• The Panchen Lama

The Panchen Lama (Photo : Getty Images)

According to the Panchen Lama, the second-highest spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, patriotism is the “mission” of religion in China, but greed taints the faith.

Gyaltsen Norbu, who is officially atheist, was chosen to be Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama. He was picked by China to capture the hearts and minds of Tibetans.

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A six-year-old boy was personally chosen by the Dalai Lama to be the successor of the previous Panchen Lama. However, the boy was taken away by authorities, never to be seen again by the public.

The Dalai Lama is Tibet’s highest spiritual leader. He is named by China as a dangerous separatist, trying to make the country fall apart.

"As the retail economy grows, Buddhism has come under attack from commercialization," said the Panchen Lama in his speech at the 5th Session of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Saturday.

"Some places use monasteries as money trees, turn them into family temples, turn them into shopping malls; while some fake living Buddhas and fake monks use dubious Buddhist teachings to swindle believers," he added.

According to the Panchen Lama, "the historic mission for religion at this time is: to love the nation and love faith... and to contribute to achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people."

The Tibetan spiritual leader was talking about the ruling Communist Party’s political objective.

The Panchen Lama’s statement was given amid the controversies in China’s “reconstruction” of Larung Gar monastery. The sacred sanctuary, located southwest Sichuan Province, is one of China’s largest Tibetan monasteries.

The “reconstruction” is a direct attack on religion in China, according to rights groups.

The plan was not to “demolish” the monastery, said Yeshe Dawa, the director of the Department of Civil Affairs of Sichuan Province.

The goal is to “improve the messy surroundings" and turn the monastery into a "formal Buddhist academy," he added.

The Panchen Lama did not bring up the issue in his speech, stirring questions in the people’s minds whether he is for China or for Tibetan Buddhism.