Tens of thousands of Tibetan monks, nuns, and laypeople gathered in Sichuan province last week for special prayers during which a Tibetan religious leader called for an end to communal conflicts over scarce resources, according to sources.
The Grand Prayer Festival held on Friday at Sershul Thegchen Dargeyling monastery in the Dzatoe area of Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, drew close to 70,000, including Han Chinese, sources said.
“The total number of monks alone exceeded 10,000, and more than 500 Chinese devotees also attended,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There were [also] many thousands of Tibetan laypersons present,” he said.
Presiding over the gathering, Sershul Tri Rinpoche cited “obstacles to the Tibetan people at this critical time" and called on his listeners to end conflicts over pastures and other resources, including the highly prized cordyceps fungus, which is harvested annually and sold for its purported medicinal value, RFA’s source said.
“This year, many Tibetan lives were lost in disputes, especially over the control of areas for the collection of cordyceps.”
Rinpoche also called on Tibetans to protect the environment, to give up involvement in the purchase or sale of animals for slaughter, and to abandon “negative habits,” the source said.
The Sershul prayer festival was the 11th such gathering to be held at the monastery since the tradition was established by Sershul Tri Rinpoche 15 years ago, a Tibetan monk living at India’s Sera monastery told RFA, citing contacts in the region.
“It was begun to preserve Tibetan religious and social traditions,” the monk, Rinchen Dondrub, said.
“Now the organizers are trying more broadly to educate large numbers of the Tibetan people in religious and cultural values,” he 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 cultural identity in the face of Beijing’s cultural and political domination.
Use of the spoken and written Tibetan language, and “how important this is to the survival of Tibetans,” is especially stressed, one source said, adding that moral ethics and nonviolence have also become popular subjects of instruction.
Reported by Yangdon Demo and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.