Tulku Conference in Sarnath December 5-8, 1988

The following article is from the Spring, 1989 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only.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

By Tsenten Samdup

Sarnath, a small Indian town, 11 kilometers outside Varnasi, in early December witnessed the largest ever gathering of Tibetan reincarnated lamas. Over 350 reincarnated lamas, abbots and ex-abbots of the four school of Tibetan Buddhism and the indigenous faith-Bon Religionassembled to take part in the Fourth Tulku Conference.

Tulkus, according to Tibetans, are highly realized lamas bound by their bodhisattva vows not to rest in the state of liberation, but to reappear in the world to work for the welfare of all sentient beings.

The Dalai Lama, the manifestation of Buddha of Compassion, the highest of all Tibetan lamas, in his inaugural speech, emphasized the importance of the conference. He assured the lamas that his reincarnation would definitely not be born in the hands of the Chinese and the reincarnation would continue to work towards the welfare of the Tibetans.

All the high lamas belonging to various traditions of the Tibetan religion spoke. A few speakers raised their concerns about Western buddhist students and said that some of the dharma centers in the West looked like hippie centers. Another cautioned about ordaining Westerners into the sangha order, as many de-robe after a year or so.

A long life prayer offering was made to His Holiness, lead by Sakya Dagtri Rinpoche the head of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism on the third morning.

That morning, after serious discussions, the hall was suddenly filled with deep chanting prayers, lead by the chant master from Drepung Loseling from South India. During the long life offering, all the lamas wore their hats, which differed according to their school and the traditions of their respective lamas. Most of them represented the Gelug School.

Suggestions called for more interaction amongst the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and dharma centers in the West. One suggestion was that there should be a set procedure for selection of reincarnate lamas. The shortage of dialectical debating teachers was also raised. The CIHTS with its existing facilities promised to allow any monastery or dharma center access to its library, with its collection that includes rare Tibetan Buddhist manuscripts from throughout the world.

The reincarnated lamas and abbots submitted a memorandum to the Dalai Lama, appealing him to continue as the Tibetan leader and reconfirming their confidence in his leadership. Shamar Rinpoche, one of the present highest lamas of the Karma Kagyu said, There is not a single Tibetan more capable than the present Dalai Lama to lead the Tibetans both politically and religiously at this point in Tibetan history.

He said that the announcement of reincarnation of Karmapa would not take place for another year, as the coming year is a bad year (black year according to Tibetan astrological calculations).

The Dalai Lama in his concluding address said the Tibetans' civilization was very ancient, as old as 6-8000 years. This he said, was confirmed by an archeologist friend of his, who examined the ruins of a relic found in Chamdo, the third largest town in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama reiterated that the Tibetans must look for an alternative leadership, as he was getting old. He said that everyone knows that he cannot live forever. He appealed to each of the lamas and said that as responsible Tibetans, each one must work towards the freedom of Tibet.

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