In a recent incident of religious repression, Chinese authorities abruptly halted a government-approved Tibetan religious event in eastern Tibet. They also detained its organizers, dispersed worshipers, and prematurely destroyed a sacred sand mandala. This comes as a second instance in this month of spiritual leaders being stopped from giving teachings on Kalachakra in Tibet. The crackdown has raised concerns among Tibetans and observers about the suppression of Tibetan Buddhism and its teachings by the Chinese government.
The First Incident: Gungthang Rinpoche’s Canceled Kalachakra Teaching
Earlier this month, the Chinese government canceled a Kalachakra teaching that was scheduled to be given by the 7th Gungthang Rinpoche Lobsang Jamyang Geleg Tenpe Khenchen in Tsoe, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The Kalachakra is a sacred event in Tibetan Buddhism, and only a few qualified Tibetan Buddhist masters, including the Dalai Lama, have the authority to impart such teachings. Despite organizers obtaining permission in advance, the authorities cited the 70th anniversary of the instituting of Kanlho prefecture as the reason for the abrupt cancellation.
The Second Incident: Disruption of Kalachakra in Gumong
More recently, a significant religious gathering in Samey-shi Village, Gumong Town, Mongra County, Tsolho Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, was also interrupted by police intervention. His Eminence the 7th Athi Kalsang Tashi Gyatso, was to give teachings on Kalachakra, but forced to leave the ceremony. Tens of thousands of devotees had congregated for the event, which was expected to last until 23 July. The police actions not only dispersed the worshippers but also led to the premature destruction of the sand mandala, a central aspect of the Kalachakra teachings.
Chinese Suppression of Tibetan Lamaism
These incidents reflect ongoing efforts by the Chinese government to control and suppress Tibetan Lamaism and its religious teachers. In recent years, the authorities have imposed stricter regulations on religious teachers and demolished Tibetan religious sites, leading to deep anguish and emotional distress among the faithful.
The disruptions of the Kalachakra teachings have had far-reaching consequences for Tibetan devotees. For those who traveled from distant areas, including elderly farmers and nomads, the experience was even more disturbing. The cancellations have not only caused emotional distress but also resulted in financial losses. The tents and facilities set up for pilgrims were pulled down, and land leases could not be recovered.