You would think it’s impossible to regulate the reincarnation of living Buddhas

Anyone who reads Harper’s magazine knows that the first half of the magazine is usually filled with strange memos — real memoranda — from all sorts of institutions.

They often make for funny, quirky or outright bizarre reading.

Someone handed me a copy of the March 2008 issue, which includes this order from the Chinese government that appears to regulate the process by which Buddhists declare that a particular lama’s soul has been reincarnated in a young boy:

From “Management Measures for the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism,” an order issued last year by China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs. Translated by the International Campaign for Tibet.

The China Buddhist Association will issue living-Buddha permits. When the reincarnated living Buddha has been installed, the management at his monastery shall submit a training plan to the local Buddhist Association, which shall report to the provincial people’s government for approval.

6a00d83451df0c69e200e54f4711008833-800wi.gifLiving Buddhas that have historically been recognized by drawing lots from the golden urn shall have their reincarnated soul-children recognized by drawing lots from the golden urn. Requests not to use the golden urn shall be reported by the provincial people’s government to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for approval.

Once a reincarnated living Buddha soul-child has been recognized, it shall be reported to the provincial people’s government for approval; those with a great impact shall be reported to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for approval; those with a particularly great impact shall be reported to the State Council for approval. When there is a debate over the size of a living Buddha’s impact, the China Buddhist Association shall officiate.

Reincarnated living Buddhas may not reestablish feudal privileges that have already been abolished.

Applicants to be reincarnated living Buddhas may not be reincarnated if the provincial people’s government does not allow reincarnations.