Beijing (Day 5)
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
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.
|Entrance Gate to the Lama Temple|
|Much Incense is Burned|
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?
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.
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|
|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.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.
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
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.
|Commercialism in the Temple|