Buddhas need a passport

A new law was passed in China that brings a whole new meaning to the notion of ‘red tape’. The communist nation’s State Administration of Religious Affairs recently decreed that from the first of September 2007, all reincarnated beings must carry a valid permit. In a mind-achingly tedious list of official requirements, reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist monks must jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops before being issued with a state-sanctioned ‘Living Buddha permit’ granting them permission to exist.

According to the regulations, unlicensed reincarnation ‘shall be dealt administrative sanction’, but the exact penalties have not been revealed, which has prompted some to speculate that punishment could include multiple life sentences.

The move is clearly designed to ensure that the succession of the next Dalai Lama and other high level religious positions is controlled by the Chinese Government and not ‘under the dominion of any foreign organization or individual’.

But it is not yet clear whether it is part of a new initiative by the Government to control revivals of dead rock bands such as the recent reincarnation of _The Police_ or the more insidious efforts to resurrect _The Spice Girls_. If so, then China may find it has more support from the international community than might be expected.

New Internationalist issue 406 magazine cover This article is from the November 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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