[Editor: The following article is from ‘Bitter Winter’, which claims to be a ‘A Magazine on Religious Liberty and Human Rights in China’, written under a pseudonym. The blog seems to focus primarily on religious rights. The article discusses the repression of Buddhism in China. In response, monks and leaders of Buddhist congregations have adopted the strategy of promoting Chinese communism, posting pictures of Party Leaders in the temples. They also discuss party politics, at times instead of Buddhist teachings and chants.This is a very complicated issue for Buddhists East and West. Buddhists in the West are pushing towards becoming more politicized, which generally means protesting government policies (Trump) and advocating for human rights and environmental protection. Meanwhile, Buddhists in China are resisting the ‘politicization’ of their religion, which amounts to supporting the Communist regime. As well, Buddhists in Myanmar are aligned with the military dictatorship and support the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Myanmar. Similar political tensions are at play in Sri Lanka.The issue of Buddhist involvement in politics is thousands of years old, but history shows that Buddhism has mostly colluded with authoritarian regimes. It appears to be more rare, historically, that Buddhism has opposed authoritarian regimes and policies. Why is this so? Again, a very complicated question that depends on the history of Buddhism in a particular country. But why hasn’t Buddhism been more often on the side of the oppressed and against authoritarian states? What is it about Buddhist institutions that makes them more likely to side with political authorities than to oppose them? Does ‘engaged Buddhism’ in the East and West offer a different model of politicized Buddhism?
Who Needs Religion? Buddhists Pressured to Be More Political
The sweeping “SinicizationA word used at least since the 17th century to indicate the assimilation of minorities in the Chinese empire into Chinese culture and language, it was adopted by Nationalist China to signify the effort to replace the foreigners who managed business, religions and civil society organizations with Chinese. The CCP, however, gives to the word “sinicization” a different meaning. It is not enough that organizations operating in China, including religions and churches, have Chinese leaders. In order to be accepted as “sinicized,” they should have leaders selected by the CCP and operate within a framework of strategies and objectives indicated by the CCP. In Tibet and Xinjiang, however, the CCP pursues a politics of “sinicization” in the traditional sense of the word, trying to assimilate Uyghurs and Tibetan Buddhists into Chinese culture.
CCP stands for Chinese Communist Party, which from 1949 controls all social and political life in China. Members of CCP should in principle be self-proclaimed atheists. The ultimate goal of CCP is suppression of religion. However, how this goal is achieved has varied during time, and after Chairman Mao’s death the CCP has acknowledged that, notwithstanding its efforts, religions may survive in China for a long time. (CCP)
The political saturation of religion, it seems, is supported by government-approved Buddhist leaders. “The report of the 19th National Congress is the contemporary Buddhist scripture,” proclaimed Shi Yinshun, the vice president of the China Buddhist Association. Established in 1953, it is part of the red market and includes the government-approved Buddhist temples and associations, whose leaders are appointed by the CCP.
According to a believer at the temple, under China’s increasingly restrictive religious policies, on the first and 15th of each lunar month – the two days when pilgrims usually come to worship – the abbot no longer talks about Buddhism. He spreads the word of the CCP instead, lecturing pilgrims on state policies and promoting the spirit of the Party’s 19th National Congress.
“A temple’s survival today mainly depends on whether abbots and monks can effectively promote state policies. If they can’t, there is no value or meaning in the existence of this temple in government’s opinion,” the believer was frank about the current situation of Buddhists in China.
“Standards for a Harmonious Temple,” displayed on one of the walls, calls to “support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system, […] guiding Chinese Buddhism to actively follow a path that is compatible with socialism.”
“The CCP is materialistic and atheistic, so it persecutes religious belief,” said a monk in the temple. “They will gradually destroy religions. First, they restrict the content of sermons. Now, they are making temples promote the Party’s ideology and policies. In other words, they are demanding that religions obey the Party’s leadership unquestionably. In reality, they have turned religions into ‘communist faiths.’”
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