Tibetans enjoy religious freedom
The year 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in China and the “Year of the Wooden Horse” in the lunar calendar of Tibetan people. The Year of the Horse is also the “recurrent birth year” of Gang Rinpoche (or Mount Kailash), a holy mountain in west Tibet. Since circling Gang Rinpoche in the Year of the Horse is a scared tradition among Tibetan Buddhists, this year has seen an endless stream of people flocking to the region to perform pilgrimage.
The Tibetan people’s freedom of worship has been respected and protected in the Tibet autonomous region and other areas inhabited by Tibetan people since the region’s peaceful liberation, especially since the adoption of reform and opening-up.
Tibet has more than 1,700 temples and other places of worship, and over 46,000 monks and nuns. The other areas inhabited by Tibetan people in the country have about 1,800 temples and nearly 100,000 monks. In total, China has about 360,000 religious clergies, with more than one-third of them being Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns.
Tibetan Buddhism has many sects, each with its distinct characteristics developed over centuries. The Gandan Monastery of the Gelug sect, best known in the West as a Tibetan Buddhist school, the Dorje Drak and Mindrolling monasteries of the Nyingma sect, the Sakya Monastery of the Sakya sect and the Tsurphu and Drigung monasteries of the Kagyu sect are important learning and teaching centers of Buddhism. They are also important religious centers of different Buddhist sects.
Monks and nuns from different Buddhist sects now enjoy a full freedom to preach and conduct religious activities. Believers are also free to visit monasteries and holy mountains to worship and perform religious rituals. They can circle the holy mountains, recite Buddhist scripture and spread Buddhist teachings, and take part in all kinds of religious activities.
Tibetan Buddhism also has a variety of colorful festivals such as Mon Lam Chenmo (Great Prayer), Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, Butter Lamp Festival and Shoton. The birth and death anniversaries of the founders of different Buddhist sects have become important days for Tibetan Buddhists, and performing rituals on these days is an important part of their religious life. In addition, some monasteries have developed some festivals of their own such as the Buddha Unfolding Festival celebrated by Tashilumbu Monastery.
The Tibetan translation of Tripitaka, the core scripture of Buddhism, is well known for its accuracy. The wide-ranging Tibetan translation preserves even the large volume of Indian tantric scripture that has been lost and those not contained in Chinese and Pali translations. The Tibetan translation also has other Buddhist and medical records and precious accounts on astronomy and craftsmanship.
Thanks to the support of the Chinese central government, the Tibetan translation of Tripitaka has become the largest, and most systematic and authoritative publication. The new version of the Tibetan Tripitaka includes Kangyur and Tengyur, which runs into 4,842 volumes.
Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist art with its unique tradition and distinct characteristics has become the main channel of spreading Buddhist doctrines and Tibetan culture.
A majority of the more than 3,500 monasteries in Tibetan-inhabited areas of the country have been rebuilt or were established after the founding of People’s Republic of China in 1949 and showcase the architectural and artistic achievements of Tibetan Buddhism. For example, the bronze statue of Jampa Buddha at Papung Monastery in Dege, Sichuan province, is the tallest Jampa Buddha statue in the Kangba area, and the statue of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, at Litang Monastery in Ganzi, Sichuan, is the largest indoor bronze statue of Sakyamuni in the world. Besides, Tibetan butter sculptures are famous for their craftsmanship and finesse across the world.
Tibetan Buddhism also has several painting and thangka schools, with the Mantang, Chentse and Kardri schools being the three major ones. The State Council, the country’s Cabinet, included the styles of the three schools in the first list of national intangible cultural heritage.
The unique music traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, too, have developed and spread far and wide. Jonang Sanskri, as one of the oldest extant musical styles, was included in the third list of national intangible cultural heritage as a living fossil of Chinese music.
The large number of monasteries and monks and nuns, the diversity of their religious activities and the rich Buddhist scripture, and art and music schools prove that, contrary to the claims of some Westerners, Tibetans enjoy total right to religion. The author is a researcher at the China Tibetology Research Center. are taken daily without regard for their implications for water availability and sustainability — a situation that becomes even more complicated when water resources cross national boundaries.
In this context, more integrated, cooperative approaches are needed to improve water management.
But negotiations for water-cooperation agreements are fraught with perceived risks associated with issues related to accountability, sovereignty, equity and stability. Policymakers can mitigate these risks by building the institutions, knowledge and skills that are needed to manage water more effectively, including among households, farmers and businesses.
There is no single blueprint for international cooperation, but countries can learn from one another’s experiences, employing strategies that have succeeded elsewhere to broker lasting agreements between competing interests. Such strategies must also be open to innovations in legal and financial instruments and guarantees, and they must be viewed as legitimate by diverse constituencies, including the youth who will inherit the arrangements that are created today.
Effective water management and sanitation have the power to transform economies — and the lives of the world’s poorest people. There is no time — or water — to waste. The author is the World Bank president’s special envoy. Project Syndicate