Panchen Lama Passes Away in Tibet

The following article is from the Autumn, 1989 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

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The Tenth Panchen Lama, Tenzin Tinlay Jigme Choekyi Wangchuk, suddenly passed away on the evening of 28th January 1989, at Tashi Lhunpo, his traditional seat in Tibet. Fifty years old, he is reported to have died of a heart attack.

The Panchen Lamas are widely regarded as human emanations of Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light, just as the Dalai Lamas are regarded as emanations of Avalokiteshvara. The Panchen Lamas have a long-standing, close relationship with the Dalai Lamas in working for the welfare of all living beings in general, and the people of Tibet in particular. The fact that the Tenth Panchen Lama stayed behind to suffer and struggle for the well-being of the people and culture of Tibet, while the Dalai Lama exerted his efforts from the outside is a contemporary example of their common purpose.

The Panchen Lama's Lama's faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama remained unflinching throughout his life. For instance, during a large organised public gathering before the Jokhang Temple at which, in 1964, he was supposed to denounce the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama is known to have said: I must pronounce my firm belief that Tibet will soon regain her independence and that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will return to the Golden Throne. Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

He was soon denounced and spent fourteen years in prison in China, where he was tortured like an ordinary Tibetan and even reported dead in 1969. It was not until 1978 that he re-emerged and resumed an active role in Tibetan affairs. In his last speech at a high-level meeting in Shigatse, while criticising some of the high Chinese officials in Tibet, the Panchen Lama is reported to have said that what Tibet had lost far outweighed what it had gained so far in its recent relations with China.

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