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It’s been only 2 weeks into the singing competition American Idol but one young man seems to have already won the hearts and minds of millions of TV viewers. Chris Medina, a 26 year-old barista from Chicago, became an overnight celebrity and within 3 days, his youtube audition video already got almost 3 million hits.

Chris Medina won the hearts of millions of people not only for his singing talent but also for his unwavering loyalty to the wheelchair-bound fiance.

Two short months before his planned wedding to a lady of his dream of 6 years, a devastating auto accident on October 2nd, 2009 left Chris’ fiance with a severe brain injury that even the doctors gave up on her chances of survival. Not giving up on his finance’s odds of waking up from a coma; and especially not letting any excuse to break his loyalty for her, Chris has stood by her and taken care of her since. Though not yet officially taking the wedding vows, Chris has proven to everyone he’s stuck by his finance through sickness and health, through thick and thin. In the pre-recorded video, Chris asked himself “What kind of guy would I be if I walked out when she needed me the most?”

Chris Medina does not have to answer that question to us nor does he need anyone to answer that for him. Obviously he is not the one who sells his friends down the river or, as a Vietnamese phrase says: “Kicking the bowl after swallowing down the soup.” That question is more appropriate for every one of us to ponder upon in our every living second.

What kind of a person would I be if I walked away when Dharma and our people needed me the most?

Dharma and the people of Vietnam have been shouldering relentless devastating attacks from the Communist government. Cutting down all the trees of the U Minh forest still does not provide enough paper to enumerate crimes committed by communist Vietnamese; emptying the Mekong river still can not yield enough water to clean the stains in Vietnamese history under the communist regime. Year after year, secret bank accounts of government officials keep getting fatter and fatter whereas people’s lives have been in an express descend due to uncontrollable inflation rates and scarcity of employment. Natural disasters are among favorite events for Communist officials, as they can outright rob the victims of millions of dollars in international aids while victims can not even get an intact package of instant noodles. In its annual report for 2010, Human Rights Watch slammed Hanoi as one of the worst offenders of human rights violations. Australian investigative reporters recently singled out a former Vietnamese banking official for taking bribes from banknote printing company Securency valued up to US $15 million for a contract to print polymer notes in Vietnam.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and other traditional, independent religious groups have been being subject to increasing brutality from police and authorities conspiring with degenerated monastics and followers inside and outside of the country. Evidence of religious atrocities under the communist regime is pilling up sky high, ranging from the fatal torture of the Most Venerable Thich Thien Minh of the UBCV in Saigon in 1978 to the blacklisting and repeated brutally beating of Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and his family in Western Highlands, to the terrorization of monks and confiscation of property at Kim Quang Temple in Hue just last year. Those who obediently act as religious moles for the government are given big temples and privileged positions. One of these moles, a Most Venerable in the government-sponsored Buddhist Management Board of Phu Yen city even has 3 wives and 5 children! Those who are not willing to worship communism are repeatedly beaten severely as in the case of the Most Venerable Thich Nhat Ban of Ba La Mat Temple in Dong Nai province.

The UBCV, whose existence is based on the existence of mankind and Vietnamese nationals instead of any individual state of power (1), is an identified victim of the communist Vietnamese government, evidenced by countless attempts to wipe it off the international religious map and the order from the Communist prime minister to slaughter it at all cost. The UBCV became a target of repression by the communist government of Vietnam because its steadfast conviction is to serve Dharma and people of Vietnam by spreading the peaceful teachings of the Buddha-dharma; the UBCV is a target of the communist Vietnamese government simply for not willing to submit itself to socialism.

There have been individuals who walked away when Dharma and the people of Vietnam needed them the most.

They are the monastics who pushed a traditional independent Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam to join a state-controlled religious puppet (2).

They are the monastics and leaders of Buddhist Youth movement who sold their family down the river, poisoning future generations of Buddhists in the framework of Socialist Buddhism, a manifestation of which is the Vietnamese Fatherland Front-controlled Vietnamese “Nationalized” Buddhist Church” (3). They are dharma practitioners whose wisdom is that of frenemies.

They are the ones who propagandize “hundreds of rivers join at the ocean” as an alibi for their separatist activities aimed to bring the UBCV to its annihilation. An ocean is to a parasitic worm as a stagnant puddle of water (4) is to a gentleman; an ocean could be a safe journey leading to liberty for millions of Vietnamese freedom seekers, or it could be a bastille of angry giant tidal waves burying everything – lives and a lifetime of savings, to its deep bottom.

They are the ones who conceitedly claim to practice transcendental Dharma yet they ignore earthly dharma, ignore heart-wrenching cries of tens of thousands of people whose land was robbed, of tens of millions of ordinary Vietnamese who can’t even have a right to voice their own opinions. Instead, these individuals often show off empty bookish theories in their official messages and “letter from the heart”. Worse yet, these individuals and their handlers orchestrated activities that deride Buddha-dharma, epitomized by the organizing of the pageant beauty contest right in Vesak day of 2010. (Luckily, sublime Dharma and Dharma protectors prevented this public defamation of the Buddha from taking place, as “there were only 9 contestants signing up”, according to this group’s report (5))

These individuals walked out by pressuring leaders of UBCV to retire, for “there are no materialistic gains” (6) for serving the UBCV that once nurtured and educated them. At a time where the UBCV needed everybody’s contribution the most, what kind of Buddhists would these people be for lobbying active leadership to stop serving the UBCV?

These individuals walked away through exploiting the legal system in democratic societies to abuse the values of voluntary self-conscious, then act like crybabies when that exploitation was denounced by Buddhists. Buddhism is about voluntary self-consciousness, and that is why monks and nuns are traditionally revered by Buddhists. In democratic nations, pursuit of happiness and creating organizations are two of basic human rights that is seriously protected by the constitution. At a young age of 26, Chris Medina could have easily pursued a healthy woman; likewise a member of a church is free to form another organization while his or her mother church is like a fish on a cutting board. Surely Chris will gain more materialistic benefits with another healthy woman than with his disabled fiance; and it is naturally easier to follow the direction of ignoring national and religious atrocities than to remain loyal to an organization who always speaks for victims of injustice. The reason why millions of people love and support Chris Medina is because he refused selfish individual interests to affirm his loyalty to his finance. How can those who give up easily for fear of “always struggle” have enough determination and courage to spend eons and eons practicing dharma to achieve Buddhahood? How can monastics and lay Buddhists who, just for trivial personal grudges, slandered, denounced, interrogated their leaders, find peace and bliss while chanting sutras?

The path of least resistance is probably easiest to travel. On the other hand, tens to hundreds of thousands of salmon still swim upstream against thousands of miles of rapid, rugged waters and even water falls to come home and maintain their inheritance, though they must die. In being loyal to the directions and objectives of the UBCV, The Most Venerables and members of the UBCV have every righteous reason to share Chris Medina’s concluding statement: “I feel like I have already won.”


January 29, 2011.

Tam Kien




(1) The Constitution of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam- 1973.

(2) Excerpt from “Comment on grave blunders against Vietnamese people and Buddhism by the Communist Party of Vietnam” – The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do.

(3) Meeting Minutes at Van Hanh Meditation Institute on October 29, 1997.

(4) Quoted from a letter by the late Most Venerable Thich Duc Nhuan, Advisor of the Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma, UBCV: “How painful! At a time when Vietnamese Buddhism has just liberated itself to the ocean from a narrow canal, you dear Venerables voluntarily walked into a stagnant puddle of water.”

(5) http://www.chanhphap.us/Thong%20tin%20Phat%20su/LehoiPhatDan2010cuaCongDongPGNamCali%20%28Nguyen%20Trieu%29.htm

(6): Report by the Most Venerable Thich Thien Hanh – Chief Secretary of the Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma, UBCV – November 2, 2007.

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