Lama. By @MattJDKennedy

Matthew Kennedy

By Matt Kennedy



During our day out of the studio last week we ended up at a museum and before I knew it I was knee deep in a Buddhist meditation class, which reminded me of a story and the importance of forgetting advertising every now and then.

Lamas, not of the hairy kind (although they might be) this is about The Panchen Lama. For those that aren’t familiar with this story it is a fascinating and somewhat disturbing mix of politics interfering with religion.

The Panchen Lama is highest ranking Lama after the Dalai Lama.

The current Panchen Lama is the 11th reincarnation and can become the Dalai Lama.

The Panchen Lama also chooses the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

An important guy basically.

Now add in that the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama is chosen by the Dalai Lama.


So the latest Dalai Lama, Lhamo Dondrub, known as Lamo, reincarnation number 14, choose 6 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima on 14 May 1995 as the 11th incarnation of the Panchem Lama. Known as Ged.

Got it? Good.

Then Ged gone and got kidnapped.

By the Chinese Government, against the wishes of the Tibetan people.

The Chinese claim he is living happily ever after and that the real Panchen Lama is actually Gyaincain Norbu, known as Guy.

Now on the surface this looks bad. The Chinese government appointing their own spiritual leader in Tibet. A region Lamo believes the Chinese colonised.

But it gets worse.

Remember – The Panchen Lama, Ged or Guy whichever you choose, traditionally also chooses the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

So the Chinese having kidnapped Ged and appoint Guy as the Panchen Lama are now positioning themselves to appoint their own Dalia Lama once Lamo dies, arguably the most important figure in Tibet.

And it gets worse still.

With Lamo aged 80 being ill, receiving treatment in the US it might not be long until we find out how the story ends or indeed begins.

It is yet another example of the huge tensions between religion and politics in the modern world, unpinned by a huge historical context. It is worrying that if China continues to use political violence to suppress religion and non-conformers, that tensions may further intensify.

*Please note this story may contain errors particular in the nicknames of the Lama’s

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