New Rules for ‘Harmony’

Buddhist teachers urge more disciplined behavior from Tibetans in China.

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Ganzi-Pilgrims-305.jpg A Tibetan woman prays in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in China's southwestern Sichuan province, March 22, 2008.

KATHMANDU—Buddhist teachers in a Tibetan-populated region of China’s western Sichuan province have met to discuss rules for “a more peaceful and harmonious atmosphere” in their communities, according to Tibetan sources.

The gathering this month comprised representatives of more than 40 monasteries in Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] county of Sichuan’s Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan man living in the county said.

“The meeting was held for three days and resulted in a list of eight guidelines for moral behavior to be followed by county residents,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The new code of conduct—aimed largely at the lay population of towns and villages near the monasteries—includes prohibitions against fighting and carrying weapons, and a call to kill fewer animals for food or sport.

No wandering

In other provisions, monks and nuns are directed to withhold religious services from the households of robbers and thieves, and advised to observe monastic discipline and not “wander” aimlessly in the towns.

“On Aug. 24, monks and nuns began to move from town to town to explain the new regulations and begin to promote them in county areas,” the source said.

“Chinese officials are suspicious and have begun to investigate the initiative.”

“The monasteries themselves are determined to carry out the regulations,” he said, adding that government officials have warned religious leaders not to attempt to exercise authority outside the county.

Chinese authorities have sought for decades to restrict the influence of Buddhism in Tibet, seeing it as a focus of Tibetan national and cultural identity—and therefore a threat to China’s control.

‘Traditional role’

The new initiative follows a similar effort in May by two Buddhist centers in Serthar [in Chinese, Seda] and Palyul [in Chinese, Baiyu] counties, also in Sichuan, according to Tibetan sources.

Representatives from those groups—the Serthar Buddhist Center and Khenpo Achoe Buddhist Center—attended the Kardze meeting and offered encouragement and advice, the sources said.

Tibetan Buddhist monasteries play a traditional role in offering moral guidance to nearby lay communities, David Germano, an associate professor of Tibetan studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said.

“Lots of sermons have been directed toward laypeople in terms of their ethical conduct,” Germano said.

And in Kardze, “you have some really strong Buddhist centers,” said Germano, who has traveled in the region.

“You have strong moral figures who are speaking out and who have the authority and legitimacy to say something.”

Originally reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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