Defying warnings by authorities, Tibetans living in northwest China’s Qinghai province are privately engaging in religious observances coinciding with a major Buddhist gathering in India led by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources in the region say.
Chinese authorities have called the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra ceremony being held this month in Bodh Gaya “illegal” and have threatened punishment for Tibetans spreading news of the event or organizing local ceremonies in support.
Practicing privately or meeting in small groups, Tibetans living in townships and villages across Qinghai are doing whatever they can to be involved, though, a source living in the Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“In my own village, people are engaged in virtuous activities such as fasting, performing prostrations, and setting animals free,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The same things are happening in other places, too," he said.
“Families are hosting gatherings to recite mantras and other prayers, and this is being done in secret as the monasteries and communities are being careful not to do anything more openly,” he said.
“The Chinese authorities cannot prevent this, because it is being done discreetly.”
Blessings of the ceremony
Noting that the Dalai Lama has promised Tibetans living in China that he will pray for them during the Kalachakra rituals, “Tibetans feel confident they will receive the blessings of the ceremony,” the source said.
Speaking separately, another Qinghai source said that local observances connected to the Kalachakra began on Jan. 2 and will continue until Jan. 14, the day that the rituals and teachings held in India end.
"There are many things it is inconvenient to share in the open," a third source said. "Faith in one's spiritual teacher does not need to be publicly displayed."
Kalachakra, which means Wheel of Time, is a ritual that prepares devotees to be reborn in Shambhala, a celestial kingdom which, it is said, will vanquish the forces of evil in a future cosmic battle.
The ceremony and teachings are often conducted outside Tibet by the Dalai Lama, who is widely reviled by Chinese leaders as a “splittist” seeking to separate Tibet, which was invaded by Communist China in 1950, from Beijing’s control.
In a bid to reduce attendance at this year’s ceremony, Chinese officials moved beginning in November to confiscate the passports of Tibetans authorized to travel abroad, at the same time ordering Tibetans already present in India and Nepal to return home.
Many had been told their families would be harmed if they failed to go back, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.