Brussels [Belgium]: It used to be a fine ancient monastery- a sprawling complex housing thousands of monks and nuns, going through various stages of learning about Buddhism. The scholars it produced went on to lead many monasteries themselves, and even entered local and regional government, a sign of official recognition and acceptance.
It is still a sprawling complex. Just that now all one sees, on a recent visit, is rubble being rapidly cleared away by government hired equipment. The monks and the nuns are nowhere to be seen – they have been forcibly evicted and, in many cases, beaten mercilessly for their refusal to leave Larung Gar, one of the great centres of Tibetan Buddhism, the only home most of them have known since childhood.
Buchung (name changed to protect his identity), is a 23-year-old monk with a shy smile. He has been ordered to return to his native village in the Amdo area of Tibet (modern day Qinghai province). On showing a reluctance to leave, he, along with a few others, was beaten up by public security guards – red welts on his arms and legs are proof. The guards have been at Larung Gar and other Tibetan monasteries for years now part of the Beijing imposed Monastery Management Committees, which ensure that religious rights of Tibetan Buddhists are suppressed, and there are no references to the Dalai Lama.
The world has been witnessing, with deathly silence, the demolition of Larung Gar, in Serthar county, Kardze Tibetan Autonomous prefecture of Sichuan province in China, since July 2016. The monastery, set up in 1980 by Lama Jigme Phuntsok of Nyingmapa sect, till recently housed 10,000 monks, nuns and lay people, vying to become learned souls in order to spread knowledge and compassion in their society. They did not raise any slogans against Chinese authorities for the constant repression of their religious and cultural rights. They did not go about beating Han Chinese, and they surely did not break any Chinese laws.
However, for their having kept quiet and borne the brunt of Chinese atrocities on their families and in their villages, they have been rewarded with demolition of their monastery. Many have been given orders to return to their hometowns, with a simple slip stating that they had willingly returned from the monastery, and promising that they would not conduct any protest activities on returning to their native places.
There have been efforts of Tibetan groups to raise the issue on social media and through various other campaigns, but none of the major countries have expressed concern over the ongoing destruction of this repository of Tibetan Buddhist knowledge.
Demonstrations have been held, including on October 19, outside Chinese Embassies in London, Canberra, Washington and elsewhere, seeking an immediate end to the demolition. Brazen as ever, the Chinese Embassy in London issued a statement labelling the protestors as supporters of people and organisations that are indulging in ‘separatist activities’ in the guise of religion. It went on to claim that the operations currently underway were ‘in line with the international practice’ for administering religious sites. This spurious logic went on to claim that the effort was to eliminate risks in areas such as public security, fire control and public health, and to provide better public and social services.
While it is not a surprise that China is justifying this destruction in the name of improvement of civic amenities – numerous Hutongs in the middle of Beijing were destroyed ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to present a modern view of the city – the situation in Larung Gar is much more serious.
The monastery is not a tourist centre, but a centre for excellence in learning. The intentions are not commercial but clearly aimed at controlling and disrupting autonomous study of Tibetan Buddhism. It is time the world took note of this ongoing demolition of a revered monastery and school. (ANI)