China Cancels Annual Larung Gar Festival as Evictions Continue

2016-11-07
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Monks' and nuns' houses are shown at Larung Gar in Sichuan in an undated photo.
Monks' and nuns' houses are shown at Larung Gar in Sichuan in an undated photo.
ImagineChina

Authorities overseeing the destruction of Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy have canceled an upcoming annual religious assembly, forbidding public gatherings and leaving the center’s remaining monks and nuns to pray privately in their rooms, sources say.

The eight-day festival called Dechen Shingdrup, or Accomplishing the Pure Land of Great Bliss, begins each year on the 18th day of the ninth month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

That date falls this year on Nov. 17.

“One of the main features of these assemblies is that senior religious instructors, reincarnate lamas, and other highly learned monks give religious sermons for three to four days to several thousand people who have gathered especially for the event,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Members of the Tibetan community known for outstanding service in preserving the Tibetan language and culture are also acknowledged, and laypeople are given advice on how to live a happy and meaningful life, he said.

As a part of the event, public recitations of the mantra of the Buddha Amitabha are also held.

“But this year China has said this annual gathering may not take place, and instead the monks and nuns have begun to practice privately in their rooms,” RFA’s source said.

“Meanwhile, the eviction of monks and nuns from Larung Gar continues,” he said.

Disrupted studies

Speaking separately, a second local source confirmed the gathering had been canceled.

"First the Chinese government began to demolish the residences of the monks and nuns, and then it started to evict them," the source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Now they have imposed a ban on the Dechen Shingdrup."

"These Chinese actions have disrupted the learning of the monks and nuns, and now they can't focus on their studies," he said.

Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese study at the Larung Gar complex, which was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok and is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.

Around 3,000 monks and nuns have already been expelled from Larung Gar, and around 1,000 dwellings destroyed, as authorities seek to reduce the population of the sprawling complex by about half to a maximum level of 5,000 next year, sources say.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

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