Thursday, December 4, 2014

When religion beckons Xi Jinping and the rest

My article When religion beckons Xi Jinping and the rest appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer today.

Here is the link...

Chen Quanguo, Tibet's party secretary, warned the cadres not to be trapped in ‘Dalai Lama's illusions'. By doing this, the Communist Party simultaneously promoted Buddhism on a large scale in Eastern Tibet

The Xinhua news agency recently reported that the People’s Liberation Army was getting tougher on corruption, “reflecting the Party’s resolution to ‘purify’ the Army,” it says. The communist mouthpiece added: “With great power comes great corruption risk. Too many temptations and traps surround official posts in China, which become high risks if officials don’t have self-discipline.”
It’s difficult to say if this is a sign that the Middle Kingdom is entering Kalyug. Another interesting development is the sudden appeal for religion in China, particularly the Buddha’s teachings.
But despite this newly-found love for Dharma, practice is something strictly forbidden for the party cadres. In an Op-ed in the Global Times, Zhu Weiqun, the chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and a former interlocutor of the Dalai Lama’s envoy, refuses to link the lack of religious belief and corruption; atheism “can’t be blamed for widespread corruption among cadres or any moral decay in Chinese society,” says Mr Zhu, who admonished his colleagues: “Communist Party members must not follow any religion; it is an ‘unshakeable’ principle of the party … Communist Party members cannot follow any religion — this is the important ideological and organisational principle.”
A few weeks ago, the all-powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection criticised some party cadres for secretly taking part in religious activities in Tibet.
Chen Quanguo, Tibet’s party secretary told the cadres in Lhasa: “One should not believe in the 14th Dalai group’s illusions, or follow the Dalai group; one should beware of infiltration and sabotage activities in which are involved separatist party cadres.” While warning the cadres not to be trapped in the ‘Dalai Lama’s illusions’, the Party is simultaneously promoting Buddhism on a large scale in Eastern Tibet.
An article in China Tibet Online, an affiliate of Xinhua, praises ‘Larung Gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy, a Buddhist University in Eastern Tibet, pointing out that a previous incarnation of Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, Larung Gar’s founder was a teacher of His Holiness (sic) the 13th Dalai Lama (of course, it is not mentioned that the same Khenpo Phuntsok once visited Dharamsala to share teachings with the present Dalai Lama).
The article explains that: “Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche established the Larung Gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy in Larung Valley near Serthar, Sichuan Province in 1980, with the aim to revitalise Dharma and benefit all sentient beings.”
Yes, you read it correctly, the communist media speaks of ‘reincarnation’. The communist website continues: “The reason behind the selection of Serthar is primarily based upon the fact that it is a historically sacred place in Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism). Monks go to achieve ‘rainbow body’ and comprehend the ‘four karmas’ at the academy. 13 disciples attained ‘rainbow body’ at this place.” The monastery hosts 30,000 monks while the communist publication speaks of the mystic ‘rainbow body’, a siddhi which allows a highly-realised master to dissolve the material components of his body into a rainbow at the time of his death, thereby leaving no mortal remains.
China Tibet Online claims: “The aim of the academy can be summarised by four distinct pursuits: To unite Buddhists in harmony; to uphold pure precepts; to study, reflect upon, and practice the sacred Dharma; and to propagate the Dharma and benefit all beings.”
This reminds me that in 1954, Mao Zedong used to visit the Dalai Lama in the guest house where the latter was staying in Beijing. One day, the Great Helmsman turned to the young Lama and said ,“Religion is poison.” The 19-year-old Tibetan leader was stunned and deeply upset. In today’s China, is Dharma poison or nectar? It is clear that Beijing is not enamoured with the Dalai Lama as yet.
In August, Beijing was delighted when the Tibetan religious leader’s visit to Mongolia was canceled (of course, this was done under Beijing’s own pressure). How could the Dalai Lama visit Ulan Bator the same month than the new Emperor? Mr Xi Jinping had to pay a two-day state visit on August 20 and 21 to Ulan Bator. Suppose the Dalai Lama had got a better reception than Mr Xi, it would have not looked nice for the strong man in Beijing. Isn’t it?
But in many other cases, Beijing actively promotes Buddhism. China Tibet Online quotes Trinley Dorje, director of the Tibet Committee of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, who affirms: “At present, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region has 358 Rinpoches (reincarnated Lamas) who were enthroned in accordance with the reincarnation system of Rinpoches.”
Of course, very few have heard of these ‘Rinpoches’ before, but it is another issue; the point is that though Mr Xi’s regime pretends to be atheist, it is not when politically convenient. In the meantime, some Chinese cadres have started studying Tibetan Buddhism. Incredible China! On October 20, China Tibet Online announced that a seminar on Tibetan Buddhism was held at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing. The theme of the in-depth discussion was ‘Tibetan Buddhism and Equality’. It was a two-day seminar sponsored by the China Tibetology Research Center and the high-level Tibetan Buddhism College of China.
The seminar was not an ordinary religious teaching for the Chinese citizens turning towards spirituality: The research group participating in the exercise had to submit the outcome of its research to the Party. The organisers says: “Over 70 people attended the meeting, including leaders of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China, revered lamas of the Tibetan Buddhism, scholars and experts in the area of Tibetan Buddhism research, leaders of the departments concerned of the Tibet Autonomous Region.”
In other words, senior party cadres were learning Buddhism ...without, of course, ever referring to the Dalai Lama.At the same time, China remains extremely intolerant. For example, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, born on April 25, 1989 and recognised as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama, is still under house arrest in China.
The party now also says  Confucius taught ‘religion’ in Tibet. According to Beijing, Confucius was a master of the Bon; the pre-Buddhist faith in Tibet: “Confucius travelled to many places far away from home, and learned from masters until he finally built a monastery of the Bon religion. However, he wasn’t able to protect the monastery on his own, so he invited Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche (the founder of the Bon faith) to help out...”, says the website. Communist China is today full of dichotomies!

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