“In China, tensions rising over Buddhism’s quiet resurgence”

USA Today comes out of the left field with a good piece about Tibetan Buddhism’s influence over Han Chinese. Beijing is obviously unhappy, while the Dalai Lama seems at least partially motivated by a desire to encourage this very spread:

Sheng is far from her home — and from the bars where she used to drink and the ex-boyfriends she says cheated on her. She is here with 2,000 other Han Chinese at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Serthar, Sichuan province, the rain-soaked mountainous region of southwest China.

The province is far from the central government in Beijing and a traditional gateway to Tibet, where Tibetans have practiced Buddhism for centuries — and where, for decades, China’s Communist Party has suppressed Buddhists, sometimes brutally.

Holy chants and red-robed devotees spill down hillsides blanketed by red wooden cabins, where monks, nuns and disciples spend hours in meditation. More than 2 miles above sea level, Larung Gar is among the largest Tibetan Buddhist academies in the world, with about 10,000 mostly Tibetan students.

In Ganzi, many people welcome the growing number of Chinese students but complain their own freedoms will be restricted as long as the Dalai Lama remains in India, his home since 1959.

“I am proud so many Han Chinese come to Serthar to study, as it will help relations between the Han and Tibetan peoples,” says Tashi Dengzhu, a yak and sheep herder who lives south of Serthar.

Han Chinese students have risen from 1,000 when she arrived seven years ago to over 2,000 today, says Yuan Yi, a shaven-headed nun from southeast Fujian province. But the senior Tibetan lama they follow, Khenpo So Dargye, refused to discuss the Chinese student body he heads.

Such caution reflects the academy’s troubled past and ongoing vulnerability. Founded in what was an uninhabited Larung valley in 1980, the institute became so popular it attracted a large-scale government assault in 2001. Hundreds of homes were demolished and thousands of residents evicted, according to exile groups.

Tibetan Buddhism was traditionally the religion of many Chinese emperors, and even apolitical teachings are unacceptable to Beijing, which fears a revival and increased influence among a Chinese public which was forcefully deprived of religion during the Mao years.

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Filed under Mao, religion, Tibet

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