An Interview with Arjia Rinpoche

By Winfield, Pamela D. | Cross Currents, September 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

An Interview with Arjia Rinpoche


Winfield, Pamela D., Cross Currents


In 1952, at the age of two, Arjia Rinpoche was recognized as the eighth reincarnation of the head abbot of the culturally rich and historically powerful Kumbum Monastery in Amdo, Eastern Tibet (alt. Qinghai province, China). His training was cut short, however, in 1958 when the Great Leap Forward and subsequent Cultural Revolution ushered in an unprecedented period of persecution and destruction of Tibet's living and material Buddhist heritage. After sixteen years of forced manual labor, Arjia Rinpoche was allowed to receive Dharma instruction again and resumed his previously ordained role as Kumbum's head abbot. Assisted by the Panchen Lama (second only to the Dalai Lama in terms of institutional authority and the highest-ranking Buddhist leader still in Tibet at the time), Arjia Rinpoche successfully navigated the political minefield of the Chinese Buddhist bureaucracy to protect and advance Buddhism from within. His story and the story of the Politburo's sinister and cynical attempt to control Tibetan politics through its own puppet Panchen Lama "reincarnation" are chronicled in his autobiographical Surviving the Dragon: A Tibetan Lama's Account of 40 Years Under Chinese Rule. The following conversation informs and updates readers of the political situation in Tibet and further explains his political involvements and crisis of conscience that compelled him to flee Tibet in 1998. At the time, this made him the highest-ranking lama to leave since the Dalai Lama in 1959.

Question: What are the major political challenges facing Buddhism in Tibet/China today?

Response

1. The Communists are not only non-religious, they are also afraid of religion. The main reason is that a religion gathers people together under its umbrella, and any group of people gathered together may be a threat against the regime. For example, the Falung Gong organi zation has been persecuted by the Chinese Government because it fears that its members are being obedient and are controlled by some one other than the government. The same is with Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism as the Government fears the power of the Pope and the Dalai Lama. The Government is not afraid of Taoism as it is a very Chinese religion. Taoists are of the Chinese culture and speak the Chinese language. The actual beliefs of a religion are not the reason for the fear; instead, it is the fear of losing power over the people.

2. The monasteries have lost their religious mission and have become tourist traps. In the 1950s, before the Cultural Revolution, the Commu nists tried to stomp out religion, but they couldn't succeed. They man aged to stop overt religious practices, but the hearts of the people were not affected. In the 1980s, the "open policy" appeared to lessen control, but instead the control merely became more subtle. The Communists turned the monasteries into commercial ventures. The economy is the main thing. Kumbum Monastery in Amdo, Tibet, has 10,000 visitors each day, and the monks are constantly doing pujas for money and have become businessmen.

3. The Communists do not really follow their Constitution. The leaders follow their laws only if they find the laws useful. Most of the Chinese people today do not care about religion, and there is a general lack of morality in the populace. For example, human organs are sold for profit; prisoners are sometimes killed for their organs. Monks don't practice ethical behavior and care only about wealth, have wives, and have become the "protectors" of big businessmen.

Question: What solutions are Buddhists finding to these challenges?

Response

1. There are no black and white solutions. Everything is a grayish tinge. You may say that 50% of the people are bad and 50% are good. Of the "good 50%," 30% percent of these are very good. In some places, small monasteries focus intently on their spiritual practices. Even in some of the larger monasteries, you will find some earnest practitioners.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

An Interview with Arjia Rinpoche
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?