If the Chinese communists were inclined to pop music, chances are that John Lennon’s lyrics ‘Strawberry Fields/nothing is real’ might grab their fancy. Now, in a feat that would put master illusionists to shame, the Chinese, god bless their souls — sorry, goals — have pulled out of the hat the 11th Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu. Those following matters Buddhist may well ask, ‘What happened to the 10th Panchen Lama, he whom the Dalai Lama himself anointed?’
Well, once you saw him, now you don’t. And our inscrutable comrades are not too chatty on his whereabouts. By an even more deft sleight of hand, the new mystic monk will deign to attend to matters corporeal by joining the National People’s Congress in the rank of a cabinet minister. ‘All the better to guide the Ministry of the Lord’ could be the official explanation. It may have struck you as a little odd that the atheist communists are taking more than a passing interest in spiritual goings-on. The Panchen Lama’s reincarnation, it is believed, can only be recognised by one steeped in Buddhist scriptures like the Dalai Lama. But our friendly mandarins in Beijing have developed a far better method than looking to the skies for signs and scouring the earth for extraordinary developments that indicate divine qualities in a potential Panchen Lama. In true, gentle Confucian tradition, they have adopted the ‘because we-told-you-so’ method.
No arguments with that unless you want to get yourself a strict exercise and diet regimen as a guest of the state. Now if things don’t work out with the 11th Lama, you may be rest assured that our lads in Beijing have got a few more on the assembly line. They’ll just wait for the right moment and, abracadabra, along will come the 12th. Enough to make you see red. Or is it blue? We’ll wait for word on that from Beijing.