Tokyo: In a sharp message to China to back off from interfering in the succession process of the next Dalai Lama, the Japanese Buddhist Conference for World Federation has placed on record its position that the Tibetan people must decide the successor of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on the basis of Tibetan culture and history, and not China.

The Japan Buddhist Conference for World Federation is an umbrella organisation that brings together a number of sects of Japanese Buddhism, with millions of followers in Japan and other countries and the letter has strongly voiced objections over China's constant interference in Tibet's religious and spiritual matters.

"His Holiness, Dalai Lama, the 14th turned 87 years on July 6, 2022. The issue of his future successor is gradually gaining attention all over the world. We the monks of Japan believe that Tibetan people must decide upon the next successor based on their Tibetan Buddhist culture and history", reverend Eihiro Mizutani, the Secretary General of Japan Buddhist Conference for World Federation said in the letter while highlighting that China had no role in this.

"PRC, which controls Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is working out the policy which would choose the Dalai Lama's successor under the Chinese government's leadership, based on the 'Tibetan Buddhism Living Buddha Reincarnation Management Law', enacted in the year 2007.

However, the People's Republic of China's national policy is based on communism and is considered non-religious. The Japanese Buddhist Conference said, "Non-religious people deciding the religious leader is contradictory in itself".

It further stated, "His Holiness Dalai Lama stated that 'forceful intervention in the approval process (of next Dalai Lama) by people executing political powers, who did not even acknowledge the very existence of previous or the future Dalai Lamas, is inappropriate'".

The letter by Japan Buddhist Conference for World Federation added that matters related to religion must be in accordance with religious values, hence people who do not possess those religious values, ought not to intervene in such matters. It is valuing the freedom of religious faith (belief).

The relationship between Japan, India and the Tibetans is intertwined with Buddhism, which is one of the major world religions in Asia with a rich history.

Buddhism originated in India in the 5th century BCE, and at its peak was one of the major religions in the subcontinent. However, it gradually witnessed a decline in India, and today, Buddhism accounts for an insignificant percentage of the population. Despite this, Buddhism remains an important part of India's cultural heritage and continues to influence various aspects of Indian society.

Japan Buddhist Conference for World Federation in a letter said, "In response to Indian PM Shri Narendra Modi's call made to His Holiness, Dalai Lama to convey good wishes on the latter's birthday, there was a voice of opposition by the Chinese government stating 'this is intervention'. However, is it not for China to hold back its intervention in matters related to Tibetan Buddhism?", believes the Japanese leadership

It is said that "if religious oppression in Tibet is a fact, then it is a big challenge for human rights, a value shared by most of the countries around the world. His Holiness, Dalai Lama, is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and has been fighting against the Chinese government in a peaceful and non-violent manner."

Japan has a long-standing and deep-rooted relationship with Tibetan Buddhism, and the issue of the Dalai Lama and the status of Tibetan Buddhism has been a topic of interest in Japan.

The Design of the Tibetan Flag was also crafted by a Japanese Buddhist monk, Aoki Bunkyo, who was a military translator. Bunkyo added symbols of the rising sun surrounded by rays to the flag design.

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the Dalai Lama's exile to India, Japan continued to assist the Tibetan government-in-exile. Japan was the first foreign country that the Dalai Lama visited in 1967.

Subsequently, the Dalai Lama's Japan Representative office was established in Tokyo in 1976.

One significant development that has strengthened the relationship between Buddhism in India and Japan is the high degree of appreciation that the Japanese Buddhist leadership has for the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is highly respected by many Buddhist leaders around the world, and his teachings have had a significant impact on Buddhism.

Japanese Buddhist leaders have praised the Dalai Lama for his teachings and his efforts to promote peace and understanding. Monks of Japan firmly believe that Tibetan people must decide upon the next successor based on Tibetan Buddhist culture, tradition and history.

Japan has also been critical of the Chinese government's policies towards Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, with many Japanese leaders and organisations calling for respect for the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people.

In recent years, Japan has also provided support to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people through various means such as providing financial aid, offering asylum to Tibetan refugees and promoting human rights and religious freedom for Tibetans.

The Japanese government has been actively engaging with the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and other international organizations to raise awareness about the situation in Tibet and to advocate for the rights of the Tibetan people.

Japan has also been supportive of the efforts of the Dalai Lama to promote a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue through dialogue and non-violent means. The Japanese government has recognized the Dalai Lama as an important religious leader and has welcomed him to Japan on several occasions.