Thousands of Tibetans gathered earlier this month at a monastery in China’s Gansu province to commit themselves to more virtuous lives, promising to give up smoking, gambling, and the consumption of alcohol, according to a local source.
The mass meeting took place on Jan. 9 at the Ganden Choeling monastery in Gansu’s Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo) county and involved Tibetans belonging to 21 separate community groups representing nearly a thousand separate families, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Those taking part in the ceremony of vowing to abandon social ills were mostly laypersons between the ages of 15 to 70,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Their commitment to lead better lives was prompted mainly by the advice of a highly revered Tibetan lama, Alak Setsang Rinpoche,” the source said, adding that the gathering was the first of its kind in the area to be attended in such large numbers.
“Therefore, in order to honor and fulfill his wishes, the Tibetan community has now voluntarily come together to promise to live a more righteous life by giving up these vices."
Setsang Rinpoche, who is also known as Setsang Lobsang Palden, was born in 1938 and was enthroned as a reincarnate lama at the age of four. He has regularly urged unity and harmony within the Tibetan community, often during large religious ceremonies that draw large crowds.
Buddhist monasteries in Tibetan-populated regions of China have become a focus of efforts to promote not just religion but Tibetan national and cultural values, and annual public assemblies at the monasteries have greatly increased in size in recent years, Tibetan sources say.
Concerned that large gatherings in Tibetan areas might launch sudden protests against Beijing’s rule, Chinese security forces frequently monitor, and sometimes close down, events involving large crowds, sources say.
Reported by Lhuboom and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.