In a stunning revelation that is sure to ruffle feathers in Beijing, a young boy born in the United States has been declared by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the third most important spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.
According to The Times, the eight-year-old was recognized as the 10th Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche in a ceremony held in Dharamshala, India, where the Dalai Lama resides in exile.
The child is reportedly one of a pair of twins named Aguidai and Achiltai Altannar, born to parents who hold prestigious positions in mathematics and national resources conglomerates.
The boy’s grandmother is also a former member of parliament.
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The announcement is expected to cause tension with China, which has a history of only recognizing Buddhist leaders who have been approved by their own government-appointed officials.
In 1995, when the Dalai Lama named a new Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in the faith, the child was promptly arrested by Chinese authorities and replaced with a candidate of their choosing.
There are fears that the same could happen when the Dalai Lama himself passes away, as he has predicted that his successor could emerge from another country where Tibetan Buddhism is practiced, such as India, Nepal, Bhutan or Mongolia.
The new incarnation of the Jetsun Dhampa was first announced by the Dalai Lama during a visit to Mongolia in 2016, which drew the ire of China, who threatened diplomatic repercussions if he was allowed to return.
The boy was officially unveiled at a ceremony held on 8 March, where the Dalai Lama declared to his followers that they “have the reincarnation of Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche of Mongolia with us today.”
The Dalai Lama himself was recognized as a reincarnation of the faith’s previous leader in 1937 when he was just two years old.
Since then, he has been a staunch advocate for Tibetan autonomy, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.