Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

44. Beijing China Day 5 - Lama Temple

Beijing (Day 5)

Day 5 at the Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple).

Entrance Gate to the Lama Temple
Only 6 stops going North on the #2 subway line, then a few steps to the left for the entrance to Yonghe and you seem to enter a different country. Could this be Tibet? I could smell the incense and saw the haze from the burning sticks before we even entered the main gate. This Temple complex is an assortment of temple buildings.  The compound is 480 meters long with 5 main temples residing
Much Incense is Burned
within and many other side buildings. Each of the 5 main temples is dedicated to a theme and they contain many different artworks. Rare Tibetan and Mongolian religious artifacts from this Temple were saved from the carnage of the Cultural Revolution by the intervention of Zhou Enlai. I liked this place but it is a heavily China-supported tourist spot. Despite all the tourists many people prayed here in a very devout way. The amount of incense burned, the smoke from those sticks permeated everything and so did the political undertone of China.
Inside the Temple

The name of each temple made me smile. I found them pleasant and yet strange.

The Hall of Heavenly Kings,
The Hall of Harmony and Peace,
The Hall of Everlasting Protection,
The Hall of the Wheel of the Law
The Hall of Ten Thousand Happiness’s 

A hall for Protection?  For Law?  In a Religious place?  Hmmmm! Am I being too sensitive?
Inside One of the Temples

To find an active Tibetan Buddhist temple of the Geluk (Yellow Hat) School of thought in downtown Beijing is surprising and also sobering; at least for me. The 1959 takeover of Tibet by China is still controversial in my mind. I did not like the takeover when it happened then and I don't like it still. With the might of China behind the takeover there is no arguing. But I don't have to like it.
Inside Another Temple

Nor did the present Dalai Lama, the 14th reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Lord who looks down with compassion and hears all) like it very much. Tenzin Gyatso is the birth name of the present Dalai Lama. He was 6 years old when he was recognized as a reincarnation of Avalokitesvara.

Inside Another Temple
I still believe China is wrong to take over a country that is peaceful and meant no harm to anyone. But then to make the Lamasery a tourist attraction also seems wrong. The Lama Temple in Beijing was re-opened in 1981 and is, since then, heavily advertised in Beijing as an ancient (1694) historic building, similar to the Temple of Heaven Park. I liked the Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple) but what I did not like is the hidden, underlying message China sends to the world that China is in charge over Tibet. Let me try to explain some details you might not be aware of.
A Couple of the Five Main Temples

We all know of the Dalai Lama, he is getting older now. All his life, it seems, he has been fighting the Chinese Government about the forceful taking of Tibet. Since the 1950’s he has been verbal about the wrong China did. The Dalai Lama is not a forceful man, just the opposite, he shows compassion, tries to understand. Of course he sees wrong, too. 
Temples Are Close Together
With Incense Cauldrons Between Them

He is a Buddhist, a pacifist. He has strong religious beliefs. His religious belief is that he, Tenzin Gyatso (present day Dalai Lama # 14) is a reincarnation and that the present day Dalai Lama is a resurrection of a former Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. When today's Dalai Lama dies he will be replaced with another Dalai Lama, the 15th Dalai Lama. Religious oracles and visions are needed to find the next candidate for this 
This Buddha is in the Guinness Book
of Records Because it Was Carved
From a Single White Sandalwood
Tree, 26 Metres High

position within the Tibetan religion. Those ceremonies have already been performed and a young 6 year old boy was found in Mongolia by the name of Gebhun Choekyi Nyima. The present day Dalai Lama approved of this choice. Talks have taken place with the mother of this boy for his training for the position of Dalai Lama after the present Dalai Lama dies. She agreed to this training of her son by the monks. All was set in the eyes of the Tibetan monks to have a successor.

Now the China I don’t like. China did not like the choice of the boy who was selected. They kidnapped him, took him to a secretive spot and are “re-training” him now. Nobody knows where he is but China admits they took him. Instead China wants another 6 year old boy, Gyancain Norbu, to be the next Dalai Lama. China wants to have the power to install the head of this religion. They base their decision on historical “Golden Urn” records from Imperial times.
A Modern Monk

I know this is not in the daily news but the above statements are the facts.

The confusion continues with the additional fact that the Panchen Lama never left Tibet and he took the viewpoint of the communistic regime in 1959.  There is a split of opinions between these 2 top religious men and both have a rather strong view of Tibet. The Panchen Lama is the #2 man after the Dalai Lama and he supports China. The Dalai Lama has been living in exile in India since 1959 and opposes China's ways.
Mythical Female Lion With Her Paw on Her Cub

So why am I taking sides?  I believe there should not be interference by any government to pick a Pope or a Caliph or a Dalai Lama. Politics and Religion should not mix. To interfere will just create problems down the road. Any government should have an understanding of the religious beliefs of the people and these beliefs should not be mocked or be belittled. The power of the government should not be used to suppress anybody's belief. As well, religious leaders should not dabble in politics.
Male Guardian of the Temple
With His Paw on the World
The Lion Represents China, Dominating the World

What China is doing at the Yonghe temple in Beijing is mocking religion or at least looking at religion as no more than a tourist thing! China's government is proudly mocking the Imperial Periods of China. Oh, they are very proud of the old China but of course nothing is better than the present form of government. The old China is good business today, but that is all old China is good for. Even on Chinese TV the past is pictured with
Commercialism in the Temple
stereotypical images. It seems mocking to me. The same feeling of mockery towards any religious belief is shown at temples, too. I find it difficult to explain. An atheistic country will look at any temple only as a money making place or venue for propaganda to further their cause. I felt the Yonghe Temple in Beijing, in the eyes of the government, is only a money-making tourist attraction; whereas I looked at the same place as a Sanctum for the Tibetan religion. China and I do not see eye to eye. I hated their idea of turning a wonderful old temple into a tourist spot with stores inside that sell soda pop and plastic knickknacks.

Go and see the Temple for yourself. With what eyes do you see this place?

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