Panchen Lama Blames Commercialism for Destroying Chinese Buddhism

Tibet’s second-in-command spiritual leader the Panchen Lama believes Tibetan culture has one true enemy. Not the Communist leaders in Beijing. But greed.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Saturday, he said that “as the retail economy grows, Buddhism has come under attack from commercialization.

“Some places use monasteries as money trees, turn them into family temples, turn them into shopping malls; while some fake living Buddhas and fake monks use dubious Buddhist teachings to swindle believers. The historic mission for religion at this time is: to love the nation and love faith… and to contribute to achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.”

Gyaltsen Norbu was selected in 1995 by the Chinese government as the 11th Panchen Lama after Tibet’s main spiritual leader the Dali Lama selected a six-year-old boy to assume the role. That boy was later taken and has since been outcast from public view. Although officially Atheist, state officials chose Nrobu to capture the hearts and minds of Tibetans, many of whom continue to accuse the Chinese of destroying their culture. Beijing argues it is only bringing much needed development, but maintains the Dali Lama is a dangerous separatist.

The new Panchen Lama’s comments come as Beijing attempts to “reconstruct” southwest Sichuan province’s Larung Gar monastery, one of China’s largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Critics regard this as an assault on Tibetan faith and an attempt at demolition.

Since choosing the Panchen Lama, Chinese government officials have hoped he would raise to the admiration Tibetans regard the Dali Lama with.

After the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following the Chinese army’s “peaceful liberation” of Tibet in 1950, the 10th Panchen Lama remained and was initially regarded as a collaborator. However, some reports indicate his criticism of Beijing landed him in jail for some time before being freed in 1977. He eventually died in 1989.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.