Comments On Grave Blunders By the Communist Party of Vietnam Against The Nation and Buddhism.
The Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do
Part 2 – B
The spiritual destruction was committed by forcing all temples to raise pigs; it was even common for monks to kill pigs and chicken. Raising pigs was purported to disturb the peaceful and holy atmosphere at the temples, killings pigs and chicken was purported to eradicate the spirit of compassion and the vow not to kill of Buddhism in order to secularize Buddhism; that was the quickest way to annihilate Buddhism.
Prior to 1954, Quan Su Temple was the Central office of the Northern Buddhist Church of which the Buddhist Institute served to educate monks and nuns, Khuong Viet high school taught secular programs, Duoc Tue publisher printed the monthly magazine Phuong Tien and sutras, there were libraries, and so on. However, after the communists took possession of Hanoi, the Buddhist Institute had to close down and monks and nuns had to go back to their hometowns to work in agricultural productivity; Khuong Viet high school was closed down, its library was locked down; the monthly magazine Phuong Tien stopped its production and Duoc Tue publisher was requisitioned. Thus all activities of the Church were completely starved off, just like in the South in 1975.
At the time, what contribution did the Vietnamese Unified Buddhist Association, headquartered at Quan Su Temple, have for Northern Buddhism? The immediate answer would be “Nothing.” Why? Since it was the communist policy to destroy Buddhism in the short term as well as in the long run, how would they allow the Buddhist Association to function? Additionally, as told by the Most Senior Venerable Thich Don Hau whom I mentioned above, the elder Tri Do, who was able to see the path clearly after having been shone with the light of Marxism, had to go on his own path to propagate Marxism; he no longer served Buddhism. His Vietnamese Unified Buddhist Association was only used to serve the Communist Party’s political agendas by occasionally going to some peace conferences organized by the international communists in The Soviet Union or Mongolia in order to denounce the US invasion while at the same time to show to the South and the world that, under the communist regime in the North, religions were still respected. That’s all; but in reality the elder Tri Do’s Vietnamese Unified Buddhist Association did nothing to serve Buddha Dharma; on the contrary it acted as a puppet to legitimize the communists’ destruction of Buddhism. I would never exaggerate, the history is still there.
Originating from the scheme to decimate Buddhism in the short term as well as in the long run, since 1954, the communists only allowed each temple to have one old monk acting as head of the household. Young monks (very scarced, if there was any, ) had to return to native villages to work in agricultural production. After the old monks died without a successor, the temples became abandoned; if the temples were in the cities, they would be requisitioned to become manufacturing offices, if they were in the rural areas, they were bulldozed to make rice fields. For example (very rare) if someone wanted to be ordained, he or she had to fill out an application and submit his or her family history to police, for reasons that the government wanted to select good citizens to be monastics in order to serve dharma and society. But there were people who waited until old ages without getting the permission to become monastics! Since the Constitution of the communist government had a clause “freedom of religion and freedom of being non-religious” (one way to manipulate words), then if a spiritual person wanted to become monastic, would he or she be told matter-of-factly that “Brother, sister, you are not allowed to be ordained”? Hence, it is the most constitutionally legitimate to use the reason to “select good citizens to serve dharma and society” as blockage! It’s been told that in Thai Binh township, there were some people who wanted to become monastics. After having waited for too long without getting response from the government, they organized an “illicit ordination” at a temple during which everyone was arrested by the police! Under the communist regime, everything is controlled by the government. If people want to do anything privately they have to do it in secrecy; this is call “illicit work”. For example, boat people are called “illicit emigrants”, selling soup sneakily is called illicit selling, and even becoming monastics has to be ordained illicitly! That was the scenario of those who wanted to be ordained to become monks and nuns. To young men and women, they had to be committed to whatever union they belonged to; whoever visited temples were criticized, ridiculed by the unions; therefore nobody dared visit the temples. The phrase “Youngsters are happy at home, elders are happy at the temples” were applied to the ultimate. Secular activities were just like that, only a small number of toothless elders over 70 or 80 years old were free to come to the temples. Once these followers died, there would be no more lay followers!
A 12 year-old boy in Thai Binh township who only wanted to become a monk. He regularly went to Ky Ba Temple to chant the sultras; sometimes he stayed at the temples for a few days. At night when the police came to the temple to kick people out, the boy crawled to the bottom of the bed or climbed up the tree to hide. After many times, the boy’s parents were called to the police station and ordered to force the boy to go home. The old monk at the temple was ordered not to admit the boy or else risked being ‘handled’ by the police. That was a plot to kill off future Buddhists, and the communists hoped that within 50 years, Buddhism nationwide will be completely annihilated. However, our ancestors said “Planning is performed by men, success or failure is decided by Heaven”; Westerners also had a similar phrase “Man proposes, God disposes”; meaning success or failure depends on Heaven. In deed, the Berlin wall was torn down, Eastern European Communist and the Soviet Union bloc collapsed, Vietnamese communists no longer had enough time to activate their plot. The age of “Union first, Heaven second” no longer existed, and the school of thought “The Heaven thug get out of the way so that the water resources guy can proceed to replace Heaven” no longer had any value either. The Soviet communist bloc collapsed was caused by that arrogant and eccentric attitude. An Egyptian historian in the 5th B.C century, Herodotus, said “The fate of a regime are divided into 3 phases: success, arrogant, and collapse.”
By 1975, the communists succeeded in invading the South and taking over Saigon. To Buddhism, the communists generally also did exactly the same thing as in the North; meaning temples were requisitioned, educational and cultural offices such as Bo De Middle School, Van Hanh University, all cultural, social charitable organizations, from Central to local levels throughout the South were confiscated and used in purposes just like in the North. Buddhist Institutes had to close down so that monastic apprentices had to go home to work in agricultural production. Temples only had a few old monks, the young monks had to join the army or go home to work on rice fields, generally identical to the situation in the North. At the level of Buddhist organizing structures, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) was the main target that the communists had to terminate at all costs, and of course they used the scheme “beating yourself with your own sticks.” However this scheme was only applicable to Buddhism and not to Christianity that was nicknamed “chicken stool” as above-mentioned.
First of all, the communist gave birth to the so-called The Patriotic Buddhist Affairs Committee” chaired by the elder monk Minh Nguyet and headquartered at Vinh Nghiem Temple on Cong Ly Street, Saigon. Speaking on rationale aspects, if there exists patriotic Buddhism then there must also exist unpatriotic Buddhism, a.k.a “rebellious Buddhism” as in the language of communism. Then, what Buddhism is “rebellious Buddhism”? Who else but the UBCV? Thus, according to the Communist Party’s mentality of hatred and class struggle, clearly patriotic Buddhism had to struggle to exterminate rebellious Buddhism. How painful! A political party such as the Communist Party of Vietnam, which always appeals for unity and greater unity, then turns out to harbor hatred and class struggles. How can one find unity with it? How contradictory!
Buddhism has been present in this nation throughout a history of 2000 years, sharing the same highs and lows of honors and shames, respectively. Through the ages, has Buddhism ever betrayed its people in order to warrant the creation of patriotic Buddhism which is loyal to socialism to struggle in hatred against rebellious Buddhism? From then on, the communists used “patriotic, socialism loving” monks to threaten and push the UBCV’s monks and nuns to join the Patriotic Buddhist Affairs Committee. The two people most spirited and efficient in this affair were the elderly monks “secret agent” Phap Lan and Tu Hanh. Despite being threatened, pushed, terrorized, only a very small number of monks and nuns, either seeking personal safety from having been too scared, the absolute majority of the UBCV members from Quang Tri to Ca Mau remained loyal to the Church and persistently suffered.
In November 1975, a group self-immolation by 12 monks and nuns at Duoc Su Zen Monastery in Rach Goi of Can Tho province took place to protest the communists oppressing Buddhism. Not until December 1976 did that case get reported to the Central Church. The UBCV’s Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma (The Institute) sent complaining letters to the communist government, requesting an investigation. Mr Mai Chi Tho, then chief of police at Saigon city, came to An Quang and suggested The Institute send personnel to investigate (I’d like to repeat here that since April 30, 1975 until that day, The Institute had sent a total of sixty-two (62) documents to the communist government protesting and request solutions to arrests against monks, nuns, and Buddhists and destroying temples and statues, confiscation of temples to make birth centers; all sent without any response. This was the first time a complaining letter sent by the Institute received a response and of course they had planned in advance so they could benefit from that response). At that time, the Most Venerable Thich Tri Tinh suggested that since the incident in Can Tho had happened one year previously, just let it go! However, the late Most Venerables Thich Thien Minh, Thich Huyen Quang and I were opposed to that suggestion and requested The Institute send people to investigate. The Institute nominated The Venerable Ho Giac and I to represent the Institute in the investigation. Later, however, the Venerable Ho Giac was busy with something else, so I went alone. Obviously, like I had mentioned above, everything was pre-orchestrated by the communist government, thus the investigation was only to legitimize the result that they had fixed previously.
The investigation’s meeting was chaired by Mr. Huynh Chau So, Central Vice-Investigator from Hanoi. Additionally, there were many local authorities among whom I noticed one obese man who stared at me all the time with an angry and violent look full of murderous intention, ready to eat people alive, perhaps just to intimidate me mentally. The monastics included the elderly monk Thien Hao and Hue Thanh who was dharma master of The Venerable Thich Hue Hien. Some “witnesses” who had been selected from the location of the self-immolation were already there. After the first working day in Can Tho city, I requested to go to Duoc Su Zen Monastery, about 5-10 kilometers from Can Tho city, to take a look at the scene but they stated it was not safe to go there! I said the revolutionary government possessed the entire country, who could do anything to cause lack of security? It was only an excuse; the truth was that Duoc Su Zen Monastery had been flattened and the soil had been turned up to make a banana farm. After the 12 monastics self-immolated, local authorities dragged the 12 bodies out and left them by the sidewalk so that all pedestrians could see. Two days later they sprayed the bodies with gasoline and burned the body; what was left of the bodies was put in 2 caskets and buried at a place that nobody knew about.
After 3 days of work, Mr. Huynh Chau So summed up the investigation through few points like follows:
- Hue Hien (the Abbot of Duoc Su Zen Monastery leading the self-immolation by the 12 monks and nuns) had been a CIA agent. After the South was completely liberated, he was afraid of being punished by the Revolution, so he committed suicide and forced the other 11 to die with him;
- Previously, Hue Hien was fully provided with food by the American puppets; now he had no means of living so he had to commit mass suicide
- Hue Hien committed sins with some of the nuns and was afraid of being uncovered, therefore he committed suicide and burned the temple with 11 others.
The witnesses stated identically to the summary, and especially the monk Hue Thanh, dharma master of The Venerable Hue Hien also acknowledged to the summary! After that, they asked me to sign the summarizing document. I told them I would not sign, as the content of the summarizing document completely contradicted the suicide letter signed on September 29 by the Venerable Thich Hue Hien, At Mao (year of the Cat lunar calendar, November 2, 1975). To substantiate my position, I read the suicide letter in its entirety like follows:
September 29, Lunar Calendar
Namo The Eastern Lord Tathagata with Light of Lapis Lazuli as our witness
We monastic disciples, Duoc Su Zen Monastery, solemnly present to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Deity Sangha the vows from the heart of all monks and nuns at the temple to self-immolate on September 29, the year of At Mao lunar calendar, or November 2, 1975.
- To protect the future of Buddha dharma, indestructible Tagadatha’s Proper Dharma;
- To protect forever-lasting values and moral of monastics
- To protect the indestructible Three Gems at Duoc Su Monastery;
- Earnestly call on the revolutionary republic provisional government of South Vietnam, Liberation Front to absolutely properly respect freedom of religion.
- Earnestly call on fellow Buddhist countrymen to unwaveringly protect the heart of the North and South according to the will of the great leader Ho; the North or the South is only one heart, if one tears up the heart of a Vietnamese, regardless whether that person is an enemy or a friend, he or she has betrayed the great leader Ho’s will. That individual is enemy’s collaborator, betraying people’s revolution.
- The World Buddhist flag, the UBCV represents the six halos of the Buddhas and the forever indestructible Six Great Abilities of the Buddhas;
- Pray for indestructible independence, freedom and peace.
After that, the Venerable Thich Hue Hien wrote down the name of the 12 monks and nuns lead by him, vowing to self-immolate for the above-mentioned seven wishes; and the Venerable concluded:
- It is better to die dignified than to live ashamed
- Accept death to protect ideal
- Accept death to protect morality
- Accept death to protect truth
Representing the monks and nuns, Abbot
Signed and Sealed
The Venerable Thich Hue Hien
Above is the suicide letter by the Venerable Thich Hue Hiem, written before self-immolating with 11 other monks and nuns. The content of the letter, as I said above, completely contradicted the 3 conclusions in the investigation’s document by Mr. Huynh Phu So, therefore I could not sign that document.
(to be continued)