Panchen Lama laments Buddhism threatened by commercialization

The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, delivers a speech at the fourth plenary meeting of the fifth session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 11, 2017. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu Saturday lamented some Buddhist temples and monks are being eroded by commercialization and called on followers to behave correctly.

He made the remarks as he took the podium inside the Great Hall of the People and addressed thousands who attended the plenary meeting of the fifth session of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.

The Panchen Lama, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, said with commercialization, some monks went after money and power, instead of guarding Buddhist ethics or concentrating on Buddhist pursuits.

"Some temples are treated as money-making machines, or shopping malls; some phony monks or fake 'living Buddhas' tout ambiguous 'Buddhist preaching' to cheat money from believers," he lashed out.

The 27-year-old senior monk, also vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, said though such incidents and people were not the mainstream, they had left an "extremely bad" influence.

The image of Buddhism was tainted, the otherwise pure and divine religious sanctuaries blasphemed.

The Panchen Lama said he was also concerned about insufficient efforts in nurturing talent that some temples had monks but no instructors, Buddhist scripts but no teaching. Preaching is impossible without a good team of Buddhist instructors.

"Some temples are busy erecting Buddha statues, building splendid temple halls. But they forget about nurturing 'real Buddhas'," he said.

The Panchen Lama also said the interpretation of Buddhist doctrines struggles to keep pace with the needs of the time.

He said Buddhist doctrines should be interpreted in ways compatible to the country's reality and social progress, so that the religion can play its positive role to advance social and economic developments.

"We particularly lack in efforts to find religious theories that go with socialist core values," the Panchen Lama said. "In that, we fail to meet the majority of our followers' expectations."

The Panchen Lama said he felt "a mission of our time" is to be patriotic, to love religion, and contribute efforts to the Chinese nation's rejuvenation and the well-being of humankind.

The Panchen Lama said he believed, with combined efforts of Buddhist monks and followers, Buddhism can play its role in advancing the development of the nation, including to enhance the sense of identity among followers with the leadership of Communist Party of China, socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the Chinese nation.

He said religion can mobilize the public to voluntarily safeguard national unity, ethnic solidarity, and actively take part in social and economic developments of the country, as well as boost the public moral standards and ethics.

The Panchen Lama, born with the secular name Gyaincain Norbu in 1990, was approved by the central government as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama at the age of five, after a traditional lot-drawing ceremony among three candidates held in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.