By: Chime Palmo
Since the illegal occupation of Tibet in the 1950s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been in the process of imposing Communist principles upon long standing traditions and practices of Tibetan Buddhism, to control Tibetans who are predominantly Buddhists.
To much of the outside world, the changes have gone unnoticed.
But why does this matter?
The Chinese know that Tibet’s religious principles are the binding forces that have kept the spirit of Tibetan people alive for centuries.
And they know the Tibetan language is the key with which all Tibetan Buddhists can access the original Buddhist teachings in the Nalanda tradition (India).
So can China wipe out the identity of Tibetans?
At present, Tibetans are not allowed to go on kora; a religious circumambulation of holy shrines, and Tibetan children are not allowed to participate in religious activities during their vacations.
The admission of novices to monasteries and nunneries is highly curtailed. Tibetans are not even allowed to pray to the Dalai Lama nor are they allowed to possess his picture.
State agencies directly interfere with the administration of monasteries and nunneries through ‘Monastic Management Committees’’.
And since Day 1 of the occupation, China has been trying to control Tibetan monasteries by destroying most of them, controlling the number of resident monks and forcing patriotic teachings upon monks and nuns.
The recent case of the destruction of the Larung Gar and Yarchen Gar Buddhist Academies is amongst the worst example of Chinese atrocities on Tibetan religious practices.
Larung Gar and Yachen Gar
Larung Gar and Yachen Gar, two of the most important Buddhist academies, located in Serthar county in Kardze, in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) were founded in 1980 and 1985 respectively.
A large number of monks and nuns from different parts of Tibet used to come here to pursue and advance their religious studies.
The establishment of these two institutions was considered a landmark for the revival of Tibetan Buddhism after the massive damage caused during the Cultural Revolution.
The demolition of Larung Gar began after decisions were made by the state authorities during the Sixth Tibet Work Forum Conference and the second National Work Conference in 2016.
The evicted nuns of Yachen Gar and Larung Gar were held captive by the state and not allowed to go back to their academy to study.
Moreover, more than 10,000 monks and nuns were forcefully evicted and put into internment camps for ‘political re-education’ by the state.
During 2017-2018, at least 4,820 Tibetan and Han Chinese monks and nuns were removed from Larung Gar, with over 7,000 dwellings and other structures demolished since 2011.
Expelled monks and nuns were forced to work in road construction projects.
Limiting the numbers of inmates would probably enable Chinese authorities to establish direct control and administration over the facilities, and also help monitor any anti-government activities by the residents, monks and students.
China has long meddled in the religious traditions of Tibetan Buddhists.
Even the process of recognizing the reincarnation of lamas is now being interfered with, and reincarnated lamas have to register their births with state agencies under ‘Order No. 5 Regulations’.
Article 2 of the regulation says that “reincarnating living Buddhas shall not be interfered with or be under the dominion of any foreign organization or individual” and shall be (article 7) “recognized by the provincial or autonomous regional Buddhist Association or the China Buddhist Association in accordance with religious rituals and historically established systems.”
Currently China has been keeping a database of “living Buddha(s)” authorized by the government in complete disregard to the religious traditions and beliefs of Tibetans.
The Panchen Lama is the second-highest Tibetan Buddhist lama, the first being the Dalai Lama.
Gendhun Choekyi Nyima (GCN), the 11th Panchen Lama, was kidnapped in 1995, by the Chinese government at the age of six just after the 14th Dalai Lama recognized him.
At the same time his family was also detained.
Subsequently, the Chinese government installed its own 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, in order to use him as a political tool to control Tibetans and the eventual reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.
The reason behind this was the traditional role of the Panchen Lama in the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.
It has been twenty-five years since the disappearance of GCN, and the Chinese government still lies at international events about his current status.
Only Tibetans in exile can keep fighting for his return, and continue to seek international support, while Tibetans living inside Tibet can do nothing bar feel sad and keep their mouths shut – for it is illegal for them to speak about politics and topics related to freedom, let alone His Holiness the14th Dalai Lama.
However, Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile alike, consider Gyaltsen Norbu as a ‘Fake Panchen Lama’.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
The Chinese government claims the right to name the next reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama escaped to India in 1959, as his life was in danger from the Chinese Communist Party.
Chinese authorities consider religion a poison, and have always defamed the Dalai Lama, but are very interested in his reincarnation.
So much so that they are creating new laws to control the most auspicious- unique parts of Tibetan Buddhism; the reincarnation of a lama.
For the past sixty years, Chinese propaganda has censored international news feeds as well as all forms of social media, in order to cover up the truth and their own lies.
As a result, both Chinese and Tibetans know little of their original histories, and about the Chinese invasion of Tibet. For them Tibet is a part of China.
In an interview (2004) with ‘Time’, the Dalai Lama stated: “the institution of the Dalai Lama, and whether it should continue or not is up to the Tibetan people. If they feel it is not relevant then it will cease, and there will be no 15th Dalai Lama. But if I die today I think they (CCP) will want another Dalai Lama. The purpose of reincarnation is to fulfil the previous life task. My life is outside Tibet, therefore my reincarnation will logically be found outside. But then, the next question: will the Chinese accept this or not? China will not accept (it). The Chinese government most probably will appoint another Dalai Lama, as it did with the Panchen Lama. Then (there) will be two Dalai Lamas: one, the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan heart, and (an)other that is officially appointed”.
Now my own story – according to my own family, my grandfather was a great yogi as well as a traditional healer; he used to treat everyone who approached him free of charge.
During the cultural revolution the Chinese liberation army took him away and put him in prison for several years until he was about to die. He eventually died in his bed.
Everyone knows that he was guilt free.
But such things happened, and he is one of many such examples during the cultural-revolution.
Imagine – every family across the country had to face the same scenario. That is Tibet.
They are not even allowed to recite mantras or any other sorts of prayers, much less own private property. Everyone has to be a slave under China in order to receive daily meals.
The concept of Chinese nationalism and ‘One China Policy’ shapes the young generation’s mindset as well as their lifestyles.
It is therefore assured that the younger generation in Tibet have a different mindset to their elders because Chinese propaganda has been tuning their minds and lifestyle, to the extent that they now hate western and other nations that support human rights and Tibetan freedom.
This is leading to the extermination of traditional Tibetan values and religious practices.
On May 18th, 2020, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo issued a statement, reiterating the United States’ concerns over China’s ongoing campaign to eliminate the religious, linguistic and cultural identity of Tibetan,s including destruction of communities of worship and learning such as the Larung Gar and Yachen Gar Buddhist Institutes.
He also noted that Tibetan Buddhists, like members of all faith communities, must be able to select, educate and venerate their religious leaders according to their own traditions and without government interference.
The recently, passed (December 27, 2020) Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA) 2020 by the US has therefore given hope to Tibetans in that as far as their religion and traditions are concerned they will be taken care of by the global community.
With the passage of the TPSA, Tibetans have been assured that the reincarnation of their Guru – God (Dalai Lama) is also assured.
Now whatever China does to meddle with the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, it will fail, and their appointed Dalai Lama will not be respected worldwide let alone amongst Tibetans.