

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, revealed the 8-year-old boy at a ceremony in Dharamshala, the city in the Himachal Pradesh state of India where he has lived in exile since 1959. Approximately 600 of his followers and 5,000 Buddhist monks and nuns attended the ceremony.

The boy will serve as the religion’s third-highest-ranking spiritual leader. His predecessor died on March 1, 2021. The new Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa is tasked with recognizing the next Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the first and second-highest-ranking leaders of the faith.

The boy’s identity has not been officially disclosed out of concern he will be targeted by the Chinese government. 

Chinese authority has sought to gain influence over the Buddhist faith in recent decades. China annexed Tibet, the traditional home of the Dalai Lama, in 1951 and enshrined the right to choose the next Dalai Lama into its national law.

Six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was named the 11th Panchen Lama. Nyima then disappeared after being abducted with his family by authorities from the People’s Republic of China on May 17, 1995. The Chinse government subsequently announce Gyaltsen Norbu, a then-five-year-old born in Tibet to members of the Chinese Communist Party, was the true Panchen Lama. 

We urge PRC authorities to account for Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s whereabouts and well-being immediately and to allow him to fully exercise his human rights and fundamental freedoms, in line with the PRC’s international commitments,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement marking Nyima’s 33rd birthday. “The United States supports Tibetans’ religious freedom and their unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity, including Tibetans’ right to select, educate, and venerate their own leaders, like the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, according to their own beliefs and without government interference.

India, which shares a 2,000-mile border with China, also has a vested interest in the leadership of Tibetan Buddhism and has treated the Dalai Lama with increasing warmth in recent years. The Dalai Lama has suggested “that he could be reincarnated in a ‘free country’, likely to be India rather than Tibet,” reported The Guardian in 2021. Additionally, “in a direct shot at China” in 2020, “the US revised its Tibet policy to declare that only Tibetans had the right to select the next Dalai Lama.”

The child identified as the reincarnation of the Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa is believed to be one of a set of twins who were born in the United States of America to Mongolian parents.

The twin’s parents are reportedly identified as Altannar Chinchuluun, a university mathematics professor, and their mother, Monkhnasan Narmandakh, a national resources conglomerate executive,” reports NextShark. “Their grandmother, Garamjav Tseden, is reportedly a former member of the Mongolian Parliament.”

The 87-year-old Dalai Lama has predicted he will live to be 113 but has acknowledged a “power struggle” over who will select his reincarnation is already underway. 

Mongolia’s government has not yet commented on the identification of the new Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa.

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