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New Rules for 'Harmony'

September 1, 2009

Buddhist teachers urge more disciplined behavior from Tibetans in China.
Voice of America/AFP
August 27, 2009

KATHMANDU -- Buddhist teachers in a
Tibetan-populated region of China’s western
Sichuan province have met to discuss rules for "a
more peaceful and harmonious atmosphere" in their
communities, according to Tibetan sources.

The gathering this month comprised
representatives of more than 40 monasteries in
Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] county of Sichuan’s
Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan man living in the county said.

"The meeting was held for three days and resulted
in a list of eight guidelines for moral behavior
to be followed by county residents," he said,
speaking on condition of anonymity.

The new code of conduct--aimed largely at the lay
population of towns and villages near the
monasteries--includes prohibitions against
fighting and carrying weapons, and a call to kill
fewer animals for food or sport.

No wandering

In other provisions, monks and nuns are directed
to withhold religious services from the
households of robbers and thieves, and advised to
observe monastic discipline and not "wander" aimlessly in the towns.

"On Aug. 24, monks and nuns began to move from
town to town to explain the new regulations and
begin to promote them in county areas," the source said.

"Chinese officials are suspicious and have begun
to investigate the initiative."

"The monasteries themselves are determined to
carry out the regulations," he said, adding that
government officials have warned religious
leaders not to attempt to exercise authority outside the county.

Chinese authorities have sought for decades to
restrict the influence of Buddhism in Tibet,
seeing it as a focus of Tibetan national and
cultural identity -- and therefore a threat to China’s control.

‘Traditional role’

The new initiative follows a similar effort in
May by two Buddhist centers in Serthar [in
Chinese, Seda] and Palyul [in Chinese, Baiyu]
counties, also in Sichuan, according to Tibetan sources.

Representatives from those groups--the Serthar
Buddhist Center and Khenpo Achoe Buddhist
Center--attended the Kardze meeting and offered
encouragement and advice, the sources said.

Tibetan Buddhist monasteries play a traditional
role in offering moral guidance to nearby lay
communities, David Germano, an associate
professor of Tibetan studies at the University of
Virginia in Charlottesville, said.

"Lots of sermons have been directed toward
laypeople in terms of their ethical conduct," Germano said.

And in Kardze, "you have some really strong
Buddhist centers," said Germano, who has traveled in the region.

"You have strong moral figures who are speaking
out and who have the authority and legitimacy to say something."

Originally reported by RFA’s Tibetan service.
Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo.
Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English
by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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