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Tulku

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In Tibetan Buddhism, a tulku is a reincarnated lama. The most famous example is the Dalai Lama. Believers claim he has existed in 14 incarnations since 1391.

Lineages of tulkus may be interlinked — for example the Panchen Lama traditionally recognizes the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa. In other cases there is no such relationship, but in all cases the potential candidate is vetted by respected lamas who often use tests such as checking if the child can recognize persons or artifacts from his previous life or answer questions only knowable by his former self. As a tulku nears death the people around him listen carefully for clues which may help in finding his reincarnation. Sometimes a tulku will leave a prediction letter describing where they will be found. Prophecies, which may date forward or backward many generations, also play a role.

Tibetologist Françoise Pommaret estimates there are presently approximately 500 tulkus found across Tibet, Bhutan, northern India, Nepal, Mongolia, and the southwest provinces of China.

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