Comments On Grave Blunders by the Communist Party of Vietnam Against Nation and Buddhism.
The Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do
Part 2 – A
Towards Vietnamese Buddhism
As stated in the previous section, communists are materialistic atheists who advocate the elimination of religions, as Marx considered religions mankind’s opium employed by the capitalist “thugs” as tools to put working people to sleep – by advising them to try to suffer in this life in order to be rewarded with a heaven in the next life, so that they could rip off easily. On the other hand, communism advocated to build a socialist heaven right on earth. Thus, the communists considered religions an obstacle that had to be wiped out.
The two main religions in Vietnam are Christianity and Buddhism. The communists call Christianity “Catholicism” which is slanged to be “chicken feces”; Buddhism is slanged by them to be “chicken manure”. Why do they call Christianity chicken feces and Buddhism chicken manure? This is because they think it is harder to eliminate Christianity than to Buddhism. They analyzed very carefully and for reasons that are too many to fully itemize in this document, I only summarize their analysis as follows: The communists assessed that Christian followers, though smaller in number but are the lions who are difficult to get rid of; this is analogous to “wax chicken” feces (feces that is wet and thick) that once settled at any spot of clothing means that spot needs to be scissored as it is very hard to wash off the stain. On the contrary, Buddhist followers, though large in quantity, but are only goats that are easy to be wiped out just like dry chicken feces; one only needs to brush once to clean it up! At the end, however, religions must be eliminated, whether it is easy or difficult to do so. Elimination methods depend on each period and each location. The communists have a directive called “dialectics”, meaning they have to achieve established goals. If the path is smooth, they immediately advance to the goals; if they encounter obstacles, they will temporarily pause, retreating if necessary, making right turns if needed to, but at the end they have to reach their goals. Their motto is “One step backwards, three step forwards.” In eliminating religions generally, and Buddhism specifically, locations that can be eliminated without resistance would be eliminated first. If the communists felt hindered, they would delay the elimination. Not only would they pause their scheme, but they would also exploit religions to the greatest degree if they thought religions could be beneficial to communism during that period. The policy to eliminate Vietnamese Buddhism fall square within that strategy.
For instance, during the struggle against the French, Vietnamese communists needed to unite the people; moreover, they were too busy to think about obliterating Buddhism, therefore they exploited Buddhism by creating the so-called “Fatherland Liberating Buddhism” within the Trans-Vietnamese movement. At that time, the “elder monk” Pham The Long, abbot of Co Le Temple in Nam Dinh province, called on young monks to “temporarily fold up monk clothes and put on war uniform”, meaning to temporarily wrap up monastic robe and pick up the guns to kill the French. As a result, many young monks left their temples to become “patriots”. This was the policy of using one stone to kill two birds: at present, there were more people in the armed forces, at the same time there was another benefit (this is the main benefit) in decimating Buddhist hopes for the future! And to make the decimation of Buddhist seeds look official, monks were used to appeal to other monks. Who could have blamed the communists for drafting monks into the armed forces? That is easy to understand: if one wants to trap storks, one must use a stork as bait; if one wants to trap dove, one must use a dove as bait; how can one trap a stork if a dove is used as bait?
In addition, while gauging that there were famous historic temples such as Thien Tru temple (Huong Temple – external temple) in My Duc district, Quynh Lam temple in the ancient village of Co Phap (now belonged to Quang Ninh province) established by Dinh Khong Zen Master (729-808) around the year of Trinh Nguyen during China’s Tang dynasty, the communists realized that it would be hard to destroy these temples once victorious, so they conveniently borrowed the hands of the French to help them destroy these temples. The communists brought their armies to occupy these temples and hung their flags there. When French spy airplanes spotted Viet Minh’s flags at the temples, they called in bombers on the temples (of course the Viet Minh had already retreated); thus the temples were completely destroyed! This case was also killing two birds with one stone: on the one hand they stirred up people’s anger, accusing the French of destroying the temples and calling for all people to fight the French to their death; on the other hand, once victorious, they did not have to destroy the temple, avoiding the communists a notoriety as the ones who destroyed famous historic temples!
I felt extremely saddened when I came back to look at the floor at Quynh Lam temple which housed a statue that had been one of “Vietnam’s Four Wind” and engineered by Khong Lo Zen Master, a supreme monastic advisor during the Ly dynasty. I came here in late 1991. It was told that, after the bombing by the French, it took more than 1 month for the fire to completely burn the temple. There are currently huge stone bases of the pillars, showing that the ancient ironwood pillars must have been more than one person’s hand circle in circumference. A few stone monuments remained untouched by the fire. After the “innovation and grievance campaign”, the temple’s bricks that survived the bombing were used to build a Cooperative’s hog pen right in front of the old temple. After the “facelift”, the Cooperative was dissolved and the hog pen was auctioned off. I saw some headstones lying upside down on the ground, and after asking for help to turn it right side up, I realized it was engraved with Dharma names of the Patriarchs during the Tran dynasty. The day I arrived, after 6 years into the facelift, local people contributed to build 3 simple brick houses on the old temple’s floor to worship the Buddha. Currently there is an abbot, the only monk in Quang Ninh province, but he was from Ha Nam Ninh; there is no monk from the local area any more. I learned that there was no monk in most of North Vietnamese provinces. In Thai Binh province where I lived, the whole province had only 8 old monks, aged from 70 and above and few dozens of nuns, both young and old. After arriving Vu Doai for a few weeks, I heard that the Cultural Bureau of the communist government of Vietnam placed Quynh Lam temple in the list of “historic remains” with a certification and even a ceremony! Even the floor of the Cooperative hog enclosure in front of the temple no longer existed!
Hoa Yen Temple of Yen Tu mountain was burned by fire; Phat Tich Temple in Bac Ninh, built during the Ly dynasty was also destroyed. Thay Temple in Thach That district, Son Tay province, where Zen Master Tu Dao Hanh was worshiped, also built during the Ly dynasty, was in serious degradation, the Ancestors hall had to be propped up by a lot of bamboo poles and it could collapse at any time. Phap Vu Temple (Dau Temple) in Thuong Tin district, Ha Dong province houses the sharira (dry corpse) of the two Zen masters in the Le dynasty, one of them was cut up for examination! The main temple was destroyed, the praying and the ancestor halls are in degrading condition. Only Thien Tru and Quynh Lam temples had one monk each, the other temples had none. The temples ranked as historic remains were managed by the local Cultural service. Tourists or pilgrims had to buy tickets and pay for parking. When our group came to worship, we had to pay up to 5,000.00 Vietnamese dong for less than 30 minutes of parking. Destroying Buddhism, at the same time commercializing Buddhism!
Above are some of the representative temples that I came to witness for myself; and I only report sketchily. There are many more sorrows if one analyzes the situation in details, and it’s better left for future Buddhist historians.
By 1954, the communists took over Hanoi and completely owned the North starting from the 17th parallel. They started to implement socialism, especially after the hostile class struggle and the reform and grievance campaign, the destructions of temples and communal houses in the villages no longer needed to be discreet. Many temples was used as rice and equipment storages, or were torn down for bricks and woods to build Cooperative’s storages, hog enclosures..and so on. Temple’s ironwood pillars were turned into bridges hanging across the creeks out in the rice field for people carrying rice and animal wastes to cross over; the wooden calligraphy panels with golden letters were used to build long chairs for students with the letters facing downward. That was what happened in the villages. In the cities, temples were converted into industrial plants, the Committee’s head quarters, meeting places, and even animal farms. And to secularize monastics, people occupied houses next to every temple that had monks. They left the monks only with the temple and ancestors hall, and occupied the rest of the houses. They cooked, ate, drank, hung clothes, and blankets, causing the temple’s holiness vanished.
I still remember in 1975, when The Most Senior Venerable Thich Don Hau came to An Quang Temple and recounted the situations at Quan Su Temple in Hanoi, where people were living everywhere in the temple just like it was a housing complex and not a temple. And the Most Senior Venerable said he asked the “elder monk” Tri Do “You stay in this temple and let things happen like this?” After that, the Most Senior Venerable Thich Don Hau continued, at a meeting by the People’s Democratic and Peace Union, chaired by Mr. Trinh Dinh Thao, the elder monk Tri Do said in his speech “Ever since illuminated by Marxism, now I can see the path!” Turned out, after decades of following Buddha’s footsteps, the elder monk still walked in darkness; but until that day and even until his death, despite wearing communist clothes and not Buddha’s, the elder monk still lived in a temple and consumed Buddha’s food! Upon hearing the elder monk Tri Do say such words, a Buddhist who had been a principal at Dong Khanh school (Mrs. Nguyen Dinh Chi) in Hue, who also had come to “kiss the base” in the year of Mau Than (1968), appeared scornful. And at lunch, this woman came to The Most Senior Venerable Thich Don Hau’s place and asked for a vegetarian dish as she was a vegetarian 10 times a month, and it was the 15th day of the month. An official told her “You have joined the revolutionary, why are you still a vegetarian? The elder monk Tri Do over there, he never abstains from eating anything!” She responded “I had been taken refuge in Buddha and vowed to eat vegetarian 10 days a month; the Buddha never forced me to do that. If I don’t keep my vow then I betrayed myself and became a bad Buddhist. Being a bad Buddhist, how can I be a good revolutionary?” The official had to apologize to her.
In short, all temples were requisitioned to be this office or that office. Otherwise, they were occupied by lay people and was gradually losing its sacredness and becoming more secularized. Physical offices were destroyed by above-mentioned approaches; to the Church’s organizational structure, the communists applied a familiar scheme called “beating yourself with your own sticks” (tasting your own medicine), meaning using monastics to cause divisions among monastics in order to cause internal destructions.
Prior to 1954, the Most Senior Venerable Thich To Lien had been Chief of Northern Buddhist Church within the Vietnamese National Buddhist Society. The Vietnamese National Buddhist Society was a founding member of the International Buddhist Society. In 1957, a number of monks and nuns, either being threatened, apprehensive, or motivated by personal greed, gathered at Quan Su Temple to denounce The Most Senior Venerable Thich To Lien (We still remember that during the era of renovation and grievances: children denounced parents, wives denounced husbands, students denounced teachers, followers denounced monks and priests, siblings and cousins denounced one another. Now it was turn for monastics to denounce monastics! That is communist “culture”!), and then donated Quan Su Temple to the “Fatherland Protecting Buddhism”. These monastics invited the elder monk Tri Do to come to Quan Su Temple and created a new Buddhist Church called Vietnamese Unified Buddhist Association with the elder Tri Do as its president; thus the traditional Buddhist Church in the North ceased to exist. Twenty four years later (1957 – 1981), they did exactly the same thing to the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam in the South (to be detailed later).
(t0 be continues)