There are few things the Chinese government fears more than people who return from the dead. Especially when the returnees are Tibetan Lamas.
In order to curb the power of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Chinese have banned His Holiness and other living Buddhas from reincarnating without official government permission. This is especially odd given that the Communist government in China is atheist and doesn’t believe in reincarnation in the first place. This would be like the Chief Rabbis of Israel banning Jesus from returning for the Second Coming without their permission: “Look, we don’t believe in him, but just to be safe, let’s ban him… after all what could it hurt.”
Of course the real issue has nothing to do with whether or not reincarnation is true, only whether or not people in China think it is true. It seems that enough do believe to worry the government. So let’s say this makes sense. How does it work?
Pretend you are a living Buddha who dies. So, really you should pretend that you are a dead Buddha. Now you have taken Bodhisattva vows and promised not to enter Nirvana until you have brought all sentient beings there ahead of you, so you have to come back to earth to continue your task, but you need a pass from the Communist Hall Monitor. So where do you find this guy?
Imagine that the Chinese government has set up an Office of Reincarnation Affairs on a lotus plant just three lotuses (lotai?) to the left of the Forbidden City Wal-Mart, but to get there you have to reincarnate which you can’t do without a pass. So you are stuck in limbo, which the Catholics have recently banned, so you are really screwed.
But wait. You are a Buddha and you know that samsara (this world) is nirvana (the other world) are one, so you really don’t have to come back because you never really left because in reality there is no place to go and no time to go there.
So here you are, where you were, dead, but sort of alive, just without a pass saying it is OK for you to be alive. If you walk into the Office of Reincarnation Affairs and say you are back they will kill you because you don’t have a pass, but then you are already dead so that won’t change things and you will still be standing in line in need of a pass. This should totally freak out the apparatchik behind the counter and he will die right there and then of a heart attack. Since he has no idea that samsara is nirvana he won’t be back, so you can take his papers and reincarnate as this guy. Now quit your, no his, job, and get back to saving sentient beings.
A bit complicated, but it seems to work. Who wants to bet that the Dalai Lama comes back before FEMA fixes New Orleans?