Two senior monks detained at Kirti; Tibetans mark self-immolations with prayers during Buddhist festival
* An accomplished calligrapher and artist and a senior disciplinarian monk have been detained from Kirti monastery, according to reports from Tibetans in exile. There appears to be no apparent reason for their detention other than their status in the monastic community, according to the same sources, one of whom knows the monks personally and said that they were not involved in politics. Kirti monastery, one of the most important and influential in Tibet, continues to be under tight lockdown in a year in which eight Kirti monks or former monks have set fire to themselves in a new form of protest and sacrifice (http://www.savetibet.org/resource-center/maps-data-fact-sheets/self-immolation-fact-sheet).
* News has emerged of how Tibetans in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) and elsewhere in eastern Tibetan areas made offerings and prayers for those who have died since 2008, including the Tibetans who immolated themselves, during the important Buddhist anniversary of of the death of the great Buddhist master Je Tsongkapa (founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism) last month. The Dalai Lama is from the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, school of Buddhism. New security strategies were adopted by the authorities in Ngaba to coincide with the religious festival, which was held early apparently because local people feared they might not be allowed to mark the occasion.
Detentions of senior Tibetan monks
On November 21, the authorities detained monk Lobsang Gyatso, age 42, from his room at the monastery, according to Tibetan sources in exile in contact with Tibetans in the area. Lobsang Gyatso, originally from Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) county, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province (Tibetan area of Amdo), was studying for a Geshe degree (the highest level of scholarship in Tibetan Buddhism) at Kirti monastery at the time of his detention, according to the same exile sources. He is also known as an accomplished calligrapher and artist, and has published compositions in regional magazines and newspapers.
A second monk, Losang Gendun, age 48, was detained from Kirti monastery in mid-October, according to the same exile sources. Originally from Ngaba county, Losang Gendun was a disciplinarian at Kirti monastery responsible for overseeing the adherence of monastic rules, as well as studying for the Geshe degree. His current whereabouts and wellbeing remain unknown, according to the same sources.
The reasons for the monks' detention are not known, and their families and friends have not been informed about their whereabouts. According to a Tibetan monk in exile from the area who knew the monks when in Tibet some years ago: "In Tibet, we have fully experienced the Chinese Communists' unfair accusations, particularly since 2008 this treatment is nothing to do with respecting Chinese laws. Lobsang Gyatso and Lobsang Gendun are very well-respected and high-profile figures in Kirti monastery who have nothing to do with politics. In my experience, I have never heard of either of these outstanding religious practitioners talking about any issue that might contravene the Chinese Constitution or Chinese laws."
Commemoration in Tibet of Gaden Ngachoe, Buddhist anniversary
The authorities appear to have increased their vigilance in the buildup to Gaden Ngachoe, the important annual anniversary of the death of the Buddhist teacher Je Tsongkapa, founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This year, according to a Tibetan source, it was held earlier than usual because of fears that Tibetans would not be allowed to mark the anniversary, perhaps because it is connected to Tibetan loyalty to the Dalai Lama.
In a move that appears to be related to the anniversary, in mid-November security personnel in Ngaba county town, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, were observed dressed in the style of local Tibetans in plain clothes. Cars were also apparently barred from driving along the main street, where most of the self-immolations since 2009 have taken place, at this time.
Despite the intense repression in the area, monks and laypeople came together at Kirti to mark Gaden Ngachoe on November 20. In addition to the usual prayers offered for the Buddhist festival, they chanted prayers for those who have died since 2008, including those who set fire to themselves more recently, according to Tibetan sources in exile. Gaden Ngachoe is generally marked using electric lights, but this year, monks and laypeople chose to specifically light butter-lamps as a more symbolic and traditional offering. According to the same Tibetan sources, over 200 government officials continue to be stationed at the monastery, monitoring the regular movements of the monks and laypeople visiting the monastery. In Qinghai, there was another early and symbolic celebration of the Buddhist anniversary among Tibetan students at the Qinghai Nationalities University in Xining, the provincial capital. Traditionally, this prayer festival took place in monasteries in Tibet but not often elsewhere.
According to the several Tibetan sources, festivals are not normally celebrated at the university, but an exception was made for this particular anniversary at the Qinghai Nationalities University. A Tibetan exile who spoke to Tibetans in the area said: "Tsongkapa was a unique figure and backbone of Tibetan culture historically. Also Tibetans wanted to present their solidarity and appreciation towards other great Tibetan people who have worked very hard for Tibetan people and their culture, their religion, for their entire life, with some of them even sacrificing their lives for the well being of people in Tibet."
The Qinghai Nationalities University in Xining once maintained one of the largest Tibetan student populations of any university, but in recent years the number has fallen to approximately 300, while the number of Chinese and other students has increased.
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