My dedication to the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

by Tenzin Jigme, International Tibet Network

Tibetan Buddhism stresses the importance of the teacher as the source of knowledge and the one who guides beings through the evils of the world. This is one reason why Tibetans have such deep faith in reincarnate beings, especially those whose previous incarnations have left a legacy of teachings.

For Tibetans, the Panchen Lama is a highly revered reincarnate being and a religious teacher. The first Panchen Lama and the first Dalai Lama were disciples of Tsong Khapa, the famous founder of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.  From the very first Panchen Lama, this line of reincarnate beings attracted religious followers in Tibet and made important connections that led to the lineage becoming one of most well known and beloved religious leaders in Tibet.

The fourth Panchen Lama, considered to be the greatest teacher of the time, played a pivotal role in the search and recognition of the great fifth Dalai Lama, who consolidated temporal and spiritual power of Tibet. Since that time on, these two reincarnate lamas developed a religious connection, which included playing an important role in finding each others’ reincarnation when possible.

The 10th Panchen Lama shared a special bond with the current Dalai Lama even though the two were separated by political circumstances. The Dalai Lama jokingly refer to the 10th Panchen Lama as the ‘brave one’ because he stayed behind in Tibet and suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s.  After his political position was reinstated in the 1980s, he fought hard to preserve Tibetan identity, including re-instituting Tibetan as the primary language in Tibetan schools.

Some years after the 10th Panchen Lama passed away in 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was six at the time, as the 11th Panchen Lama.  A few days later, on 17 May 1995, Chinese officials took him into custody and for the last 17 years, his whereabouts and well being have remained unknown despite repeated urging from Tibetans and world governments. China installed another boy, Gyancain Norbu, as its choice of Panchen Lama.

Tibetans have dedicated many prayers and songs to successive Panchen Lamas and many of them are collected here.  One of the most famous songs dedicated to the 10th Panchen Lama was composed in exile before he passed away. It is a song about the bond between the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.  It is a sad reminder of the political reality but at the same time a Tibetan belief that there will be brighter days ahead.  It became an instant classic both inside and outside Tibet.

Below is the Tibetan translation of the song.

གནས་­དགུང་­གི་­ཉི་­ཟླ།
The Sun and the Moon

ང་མི་ཡུལ་འགྲོ་དགོས།
སེམས་ཅན་གྱི་ལས་རེད།
ཐུགས་སྐྱོ་སྐྱོ་མ་གནང་།
བརྩེ་བའི་གཅུང་པོ་གསོན།

I have to go to a foreign land,
It is karma of sentient being.
Don’t be sad,
My beloved younger brother.

ངེད་གཉིས་ཀྱི་ལས་རེད།
ཁས་བླངས་པའི་དམ་བཅའ།
ཉི་མ་སྤྲིན་པའི་འོག་ནས།
དྭངས་བའི་དུས་ཤིག་ཡོང་།

It is our Karma,
to fulfill our promise.
From behind the cloud,
the Sun and the Moon will one day reappear.

ང་ཕ་ཡུལ་སྡོད་དགོས།
སེམས་ཅན་གྱི་ལས་རེད།
ཐུགས་སྐྱོ་སྐྱོ་མ་གནང་།
བརྩེ་བའི་གཅེན་པོ་གསོན།

I have to remain in the land,
It is karma of sentient being.
Don’t be sad,
My dear elder brother.

ངེད་གཉིས་ཀྱི་ལས་རེད།
ཁས་བླངས་པའི་དམ་བཅའ།
ཐིགས་པ་བསགས་པའི་རྒྱ་མཚོ།
ཉིན་གཅིག་ཡོང་ངེས་རེད།

It is our Karma,
to fulfill our promise.
If we persevere,
there will be result, one day.

ངེད་སྡུག་བསྔལ་མྱོང་དགོས།
ཚེ་སྔོན་གྱི་ལས་རེད།
ཐུགས་སྐྱོ་སྐྱོ་མ་གནང་།
འཇིག་རྟེན་ཆོས་ཉིད་རེད།

We have to endure hardships,
It is our karma.
Don’t be sad,

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