The Concept of Reincarnation in Tibetan Heritage: The life and Legacy of the 14th Dalai Lama by Dr. (Ms.) Kalsang Wangmo

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The Concept of Reincarnation in Tibetan Heritage: The life and Legacy of the 14th Dalai Lama by Dr. (Ms.) Kalsang Wangmo


(Assistant Professor)
Department of Far East Languages
Central University of Jharkhand
Brambe, Ranchi- 835205
Jharkhand (INDIA)


The doctrine of re-incarnation is intrinsic to the Tibetan system of Buddhism. There has been a long history of choosing recognized re-incarnations or Tulkus for the position of ecclesiastic hierarchy in Tibet. The successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lama after the 5th have held the position of temporal and religious head of Tibetans till now. The present Dalai Lama is the 14th in line. In the due course of time and with the global scenario in flux, the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama as an institution has become circumspect. Hence this paper seeks to examine and interrogate with the paradoxes concerning tradition and modernity implicit in the concept of reincarnation in Tibetan culture and heritage with reference to the core Mahayana ideals and the legacy of the 14th Dalai Lama.

Keywords: Reincarnation, Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism, Rebirth

Since the 13th century all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism have relied on the concept of reincarnation[1] as a prime method of succession for high Lamas[2] . This has conventionally involved a series of rituals: signs left by the predecessor, consultations with oracles and verification tests in order to identify a child as the recently deceased lama’s reincarnation. Given the centrality of reincarnation to Tibetan leadership and thus the legitimacy of Tibetan polity, it has long been a political as well as religious practice.

This practice came about after centuries of influence of Indian Buddhism that had great influence as a cultural model over the entire Central Asia. Since 7th-8th centuries many Indian Buddhist masters such as Padmasambhava, Shantarakshita, Virupa, Dharmapala, Atisha systematically introduced Mahayana tradition of Buddhism[3] in Tibet.

Consequently, four major traditions: Nying-ma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Kadam associated with lineages coming down from one or two Indian Buddhist Masters were formed and in the 14th century a great prolific Tibetan personality, Tsongkhapa (1357-1417) went into the monastic reforms of the era, brought about a renaissance synthesizing the existing four Tibetan Buddhist Tradition[4] , effects of which reverberate even through present day architecture of Buddhism in Tibet, after 600 years of establishment of Ganden Monastic University. Tsongkhapa’s reforms were based on the thoughts of Atisha’s Kadampa school which sought to transform the traditional Tantric based practices more dialectic and purely based on Buddhist Philosophy. He formed a new tradition called Gelugpa (the followers of the perfect virtuous path) which became popularly known as Yellow hat tradition that had a monastery built in the name of Gaden (Place of Joy) in 1409. The Gelugpa tradition later became the more dominant tradition in Central Asia with major repercussions on the political history of Tibet and significantly influenced the cultural history of Central Asia[5]. Subsequently, Gelugpa brought about changes in the system of leadership succession from a hereditary based succession to a reincarnation. Thus the origin of the institution of Dalai Lama[6] was the zenith of a long process of adaptation between the Lay Nobility and the Buddhist Clergy.

The system of reincarnation adopted as a process of leadership succession by the Gelugpa tradition in the beginning of 15th century replaced the basic hegemony of the nobility. The rightful reincarnation or Tulku[7] began to be accepted as a manifestation of the Avalokiteshvara, the Boddhisattva of Compassion (Phags-pa Chenrezig in Tibetan). It was in Tibet, along this revolutionary transformation of the 14th century, the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and the origin of its institution is associated and its relevance has continued till date. [8]

In the institution of Dalai Lama [9], the religious and political power coalesce in a characteristically Tibetan way. Thus the historical line which begins with Gedun Drupa [10], disciple of great reformer Tshongkhapa continues till the 14th Dalai Lama today. It establishes a Tibetan Buddhist theological continuum of several centuries where Buddhist values and political policies are deeply intertwined to the extent that Tibetan political philosophy is termed chos srid gnyis Idan or religion and politics combined. The Dalai Lama as both a spiritual and temporal head of Tibet is emblematic of the intermeshing of Buddhist values and political policies.

Between the 17th century and 1959, the Dalai Lamas were both the religious and political leaders of Tibet and headed the Lhasa based Tibetan government. This intertwining of political and spiritual legitimacy formed the central part of Tibetan politics with the government being constituted of a diarchy of equivalent ecclesiastical and secular offices at the level of administration. [11]

Looking at this significant enmeshment of Buddhist values and the debate over Tibetan leadership crisis in the wake of Dalai Lama’s reincarnation statement and China’s response, Fiona McConnell has challenged conventional trans-positional mappings of secular modernity and religious modernism onto Chinese and Tibetan leadership respectively and called for more critical engagements with Buddhist philosophical concepts like reincarnation, compassion, altruism, middle path and non-violence. By exploring questions of legitimate leadership in the specific case of Tibetan Buddhism, McConnell has argued that a focus on central Buddhist philosophical tenets have the potential to open up productive new lines of enquiry in ‘religious geopolitics’ which have often been overlooked by the West.

Averring with McConell, one can also argue that while opening up questions around political leadership and religious succession, contesting sources of political legitimacy, the conceptual boundaries of the secular and religious, the traditional and the modern need to be blurred. That the debate over reincarnation carries not only political but spiritual and geopolitical connotation. In exile both religion and the figure of the Dalai Lama continue to be central unifying elements for Tibetan nationalism and play key role in a number of aspects of exile politics.

This includes Buddhist values being enshrined at the core of the 1963 Draft Constitution for Future Tibet[12] , Buddhist prioritisation of cooperation over competition underpinning exile democracy (Ardley 2003; McConnell 2009) and the central role of Dalai Lama in uniting and leading the community. Traditional religious values like the Middle Way[13] approach also inform the ‘foreign policy’ of Tibetan government in exile that illustrates the Buddhist principle of seeking a path of moderation and reconciliation than confrontation.

Therefore it is important to talk about the relevance of Buddhist moral values and ethics and also to place the contemporary context of reincarnation into a historical framework connected with Tibetan Buddhist theology. As mentioned earlier, the lineage of the Dalai Lama’s successor has been recognized in Tibetan tradition with Gedun Drub being recognised as the reincarnation of 2nd Dalai Lama Gedun Gyatso and with the establishment of the Gaden Phodrang Labrang (Trust) in the 15th century. Sonam Gyatso was third in the line to be given the Dalai Lama’s title and Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, the fifth Dalai Lama in 1642, formed the Gaden Phodrang Government[14] and became the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.

A sequence of veritable reincarnations in the lineage has been recognized as the Dalai Lama for more than over six centuries now since Gedun Drub’s advent[15]. Dalai Lama’s declaration in his own word, “I have now voluntarily brought this to an end, proud and satisfied that we can pursue the kind of democratic system of government flourishing elsewhere in the world. In fact, as far back as 1969, I made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda. Therefore, while I remain physically and mentally fit, it seems important to me that we draw up clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception.” [16] To comprehend the declaration, it is important to understand the recognition of Tulku system[17] and the significant concepts behind it.

Further, it is also essential to acknowledge the reality of previous and after births, in order to understand the concept of reincarnation or the phenomenon of Tulkus or any sentient beings who are born again in this present life continuing from their past lives and born after death. Except the Carvakas, an adherents of philosophy based on materialist movement, the concept of continuous rebirth is acknowledged by most of the schools of Philosophy in ancient Indian spiritual Traditions. Although a few modern thinkers on the premise of it being noumenon –that one cannot see them deny rebirth or past and future lives, though many do not jump into such clear cut conclusions based on this.

Even though most of the religious traditions agree on the process of rebirth, they do differ on the views of what it is that takes rebirth or transferred, how it is born again, and how it continues through the transitional time and space between two lives. In some religious traditions the potential of future life is accepted while the prospect of past lives is rejected. Buddhists believe that once one achieve liberation from this vicious cycle of existence by conquering one’s karma and destructive emotions [18], one will be free from being reborn again and again-hence, there is a closure to this cycle of existence being reborn through accumulative karma and destructive emotions.

However, majority of the Buddhist schools of philosophy do not adhere to the believe that the mind stream comes to an end therefore so long as you are a practicing Buddhist, it is necessary to accept past and future rebirth[19] . Rebirth is a direct experience for those who can recollect their past lives but most ordinary being could not recollect their past lives as it transit through a series of rebirth, death and intermediate state are somewhat esoteric in nature, it needs evidential logic[20] to conform past and future live.

Many different logical arguments and the Buddha’s word and its subsequent commentaries are found to authenticate the existence of before and after lives.[21] The two ways in which rebirth [22] is taken after death are; 1) Rebirth which happens as a result of the effect of destructive emotions and Karma and, 2) Rebirth which takes place by the power of prayers and compassion. These later superior beings are the Bodhisattvas, who after achieving the path of seeing, are reborn through the power of their prayers for benefitting others and compassion for sentient beings. The Tibetan system of authenticating reincarnations is based on a method of examining on the memory of past lives.

Besides, the basic Mahayana concept of Boddhisattva renouncing the Nirvana and reincarnating for the sake of awakening of all beings was retained, followed with procedural variation from precedent set by Karmapas in 13th century A.D. the Tibetans Buddhist traditions have adopted the concept of reincarnating hierarchs, lineage of bodhisattva of Compassion, Avaloketesvara.[23] Before the establishment of Buddhism, the theory of before lives and after lives were evident in Tibet even during the indigenous Bon tradition in Tibet. The introduction of Buddhism in Tibet conforms the Tibetans’ believe in the theory of past and future lives.

Since that time onwards, there have been many reincarnated spiritual lamas who endorsed the Dharma, and the Buddhist tradition based on teacher student relationship, flourished in all parts of Tibet. It is evident from the many available authentic indigenous Tibetan texts and scriptures like Mani Kabum [24] and the Books of Kadampa [25] Disciples, which were reckoned by the glorious, unparalleled Indian master Atisha Dipankara in Tibet in the 11th century, tell stories of the manifestations of the bodhisattva of compassion, the Arya Avalokitesvara.[26]

Nevertheless, the existing tradition of official acknowledgement of the reincarnations of Buddhist masters started in the beginning of the 13th century with the formal confirmation of Karmapa Pagshi as the manifestation of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa by his adherents following with his prediction. Eventually, the lineage had sixteen Karmapa incarnations followed by the seventeenth present Karmapa over nine centuries. Likewise, in the 15th century, the formal recognition of Kunga Sangmo as manifestation of Khandro Choekyi Dronme is followed by over ten incarnations successively of Samding Dorje Phagmo. [27]

Gradually, this system of recognizing reincarnation of the Tibetan Buddhist masters spread over other Tibetan Buddhist traditions; Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Bodong, Jonang and Gelug as well as Bon tradition in Tibet. Among the Tulkus recognized as reincarnation in Tibet consists of monastic practitioners as well as both Male and Female lay tantric practitioners. The sole purpose of reincarnating in next birth is to fulfill and carry on the predecessor’s unaccomplished activities for the Dharma and beings.

Though it is important to take into account the historical context and the theological manifestation of the concept of reincarnation, we cannot ignore the political reality behind the concept.

The traditional concept of reincarnation [28] entails a system that calls for finding signs of divinity in a child who is chosen to be the rightful successor of the previous Lama. Though the 14th Dalai Lama in his statement [29] regarding reincarnation he emphasized it as a process rooted in Buddhist traditions, it also demonstrates the agency of the Tibetan spiritual leader to employ these religious rituals in response to contemporary conditions. His statements implies that for the first time in six centuries, the successor of the Dalai Lama could be an emanation (sprul-ba) rather than a reincarnation. [30]

The concept of emanation tends to shift the temporal and special parameters of succession and resolves the problematic interim period between a regent and a Dalai Lama. As the 14th Dalai Lama voluntarily relinquished a 400year old tradition of power, his role has significantly changed from being a temporal and religious authority to a spiritual authority. This decision raises issues that address the relationship between ‘secular modernity’ and ‘religious tradition’ and the questions of where legitimacy lies and how it is constituted. [31]

However, the 14th Dalai Lama has for long time being engaged in modernizing the theocratic system by separating the monastery and state at highest level of government and generating awareness around the world about the Tibetan Culture and Buddhism. Moreover, the 14th Dalai Lama has always strived for disseminating the core values of Buddhism in Tibetan tradition through his books, conferences, discussing cultivation of wisdom and Compassion in public talks and leadership across the globe. His consistent effort in promoting the traditional Buddhist precepts of Compassion, Altruism, Peace and Ahimsa etc. The 14th Dalai Lama has had a greater impact on world peace for which he was also awarded the Noble Peace Prize in the year 1989. [32]

Infact, sociologist like Weinstein and Sorokin make a strong case for the importance of altruistic behavior in order for humanity to overcome its current problems. Writing in Sorokin’s tradition, Weinstein argues that we may not survive as a civilization without the development of more altruistic behavior. This gives immense importance on the necessity of Altruistic behavior globally, the core essence of Buddhist behavior. Kathryn G. Schuyler proposes that future sociological research in the area of altruistic behavior should address the Tibetan Buddhist contribution.

According to her, a Tibetan Buddhist way of life integrates an altruistic orientation with the complexity of life and the society. Tibetan Buddhist scholars have been articulating a concept of boddhicitta for roughly 1,200 years and training the practitioners systematically. This legacy has been carried on by the 14th Dalai Lama who has served as a major catalyst for interest in altruism and compassion. Altruistic mind or boddhicitta wishes to awaken all beings from the suffering and lead to enlightenment. When this feeling of boddhicitta does not have primacy, leadership grows ineffective and no worldly intelligence can compensate for its absence.

Buddhist teachings show us that if the leaders attempt to generate societal transformation, they should focus more on taming their emotions, attachment and fears, to get a positive and effective impact of their effort. It also proposes a simple contemplative awareness as the source of highest wisdom, higher than all mundane wisdom. It is in from this wisdom that compassion, love for all, and a sense of universal responsibility are born, and vice-versa. An inclusive viewpoint is connected with the feeling of wellness.

There is growing evidence that in some Buddhist practitioners, the very act of concern for others’ wellbeing creates a state of wellbeing within oneself. This is reflected in the life of the 14th Dalai Lama who has faced extreme hardship and political turmoil during his reign. But as he points out that he is still essentially happy despite such adverse circumstances. From a Buddhist viewpoint, talking about compassion cannot be much different from talking about wisdom; it’s seldom that these words are used separate and independent. Compassion is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others” as per the Oxford dictionary entry. Sanskrit and Pali word is Karuna.

Though Compassion and Karuna very much describe the very same thing, it is important to realize that the Buddhists’ use of word ‘compassion’ is much larger, universal and intrinsic, so that it does not arise from, say, misfortunes of others, or it does not arise for ‘specific’ others, for that matter, instead, it goes on to form an integral part of an attained nature, and its expression, that is, to be compassionate, is no more restricted to people or beings who suffer, instead, the expression encompasses the entire universe, animate and inanimate.

In words of Nagarjuna ‘Great compassion penetrates into the marrow of bones’. The 14th Dalai Lama has been a great proponent of compassion as a virtue - “My religion is kindness”, in his own words[33] . Wisdom and Compassion, the Buddhist philosophy of middle path, merely sets a seeker en-route to be able to accept and appreciate the two jewels it has on offer.

This is probably why Buddhists have very often talked at length on these virtues, only trying to describe the profound experiences of being compassionate, for it is all the more difficult to understand for the one who hasn’t developed the understanding, or haven’t had a direct experience. The 14th Dalai Lama says further, "According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive -- it's not empathy alone -- but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and loving-kindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is loving-kindness). " [34]

It would be interesting to note that, in Buddhists view, deciphering most of the profound philosophical logic would be of no use, until it leads to developing and experiencing compassion, for compassion (and thus wisdom) is more fundamental. From the 14th Dalai Lama’s lectures on Meaning of life– “In Buddhism, the vehicles, or modes of practice, are generally divided into Great vehicle and the hearer vehicle. The Great Vehicle is primarily concerned with the altruistic compassion of helping other, and the Hearer Vehicle is primarily concerned with the non-harming of others.

Thus the root of all of the Buddhist teachings is compassion. The excellent doctrine of Buddha has its root in compassion, and the Buddha who teaches these doctrines is even said to be born from compassion.” [35] Buddhist logic and the encyclopedia of interpretations and commentaries are merely a means to the end; a path paved towards the highest ethics, namely wisdom and compassion; the jewels which cannot be attributed to a particular religion or tradition. Contemporary Buddhism, along with contribution from western thinkers, seems to see this argument.

A genuine Buddhist practitioner would never be interested in labelling any act Buddhist, let alone one of compassion. In the Buddhist teachings, compassion is universal. Even Mother Theresa has said, "Religion has nothing to do with compassion." And yet there is a very special flavour that the Buddhist teachings can bring to the understanding and experience of compassion, no matter what one’s religious affiliations may be. It is said that the Buddha Shakyamuni himself did not suddenly achieve enlightenment from the efforts of one lifetime; rather it was the merit accumulated from a thousand lifetimes of selfless acts that created the ground for his ultimate enlightenment. [36]


In the context of the 14th Dalai Lama, instead of looking at reincarnation through a narrow lenses as a phenomenon which only means a transfer of religious legitimacy and power, it could be seen as a metaphor for renewal of Tibetan Buddhist principles of compassion and altruistic behavior. Buddhist values and ethics do not lose their relevance with age rather they become more and more enlightening as the world grows more complex every day. Tibetan Buddhist view and experience would shed a light on a critical understanding of the impact of altruism within society.

Such an understanding would lead to both individual development and societal change. A study of systematic methods enshrined in Buddhist philosophy by applied social scientist can prove to be a rare source of panacea for humanity.

The 14th Dalai Lama is making every effort to bring materialistic science and inner science of Buddhism together along with his endeavour in preserving the Buddhist culture and restoring belief of the Tibetan people. He has been a political and spiritual head or figure who has always worked harder on bringing democratic reforms in the Tibetan exile polity. Besides being a spiritual and temporal figure for the Tibetans, he can also be the traditional wise man, a personality who incarnates Buddhist spirituality and ethical values as symbolic of World Peace which a society needs to guide it into the times of flux and degeneration of Core Humane Values and Moral Ethics.


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  • 15. Levitt, Heidi M. ‘The Development of Wisdom: An Analysis of Tibetan Buddhist Experience’. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. Spring 1999 vol. 39 no. 2
  • 16. McConnell, Fiona. ‘The Geopolitics of Buddhist Reincarnation: Contested Futures of Tibetan leadership’. Area, Volume 45, Issue 2, June 2013
  • 17. Nagaraj, Anil Kumar Mysore, Nanjegowda, Raveesh Bevinahalli, and Purushothama, S. M. ‘The mystery of reincarnation’, Indian Journal of Psychiatry (Official Publication of the Indian Psychiatry Society). 2013 Jan; 55(Suppl 2): S171–S176.
  • 18. Otero, Maria T. ‘The Dalai Lama, Buddhism and Tibet: Reflecting on a Half- Century of Change’. Journal ‘Student Pulse’. 2010. Vol. 2 No. 4
  • 19. Shakapa, Tsepon W.D. ‘Tibet: A Political History’. Yale University press, New Haven & London, 1967
  • 20. Tr TW, Rhys Davids CA. ‘Digha Nikaya: Dialogues of the Buddha’. Vol. 3. London: Pali Text Society; 1899 -1921.
  • 21. Tuttle, Gray; Schaeffer, Curtis R. ‘The Tibetan History Reader’. Columbia University Press. 2013.
  • 22. Williams P, ‘Tribe A. Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition’. Routledge; 2000.
  • 23. Tulku, Thondup. ‘Incarnation: The History and Mysticism of the Tulku Tradition of Tibet’. Boston. Shambhala Publications. 2011
  • 24. Tuttle, Gray (ed.). ‘The Tibetan History Reader’. Columbia University Press. 2013
  • 25. Walpola, R. ‘What the Buddha Taught?’ London: Gordon Fraser Limited; 1990.


  1. Anil Kumar Mysore Nagaraj, Raveesh Bevinahalli Nanjegowda, and S. M. Purushothama ‘The mystery of reincarnation’, Indian J Psychiatry (Official Publication of the Indian Psychiatry Society). 2013 Jan; 55 (Suppl 2): S171–S176.
  2. The reincarnation system (tulku), a distinguishing characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism, is based on the theory that Buddha's soul never vanishes, but reincarnates in succession to lead his followers and to accomplish his mission. One of first reincarnations among the Buddhist monks in Tibet is Karma Pakshi. In 1193, before Dusum Chenpa, a religious leader, the first Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, passed away, he told his disciples that he would return as a reincarnated being. His disciples soon led a search for his infant reincarnation in accordance with his will. Several years later, Karma Pakshi turned out as the first reincarnation in Tibet and trained to be Karma Kagyu leader. After Karma Pakshi's reincarnation, the reincarnation system was adopted by other sects gradually to keep a consistent religious leadership. By applying the system, heirs for hundreds of Gyalwas (Living Buddhas) were selected, among whom the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama are the most prestigious. The Yellow Hat sect, Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism also applied the system to hand down the titles conferred on the third Dalai Lama and the fourth Panchen Lama to keep their established religious and secular title and power.
  3. a) Mahāyāna literally means "Great Vehicle" is one of two (or three, under some classifications) main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. The Buddhist tradition of Vajrayana is sometimes classified as a part of Mahayana Buddhism, but some scholars may consider it as a different branch altogether
    b) The most distinctive teaching of the Mahayana is that the great compassion that is an inherent component of enlightenment is manifest in bodhisattvas (enlightenment beings); these beings postpone nirvana (final enlightenment) in order to assist and guide those beings still suffering in the cycle of rebirths. They employ what the Mahayana calls "skillful means," which is the ability to know the particular mental and emotional capacity of each individual, and to deliver guidance appropriate to those capacities. The Mahayana developed a vast pantheon of bodhisattvas, Buddhas, and other powerful beings, and a complex array of devotional and meditational practices directed toward them.
  4. The four schools associated with Indian masters are Nyingma or Old sect with which Padma Sambhava and Shanti Rakshita are associated; Sakya or White sect associated with Virupa and Dharampala; Kargyu known as Red Sect with Naropa and Maitriyogi; the Kadam with Atisha. Based on a teaching given by the 14th Dalai Lama in Finland, 1988. Published in Dzogchen and Padmasambhava, in the nine yanas chapter. The 14th Dalai Lama explains: Four major traditions—Nyingma, Kagyü, Sakya and Gelug—emerged as a result of the earlier and later dissemination of the Buddhist teachings in Tibet, and also because of the emphasis placed by great masters of the past on different scriptures, techniques of meditation and, in some cases, terms used to express particular experiences. What is common to all the four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism is their emphasis on the practice of the entire structure of the Buddhist path, which comprises the essence of not only the Vajrayana teachings, but also the Mahayana practices of the bodhisattvas, and the basic practices of the Fundamental Vehicle. In India, based on differences in philosophical standpoint, four major Buddhist schools of thought emerged: Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Yogachara and Madhyamaka. All four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, however, uphold the philosophical standpoint of the Madhyamaka School, and to that extent, there are no fundamental philosophical differences between them.
  5. Shakapa, Tsepon W.D. Tibet: A Political History, by, Yale University press, New Haven & London, 1967
  6. Glenn H. Mullin, "Faces of the Dalai Lama: Reflections on the Man and the Tradition," Quest, vol. 6, no. 3, Autumn 1993, p. 80.
  7. The tradition of tulku or "emanated incarnation" is a term borrowed from basic Mahayana Buddhist doctrine. In Buddhism the doctrine of reincarnation is accepted as a self-evident truth and all schools accept it in one form or another. Until one reaches a certain level of spiritual stability one can fall into any one of the six realms of existence: the hells, the ghost realm, the animal world, the world of humans, and the realm of the anti-gods and gods. Through one's practice of the Buddhist path wisdom increases and the forces of ignorance are transcended and one acquires an ever-increasing control over the wheel of rebirth. This will eventually lead to the power that enables one to take birth not out of the compulsive force of karma but in accordance with one's conscious aspiration and altruistic concern to benefit the world. Such a being is known as a bodhisattva and is characterized by the ability to enter the world at will in order to guide those ready to be trained.
  8. Thubten Jinpa. "Introduction". The Book of Kadam. Wisdom Publications. ISBN 9780861714414. Perhaps the most important legacy of the book, at least for the Tibetan people as a whole, is that it laid the foundation for the later identification of Avalokiteśvara with the lineage of the Dalai Lama.
  9. For detailed study of the Institution of Dalai Lama, Refer to: Schwieger, Peter.The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China: A Political History of the Tibetan Institution of Reincarnation. Columbia University Press, 2015
  10. Gedun Drub, who was a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founded Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tsang and took care of his students. He passed away in 1474 at the age of 84. Although initially no efforts were made to identify his reincarnation, people were obliged to recognize a child named Sangye Chophel, who had been born in Tanak, Tsang (1476), because of what he had to say about his amazing and flawless recollections of his past life. Since then, a tradition began of searching for and recognizing the successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas by the Gaden Phodrang Labrang and later the Gaden Phodrang Government.
  11. Fiona McConnell (University of Cambridge), The Geopolitics of Buddhist Reincarnation: Contested Futures of Tibetan leadership. P. 163. 1 Area, Royal Geographical Society. Volume 45, Issue 2, June 2013
  12. Constitution of Tibet (1963) [p.108] Constitution Of Tibet Promulgated By His Holiness The Dalai Lama March 10, 1963
  13. A policy or course of action which avoids extremes: The eightfold path of Buddhism between indulgence and asceticism. TheEightfold Path; Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. The eightfold path is the fourth of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths; the first element of the eightfold path is, in turn an understanding of the four noble truths. It is also known as Middle Path or Middle Way.
  14. The Ganden Phodrang or Gaden Podrang was the Tibetan regime or government that was established by the 5th Dalai Lama with the help of the Güshi Khan of the Khoshut in 1642. It continued in Lhasa until the 1950s
  15. 3/30/2015 Reincarnation: The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, (The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
  17. Tulku, Thondup (2011).Incarnation: The History and Mysticism of the Tulku Tradition of Tibet. Boston. Shambhala Publications.
  18. Due to ignorance, negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. One then takes rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day today lives. They familiarize themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence.
  19. Walpola R. London: Gordon Fraser Limited; 1990. What the Buddha Taught; p. 51. Buddha reportedly warned that this experience can be misleading and should be interpreted with care. He taught distinct concept of rebirth constrained by the concepts of anattā, that there is no irreducible atman or “self” tying these lives together, which serve as a contrast to Hinduism, where everything is connected, and in a sense, “everything is everything.”
  20. In brief, they come down to four points: The logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.
  21. The practice of recognizing who is who by identifying someone’s previous life occurred even when Shakyamuni Buddha himself was alive. Many accounts are found in the four Agama Sections of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Jataka Stories, the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, the Sutra of One Hundred Karmas and so on, in which the Tathagata revealed the workings of karma recounting innumerable stories about how the effects of certain karmas created in a past life are experienced by a person in his or her present life. Also, in the life stories of Indian masters, who lived after the Buddha, many reveal their previous places of birth. There are many such stories, but the system of recognizing and numbering their reincarnations did not occur in India.
  22. Tr TW, Rhys Davids CA. Digha Nikaya: Dialogues of the Buddha. Vol. 3. London: Pali Text Society; 1899 -1921. In Buddhist doctrine the evolving consciousness (Pali: samvattanika-viññana) or stream of consciousness (Pali: viññana-sotam), upon death (or “the dissolution of the aggregates”) becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation. At the death of one personality, a new one comes into being, much as the flame of a dying candle can serve to light the flame of another. The consciousness in the new person is neither identical to nor entirely different from that in the deceased but the two form a causal continuum or stream. Transmigration is the effect of karma (Pali: kamma) or volitional action. The basic cause is the abiding of consciousness in ignorance (Pali: Avijja, Sanskrit: Avidya): When ignorance is uprooted rebirth ceases.
  23. Thubten Jinpa. "Introduction". The Book of Kadam. Wisdom Publications. ISBN 9780861714414. Available textual evidence points strongly toward the eleventh and twelfth centuries as the period during which the full myth of Avalokiteśvara special destiny with Tibet was established. During this era, the belief that this compassionate spirit intervenes in the fate of the Tibetan people by manifesting as benevolent rulers and teachers took firm root.
  24. Remarks on the Mani Kabum and the cult of Avaloketesvara in Tibet by Mathew. T.Kapstein (Tuttle, Gray (ed.). ‘The Tibetan History Reader’. Columbia University Press. 2013 p.89)
  25. Thubten Jinpa. "Introduction". The Book of Kadam. Wisdom Publications. ISBN 9780861714414. Perhaps the most important legacy of the book, at least for the Tibetan people as a whole, is that it laid the foundation for the later identification of Avalokiteśvara with the lineage of the Dalai Lama
  26. Tuttle, Gray; Schaeffer, Curtis R. (2013). The Tibetan History Reader. Columbia University Press. p. 335. ISBN 9780231513548. In Atiśa’s telling, Dromtön was not only Avalokiteśvara but also a reincarnation of former Buddhist monks, laypeople, commoners, and kings. Furthermore, these reincarnations were all incarnations of that very same being, Avalokiteśvara. Van der Kuijp takes us on a tour of literary history, showing that the narrative attributed to Atiśa became a major source for both incarnation and reincarnation ideology for centuries to come." From: "The Dalai Lamas and the Origins of Reincarnate Lamas. Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp" (Tuttle, Gray (ed.). ‘The Tibetan History Reader’. Columbia University Press. 2013, p. 335, p.348, p.)
  27. Dowman, Keith. The power-places of Central Tibet: The Piligrim’s Guide, 1988. P. 268 ‘Samding Dorje Pagmo is the highest female incarnation in Tibet and third ranking person in the hierarchy after the Dalai lama and Panchen Lama’
  28. Williams P, Tribe A. Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition. Routledge; 2000. p. 4. “The Buddhist concept of reincarnation differs from others in that there is no eternal “soul,” “spirit” or “self” but only a “stream of consciousness” that links life with life. The actual process of change from one life to the next is called punarbhava (Sanskrit) or punabbhava (Pāli), literally “becoming again,” or more briefly bhava, “becoming.” The early Buddhist texts discuss techniques for recalling previous births, predicated on the development of high levels of meditative concentration.”
  29. Fiona Mc Connell, The Geopolitics of Buddhist Reincarnation: Contested Futures of Tibetan leadership…p.166. Area Volume 45, Issue 2, June 2013
  30. As Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said: “Reincarnation is what happens when someone takes rebirth after the predecessor’s passing away; Emanation is when manifestations take place without the source’s passing away.”
  31. Fiona McConnell, The Geopolitics of Buddhist Reincarnation: Contested Futures of Tibetan leadership…p.163. Area Volume 45, Issue 2, June 2013
  33. Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings, translated and edited by Geshe Thupten Jinpa, Wisdom Publications, 2005, p-49.
  34. Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings, translated and edited by Geshe Thupten Jinpa, Wisdom Publications, 2005, p-49.
  35. The meaning of life: Buddhist perspectives on cause & effect. By Tenzin Gyatso (Dalai Lama XIV), Translated and edited by Jeffery Hopkins, Wisdom Publications, p34-35
  36. Buddhist Acts of Compassion by Pamela Bloom, Joan Halifax, Conari Press, p-1.