More than 20,000 Tibetans and well-wishers from around the world gathered this week in China’s Sichuan province to mark the enthronement of the yangsi, or reincarnation, of the former head of the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism.
In a colorful ceremony, a three-year-old boy whose followers believe him to be the reincarnation of Penor Rinpoche, the head of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, was formally enthroned Thursday at Palyul monastery in Palyul (in Chinese, Baiyu) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
He was escorted on arrival Monday in a convoy of traditionally clad horsemen and hundreds of motorbikes and cars to the monastery where various rituals were performed ahead of his enthronement.
Penor Rinpoche, who was born in 1932 in the historical southeastern Tibetan region of Kham, which has largely been absorbed into Chinese provinces, died in March 2009 in India—to which he had fled with a handful of followers when Chinese Communist troops marched into Tibet decades before.
He had vowed to be born again one day in his homeland, Tulku Thubsang, a senior lama at Palyul monastery, said at the enthronement ceremony.
“I remember that when Penor Rinpoche was alive, he had said very clearly that he would be reborn in Tibet,” Tulku Thubsang, said.
Town 'full of people'
Palyul town is now “full of people,” a Tibetan monk from Palyul monastery said.
“My rough guess is that over 20,000 have gathered at the monastery,” the monk told RFA..
Because of the overwhelming numbers of the crowd, only devotees from abroad have been allowed inside the monastery itself, while a huge TV screen has been placed below the monastery so that others can view the ceremonies, he said. “I am at the monastery now, and it is difficult to pass through without pushing through the crowd,” he said.
The size of the crowd now gathered in Palyul to greet the young lama is “unprecedented,” agreed a county resident named Dorje Tseten.
“It is difficult now to walk through Palyul town,” Tseten said, adding, “It is so amazing to witness the joy and devotion being shown at Rinpoche’s arrival.”
“This is the return of a precious gem to Palyul county,” he said.
Convoys of cars, motorbikes
Hundreds of cars and motorbikes accompanied the young lama on his arrival on Monday, one source said.
“Then, over 100 horsemen clothed in traditional Khampa dress, and with detailed decorations on their horses, paraded through the town.”
Ceremonies, including a formal enthronement as the head of the monastery, conducted on Thursday, will continue through the week.
In an unusual move, Chinese authorities have relaxed restrictions on WeChat, a popular social networking site, to allow participants to share photographs and comments on the event with outside contacts, a local source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Government workers are prohibited from participating in the event, though, the source said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.