High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Jamyang Kyi that is a piece of critical social commentary about the new “Ten Virtues”, a set of new Buddhist virtues that whole villages and towns, influenced by their local lamas, are committing to.
Since posting it on her blog on November 4, 2012, Jamyang Kyi’s blogpost has received over 10,000 views and over 500 comments. The below translation is only the first of a series of blogposts that Jamyang Kyi wrote on this topic. The website Tibet Web Digest called the new Ten Virtues the most debated topic on Tibetan blogs last year and summarised the “Ten Virtues” in English in a short post:
The Ten Virtues are: not to butcher and sell meat 2) not to steal and rob 3) not to fight with weapons 4) not to prostitute one’s body 5) not to sell guns and opium 6) not to smoke opium or cigarettes 7) not to drink alcohol 8) not to gamble 9) not to hunt and 10) not to wear skin and fur of animals.
The new Ten Virtues are an interesting phenomenon that emanated from an important centre of Buddhist revival, Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Eastern Tibet. Scholar Holly Gayley has observed this new movement to assert Buddhist ethics and written on the subject. Another Tibetan scholar Gaerrang (Kabzung) has written on the Slaughter Renunciation Movement in Tibet (that also touches on the fur renunciation movement and vegetarianism) that demonstrates how religious figures are acting as social agents.
Jamyang Kyi’s concerns lie with the enforcing of the new Ten Virtues on communities in the form of vow-taking, the stifling of free speech and blocking the avenues to new ways of thinking. She also talks about the role of the intellectual in society. Tibet Web Digest translates one anecdote concerning someone who sold his livestock and faced stigma which had sad personal consequences:
“Ramang Pema sold his livestock and transgressed the Ten Virtues. Because of this, the door of dharma shut on him. After this, one of his child died. He begged for the dharma door to be opened many times but it wasn’t opened. Finally not even a single monk came for the funeral and he had to throw the child’s body into the river.”
“The Impact of the So-Called Ten Virtues”
Some issues regarding freedom of speech in Nyito village and its localities
By Jamyang Kyi
When we look back at the long road of human history, all stages of its development took place because of intellectuals and scholars. At the same there have been countless circumstances where rigid traditional codes and strict religious rules that curtailed people’s desire and aspirations as well as freedom of speech. Wherever the doors of people’s faith and devotion are shut down, the intellectuals stand firm in their thoughts; wherever there is threat on the freedom of speech, the intellectual’s voices ring high.
Irrespective of time and place, the intellectuals have led society and faced the injustice of the authorities head on and ultimately many have paid the price with their lives. It is thus that Buddha renounced his kingdom and wandered alone for the sake of freedom of thought. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life on the cross to prove truth from falsehood. The executions and persecution during the Spanish Inquisition was about freedom of thought. Socrates was killed by serving poisoned drink because he wrote plays that promoted freedom of speech. In this way, the human civilization has sustained and developed by stirring thoughts and honing freedom of speech.
The co-existence of differing principles and freedom of speech is an inalienable part of the development of human society. Looking from the point of view of world history, there are no human activities in the process of a society – that is moving from darkness to light – which do not fall within this framework. Thus, thoughts stemming from the co-existence of different principles and freedom of speech challenge the status quo of an authority that embraces a single concept. For example, throughout human history, Kings, holy persons and others who held power made societies subservient to their commands and whims. Furthermore, they have suppressed intellectuals and placed strict rules in order to consolidate their powers and barred freedom of thoughts and obstructed people from having independent ideas.
History is history. Yesterday’s fog has slowly disappeared from the hills. However, what history teaches us is not about control and rule but the courage to welcome fresh air of freedom and critical thinking. Knowing that this historical experience is the foundation of development there is an urgent need to find a new path that is in accordance with today’s condition. If we look at this long human history, then for us too there is no other way than to learn from its experience. What is different though is a space for new thinking and progress that suit our situation now.
While the world community at large, after much revolutions and reforms, is embarking on a path where freedom of thoughts and new ideas are given prime importance, our ‘holy masters’ such as Rinpoches, Tulkus and Khenpos and others who hold high titles are moving backward embracing only one way of thinking and one point of view. Where is this taking us? Can one religion and one field of learning provide solutions to all the aspirations of people and problems of a society?
This brutal way to propagate Buddhism is being carried out by big Lamas and Khenpos who may outwardly seem to embrace ethics but have other ulterior motives. Is this in tune with principle of non-violence? What is the real concern of our holy masters about the fate of ordinary Tibetans at this critical time? Thinking about this, I can see with my eyes the behaviour of these important people who go on to fulfil their selfish whims in the name of religion. And at the same time, under the poisonous influence and power of these people we know the fate of scholars and intellectuals. A number of people who have refused to respect the ‘great deeds’ of these bigwigs are ostracised and their basic human rights trampled upon. It is a fact today that these Tulkus have gone out of their ways to shun and banish anyone who refuse to respect them.
A case in point is a new development taking place in my birthplace Nyito, which is one of the larger villages in Sertue Dzong. A group of monks and nuns, upon realising the importance of individual steps in making a collective movement, organised a conference to speak out about the propagation of Buddhism in this neither-religion-nor-politics (choe-min-sid-min) way that is changing the colour of the true dharma practice. However, Tulku Tenzin Dhargye, who holds power over the people, government and the monastery, and his group have branded the message of the monks and nuns as ‘against Buddhism’ and the conference ‘destroyer of philosophy’. Furthermore, faithful local people were ordered not to listen or to take part in the conference. As a result other than a few people from other places no one from our locality took part in the conference.
Worse was to come. Later a ceremony for all the people, including local residents and monks and nuns, to take oaths and pledges on the so-called Ten Virtues (this is different from traditional Ten Virtues as stated in ancient texts) was held. This has become an annual ritual. During this ceremony Tulku Tenzin Dhargye, his group and the local leaders forcefully took the monks and nuns, who have organized the conference, to supposedly confess to their mistakes and not repeat them in future thus trampling on their freedom of speech to fight for truth. A monk named Phundey held onto his principles and refused to acknowledge his supposed mistakes. He was kicked out of the monastery. Phandey narrowly escaped from vicious attacks by some of the sycophantic monks, who were duped into believing Tulku.
Later Tulku and his monastery turned their attention towards the local people and barred them from reading any books that talk about new ways of thinking and having any association with anyone who has new ideas. People were also made, both through verbal pledge and by written orders, to strictly abide by the Ten Virtues. Monks and nuns from other monasteries such as Sera Monastery in Kham, who had no association with Tulku Tenzin Dhargye and his group, were also forced into in this affair. However, these monks and nuns simply refused to accept the Ten Virtues and argued that this is against the vision and principles of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and that as monks and nuns they could not engage in acts that would harm others. After much begging from relatives of the monks and nuns and talking to and fro, they were let free for the moment.
This is the twenty-first century and this is a time when people everywhere embrace many different ideas and principles to build globalised societies. The murder of freedom of thoughts and trampling on the freedom of speech not only destroys the progress of Tibetan people but also the development of societies elsewhere in the world. Isn’t this destroying the harmony of society?