1. Who is the Panchen Lama?
Panchen Lama is considered one of the most revered religious leaders of Tibet . The title “ Panchen ”is made up of first two syllables of two words, ‘Pandit’, a Sanskrit word meaning Scholar and ‘Chenpo’, a Tibetan word meaning Great. Therefore it is a title given to great scholars. The lineage of the Panchen Lama dates back to 1385. During the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen, the abbot of Tashilhunpo monastery, was bestowed the title and ownership of the monastery.
2. Who is Gedhun Choekyi Nyima?
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Thinley Choekyi Gyaltsen. He was recognised by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995. He was born to father Kunchok Phuntsog and mother Dechen Chodon on 25 April 1989 in Lhari County in Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) Prefecture in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
3. Where is Gedhun Choekyi Nyima now?
The whereabouts and well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are unknown. On 17 May 1995, three days after His Holiness the Dalai Lama publicly announced Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, the Chinese authorities abducted him and his family. Since then, they remain incommunicado.
4. Why is the Panchen Lama's Lineage important to Tibetan Society?
At various times and places in Tibet’s history, the Panchen Lama’s lineage has played a vital role in Tibetan society. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lamas share a spiritual relationship referred to as the “Sun and the Moon” of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual firmament. The 10th Panchen Lama, in particular, played a significant role in preserving Tibetan culture, tradition and language. He wrote the first major criticism of Chinese policy in Tibet in the form of a 70,000-character petition which he presented to the then China’s premier, Zhou Enlai. His devotion towards the Tibetan people, culture and religion remained intact despite suffering many years of torture and imprisonment under China.
5. What is the Relationship between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama?
His Holiness the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas played a vital role in each other’s life and in Tibet at large. Both lineages of these pre-eminent lamas have not only made tremendous contributions to the spiritual and physical well-being of Tibetans, but also in the socio-economic, cultural and political fields of the Tibetan people in Tibet. The relationship between the two lamas is unique since each lama is not only involved in the search for the other’s reincarnation, but also assumes the interchangeable role as Disciple and Teacher to each other. On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated thus, “Generally speaking, from the point of view of age, the new incarnation of the Panchen Lama becomes somebody who has to continue my work. Since the Panchen Lama has special responsibilities, he is important from every point of view. Therefore, I request everyone to pray for his long life and success …”
6. Why should we be concerned about the 11th Panchen Lama?
The well-being and spiritual upbringing of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are of grave concern for Tibetans. The treatment meted out to such a prominent spiritual person and indeed at such a tender age is unimaginable in the modern world. With flagrant disregard for the international outcry and international law, Buddhist tradition of reincarnation is not respected and used for political ends.
7. How can you help?
Urge China to:
• Receive UN representatives to visit the Panchen Lama and confirm his well-being
• Release the Panchen Lama and all Tibetan political prisoners
• Respect religious freedom in Tibet