Living Bud­dha finds voice in re­gion’s po­lit­i­cal life

Sonam Phuntsog, 19, also known as Ret­ing Rin­poche, fights for the monastery

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PHUNTSOG TASHI and PALDEN NY­IMA in Lhasa Con­tact the writ­ers at palden_ny­ima@chi­nadaily.

Reli­gion plays an im­por­tant part in life in Ti­bet, and the an­nual two lo­cal ses­sions of the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion saw the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Sev­enth Ret­ing Living Bud­dha.

Sonam Phuntsog, 19, is the youngest mem­ber of the po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sory body of the Ti­bet Com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence whose mission is to ad­vise on ma­jor is­sues of State pol­icy and play a role in demo­cratic su­per­vi­sion by propos­ing sug­ges­tions and voic­ing crit­i­cism.

He was en­throned as the spirit child of the Sixth Ret­ing Living Bud­dha at the age of 4 and also holds the ti­tle of Ret­ing Rin­poche, once a re­li­gious re­gent in Ti­bet.

This year, the new po­lit­i­cal ad­viser sug­gested that the gov­ern­ment pro­vide cul­tural classes for the monks of his monastery, and he called for bet­ter pro­tec­tion for the en­vi­ron­ment sur­round­ing his monastery.

“It is es­sen­tial for monks to learn more about so­cial sciences be­sides Bud­dhist teach­ings,” said the Ret­ing Rin­poche, adding that sub­jects such as Ti­betan Chi­nese, English, com­put­ing, law and sciences are com­pul­sory.

“High lit­er­acy among monks can con­trib­ute to them pro­vid­ing bet­ter ser­vices to the coun­try and its peo­ple,” he said.

Ret­ing Monastery is the an­ces­tral monastery of the Kadampa School of Ti­betan Bud­dhism and home to 108 or­dained monks. It dates from 350 years be­fore the found­ing of the other three key monas­ter­ies of Ti­bet’s Lhasa — the Dre­pung, Sera and Gandan.

The monastery’s lo­ca­tion dif­fers from most places in the high land of Ti­bet in that it is sur­rounded by thick ju­niper for­est, and many Ti­betans be­lieve ju­niper trees are en­riched with spir­i­tual power.

Prayer beads made from ju­nipers seeds are pro­duced in Ret­ing and wel­comed by Ti­betans all over the plateau.

While some op­pose the col­lect­ing of ju­nipers seeds to make the beads, the Ret­ing Rin­poche sup­ports the col­lec­tors.

“The ju­nipers around my monastery are holy trees, and I op­pose any­one cut­ting down trees,” he said. “How­ever, the seeds for prayers beads form part of the cul­tural her­itage of the monastery.”

Given the cul­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­por­tance of the ju­niper for­est, the Rin­poche is ea­ger to see it safe­guarded.

He also has con­cerns that plans to de­velop the area sur­round­ing the monastery into a tourist at­trac­tion will af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment, hence the em­pha­sis on en­vi­ron­ment and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in his pro­posal to the CPPCC.

Last year, he called for the ren­o­va­tion and preser­va­tion of the monastery.

“My pro­posal has re­sulted in the monastery be­com­ing listed as a cul­tural site un­der State pro­tec­tion,” the Rin­poche said. “Ben­e­fit­ing oth­ers is the most im­por­tant thing for me.”


Ret­ing Rin­poche, the youngest mem­ber of Ti­bet’s po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sory body, at­tends the 2015 ses­sion.

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