The 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu, the highest ranking figure of Tibetan Buddhism in China currently, held a head-touching ritual Sunday to bless lamas and other Buddhists in Xigaze, Tibet.
The 11th Panchen Lama conducts abhiseca, a Tibetan strength-giving ceremony by pouring water on heads of Buddhist faithfuls, at the Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery in Xigaze, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Dec. 17, 2005. [Xinhua Photo]
The head-touching ritual in Tibetan Buddhism is done by a Living Buddha to bless other Buddhists.
In Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery, the Panchen Lama's residence in Xigaze, 270 kilometers from the regional capital Lhasa, thousands of local Tibetans and Buddhists from Qinghai, Gansu and other neighboring provinces lined up to await their turn to be touched by the 11th Panchen Lama.
This was the first time the 16-year-old Panchen Lama has blessed such a large number of people at one time at his residence over the past decade.
Just 10 days ago, a ceremony was held at the same monastery to commemorate the 10th enthronement anniversary of the young spiritual leader in Tibet.
At 11 a.m., the smiling Panchen Lama, wearing golden cassock, walked into a newly-built yard in the lamasery and the believers all kowtowed for him with consecrated Hada, pieces of white silk symbolizing luck, in their hands.
The ceremony began after the young Panchen Lama sat at his throne with his legs crossed with several lamas standing at his two sides, chanting sutras.
Lhagba Cering, 63, a retired worker from Xigaze, was the first to receive head-touching by the Panchen Lama.
"I am so excited to become the first receiving the blessing from Panchen Lama," said the old man, adding he came to the lamasery early in the morning with his wife and grandson.
In the long queue moving slowly, there were mothers with baby in arms and young men carrying their old father or mother on their backs. The Panchen Lama showed special concern to them by giving a name to the babies and blessing good health for the old.
Dianzin, 84 old man from Dagzen County, who once received head-touching by the ninth and the 10th Panchen Lamas, was reluctant to leave the lamasery after the ceremony
"It is my great honor to receive the blessing from a third Panchen Lama today," said the old man.
The ceremony Sunday lasted for four hours and more than 10,000 Buddhists took part in the holy ritual.
The past decade witnessed Gyaincain Norbu grow-up from a child to the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He has presided over many religious ceremonies in Tibet as well as Tibetan communities in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Shanxi provinces and Beijing and blessed nearly 300,000 Tibetan Buddhists through the holy head-touching ritual.
"I have taken part in many religious ceremonies presided over by the 11th Panchen Lama over the past decade and I have felt his status keeps rising among the Buddhists," said Tubdian Cewang, a Living Buddha from the Sera Monastery, Tibet's third largest monastery, in the northern suburbs of the regional capital Lhasa.
The ceremony will continue Monday and may last until Tuesday if more believers come.
The 10th Panchen Lama died in 1989 and Gyaincain Norbu was listed as one of the three candidates for his reincarnation in 1995. The boy was born on February 13, 1990 in Lhari County of Nagqu Prefecture in northern Tibet. He was approved by the central government as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in November 1995 after a lot drawing ceremony among the three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
Drawing lots from a gold urn to decide on the final choice of the reincarnation of a high lama is a tradition in Tibetan Buddhism.