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China Focus: Legal education at Tibetan monasteries bears fruits
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20:44, March 09, 2009

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Tibet has reported success in a year-long legal education at its monasteries, where monks have been told to abide by laws and regulations in religious practice, rallies and parades, officials in charge of religious affairs said Monday.

More than 2,300 officials were sent to Tibet's 505 monasteries after the deadly riots of March 14 last year to promote the legal awareness of monks and nuns and dissuade them from being duped by separatist forces and ensure the normal practice of Buddhism, said Soinam Renzin, deputy chief of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Tibet Regional Committee.

"Step by step, these officials have built up trust with members of the monasteries' management committees, who helped explain to the monks laws and regulations, the nature of last year's violence and China's religious policy," he said.

They have eventually won the monks' trust by helping them solve diverse problems, said Soinam Renzin.

"We paid more than 200 visits to the ailing and elderly monks over the past year, and ensured they got timely and adequate medication," said Losang Jigme, Tibet's top official in charge of religious affairs.

Losang is heading a legal education team at Drepung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa.

Arthritis and nephritis are the most common diseases among the monks, as result of their prolonged sitting, lack of exercise and inadequate clothing -- their robes did little to fend off the bitter cold in winter.

"We invited experts to give a series of lectures on health care, which received a warm welcome at the monastery," said Losang.

At 82, Shilok Qoi'guai was in poor health and was sent to hospital three times by Losang Jigme and his team last year.

"Three times, they saved my uncle's life," said Puncog Gunleg, whose mother is Shilok's sister. "My whole family feels grateful. My mother told me to abide by laws and repay these people's kindness."

Drepung was one of the three historic Buddhist monasteries in Tibet's regional capital. After last year's riots, the 15th century monastery was closed to tourists for nearly five months. Investigators later found most of the rioters were visiting monks.

Some of the elderly monks at the Drepung complained to Xinhua that management had been lax at the monastery before the March 14riots.

"Even the exact number of monks was unknown and for nearly three years, we were not even able to call up a plenary meeting," said Ngagwang Domjor, director of Drepung's management committee.

Visitors from other parts of Tibet, as well as Tibetan communities in the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu often spent years at the monastery, he said.

"Yet sometimes their identities couldn't be confirmed," he said.

Drepung's annual income, more than 30 million yuan (4.4 million U.S. dollars) consisting of ticket revenues, alms paid by pilgrims and earnings from monastery-run shops and teahouses, was all controlled by five visiting monks, said Ngagwang Domjor.

"These five monks also incited other monks to join in anti-government riots," he said. "Whoever didn't follow would be alienated by other monks."

After the riots, the management sent away about 700 visiting monks back to their home provinces and only the registered 600 stayed on at Drepung.

The Sera, another major monasteries in Lhasa, cleaned out more than 500 visiting monks and lodgers in the post-riots head-count.

"On March 10 last year, 13 visiting monks from Qinghai and Gansu were detained for shouting anti-government slogans in a square outside the Jokang Temple," said Dainzin Namgyai, head of the legal education team at Sera Monastery. "On the following day, 340 monks were instigated to join a sit-in outside the police station."

Badain Lungdog, 81, believes education, as well as stricter rules, are essential for the younger generation of monks, particularly those born after 1980, as deviations from the Buddhist commandments are frequently observed.

"Many of them are lured by the material life and spend too much time at downtown teahouses, restaurants or in front of the television. Less than 20 percent of them are able to concentrate on the Buddhist teachings," said Badain Lungdog, who became a monkat Drepung at 16. He was forced back to secular life during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and returned to Drepung in 1986.

"The monastery is like a sea, a gathering of many different tributaries," he said. "We regret to see some monks, instead of studying the Scripture, get involved in political, and even separatist activities. They damage the reputation of our monastery."

The Drepung, Sera and Ganden are Lhasa's major monasteries of the Gelugba School -- also known as the Yellow Sect -- of Tibetan Buddhism. The school, founded by Tsong Ka-pa, is known for its stricter observance of Buddhist commandments.

Tibet has more than 1,700 religious sites, accommodating 46,000monks and nuns. Nearly 90 percent of the region's 2.8 million people are devout Buddhists.

Source: Xinhua

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