Tibet: Outlaw Buddhism

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

As part of a European campaign to raise awareness of the dramatic situation in Tibet, Buddhist News met with a delegation from the Tibetan parliament in exile to discuss the incessant violence and humiliation of which Buddhists are victims. Accompanied by the Tibetan journalist Tsering Lhamo, the Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende and Kunga Sotop look back on a two thousand year old tradition that is now almost forbidden.

Lhe current Chinese policy of repression mainly targets Buddhist monks. Why is Beijing so afraid of monasteries and temples? Could this be the heart of Tibetans?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: Indeed, Buddhism is particularly targeted through the monks and the nuns, but it is the entire Tibetan population that suffers from the Chinese repressive policy, through the absence of freedom of movement, of assembly, of thought in general.

Mrs. Tsering Lhamo: An example: when parents go to the monastery as part of a party or simply to meditate, they no longer have the right to take their children with them. Similarly, Beijing prohibits Tibetan students and civil servants who work for the Chinese government from absenting themselves during religious holidays to visit sacred places. This is what my father, a retired civil servant from a Chinese administration, experienced: his management had forbidden him to go to a monastery during a religious festival and he was never able to return to a temple until what he dies… The Tibetans are obliged to go to the temples on the sly, when everyone is sleeping, in order to be able to live a minimum of their faith.

Many monks are sent for "patriotic re-education". What does it consist of?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: This is real brainwashing! Monks are conditioned to forget their beliefs and turn away, even deny the Buddhist way, and think only in terms of the greatness of China. For example, we tell them on a daily basis that what he eats, what he wears, etc. is a donation from the Chinese Communist Party. In the end, everything is done to deprive them of their capacity for reflection and free will.

Self-immolations of Tibetan monks have increased in recent years (153 since 2009). What is your position in the face of this desperate gesture?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: It is not easy to position oneself in the face of the violence of this gesture. How to accept it? As a monk, I have two ways of analyzing it: firstly, the people who set themselves on fire did not do so out of selfishness or because they could no longer live like this, but to claim rights for the six million Tibetans living on the Roof of the World. Secondly, the sacrifice of these 153 Tibetans who did not physically attack Chinese people, be they citizens, civil servants or soldiers, demonstrates the strong commitment of our people to non-violence.

Faced with all these abuses, do you fear revolts on the part of the monks, as during the uprisings of 1988, 1989 and 2008?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: Yes, that is a possibility. Since 2008, there have been many other beginnings of revolt, because the Tibetans exhausted, the pressures are more important than ever: the current level of repression is twice as important as in 1988 and 1989, it affects all layers of Tibetan society, on a daily basis, in a direct way (physical violence, imprisonment arbitrary) or insidious, such as the ban on studying in Tibetan after primary school, or the obligation to speak Mandarin at work or in certain monasteries.

“Monks are conditioned to forget their beliefs and turn away, even deny the Buddhist way, and only think in terms of the greatness of China. For example, we tell them on a daily basis that what he eats, what he wears, etc. is a donation from the Chinese Communist Party. In the end, everything is done to dispossess them of their ability to think and their free will. » Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende

On November 14, 2018, the Dalai Lama announced in an interview with Japanese public television NHK that he would convene an assembly of senior Buddhist leaders in exile in order to determine the best method to designate his successor. Isn't there a risk of ending up with two Dalai Lamas: one chosen by the Tibetan community in exile, the other by the Chinese Communist Party?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: In the long Buddhist tradition, there have already been examples where the Dalai Lama himself appointed his successor. It is true that His Holiness the 2011th Dalai Lama mentioned the possibility of convening an assembly of Buddhist clerics in exile to create the legal framework for the appointment of his successor. A few years earlier, in 90, he had announced that at the age of XNUMX, he would bring together Buddhist leaders, from all schools, to determine the best way to proceed. In short, it is a possibility that we take into account. So even if the Chinese government were to enthrone its own Dalai Lama, he would not be followed by Tibetans.

This is the case of the current Panchen Lama, who was enthroned by the Chinese government in 1995. Qhat is the real influence of the religious leaders chosen by Beijing?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende : The Chinese have indeed recognized the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, but if you observe what happens during his travels, you will see that there are many more Chinese officials in the crowd than Tibetans. For our people, the current Panchen Lama is not the one we recognize (1).

Mrs. Tsering Lhamo: I would add that the former Panchen Lama had declared, like the Dalai Lama, that he would only be reincarnated in a free country. Tibetans are not fooled.

The 84-year-old Dalai Lama is considered the symbol, the very essence of the Tibetan nation. What will happen after his disappearance? Is time on the side of the Chinese?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: The Dalai Lama is our father to all, but our fight is above all that for the truth; we are convinced that one day the Tibetans will prevail. Even if in the eyes of the international community, it is very important to have charismatic opinion leaders, this fight is led not by a few people, but by all the Tibetan people, on the spot or in exile.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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