St. Paul, Minn. (April 22, 2011) – For the third time, Rinpo Lama has elected to employ the traditional Tibetan form of pilgrimage: prostration, unfamiliar to most Minnesotans but well-known to all Tibetans in the hope of awakening the people of his adopted state to the cause of Tibet and the cause of rescuing the Panchen Lama. His first two were in 2008 and 2009.
Rinpo journeyed, laying his body down, one body length at a time, for part of each day starting last Friday on the footsteps of the State’s Capitol in St. Paul and ended his campaign at the Gyuto Monastery on Monday, April 25, to coincide with the 22nd birthday of the once world’s youngest politic prisoner, the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet.
Rinpo Lama is known nationally for his long-distance bicycle rides for the Tibetan cause, from a solo journey from Minnesota to Washington in 2000 to a group ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
In 1995, at age 6, Gendun Choekyi Nyima was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second most important spiritual leader. Shortly thereafter, the young child and his family were detained by the Chinese authorities.
The Chinese government’s motives for keeping Gendun Choekyi Nyima under house arrest are purely political and a means for further controlling Tibetans’ religion and culture. China’s atheist government has installed a different child, Gyaltsen Norbu, in his place. Historically, the Panchen Lama has played a pivotal role in identifying the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and vice versa.
The Chinese government continues to meddle ruthlessly in Tibetan Buddhist affairs in an attempt to exert political and social control over Tibetans through the religious institutions at the center of Tibetan life.
To date, China has denied all requests from the international community to see Gendun Choeyki Nyima, the real Panchen Lama; his whereabouts remain unknown. Every year, on April 25th, birthday of the Panchen Lama, Tibetans and supporters worldwide call for his immediate release and return to his rightful seat at the TashiLhunpo Monastery.