Daily English Discusion–7/31/09–Problem at Tu viện Bát Nhã

Hi everyone,

This problem has been here a month. 400 monks in tu viện Bát Nhã are living without electricity and water, and they have to rely on the villagers’ supplies.

Here is the article on Giác Ngộ. And here is the BBC article.

Briefly, Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh’s group in France spent their own money to build monastery Bat Nha in Bao Loc and put 400 young monks there, under the leadership of abbot Thich Duc Nghi. Now Thich Duc Nghi said he cannot sponsor the young monks anymore, and they have to leave Vietnam. The police is saying that this is an internal problem between Thich Duc Nghi group and Thich Nhat Hanh group.

If you read a bit about this case, you must have a very low IQ level to believe that this is strictly an internal private affair, and that the government has nothing to do with it.

My sense is that Thich Nhat Hanh wants to do things the way it is done in France or other places outside Vietnam–i.e., ordaining monks freely, without the need for government approval; running the monastery independently, without belonging to any government-approved religious organization, etc… And of course, that cannot be done in Vietnam and would put (or has put) Thich Duc Nghi in a very difficult position.

I am confident that my sense about this case is correct.

What do I say to this?

I say, Vietnam needs to be more sophisticated in managing religious organizations. It is not that hard to give them a lot more freedom while still having enough government control to keep them in line.

But someone in the government would have to have some sophistication first.

About Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s group, I hope they understand that when you are in a country, you follow the law of that country. If you don’t like the law, follow it anyway, and lobby to change it later.

Or don’t enter the country at all. You can’t come in and ignore the law. That is not how the world operates.

What do you, brothers and sisters, say?


Một suy nghĩ 3 thoughts on “Daily English Discusion–7/31/09–Problem at Tu viện Bát Nhã”

  1. Dear H,

    Thank you very much for the article,

    I am Catholic, and there’s no way for me to understand about Buddhism as clearly as the Buddhist themselves. However, I have to say that I am surprised because of the scary and deadly silence in your politically related discussions. Perhaps the Buddhists could not use internet because of electrical issues?!

    On the spirit of all religions, leading a religious life is not a solution of hiding or staying away from reality, but to start a new beginning life to save, to cure and to treat. Therefore, those 400 monks should be conscious and courage enough to embrace the values of religious freedom that sublimated their souls and their spiritual life. And that the recent issues with the Government, in regards of electricity and water, is nothing but another challenge for their religious life, to go and save, cure and treat the others.

    Lastly, I am sure Mr. Thich Duc Nghi or Thich Nhat Hanh did their best job of training. But they must be wondering now that if their 400 students could be strong and grown up enough to protect what they taught, the religious freedom of human.



  2. Dear Stone,

    The gentle and humble Buddhist soul has its gentle and humble way to face conflict. I don’t encourage gentle humble Buddhist monk to abandon their way just because they are provoked. Actually, the more you’re provoked to be acrimonious, the more you need to stay steadfast in your humble gentle way.

    However, it is unconscionable and illegal (*) for the government to cut off electricity and water in an establishment with 400 people inside, for any reason whatsoever (except when the government formally declares that these are the enemies of the people and we are at war with them).

    In this case, the government maintains that this is a private matter between Thich Nhat Hanh’s group and Thich Duc Nghi’s group. Imagine that the landlord of a private boarding school, with 400 students inside, has a conflict with the school principal. The landlord asks the electric and water companies to cut off electricity and water to the school, with 400 students living there. And the great government of Vietnam allows that to happen because that is a private matter. What kind of government would look at 400 lives that cheap?

    Don’t insult our intelligence.

    Note: (*) Illegal for violating international human rights–denying 400 persons of basic human needs–water and electricity.


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