Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism 2023



Reincarnation, or the belief that consciousness continues after death and is reborn in a new body, is a central tenet of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has named a US-conceived Mongolian kid as the tenth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, the top of the Janang custom of Tibetan Buddhism and the Buddhist otherworldly head of Mongolia. This declaration has taken consideration back to the bigger inquiry of the Dalai Lama’s own resurrection, which is a civilization battle between China and Tibetans over who controls Tibetan Buddhism.

What is the Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism?

1. History of Reincarnation

  • Reincarnation, or the belief that consciousness continues after death and is reborn in a new body, is a central tenet of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists believe in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, known as Samsara, and view reincarnation as a means of continuing spiritual development across multiple lifetimes.
  • The precise origins of the idea of reincarnation are unclear, but it is believed to have emerged in ancient India around 3,000 years ago, with the development of Hinduism and the religious texts known as the Upanishads.
  • The concept of reincarnation also played a role in ancient Greek and Egyptian religions, as well as in some Native American cultures. In ancient Greece, the philosopher Pythagoras is believed to have taught about reincarnation, and the idea was later embraced by the philosopher Plato.
  • In Buddhism, which emerged in India in the 5th century BCE, reincarnation is a core concept and is closely tied to the doctrine of dependent origination, which holds that all phenomena arise in dependence upon causes and conditions. Like in Hinduism, karma is also seen as a determining factor in the nature of one.
  • In Tibetan Buddhism, reincarnation is closely linked with the concept of karma, the idea that one’s actions in life have consequences that determine their future experiences. According to Tibetan Buddhist belief, one’s karma influences the circumstances of their rebirth, including the species, social status, and level of suffering or happiness in their new life.
  • The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is believed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, and his succession is determined through a complex process of searching for and identifying the next incarnation. This process involves various tests and divinations, including the identification of specific signs and characteristics that indicate the child’s connection to the previous Dalai Lama.

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2. Buddhism Schools in Tibet

  • Buddhism became the predominant religion in Tibet by the 9th century AD. Tibetan Buddhism has four major schools: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, and Jonang.
  • Nyingma- The Nyingma school is the oldest of the Tibetan Buddhist schools and is based on the teachings of Padmasambhava, a revered figure who is said to have introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. The Nyingma school emphasizes the importance of meditation and incorporates elements of shamanism and animism into its practices.
  • Kagyu- The Kagyu school is known for its emphasis on meditation and the use of specific techniques, such as the practice of “Mahamudra” or “Great Seal.” The school traces its lineage back to the Indian master Tilopa and his disciple Naropa, and its teachings were later transmitted to Tibet by the renowned teacher Marpa.
  • Sakya- The Sakya school, founded by the philosopher and teacher Khön Könchog Gyalpo, emphasizes the importance of scholarship and the study of Buddhist philosophy. The school’s teachings are based on the “Path and Its Fruit,” a collection of texts that outline the stages of the Buddhist path.
  • Gelug- The Gelug school, also known as the “Yellow Hat” school, is perhaps the most well-known of the Tibetan Buddhist schools. It was founded by the scholar and teacher Tsongkhapa in the 14th century and emphasizes the importance of monastic discipline and the study of Buddhist philosophy. The Dalai Lama is a member of the Gelug school.
  • Jonang- The Jonang school is a smaller school of Tibetan Buddhism that emphasizes the practice of “shentong,” or “other emptiness,” a view that emphasizes the ultimate reality of the Buddha-nature in all beings.

Who is Dalai Lama?

  • The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the traditional political leader of the Tibetan people.
  • The title “Dalai Lama” is a combination of the Mongolian word “Dalai,” meaning “ocean,” and the Tibetan word “Lama,” meaning “guru” or “teacher.”
  • The Dalai Lama is believed by his followers to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas, who have been considered to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
  • The current and 14th Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso, who was born in 1935 and has been in exile from Tibet since 1959 due to the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
  • He is known for his advocacy for human rights, religious harmony, and environmental issues, as well as his teachings on compassion and nonviolence.

What about India’s Association with the Dalai Lama?

  • India has a long-standing association with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. After fleeing Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of Tibetans were given refuge in India by the Indian government.
  • Since then, the Dalai Lama has lived in India and has become a respected figure in the country, with close ties to the Indian political and cultural establishment. He has met with numerous Indian leaders over the years, including Prime Ministers and Presidents, and has been a frequent visitor to the country.
  • India’s support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause has been a source of tension in its relationship with China, which considers Tibet to be a part of its territory and views the Dalai Lama as a separatist. However, India has maintained that it provides support to the Dalai Lama based on humanitarian considerations and has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the “One China” policy.
  • Despite this, India has also provided support for the Tibetan community in India, including funding for Tibetan schools and cultural institutions. The Dalai Lama remains a revered figure in India and has played an important role in promoting dialogue between different religious and cultural traditions.

What about World’s Association with the Dalai Lama?

  • The Dalai Lama is a globally recognized spiritual leader and an important figure in promoting interfaith dialogue, human rights, and nonviolence. He has traveled extensively throughout the world, meeting with leaders from various countries and promoting his message of compassion and peace.
  • Many countries and organizations have recognized the Dalai Lama’s contributions to these causes and have invited him to speak at conferences and events. He has also been awarded numerous honors and awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
  • However, the Dalai Lama’s association with Tibet and his advocacy for greater autonomy for the region has also led to tensions with some countries, particularly China. China has strongly criticized the Dalai Lama and has sought to undermine his influence, accusing him of seeking to split China and promoting separatism.
  • Despite this, the Dalai Lama remains an important figure on the world stage, and his teachings and message have inspired millions of people around the world. He has also played a key role in raising awareness about the situation in Tibet and advocating for the rights of the Tibetan people.


Reincarnation is a central belief in Tibetan Buddhism, with the concept of rebirth and the continuity of consciousness across lifetimes being a core part of its teachings. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth continues until one achieves enlightenment and breaks free from the cycle of suffering. The belief in reincarnation is closely tied to the Tibetan Buddhist practice of recognizing and identifying reincarnate masters or lamas, who are believed to be the rebirths of previous teachers or enlightened beings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Will the 14th Dalai Lama reincarnation?

    Tenzin Gyatso, the top priest of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism, is reportedly intending to declare that he would not reincarnate in order to protect Tibetan Buddhism from attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to regulate reincarnations. However, the office of the 14th Dalai Lama has disputed these rumors.

  2. Do Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation?

    While Theravada Buddhists (from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia) believe that rebirth can sometimes be instantaneous, Tibetan Buddhists hold that there is an intermediate stage known as the bardo that can last up to 49 days. Achievers of enlightenment (Nirvana/Nibbana) do not experience rebirth after passing away.

  3. Who becomes the next Dalai Lama?

    A council of high lamas is established to look for a Dalai Lama’s reincarnation after his death. To aid them in their search, they turn to a variety of signs and oracles as well as the Dalai Lama’s own writings and teachings. When the previous Dalai Lama passed away, they search for a kid who was born around that period.

  4. Will there be a 15 Dalai Lama?

    The 14th Dalai Lama, who is now in office, has offered several potential candidates for the position of the 15th Dalai Lama, but he has not publicly revealed the requirements for the ceremony or the purported mystical signals that would accompany the process of reincarnation.


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