Beijing, Apr 25 - Panchen Lama, being groomed by China to rival exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, today stepped out of the Chinese mainland for the first time to attend an international Buddhist conference in Hong Kong.
The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu will attend the grand blessing ceremony for Lord Buddha's parietal-bone relic flown to Hong Kong today from Chinese city Nanjing, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The 22-year-old Lama will address the China-backed three-day World Buddhist Forum at Hong Kong beginning today.
His presence in Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, is seen as an attempt by Beijing to raise his profile as this is for the first time the young spiritual leader went out of the Chinese mainland.
Jiang Jianyong, vice chairman of the China Religious Culture Communication Association said as an "important religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism and vice chairman of the Buddhist Association of China, the 11th Panchen Lama is highly respected and strongly supported by religious circles and religious believers".
He has attended the previous two world Buddhist forums held in Chinese cities Hangzhou in 2006 and Wuxi in 2009.
Monks and scholars from more than 50 countries and regions will attend the event to discuss the propagation of Dharma teachings and the protection of Buddhist scriptures, as well as exchange ideas on the development of Buddhist education and the promotion of Buddhist charitable efforts, the report said.
China, is nurturing Panchen Lama, regarded in Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy as the second most important spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama, 76. Beijing has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of trying to split Tibet from China, a charge he denies.
Panchen Lama is the member of the influential advisory body the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, (CPPCC) and spends most of his time in Beijing while occasionally travelling to Tibet to visit monasteries.
Raising the profile of the conference, China has also dispatched a rare piece of the parietal bone of Lord Buddha kept at a famous temple in Nanjing for worshipping.
Also this is the first time the remains of Buddha or sarira was sent outside the mainland China. When unearthed, the parietal bone, believed to have been recovered after the cremation of Lord Buddha.
The relic was believed to have been sent 2,500 years ago by Emperor Asoka in order to propagate the religion. The pagoda in Nanjing is believed to be one of tens of thousands of "King Asoka's pagodas" that contain Sakyamuni's (Buddha) remains.
According to ancient Buddhist records, China was once home to 19 of the pagodas, seven of which are believed to have been discovered so far. PTI