Monasteries in Tibet and across Tibetan-populated regions of China observed the death anniversary of one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most important teachers on Tuesday, drawing crowds in large numbers under the watchful eye of Chinese police, Tibetan sources said.
The gathering, called Ganden Ngachoe, commemorates the passing of Tsongkhapa, the fourteenth-century founder of Tibet’s largest Buddhist school, the Gelugpa, and is traditionally celebrated with displays of lamps and offerings presented to the community of monks.
Speaking to RFA’s Tibetan Service, a Tibetan living in Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in northwestern China’s Qinghai province said that large numbers of devotees had gathered at Rongwo monastery to make offerings and prostrate themselves in devotion in a circuit around the temples.
“As evening approached, those taking part offered not only butter lamps inside and outside the temples, but also electric lights inside the prayer halls, a practice that is becoming more and more popular in observance of Tsongkhapa’s day,” he said.
At Labrang monastery in Gansu province’s Sangchu (Xiahe) county, the day was observed in a similar way, with monks performing rituals and prayers and many in the lay community abstaining from the consumption of meat, a local source said.
“Some also freed animals from slaughterhouses or sat in meditation, reciting prayers,” RFA’s source said.
“Chinese armed police normally stationed in the area kept a watch on the gathering, but showed no sign of threatening behavior or of cracking down,” he said.
Devotees in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa meanwhile visited important area monasteries and the city’s central Jokhang cathedral in tightly packed lines to offer lamps and ceremonial scarves, Tibetan sources said.
Public assemblies at monasteries in Tibetan regions of China have greatly increased in size in recent years, observers and participants say, as tens of thousands of Tibetans gather to assert their national and cultural identity in the face of Chinese domination.
Chinese security forces, fearful of sudden protests by Tibetans opposed to Beijing’s rule, often monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds, sources say.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.