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Bhuddist Abbot chosen by lottery:

Posted by kleroterion on Wednesday, 18 June 2008

China tries to be nice to Tibetans – allows a lottery

Abbots to be chosen by drawing names from a traditional golden urn

China revives a Buddhist tradition in Tibet

BUDDHIST HISTORY is being embraced by communist China in a move which is likely to enhance its control of Tibet. A remarkable 18th-century method of choosing senior religious figures within Tibetan society has recently been reintroduced on a larger scale by the Chinese authorities as a way of appointing influential religious leaders in Tibet.

Until now, Tibetan monks have chosen most of their religious leaders (abbots, etc) by combing the land for children who are believed to be reincarnations of previous incumbents. Now the Chinese government has said that all reincarnates have to have state approval and that senior ones have to be appointed through a system that was used back in Manchu limes. The system for senior appointments sees names of reincarnated candidates placed in a 2011-year-old golden urn from which the winning “ticket” (an ivory stick with an individual’s details written on it) is drawn. The Chinese government plans to use a golden urn to help choose all Tibet’s most senior religious leaders. However, there are two golden urns. One is kept in Lhasa in Tibet and the other is in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

The tradition of using a golden urn as an ostensibly divinatory device was introduced by the Manchu dynasty Chinese emperor Qianlong in 1793. However, in many cases, the system wasn’t divinatory at all, because the monks often saw to it that the name of the particular child they had selected appeared on all the ivory sticks in the urn. Despite this, the appearance of central Chinese power was enhanced by the fact that it was the imperial government’s representative who presided over the drawing of the “ticket” out of the urn.

By once again becoming involved in the selection of ostensibly reincarnated religious leaders in Tibet, China’s otherwise totally atheist government is massively expanding the scale on which it engages with a religious system of inheritance-through-reincarnation that goes back even further than the original golden urn ceremony. The tradition began in 1283 when a top Tibetan religious leader died leaving a will stating that, despite death, he would continue as their leader through reincarnation. The leader also left detailed instructions as to where exactly his reincarnated self could be found.

Report by David Keys in BBC History Magazine p9 February 2008


One Response to “Bhuddist Abbot chosen by lottery:”

  1. So the Bhuddists see this as an explicit use of divine intervention to decide who is worthy. Fine. But what if that means that *every* use of the lottery invokes a divine decision? Doesn’t this mean that the use of random-choosing is blasphemous, forbidden to believers unless divinely ordained?

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