Comments On Grave Blunders by the Communist Party of Vietnam Against The Nation and Buddhism.
The Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do
Part 2 – C
They kept me for one more day and night to pressure me to sign the document. They planned to use me to sanction their lies, but I steadfastly refused. At the end, they felt that they could not influence me and thus took me back to An Quang Temple. The Most Venerable Huyen Quang and other monks were very happy to see me back as they were concerned about not having seen me for 3-4 days. The tape recording of what I said in the investigative meetings was confiscated for reasons of “national security”!
In this trip, I learned a number of small but very important details. One morning, after I’d just finished my breakfast, an official stopped by for a chit-chat before going into the meeting room. He talked about developing the country, about building socialism. However, he said “We are not professional socialism builders; we are only practicing. But if we keep doing, eventually we will succeed. Just like a worker experimenting with building tables (he was talking while pointing his finger at a dinning table): if he can’t build this table then he tries to build another one, he keeps practicing building tables until he succeeds.” I was startled, as the communists viewed managing a country so simply! In February 1982, when the communists put me under house arrest in Vu Doai Village, Vu Thu District, Thai Binh province in the North, I realized that the official’s statement was indeed correct. In agriculture, like I described in part 1, in 1956, after the class struggle to kill all land owners, the Communist Party divided rice fields to the people and created alternative Groups to help each other: this is the worker who builds a first table. In 1960, the Party started to gather all the rice fields to create greater Cooperatives so that they could publicly own them: this is like building a second table. By 1980, realizing that group production was a failure, the Party drew a policy of promised production: this is like building a third table. By 1985, the promised production policy did not do anything meaningful, the Party then gave a blank check: This is like building a fourth table! But this fourth table is much more crooked and uglier than the previous three tables because it made a 180 degree turnaround to the land-for-rent regime by the former land owners who had been killed by the communists! Therefore it was known then they were taking shots in the dark, working if it was doable and abandoning it if it was undoable. Only the nice people had to be sacrificial lambs for a group of individuals who were experimenting with their communist eccentric and short-sighted ideals. Throughout a quarter of century (1960 – 1985), there’s so much property, energy, and sweat and tears spent to build up Cooperative management modeled after communist style, only to witness it completely bankrupt. I am only talking about agriculture here as I lived in a rural area; other communist economic arenas are unfamiliar to me. They are most likely the same, as the last dinning table built was the table of free market economy modeled after capitalist style!
Returning to the investigation of the self-immolation by the 12 monks and nuns in Can Tho province to protest repressive policies against Buddhism, an event that the communists had planned to incriminate the Venerable Thich Hue Hien with the crimes of being American agent and sexual misconducts. This plan had been hatched to make the death of the 12 monks and nuns meaningless, but that scheme failed as I did not sign the document to legitimize their scheme. Since then, the situations became more and more stressful, and they reached a peak on March 3, 1977 when the communists commandeered Quach Thi Trang orphanage on Tran Quoc Toan Street (behind Vietnamese National Temple that had been seized and a big movie theater has been built at that location), ripped the board carrying the name of the UBCV, and threw it on the sidewalk. At 11 o’clock that day, as General Secretary of The Institute, I signed a memorandum calling on monks and nuns to ready to martyr to protect dharma and the UBCV’s honor. On April 6, 1977, the Most Venerable Huyen Quang and I, along with a number of others were arrested and put to jail at Phan Dang Luu prison in Ba Chieu, Gia Dinh. A short time later, I learned that the late Most Venerable Thich Thien Minh was also arrested and died mysteriously at a police station on Tran Hung Dao street. How painful and sad! On December 10, 1978, we were tried in court; The Most Venerable Huyen Quang and I were sent home, others had to stay in prison for some more months.
After our release, we continued to conduct the UBCV’s activities like previously. Around early 1980, the first time the late Most Senior Venerable Thich Tri Thu, President of The Institute; the Most Venerable Thich Tri Tinh, Chief of Sangha Bureau; and The Most Venerable Thich Minh Chau, Chief of Educational Bureal, were individually invited by the communist government to join a “new year meeting”, chaired by Mr. Nguyen Van Linh, Secretariat of the City Committee. The three Venerables told us there was The Most Senior Thich Don Hau and leaders of other Buddhist organizations nationwide at the meeting, and the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the unification of Vietnamese Buddhism. I feel a little strange: why did the Secretariat of the City Committee chair the meeting for the unification of Buddhism? Hence, the communist party also took over the Church? How greedy! But I only listened to the Venerables report and did not give any inputs, as the three Venerables were invited to the meeting as individuals and not in any way related to the UBCV.
From then on, the three Venerables occasionally went to the meetings and came back to report to the Management Board of The Institute the ideas presented during the meetings, and requested The Institute for suggestions. The Most Venerable Huyen Quang and I proposed that only if The Institute was officially invited and sent representatives to the meeting properly then The Institute would have suggestion right during the meetings; the three Venerables went to meetings as individuals, therefore The Institute dared not discuss. Furthermore, the unification of Buddhism is a monastic affair between monks and nuns in the two regions; why did the government not allow the monks in the South and North to gather to discuss with one another? Instead, the government interfered with monastic business, and for what purposes? The country had been unified, of course Buddhists also wished to be unified. However, we considered that unification an affair between Buddhists in the 2 regions and not a government’s business.
Later, the late Most Senior Venerable Tri Thu was nominated by someone to be President of the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification; the Most Venerable Tri Tinh was the vice-president, and the Most Venerable Minh Chau a secretary. From then on, the three of them always went to meetings; sometimes they went to meetings in Hanoi, and every time they came back from the meetings, they presented the issues to The Institute and asking for opinions. We continued not to discuss that issue for reasons The Institute was never officially invited to any of the meeting for the unification of Buddhism. The Institute did not even know by whom and when the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification was created; how can The Institute have any suggestion?
Then around late 1980, the office of The Institute received a document signed by the late Most Senior Most Venerable Tri Thu as the president of the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification, requesting for a socializing visit to The Institute and leaders of The Institute, and he was requesting for a time and date. I responded to his letter that we would be honored to welcome the delegation on certain date and time, and ask for a list of the delegation’s members and their titles prior to the meeting in order for a proper welcoming. The next day, I received a list from Xa Loi Temple; the list included: the elder monk Pham The Long (in the old days, monks in the North carried the last name Thich; however, ever since the communist regime took over, the monks were forced to be called just like secular individuals, hence Pham The Long. Temples were also considered a household, meaning a family, therefore temples were not allowed to be called temples. This was in the scheme to eventually kill off Buddhism), the person who 30 years ago (1945 – 1980) had called on young monks in the North to “temporarily put away monastic robes and put on war uniform”, at the time was a Vice President of the Communist Congress – Delegation’s President; the late Most Senior Venerable Tri Thu – Delegation’s Vice President; the Most Venerable Tri Tinh – Delegation member, The Most Venerable Minh Chau – Delegation member; the Venerable Tu Hanh (former UBCV representative in Gia Dinh province) – Delegation member. Upon scanning through the list of the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification delegation visiting “to socialize” The Institute, I smiled to myself and related to the 2 beginning serves in the poem “Talking To a Picture” by the poet Tan Da:
How did one become so overly romantic,
Thought it was someone else, turned out it was me and myself …
since in the list of the delegation, except for the elder Pham The Long, all of them were “family members”, and what was contradictory to the point of being ridiculous here was that “owners” switched themselves to be strangers “socialize” visiting their house!
On the date as previously agreed, the Delegation arrived at The Institute. The Most Venerables Huyen Quang, Phap Tri, and I welcomed the Delegation. After a formal introduction, the elder monk Pham The Long stood up and said “Dear all! Today our Delegation from the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification came here, first of all, to visit An Quang Ancestor Residence and monks and nuns at An Quang Temple, we wish you all good health and achieve many good successes. And to let you know that The Party views that the country has been unified, Buddhism has to be also unified. Therefore the purpose of our visit today, as above-mentioned to visit An Quang Ancestor Residence and also to request you to provide inputs to the unification of Buddhism which will be one common house for Buddhists nationwide.”
After the elder Pham The Long had finished and sat down, I asked the secretary to show us the 2 documents from the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification asking to socialize visit The Institute and leaders of The Institute, and the document from The Institute responding with the day and time to welcome the Delegation as already mentioned above. I re-read the 2 documents clearly, then said “Dear Delegation, as per the content of the document from the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification as I have read, the delegation came here today to socialize with The Institute and it’s leaders. However, like the elder delegation’s President just said, you came here to visit An Quang Ancestor Residence and monks and nuns at An Quang Temple to ask for opinions about Buddhist unification; you are here not to visit The Institute. Therefore, the office of An Quang Ancestor Residence is at the top of the gate, please be headed over there. This is the office of the UBCV’s The Institute for the Dissemination of Dhama.” Then, I asked The Most Venerable Huyen Quang and Phap Tri for a dismissal of the meeting. It was then did I see the “trickiness” and “deception” of the communist monk: saying he wanted to visit Mr. A but when he gets to the location he said he wanted to see Mr. B! There is nothing unusual about it, our elder monk’s intention was to deliberately avoid acknowledging the legitimacy of the UBCV; that’s all. If we provided our inputs on that day, the elder monk would declare it was the UBCV’s opinions!
Sensing that the situation was not as smooth as he had hoped, the elder Pham The Long planned to “take one step back” and then “three steps forward” by standing up with his hands folded in repentance and reconfirmed that the Delegation came to visit The Institute and her leaders just like the content of the documents. Then I invited the Most Venerable Huyen Quang and Phap Tri to stay and welcome the delegation.
The Most Venerable Huyen Quang said “You Venerables are the ones suggesting the unification according to the Party’s Buddhist unification policy; you are the architects of the nation’s house of Buddhism, then have you had any plan? What does the design of that Buddhist house look like? However, according to the Most Senior Venerable Thich Don Hau, our Church can hardly have the honor to share that national Buddhist house. The reason was when the Most Senior Venerable had a chance to discuss with Mr. Nguyen Van Hieu, then Secretariat of the Cultural Bureau of the provisional revolutionary government of the South Vietnam, to unify Buddhism nationwide, the Secretariat responded to our Most Senior Venerable “Unification is good, but it is good to only unify patriotic Buddhist organizations; what’s the use for unification with rebellious Buddhism?” Our Most Senior Venerable asked “Who is rebellious Buddhism?” The Secretariat did not answer. Thus, maybe the government implies that our Church is rebellious and not deserving to participate in unification of Buddhism nationwide, therefore we dare not have opinions”
When the Most Venerable Huyen Quang finished, I said “The past decades, you were fortunate to live in peace, independence, freedom, and happiness in the North, perhaps you have done many things to serve Buddha dharma over there. In this Southern land, we have had to live through wars, even repressions, thus we have not done much Buddha dhama. Even if we had any contribution, the government seized everything. Perhaps you all have already seen, the middle school Bo De, Van Hanh University, cultural and charitable offices from central to local levels had to be given to the government. Buddhist institutes had to close down so that monks and nuns had to go home to work in agricultural production, therefore the Church currently has nothing. Thus, if we have the honor to unify with you, we do so with our empty hands. Then, who needs to unify with whom?
By then it was lunch time we invited the delegation stay for lunch as we had already prepared everything. Therefore the socializing visit and asking for inputs did not have any result.
From then on, the late Most Senior Venerable Tri Thu, the Venerables Tri Tinh, Minh Chau in the Committee to Campaign for Buddhist Unification continued to campaign, continued to go to meetings; and everytime they came back from the meetings, they pushed the Most Venerable Huyen Quang and I to join the unification. The Most Venerable Huyen Quang and I steadfastly upheld that the UBCV must be officially invited to the meetings, who would be at the meetings, who organized the meetings to discuss Buddhist Unification, what foundation was that unification based on, what is the organizing structure be like, and after the unification not only the UBCV but also other former Buddhist organization had to completely disappear or allowed to remain under some form in order to carry out internal activities; those are the points that the Church needed to clearly understand and discuss thoroughly prior to completely unify. We could not just half-seriously talking about unification just like that.
The conclusion was that, we all presented one idea: “The House of the UBCV has been built by blood and tears of monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists in the South, from Quang Tri to Ca Mau. These contributors could not all gather at this place to care for the House, hence they entrusted the house with us to take care of the House for them. If for some reason, if you feel you can not continue to protect the House for them, you have to return the House to them so that they could decide themselves. If they want to keep the House, they will ask others to do that; if they want to sell or rent the House, that is their right. You and I do not have any judgmental right in this matter. In other words, as required by the UBCV’s Constitution, the Church’s Conference happens bi-annually, but in situations related to the existence or disappearance of the UBCV, an emergency Conference has to be organized to find solutions to those situations. The Management Board of The Institute does not have a judging right. This is the moment that is related to the existence or disappearance of the UBCV, we plea with the Most Senior Venerable President of The Institute, acting on behalf of the Supreme Patriarch, to call for an Emergency Conference to resolve this issue.”
(to be continued)