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  • 15 Sep, 2024
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China Restricts Tibetan Devotees from Attending Key Buddhist Kalachakra Sermon in Tibet


Chinese authorities have taken the unprecedented step of barring Tibetan devotees from attending the Kalachakra, a significant Buddhist event led by the prominent lama Gungthang Rinpoche Lobsang Jamyang Geleg Tenpe Khenchen, citing security concerns over the large gathering of more than 100,000 people. This move has sparked outrage and intensified criticisms of China's policies in Tibet, which often restrict Tibetans' political activities and their expression of cultural and religious identity.

The Kalachakra, meaning "infinite wheel of time" in Sanskrit, is a sacred event where vital Buddhist teachings are transmitted to devoted followers. Typically, only a select group of qualified Tibetan Buddhist masters, including the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, have the authority to deliver such sermons.

A directive dated September 10, 2023, obtained by RFA Tibetan, from authorities in Dzoege County, within Tibet's historical eastern region of Amdo, stated that the Kalachakra sermon was "only arranged for residents of [the city of] Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo)" and that "there are no arrangements made for Tibetan devotees coming to attend from other parts of Tibet." The directive further emphasized that "non-resident Tibetans will not be allowed to go near the teaching site" and instructed those who had already arrived to leave.

According to Tibetans in the region, this unprecedented restriction was imposed due to fears within the Chinese government of potential demonstrations or unrest stemming from the sheer size of the Kalachakra audience.

One Tibetan source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "The Chinese authorities have barred Tibetans coming from other parts of Tibet from attending the teaching because they are fearful of such huge gatherings and are being cautious of possible demonstrations against the Chinese government. More than 100,000 Tibetan devotees have gathered for this Kalachakra, but Tibetans coming from Qinghai, Sichuan, and other parts of the region are not allowed to attend."

Gungthang Rinpoche is an influential religious figure from the Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in Gansu's Xiahe County. In 2004, he was recognized as the seventh reincarnation of the Gungthang Rinpoche by the sixth one, Jamyang Zhepa.

This directive comes after the earlier cancellation of the Kalachakra in July, when organizers, despite obtaining permission from authorities, were told they could not hold the event due to its conflicting schedule with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Gannan Prefecture.

Tibetans have long voiced complaints about discrimination and human rights abuses by Chinese authorities, as well as policies aimed at eradicating their national and cultural identity. The recent decision to bar non-residents from attending the Kalachakra on security grounds has only deepened the resentment and frustration within the Tibetan community.

On September 14, 2023, the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Hezuo City, which initially posted the directive, removed it from their website without providing an explanation. Some speculate that this move may be indicative of the government's inability to enforce the restriction, given the massive influx of devotees into the region for the Kalachakra event.


Edited and collated by Team TRC