BEIJING — China launched an online system to check the authenticity of living buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism on Jan 18, as a growing number of fraudulent buddhas swindle money.
The inquiry system can be found at the official website of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, www.sara.gov.cn, and www.tibet.cn. The first group of 870 verified living buddhas was published on Jan 18.
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.
He said it is an effort to promote transparency at the association and regulate reincarnation issues for 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.
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 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.
Originated in the 13th 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.