How Do the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and Vietnamese Buddhist Association Differ From Each Other?
Thich Vien Dinh
- Personnel and Activity Boundaries
The UBCV was created from local organizations to the entire nation, from individual associations to national unification. Wherever there are Buddhist followers, there are UBCV’s organization. All personnel and positions are nominated by monks, nuns, and Buddhists without any external pressure.
Currently, the UBCV has been revived and been under constant sabotage from the police using all methods. Meetings can not be organized in the country. Even the UBCV overseas offices have been fiercely sabotaged, as the “Secret Document” from the Public Security Bureau clearly states:
“It is recommended that the Vietnamese Abroad Body communicates with Buddhist public in abroad to organize a force to divide and isolate the reactionaries.”
“It is recommended that the Secretariats organize the meeting among the following groups: people’s campaign, religions, internal affairs, state department, and Vietnamese abroad in order to agree on the situation and common action plan towards Buddhism” (Excerpt from the Memoir “The Truth About Buddhist Unification” by Do Trung Hieu)
Under current circumstances and situations, the UBCV has to be flexible in personnel management in order to preserve the Church’s existence.
The VBA is a member of the Fatherland Front, thus, its personnel issue must be influenced and controlled by this political organization. Furthermore, it has to pass through the filtering from police, the Religious board, and finally the People’s Committee. The VBA’s personnel from central to local levels all have been selected by the government.
Answering a monk’s question “Why does a newly ordained monk who has wife and kids, his virtue is not much, occupy such a high position in the Provincial Monastic Management board?”, a Provincial Monastic Management Board’s official responded “The Religious board arranges everything; we (the monks) have no authority!” Indeed, in the Public Security Bureau’s Secret Document, there was an mandate that “Local police need to actively consider planting a number of special agents into the Church’s leadership at all level”. The communist government controls all personnel, from Abbots at temples, to all positions in the Church, from apprentices to lecturers, and inspectors at Buddhist schools, from Ordination applicants to Ordination monks have to go through controls and selection starting from police, through the Fatherland Front, to the board of religions and finally the People’s committee.
Even the promotions to Venerables and Most Venerables, which are highly regarded business within the Church, have to go through the inspection from the government at all levels, turning this sacred issue into the trading of prestige, bribery, begging that result in many ridiculous stories. In Saigon, it was told by a monk that there was a Venerable who was almost 80 years old, and according to the VBA’s rules, if a monk wants to be promoted to the Most Venerable, he has to apply from local level to Central (specifically if one wants to be promoted to Venerable, an approval from the Provincial or City’s People’s Committee is enough). The elderly monk collected all his paperworks that include Birth certificate, Family history, I.D and took them to the Ward for certification. The Ward’s Public Security officials, around 25 to 27 years old and is as young as the monk’s grandkid’s age, put down a memorable recommendation “This monk is still superstitious, but the local government agrees to promote him to The Most Venerable and promises to educate him later!”
There was another incident in Central Vietnam. A Venerable brought all his promotion paperworks – to The Most Venerable, to the Village and District for certification. Then the Venerable took these paperwork straight to the Second office in Saigon, asking his acquaintance to approve them so that they could be sent to Central without going through the review from the Provincial People’s Committee, as he was afraid the Province would not approve him. After the Central office had signed off on his promotion, the Province did not recognize it as the province considered that this Venerable had bypassed the Provincial People’s Committee, causing half-laughing, half-crying situation: The monk was both a Venerable and The Most Venerable.
In the South, monks have told stories about the police approve the promotion applications depending on “contributions”. There was a monk who did not practice faithfully and at one point left monkhood; but he had “good contributions”, therefpre when he applied for promotion to Venerable, the police ignored all his blemishes. However, later on, this monk has some opinions that were not agreeable to the government. So, when he applied to be promoted to The Most Venerable, all his old stories were dug back up. The police assessed that “There was a discontinuation during monkhood”, and rejected the monk’s applications.
Assessing leadership personnel within the VBA, The Self-Report by the Supreme Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang had a paragraph “Today’s government’s church is even worse than the Monastic Church in the 1930s. At the time, the monastics had organizations and selections. Most of monks from today’s government’s church have wives and kids, don’t practice, degrade their virtue.. and so on. Crises of power abuse, corruption, debauchery at all levels of the government’s Church is identical to those of the current government … (Excerpt from the Self-Report by the Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang in the book “A Life For The Dharma and People” published by Que Me in Paris).
The UBCV was formed with goals to server mankind and the nation. Therefore, only in 10 years from 1964 to 1975, internally, the UBCV trained monks, externally, the UBCV supported the society in many fields such as culture, education, charities, healthcare such as: opening many Buddhist schools, establishing Van Hanh University, building hundreds of Bodhi Schools, tens of orphanages, Kindergarten, publish newspaper, forming publishing houses …etc, to bring dharma to the public in order to lead the nation and society to liberated and happy lives.
The government’s VBA, for the last 30 years, has limited its activities within the renovation of temples and teaching of apprentices; the VBA has never participated in cultural, educational, and social aspects with the public. Therefore, there is no school, no publishing houses, no newspaper … Generally, the VBA is only concerned about monks without paying any attention to Buddhists; the VBA is only occupied with rebuilding temple, not bothering with serving society.
On this issue, the Supreme Patriarch The Most Senior Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, while still being exiled in Quang Ngai, commented in the Self-Report (in the book “A Life For The Dharma and People” published by Que Me publishing house in Paris):
“The government’s Buddhist Church only knows about monastics, utterly discarding tens of millions of lay Buddhist followers in lower villages nationwide. This abandonment leaves followers desolate without a refuge. If there is any religious difficulty, that Church does not even know of or intervene! Even, in Quang Ngai, when a temple was burned down, the government’s church did not even have any reaction. How much misery followers are suffering, the government’s church does not even know or care! Temple’s land was taken away, the temple does not even step in. Even when Quang Ngai Buddhist’s big temple was confiscated by the government to use as a Communist Party’s school, the government’s church has never once questioned or demanded. Every four years, there are 100 monks graduating from Buddhist Colleges but the government’s church never cares about assigning these graduates to places to teach the dharma. This is because the government’s church has no public to implement this.”