Massive crowds converged this week on a Tibetan monastery in northwestern China’s Qinghai province for the start of a four-day period of advanced Buddhist rituals and teachings, sources said.
The ancient Kalachakra ceremony is scheduled to be held from Sept. 18 to Sept. 21 at Kumbum monastery in Qinghai’s Tsoshar (Haidong) prefecture, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.
Kalachakra, which means “Wheel of Time,” is a ritual that prepares those attending to be reborn in Shambhala—a celestial kingdom which, many Buddhists believe, will vanquish the forces of evil in a future cosmic battle.
It is frequently conducted outside Tibet by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
This week’s ceremony, conducted by senior Tibetan religious leader Geja Rinpoche, has drawn “thousands of devotees from all sectors of Tibetan society for the four-day ceremony,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Other sources meanwhile placed the number of those attending—including Tibetans, Mongolians, and Han Chinese—at about 200,000.
'A safe environment'
Preparations are now under way to set up 10 large video screens and at least a hundred loudspeakers to allow participants to see and hear the blessing rituals and teachings, according to a public notice issued by the monastery and obtained by RFA.
The monastery is also managing traffic flow and has designated special spaces for parking vehicles and pitching tents, the notice said.
“Every effort has been made to ensure a safe and comfortable environment,” the notice said.
Though Chinese security forces, fearful of sudden protests by Tibetans opposed to Beijing’s rule, frequently monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds, the event is proceeding with official approval, one source said.
Last year, government employees in neighboring Gansu province were barred from taking part in a similarly large Kalachakra ceremony, with warnings given of administrative punishment if they ignored the ban, sources said in earlier reports.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 143 Tibetans to date setting themselves on fire to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.