Why would a Tibetan Bodhisattva choose to be reborn in China?


Picture of Akong Rinpoche, the man who made happen the historic 1991 deal between his Karma Kagyu sect and the rulers of China to repatriate the Karmapa Tulku to Tsurphu Monastery as it came to pass on September 27, 1992, much to the consternation of many a person acquainted with the late Rangjung Rikpe Dorje’s intentions for his lineage in America.

Osel said, “It is kind of weird how most of the time Tibetans only reincarnate as Tibetans.”

“It’s especially strange given the universal compassion engendered in the Bodhisattva vow.”

“Allow me, if I may, to share my thoughts on the subject.”

“You have to begin with the historical reality of succession by reincarnation.”

“It’s the political economy of Tibetans that makes succession by reincarnation practicable for Tibetans as such.”

“As for a Tibetan Bodhisattva choosing to be reborn in China, China supports the political economy of Tibetans insofar as it serves their own political and economic ends as such.”

“In 1991 the Karma Kagyu sect repatriated itself to what once was Tibet.”

“China has since been very good the Karma Kagyu sect.”

“And the Karma Kagyu sect has been very good for China.”

“It makes perfect sense for a Tibetan Bodhisattva to reincarnate as a Tibetan.”

“The benefits of a Tibetan Bodhisattva being reborn as a Mandarin speaking citizen of China are obvious.”

“Thus, despite having in their previous incarnations made a life for themselves in the West, Tibetan Bodhisattvas have chosen to be reborn as Chinese citizens of Tibetan descent.”

“If you believe the Karma Kagyu sect, Rangjung Rikpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa repatriated himself to China.”

“Chogyam Trungpa, too.”

“As did Traleg Rinpoche.”

“All these Tibetan Bodhisattvas chose repatriation to China over being reborn as the children of their followers in the West for a reason.”

“To return to Tsurphu, Surmang, and Thrangu monasteries, their respective monastic seats in present day China.”

“That’s what all this is about, the harmonization of Tibetan and Chinese political economies.”



Filed under Buddhism

2 responses to “Why would a Tibetan Bodhisattva choose to be reborn in China?

  1. Osel Karl

    Nicely put, Bill.

    I guess the question is, is there authenticity within these reincarnations? And is it all just a blending of the Tibetan spiritual industrial complex with the growing Chinese economy?

    If an other generation of Tibetans, namely those of the post-Tibetan diaspora, “choose” to reincarnate in Tibet, especially having no real personal connection with Tibet, this whole thing will appear even more fishy than it already appears.

    The tulku system is a bit of a mess…

  2. Osel Karl

    In a way though, the tulku system is a perfect way of allowing the orthodox quality control monks essentially “reset” any controversial/questionable activities. Succession by reincarnation system has undone much of Trungpa’s innovation and I’m confident it will squash Traleg Rinpoche’s innovations, just as I am sure, the boy who is picked to succeed Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche will be much more subdued.

    Later today Dzongzar Khyentse will talk about whether there can be Buddhism without reincarnation. Not a bad topic, but a better topic would be, can there be vajrayana without the tulku system? The short answer is yes. The vajrayana system flourished in India for centuries before the Tibetan tulku system was invented. One sees no mention of it even in Marpa or Milarepa’s time. It’s all about temporal leadership in a culture that demanded strong central authoritative leadership. But, the tulku system is not inherent in vajrayana.

    Anyway, here is the link to the streaming teachings later today:


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