March 28,2017--The first reincarnated Living Buddha
Karma Pakshi is considered to be the first reincarnated Living Buddha in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. According to Tibetan historical records, Dusum khyenpa, the founder of the Karma Kagyu sect, said in his final testament that his reincarnation would happen on earth and told his disciples to search after his death.
Following Dusum khyenpa’s testament, the reincarnated was found and turned out to be Karma Pakshi. This was the origin of the Living Buddha reincarnation system. It is from this moment that the Karma Kagyu sect Buddha reincarnation system began.
The first formally identified Living Buddha
The first formally identified Living Buddha was the second Dalai Lama Gedun Gyatso, who was the reincarnation of Gedun Druppa, a disciple of Tsongkhapa.
There are two influential reincarnation systems in the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism: the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama systems. The Gelug sect adopted the Living Buddha reincarnation system in the middle of the 16th century. The two reincarnation systems both have traditional procedures, including a past life reincarnation prophecy, signs of abnormality before and after death of a Buddha and the oracle of the divine Dharma, which provides main foundation for searching for the reincarnated soul boy.
The first reincarnated Living Buddha chosen through drawing lots in a gold urn
In the 17th century, disputes among different sects of Tibetan Buddhism were fierce. When searching and choosing the reincarnated soul boy, cheating was ever-present. Even after the reincarnated was chosen, some were treated as puppets, some accidentally died and some were all from one large family.
Under such circumstances, emperor Qianlong （1711－1799） was determined to rectify the malpractices present in the Tibetan Buddha reincarnation system. He designed a gold urn and stipulated that when influential Living Buddhas in Mongolia and Tibet passed away and their reincarnated soul boy needed to be found, the names of candidates had to be written on a sign in Man, Mongolian and Tibetan, which should be put in the gold urn. Eminent monks would then draw lots from the urn in front of the Sakyamuni statue at Jokhang Monastery. The drawing of lots was supervised by prestigious Tibetan monks and representatives from the central government. And Tsultrim Gyatso,the 10th Dalai Lama, is the first one chosen by drawing lots in the gold urn.
The unique experiences of these three reincarnated Living Buddhas reflect the different stages of development in Tibetan Buddhism. In 2015, the online query system of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism was formally launched, providing information of more than 1000 Living Buddhas in China.