CURRENT SITUATION OF BUDDHISM IN OUR COUNTRY AND ITS STABILIZING SOLUTION

· 2 - Schemes To Eliminate the UBCV
Authors

Anh Vu

Nguyen Duc Khiem – March 3, 2005

In current situation, due to the ploys from imperialism and international reactionaries wanting to use religions as a tool to implement the ongoing peace strategy in order to destruct socialism, the issue of religion in any country as well as our own has been increasingly complicated.

In recent past, the collusion between the group of extremist monastics in An Quang Buddhist Church, lead by Huyen Quang, and exiled reactionaries (most prominently Vo Van Ai) ranging from exploiting the funeral and maiden anniversary of The Most Venerable Thich Don Hau to rebel against us … Clearly it lies in the common plan of the enemies using human rights, plural politics, and multiparty to cause societal instability and create turmoil to overthrow our regime.

Which conditions enable the enemy forces to carry out activities for rebelling  against us? We all see clearly that Party and Government’s policies and laws are very plain and sound. However, in reality, the implementation remains imperfect, lacking, and yet impartial on both law enforcement authorities and policy management personnel of the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, leading to the birth of complex issues  in Buddhism. The enemies have taken advantage of above shortcomings to rebel against us, hammering national security and orders. Therefore, thoroughly understanding current situations of our nation’s Buddhism in order to derive a solution for more stability and not allowing the enemies to have the opportunity to sabotage serves an extremely significant meaning.

Buddhism has been in our country for almost 2,000 years. In its survival and developmental process, Vietnamese Buddhism has always attached itself to the people and actively participated in the struggles for freedom against foreign forces, while protected and invigorated the Fatherland.

Prior to the August Revolution in 1945 and the 2 struggles, many temples, monastics, and lay Buddhists contributed in providing hiding places for agents and supported the Revolution. Northern Buddhism, a member of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front since 1960, has been actively taking part in the course of protecting and rebuilding the Fatherland. Southern Buddhism in the past, under the American and puppets regime, instituted Christians migrating from the North to create a backing force and plotted to make Christianity national religion. In that situation, the American puppets had a policy to exploit Buddhism. Under the directions of the American puppets, Thich Tam Chau split and sabotaged the unification of An Quang Buddhist Church, creating “Vietnamese National Church”, using the Buddhist Chaplain Bureau to serve the American puppets. A number of An Quang Buddhist Church leaders, influenced by the American puppets and power struggles, divided into many factions, most prominent of them are those of Thich Tri Quang and Thich Huyen Quang.

After the south was liberated, a number of reactionaries publicly exploiting Buddhism such as Thich Tam Chau, Thich Ho Gia, Thich Man Giac, Thich Quang Ba, evacuated abroad. The ones remaining (Thich Thanh Kiem, Thich Duc Nghiep …) cleverly donated their temples to the Revolution and therefore were allowed to join “patriotic Buddhism” by former revolutionary monks. A number of An Quang Buddhists who earned their merit by contributing to the movement against the American puppets, uncomfortable for being considered mistrustful or being ill-treated while the Government is treating the former reactionary Vietnamese National Church favorably, combined with a number of incidents such as the confiscation of their temples and properties, commit acts to obstruct the national unification of Buddhism and rebel against the Government. Representing this group are Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do, Thich Thien Minh (died 1978), Thich Thong Buu, Thich Nhat Thien, Thich Thuyen An (emigrated to the U.S in the ODP, 1993), Thich Khong Tanh.

We decided to arrest Thich Thien Minh, expelled Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do and forced them to reside against their will. The situation became temporarily stable; the campaign to unify national Buddhism were organized by a large number of monastics and lay Buddhists from the 9 organizations and sects joining the Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

Admittedly, An Quang sect is the only organization that can summon a large following. However, since in the past, this sect was corrupted by the American puppets, we have to be vigilant towards a number of their leaders and find all means to eradicate it. After the national Buddhism unification, other sects can exist with their own activities. Therefore, there are some monastics and lay Buddhists from An Quang who always harbor the notion to demand An Quang be independently existing just like other sects.

Recently, affected by world situations and the reactionaries in exiles, a number of domestic extremists took advantage of our reformed policy, and exploited our shortcomings in the implementation of Buddhist policies to instigate, persuade monastics to rebel against the Government. Especially since the funeral of the Most Venerable Thich Don Hau, the extremists group lead by Thich Huyen Quang hectically act to demand An Quang Buddhist Church be restored.  They drafted, printed, and published 45 types of documents with provocative contents to disunify The Buddhist Church of Vietnam, defy the Government, demand An Quang Buddhist Church be restored .. and so on. Meanwhile, they sent these documents to exiled reactionaries to distribute among monastics and abroad lay Buddhist. Combined with the incitement from abroad, Huyen Quang’s group planned to use the first postmortem anniversary of The Most Venerable Thich Don Hau in Hue to publicize An Quang Buddhist Church, introducing the Bi-Institutional Council in order to reach a “negotiation” with the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, yet in reality to eliminate it. It is to be understood that this is a lengthy struggle.

By our own admission, we have committed blunders towards Buddhism at times. Since the country’s unification, there have been mistakes in the process of evaluating and handling An Quang Buddhist Church such as labeling them CIA and reactionaries whereas under whichever situation, they were essential in the movement against the Americans. We found all solutions to limit the authority and position of those from An Quang Buddhist Church in the Buddhist Church of Vietnam. Some who were allowed to participate and hold positions in the Buddhist Church of Vietnam are not outstanding and well-respected individuals.  The majority remaining members feel they were treated with suspicion and discrimination; their disillusion has accumulated over long period of time, thus The Most Venerable Thich Don Hau and a number of senior monks from An Quang Buddhist Church did not participate in the national Committee to Campaign for a Unified Buddhism as well as the Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

On the other hand, we also have to recognize that the senior monks from An Quang Buddhist Church who joined the current Buddhist Church include The Most Venerable Thich Tri Tinh (President of the Central Management Council), Thich Thien Sieu (Vice-President of the Central Management Council),Thich Minh Chau (Vice-President and General Secretary of the Central Management Council), Thich Tri Quang(President of the Dharma Teaching Body), Thich Thien Hanh (Member of the Management Body – Thua Thien, Hue Buddhism). Generally, they possess have good ideology and attitude, but different states of mind. In the past, they did not have influential posts. However, they are current leaders of the new Buddhist Church, which put them in a reluctant mode of being non combative.  During the activities of Huyen Quang’s group to cause division in Buddhism and to rebel against the Government, they avoided directly solve the problem or voice their opposition.  Thus, they neither develop their leadership within the Buddhist Church of Vietnam; nor uphold necessary influence and eminence to organize a spirited church, so they have to increasingly lean on the Government, hence their influence has decreased steadily.

Occurrences in Buddhist situation in the past has had a grant influence towards the thoughts in the ranks of senior monks, monastics, and that in turn led to the demoralization that greatly affects Buddhist unity and stabilization and negatively impact political and societal security. Therefore, we need to obtain accurate and adequate assessment, and based upon that so we could soon arrive at solutions with stability.

Nationally, the majority of senior monks and monastics participating in the Buddhist Church of Vietnam (including senior monks from An Quang Buddhist Church) do not agree with the extremists’ actions and concur with Government’s settlement methods. However, they have concerns about temples and properties being confiscated; they feel uneasy toward our different treatment on Buddhistm and Christianity, hence they are hesitant to publicly protest the extremists.

Recently, senior monks from An Quang Buddhist Church who joined the Buddhist Church of Vietnam  and who have been lobbied by us have shown protesting attitude towards Huyen Quang’s group. However, there are some who avoided solving internal affairs to stabilize the Church.

Senior monks from An Quang Buddhist Church who did not join the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, such as Thich Tri Quang, Thich Quang Do, Thich Thong Buu, Thich Quang Lien, Thich Quang Long, Thich Duc Nhuan, Thich Duc Nghiep, Thich Tri Dung, Thich Tri Nghiem; most of them held high  status as they are highly educated and astute, well-respected by monastics within the church domestically and abroad. Since these senior monks disagree with the approaches to unify Vietnamese Buddhism, they do not participate in the Buddhist Church of Vietnam. In their minds, they are still troubled by the Government’s policies towards An Quang Buddhist Church. When we lobby and influence them, they clearly understand our polices but at the same time they want the Government to properly address their wishes including their positions in the new Church if they join (the Buddhist Church of Vietnam – saveubcv note).

Huyen Quang’s group, mainly Huyen Quang, Long Tri, Hai Tang, Tri Tuu, Khong Tanh, even though not many in number nor significant in influence, is very radical and cunning. They steadfastly collaborate with a number of dissents in many places domestically, and they conspire with the reactionaries living in exile.

Previously, Huyen Quang, due to personal disagreement, had activities to obstruct the unification of Buddhism. He protested strongly and was forced to relocate to Quang Ngai.  Currently, the international reactionaries created committees to protect Huyen Quang in abroad. However, Huyen Quang has been increasingly singled out domestically since senior monks and lay Buddhists recognized his true personality.

Long Tri previously supported Revolution’s agents and was vice-President of provincial Front. Later, he became disillusioned, operative, consultative, and educated but having low virtue and troublesome personal life. However, Long Tri can still influence a number of Young Buddhist Organization in the old Quang Nam.

Khong Tanh, Hai Tang, Tri Tuu, young monks influenced by Huyen Quang and by disenchanting thoughts from the late Most Venerable Thich Don Hau when he was alive, are fearless in carrying out directives from Huyen Quang and Long Tri.

After 2 years of opposing and repeated failures, Huyen Quang’s group has been increasingly isolated but unchanged in nature. Since they collude with Buddhist reactionaries in exile, they use the slogan of restoring An Quang, but in essence to vindicate their political opposition and defiance toward the regime. They gained influence in some locations, especially in the Young Buddhist Organization movement in Quang Nam – Da Nang, some areas in Hue, Quang Tri, and scatteringly in some southern cities including Ho Chi Minh city.

In abroad, the reactionaries exploiting Buddhism in Australia and France are mostly (fleeing) emigres such as Thich Tam Chau, Thich Man Giac, Thich Ho Giac, Thich Quang Ba … and Vo Van Ai; they are all second in rank to senior monks. Their true strength is insignificant, and also often in disagreements, but they exploit international NGOs and media outlets to propagandize, falsely accuse us of Buddhist persecution and human rights violations. The majority of Buddhists and even some abroard senior monks are acceptable. However, due to lack of proper information from the country, they are influenced by the reactionaries ‘s distorted reports, therefore many of them become concerned about domestic Buddhism. As a result, there are people drawn into activities to rebel against our nation.

In light of the above situation, the Secretary Body had issued Resolution 21 on May 18, 1993. However, in our opinions, there needs to be a tight management in order to warrant a clear and serious implementation (of the Resolution). Based on reality, if the policy enforcement is appropriate, especially the restitution of temples or changing attitudes towards Buddhists and senior monks … will compromise local authorities’ interests. This issue requires appropriate and firm solutions, unbiased of personal interest since they violate the policy, which potentially lead to general damages.

Proper execution and support of Resolution 21 will generate new turnarounds altering Buddhists’ attitude towards the Revolution.

In order to transform the understanding of religions, we have to increase national unity and balance all practical approaches to enable religions to comprehend the Government’s policies towards religions, leading them to need to and proactively acknowledge the political leadership and the societal management. To Buddhism specifically, it is recommended that the Secretary Body, the Prime Minister to re-evaluate the true structure of the Buddhist Church of Vietnam to see whether or not it truly represents Vietnamese Buddhism as a whole. Seriously re-evaluate past mistakes on the root cause of opposition within Buddhism, from that we truly engage in dialogues with a large number of senior monks, who for the last 17 years, have adopted either peaceful, neutral attitude or inclined to re-education. With current situation, if we can lobby them to voluntarily join the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, it will be very beneficial in stabilizing the situation with Buddhism, isolating the extremists domestically and in abroad, and preventing the enemies from taking advantage of our weaknesses to instigate the opposition against the Government. Among the above-mentioned senior monks, we need to especially lobby and attract Thich Tri Quang, Thich Quang Do, Thich Thong Buu, Thich Duc Nhuan, Thich Quang Lien into abandoning their original intention and give them opportunities to conduct dharma businesses unobstructed, including lobbying them to join the Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

To Huyen Quang group: The acts causing chaos in Hue need to be harshly punished, even though there may be individuals who stubbornly refuse to admit their crime (Tri Tuu), we can still convict them based on enough evidence, combined with our efforts to lobby public media and senior monks and lay Buddhists to establish national rules.

– To Long Tri, we need to reinvigorate our actions forcing him to surrender and use him to pitch the fight against Huyen Quang.

– We have to act on 2 fronts against Huyen Quang: The Government must show its clear attitude letting him be aware of his wrongdoing, and lobbying senior monks to denounce his past activities in order to gain persuading values from internal and international public’s opinions. At the same time, we have to pave a path for and encourage him to practice dharma business in order to diminish his resistance.

– Start the external affairs offensive: besides widely employing media outlets, we need to intensely solicit senior monks inside the country to engage this publicity battle front. We can use all means of communications to publicize all domestic dharma businesses and to convey ideas from senior monks to temples, progressive monastics and abroad lay Buddhists so we accumulate a vast resource of revolutionary information to positively impact the opinions of international public. It is recommended to the Vietnamese In Abroad Body to communicate with oversea Buddhist communities to organize a task force to break apart and isolate the reactionaries.

– Coordinate among the branches: police, people’s campaigning, Fatherland Front, religion to execute well the handling policy to each of the authoritative senior monks in order to consolidate the purpose to exploit these individuals. We need to select the articulator who has good credibility is open-minded, and straight-forward so that these senior monks will voluntarily cooperate with us.

On the event of the Party and Government having a policy to rebuild religious bodies from central to provincial levels, it is recommended that we resolutely replace individuals who have proven not to be ideal, those who provided advices based on personal bias that lead to conflicts among religions and caused misunderstandings towards Party’s leadership. Meanwhile, we must always pay attention to educate about political attitudes since the Religion Body is also a target that reactionaries from religions often research to attack and corrupt for their benefits.

It is recommended that the Executive Body organizes meetings among the branches of people’s campaigning, religious, internal affairs, external affairs, Vietnamese in Abroad in order to unite on the situation and common action plans towards Buddhism.