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The Golden Urn Ritual March 16, 2018

The Golden Urn Ritual

Lot-drawing from a golden urn is a method used in Tibetan Buddhism to select the reincarnated soul of a deceased grand living Buddha. This method was formally introduced in 1792 under the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Since then, golden urn lot-drawing has become an established tradition and widely practiced religious ritual. An exception is the reincarnation of the Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, living Buddha of the Kagyu sect, which is determined by his last words. In both cases, the final selection of a reincarnated soul is subject to approval by the central government. In accordance with the Rules Governing the Reincarnation of Tibetan Living Buddhas, the golden urn method has to be applied in the reincarnation of a living Buddha if his own selection as a living Buddha was determined by using this method. Applications to be exempt from such a procedure should be submitted via religious affairs offices at the provincial (or autonomous region) level to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, or in case of an important selection, to the State Council for approval. Ever since the golden urn method was mandated, the selection of reincarnations has always been subject to the supervision by the central government. Only under special circumstances and upon the approval of the central government can the ritual be dispensed with.