For the first time, China today launched an online system to check the “authenticity” of top Tibetan Buddhist monks, amid growing incidents of fraud involving religious leaders.
The first list of 870 verified Tibetan monks, also known as ‘living buddhas’, was published on the official website of the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
It is the first time information on the country’s religious leaders is accessible via the Internet.
“As a living buddha, I feel genuinely happy about it,” said the 7th Drukhang living buddha Drukhang Thubten Khedrup, vice president of the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) at the launch ceremony.
The online database follows a government white paper in September last year, reiterating that Beijing “has undeniable endorsement right on the reincarnation system” of living buddhas.
Originated in the 13rd century AD, reincarnation of living buddhas is a unique inheritance system in Tibetan Buddhism.
Since 2010, the BAC began to issue certificates to living buddhas.
The system was put in place to counter fake living buddhas who have been found cheating believers for money and undermining the reputation of living buddhas and Tibetan Buddhism, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
One of the most renowned cases involved Wu Darong, who pretended to be a living buddha and was worshipped by the famous Chinese artist Zhang Tielin.
Wu was later exposed as a fake living buddha, the report said.
The BAC said the system, which can be used both on computers and mobile phones, publishes detailed, accurate information on living buddhas, including photos, names, religion names, monastic titles, date of birth, religious sects, numbers of living buddha certificates and resident monasteries.
The association is continuing its verification of other living buddhas in hopes of creating a complete database.