Reincarnation


Hundreds of Tibetan religious leaders, the Panchen and Dalai Lamas foremost among them, are believed to be reincarnated upon their deaths. According to Buddhist tradition, a person's Self is not reborn, rather the spark of philosophical knowledge that they possess. Upon the extinction of a venerated lama, parties are sent out to examine children born soon after his death, especially those who display unusually memories of monastic life and unusual intelligence. The areas searched are often determined by directions or hints provided the dead lama or by omens and visions. When the Thirteenth Dalai Lama died, his body was placed, seated in state, facing south. After several weeks, it was discovered that his head had inclined towards the northeast, and this was taken as a sign of what direction to look for his successor. This and other signs led to the discovery of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in Amdo, northeast of Lhasa. When a potential reincarnation is found, the child is tested by monks familiar with the deceased lama. They check to see if the young incarnate recognizes old possessions and has the personality of their past master. In turn, the child may recognize the monks even if they come to him in disguise.


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