Part 2 – E
Since that day, all activities of the UBCV were put off . After that, the late Most Senior Venerable Tri Thu, Chief Central Monastic Manager of the government’s Buddhist Church, occupied The Institute’s office at An Quang Temple, converting it into the “City Buddhist Association” office for the government’s Buddhist Church. The Most Senior Venerable Thich Don Hau, Chief Secretary and Acting President of The UBCV’s Institute of The Sangha, sent a letter protesting that action of the late Most Senior Venerable Tri Thu. Since then, all UBCV’s organizations from central to local levels were forced to remove the sign of the UBCV and put up that of the government’s Buddhist Church. Even offices and personnel previously belonged to the UBCV were converted into government’s Buddhist Church’s property. There were also Chief representative, Secretary, this Body and that Body, identical to the UBCV’s organizational structures, only different in the name: “The Vietnamese Buddhist Church”, a.k.a government’s Buddhist Church. It is quite a dangerous dose of beating yourself with your own sticks. This was merely a short-term scheme, meaning only using the UBCV‘s people to kill off the UBCV. In the long run, the government’s Buddhist Church would be employed to legally and legitimately exterminate Buddhism, just like the Vietnamese Unified Buddhist Association managed by the elder monk Tri Do in North previously. And at the end, when really moved forward to “communist paradise”, it was the government’s Buddhist Church which would be obliterated.
However, it seems like that fantasied communist paradise remain very distant. Especially after the Berlin Wall was torn down, the Eastern European communist bloc and the Soviet Union collapsed, causing the position of communist Vietnam unbalanced. Currently, the communists exploit Buddhism as its refuge, leading the fate of Vietnamese Buddhism tangled with socialism, as in the case of the Communist leading the country tangling with the international communist bloc half a century ago. Similar to past decades, the communists never mentioned about posthumous anniversary for Hung Vuong Patriarch, but now they put on a show of making the offerings to the Patriarch on March 10, lunar calendar. It has been told in the South, the communists allow temples to accept people who want to be ordained and open schools to teach basic Buddhism to train monks and nuns. It has also been told that on Vesak and Lunar New Year, Party and government’s officials go to temples to “worship the Buddha”! Oh dear! How precious! Atheist officials worship Buddha! Father Buddha to certify their merits! But if ever since 1945, 1954 or at least since 1975, our officials had had done so, would it have been much better? However, a sparely woven curtain will never be able to cover a Deity’s eyes. It’s just (simply) “not able to kill, then spare life to gather merits”, being unable to exterminate something then lets exploit it. It is “taking a step back in order to take three steps forward”! “Chicken manure” can be easily wiped away. Indeed, not to jinx it, if later on the Berlin wall is rebuilt, the Eastern European Communist and Soviet Union bloc were restored, and communist Vietnam got back the position of “advancing ahead in apparent victory” of the year 1975, where could temples be found for the atheist officials to come to worship? I remember after April 30, 1975, the slogans “Marxist-Leninist forever victorious!” “Indestructible Marxist-Leninist Champion!” were hang in all corners of Saigon.Every corner of neighborhood showed the sign of red flag and golden star looking too shiny for the eyes. Then on the anniversary of the Russian October Revolution, celebrations lasted the whole month. At that time, did any of the communists mention about posthumous anniversary of Hung Vuong Patriarch on March 10, lunar calendar or go to temples to worship Buddha? On the same token, if the communists had dug the grave to burry alive the capitalist “thugs” then where would be any capitalists left over for the officials to welcome to Vietnam and to ask to join the Southeast Asian Capital bloc previously considered by them to be puppets of the American imperialists? Destroying statues and wrecking temples and then coming to temple to worship Buddha; burying alive the capitalists and then following the capitalist’s steps; this can be said to be smart and tactful.
In short, Buddhism has been introduced in Vietnam about 2000 years, sharing the same highs and lows of honors and shames, respectively throughout that history. What have Buddhism contributed to the people of Vietnam? This issue has been clearly written in history books, I dare not repeat for fear of wordiness and probably impartiality. I would like to only paraphrase a short sentence in the book Ly Thuong Kiet by the professor Hoang Xuan Hang. Page 429 of chapter 14 in part 3 mentions about Buddhism and concludes as the following:
“In summary, after the regimes of violent kings during the Dinh and Le dynasties, we can see the presence of forgiving and generous rulers, servants who were not greedy and disloyal. The Ly dynasty could be called the most COMPASSIONATE dynasty in the history of our country. That influence came from Buddhism. Indeed, every time we see a confucian boycott Buddhism, we know that there would be a war of power to kill one another in the country. After Dam Di Mong dismissed the monastics, Tran Thu Do exterminated the Ly family. At the end of the Tran dynasty, confucianism prospered. Truong Han Sieu and Le Quat denounced Buddhism. Later, Ho Quy Ly murdered the Tran family. Tran Thu Do, Ho Quy Ly committed those deeds, only because they wanted to follow self-promotion policy, completely opposite from the Buddha’s compassion”.
There is a very basic point I want to say here is: No matter who it is, if one wants to become a genuine Buddhist, first he or she has to accept to take refuge in the Three Gems: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and live to the five precept: No killings, No stealing, no sexual misconducts, no lying, and no alcohol consumption. That is a virtuous life.
Once upon a time, after defeating So Ba Vuong, Han Vu unified China. Han Cao To Lu Ban was very arrogant and full of pride who often ridiculed Confucians; at times if he met Confucians, he ordered them to take off their hats then urinated into them. Upon knowing that, the learned Gia Nhi advised Cao To to read books. Luu Bang responded “I conquered everyone by only sitting on a horse’s back, why do I need to read books?” It was clearly the attitude of a trooper in good fortune, a despiser taking advantage of a favorable circumstance. Gia Nghi said “Your Highness could sit on a horse back and conquer everybody, but Your Highness can not sit on a horse back and govern everyone!” This is so true! Vietnamese Kings and Lords in the Ly and Tran were more intelligent and humble than Han Can To of China. They knew their own limits. They knew they could not only rely on prisons, armies, and police to do everything and to make people more honest. Therefore they built temples and encouraged the building of temple everywhere to worship Buddha and ask monks to teach the people to live to the three refuge and 5 precepts to build a society with high morals, compassion, politeness, pious, and moderation. Thus society was peaceful and happy.
Human psychology can be strange. Today, I realize that youngsters in the North, the majority of them are not afraid of prisons. They went into prison, then get out of it, just like go on a … vacation. They even said if youngsters do not go to prison at least a few times in their life, then they are not youngsters! But when they came to Vu Doai Temple and listened to my talk about Buddhism, causes and conditions, and hell ..so on, these young men became scared and stopped their unrighteous professions, especially many of them quitted their jobs at animal slaughter houses.
Thus, when the Communist Party of Vietnam followed the preaching of materialistic atheist by international socialism in order to exterminate Buddhism, it destroyed temples, thus stepping over national morality. Cultural knowledge inheritance from the forefathers was destroyed. Traditional compassionate spirit, the ancestor’s ancient spirit of “it’s better off to make peace” was beytrayed and replaced with the hatred of class struggle combined with the teaching of children denouncing their parents, wives denouncing husbands, cousins and teachers, students denouncing one another during the land reform campaign “reviewing miseries and reminding about ill-fortunes” in the North in 1956 and the wiping out the capitalists in the South in 1975. This has caused national moral which was built up over thousands of year completely and miserably destroyed. Social orders turned up-side-down, and moral principles rendered degenerated. The consequence is that, if a pig dies people cries but if the parents die then the people celebrate; when a pig is sick then people go get the medication for it, feeding eggs to them; but if their parents are sick, they are left to die! A story has been told about a city man who raised and sold Western dogs; he bought beds and bedding for the dogs, he fed the dogs with beef and chicken eggs. His mother who was sick, saw that and said to the man “I am lying here sick and not having anything to eat, I saw you feed the dogs with beef and chicken eggs, I want to eat so badly!” The son responded “Old woman, don’t you know? The dog can make me millions! How much money can you make to deserve beef and chicken eggs? I would be fortunate if you die quickly!” How terrible! Dragon’s children and Fairy’s grandchildren! The situations of children abusing their parents happen regularly, children even murder their parents. How worrisome! It is relatively easy to rebuild or restore material destructions. But it is not known how long it would take to save this spiritual destruction. That is a grave blunder committed by the Communist Party of Vietnam towards Buddhism specifically and to traditional national culture in general.
I am sure when the Communist Party of Vietnam reads this comment, it will consider me rebellious against the Party. Rebelling against the Party means rebelling against the Fatherland. It is even more serious than rebelling against heaven, thus for sure I will be publicly denounced to death! I recognized that, but I am willing to accept it, as whatever I say in this comment is the truth, therefore if I have to die for the truth, I would not regret anything. In addition, I have nothing left on earth: my father died early, my mother was sent to exile with me in 1982 and died heartbreakingly in Vu Doai ward in 1985; my master (dharma teacher), The Most Senior Venerabe Thich Duc Hai, who had studied abroad in French, was arrested at the temple by the Viet Minh (communists Vietnamese) at 8AM, August 19, 1945, a.k.a July 12, the year of At Dau in lunar calendar, the day the revolution was victorious. My master was taken to the village communal house’s floor near Mr. Bui Bang Doan’s house, in Ung Hoa district, Ha Dong province where he was tried and sentenced to death by a firing squad for the crime of being a “treasonous Vietnamese”. My master was taken to a grass field in front of the communal house where he was shot 3 times into his ear by a revolver; a stream of fresh blood gushed out perfectly straight. To-date, I still remember that as clearly as it has just happened because I was already 18 years old at the time. I would like to vindicate my teacher’s not being a treasonous Vietnamese with the following reasons:
In the year of Giap Than (1944), the Japanese forced people to demolish rice fields to plant jute and there was a bad crop in that year’s October. Therefore, people were very hungry in the year of At Dau (1945), especially in Thai Binh and Nam Dinh provinces where the streets were littered of the people who died of starvation. Those who still had the energy to walk came to Hanoi and Ha Dong to beg for food; many of them died of exhaustion out on the streets when they got there. At that time, my master was at a temple in Thanh Sam village, Ung Hoa district, Ha Dong province. Upon hearing about the miserable situations, he went to Da Dong township and formed a relief association to assist the hungry; it was March 1945. My master opened up a farm and took in the hungry to feed them. At that time my master asked Mr. Ho Dac Dien, General Manager of Ha Dong, to negotiate with the Japanese to ask for some rice to feed the hungered. The relief association saved many people from hunger, and by June 1945, those hungry people were healthy and all of them went back to their hometown to harvest summer rice. The plant was closed down and we also returned to our temple. That was it. But on August 19, 1945, when the revolution was won, the Viet Minh accused my master of collaborating with the Japanese and betraying the country, then executed him as I have described above. There were many people who died under similar circumstances like my teacher’s.
Next, my dharma big uncle (meaning my master’s dharma older brother), The Most Senior Venerable Thich Dai Hai, Abbot of Phap Van Temple (Dau temple) in Bac Ninh province, was also arrested by the Viet Minh in 1946 and later was sentenced to death with the crime of being member of The National People Party! (I would like to add that, who were members of the National People Party? They were patriots who struggled for the people‘s independence. The graves of The National People Party’s martyrs at Yen Bai are still there. They owed no blood to the communist Vietnamese; why did the communist Vietnamese heartlessly kill them?) In the campaign to innovate and to air grievances in 1956, the National People Party was ranked number one enemy (meaning they were intellects) and if they were discovered, they must all be killed. It was only the case of communist Vietnamese learned the policy from communist Chinese. Since the Chinese National People Party (Chiang Kai-shek) had at one point governed the country and fought the Chinese communists, forcing Mao Zedong to start the “Ten thousand mile operation”. By December 1949, Mao Zedong took over the entire mainland China. Chiang Kai-shek had to fled to the island of Taiwan. After that, as a vengeance, Mao ordered to kill all members of The Chinese National People Party members who remained in the mainland. But Mao was still not satisfied. He still suspected some people might have mingled in the ranking of old regime’s personnel. He had to uncover these people and kill them all. In 1956, Mao started a campaign “Hundred of flowers competing to blossom”, meaning everybody was allowed to freely speak their minds about what made them unsatisfied with the communist regime so that the Party could correct its mistakes. Everyone thought that was a genuine gesture and displayed all that was buried deep in their minds. Thus, Mao killed all who were naïve, most of whom were members of the National People Party who believed in the campaign “hundreds of flowers competing to blossom.” But in Vietnam, the National People Party had never been in power or fought the Vietnamese communists; why did the communists had to kill everyone of them if found?
Then it was my Patriarch (my dharma grandfather), abbott of Tra Lu Phung Temple, Xuan Truong ward, Nam Dinh province. In 1954, the communists came to the temple and told my Patriarch that he was using the opium of religion to put people to sleep and that he would be taken out to be publicly denounced. Hence my Patriarch was so frightened he hung himself to death.
Now it is my turn to have been imprisoned and maltreated for decades, only with the crime of being “faithful to Buddhist ideals, wishing to preserve national traditional culture and ancestor’s spiritual heritage and architecture. That’s all; I never want to struggle for power with anyone. Because, in my mind, traditional culture and ancestor’s spiritual heritage are very important; thanks to that, the people of Vietnam did not get assimilated by feudal, imperial and colonial forces in the ancient days as well as in modern days, sometimes occupying our Vietnam for more than one thousand years. Of course, since our culture is the one with a long history, there are things that have become outdated. We should replace those outdated traditions with new and appropriate ones; if we say that our culture is too old and no longer suitable to life, let us completely replace it with an entirely new, unfamiliar culture, then we will fall into the situations that make them:
Neither Western nor Eastern
The demons give birth to fanatics
Turning ancestor’s graves upside down
Flattening temples and communal houses
Grandparents considered less important than the pigs
Parents looked like sticks of wood
The spirit of Lac Viet nation still floats in the air
Does a history of 4000 years feel the shame?
In summary, as I have mentioned my mother, my dharma master, my dharma uncle and my dharma Patriarch all died miserably. If it is my turn to die miserably then I pledge to contribute another drop of blood to a painful page of the national history.
Written at Vu Doai village, Vu Thu District, Thai Binh province, January, 1992 (December 14, Tan Mui lunar calendar).
The 10th anniversary of administrative exile.
Thich Quang Do
General Secretary of the Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma, The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.