Commentary: Can Religious Figures be Trained?

The Reincarnated Living Buddha Training Class recently held a graduation ceremony in hinterland in China.

The training included Buddhist rituals and theories, regulations of nation and religions, current affairs, visits to revolution sites of Chinese and former residences of Mao Zedong and other leaders of elder generations, etc., and learning about the history of Chinese People's War of Liberation.      

Reports of the graduation of the training caused some questions on the Internet. Some readers commented that the Reincarnated Living Buddhas are religious affairs and should not be intervened by politics. Others were worried that the training classes held by the Atheist Communist Party would not help the Living Buddhas' religious faith.      

As Chinese citizens, learning more about this period in Chinese history would help to understand more deeply the constitution and fulfill one's constitutional duty, said Zhu Weiqun, head of the Commission of Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).     

Tibetan Buddhist figures, including Living Buddhas, are Chinese citizens, and such trainings and visits can help with their understanding of Chinese history, the modern society, and its laws and regulations. If they were denied citizen status because of their religious roles, or if they were not allowed visits or training to better understand the history of their country's constitution, then it would interfere with the fulfillment of their legal duty.             

As to whether "politics" affected "religion" and interfered with the Living Buddhas' faith, Zhu said no Living Buddha has ever become an Atheist after attending the training.       

Tibetan Buddhism plays a critical role in the lives of Tibetans. China carries out the policy of "freedom of religious belief". In Tibet, the legitimate religious life of broad masses of religion believers is protected by the Constitution and the law. Religion is still influential in Tibetan society.

Tibetan households have Buddhist shrines and prayer rooms. People read Sutras and pray, light butter lamps, bow and kowtow to the Buddha, and make donations at monasteries, etc., none of which is interfered by anyone.   

Some foreign separatist forces have attempted to disturb the Tibetan region taking Tibetan Buddhism as a tool so as to fracture China. Many religious figures' participated those riots and disturbances, including the March 14th riot in 2008.

Zhu believes that appropriate guidance for these religious figures would help with the progress of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the progress of China and all Chinese citizens.         

Regarding some media reports claiming that all students in the training program had to offer the Khada scarf to a portrait of Chairman Mao, China Tibet Online interviewed someone present at the training.

He recalled that at the time, the Living Buddhas had visited some revolutionary sites, including Mt. Jingang, and saw the challenges Chairman Mao and other Chinese Communist Party leaders overcame to liberate China.

The Living Buddhas were touched by how their sacrifices to build the lives of the citizens today and improved the lives of Tibetan residents, so they decided to offer the Khada.

It was an expression of personal emotion and not planned by the training organizers.