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Tibetean Buddhist reincarnation.

Newsgroups: alt.religion.buddhism.tibetan
From: ("John Cleaver")
Subject: Re: Tibetean Buddhist reincarnation.
Organization: Compulink Information eXchange
References: <4h5q25$>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 1996 10:16:01 GMT
X-News-Software: Ameol32
Lines: 48

Sphere observes:

>closest I have found to some sort of mechanism
>for the continued existence of an individual
>self after the death of the body has been in
>the physical objects transformed during the existence
>of the body and the memories of people effected
>during the individual life.

I think a lot of confusion is caused by the Tibetan notion of a 
reincarnating lama (tulku, nirmanakaya).

Tulku means Nirmanakaya, physical manifestation of a buddha. The 
nirmanakaya is a projection. But Tibetan tulkus are *not* buddhas 
(despite the popular presses use of the expression 'living buddha'). They 
are bodhisattvas at some level or other. Ask a tulku, and he will confirm 
this. Therefore it is incorrect to call them nirmanakayas.

The idea that they can project their personality into a future life 
substantially intact seems to me to be rather folklore-ish. It is worth 
noting that when Buddhism first came to Tibet, lineages were passed down 
through families, not through reincarnating lamas. The tulku system 
appears to have been set up in response to some corrupt practices 
appearing in the family lineage system (people inheriting a lineage who 
were obviously not up to teaching and maintaining the lineage). 
Incidentally the family system is preserved in some significant lineages 
- I believe the Sakya Trizin (sp?) lineage is passed down through the 

The confusion arises (in questioning western minds) because the tulku 
system seems to imply that something other than karma can be preserved 
through death, and this seems to contradict the fundamental teaching of 
no abiding self. People have deep confidence in their tulku lama, not 
neccessarily arising from the claim that the lama is a tulku; they then 
have difficulty reconciling the tulku claim with the philosophical 
position that on death, the personality is necessarily destroyed 

It is worth noting that no other tradition than the Tibetan one has any 
similar system, and that there are definitely some aspects of the Tibetan 
traditions that were put in place for political reasons - it's no 
coincidence that the Tibetan establishment has been theocratic for a 
thousand years.


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