I found this interesting article today. It sounds like Beijing is trying to present itself as accepting of religion??
Especially Tibetan Buddhism?? Though i'm curious that Bon is presented here as a branch of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism? I thought that Bon was a shamanistic religion and NOT related to Buddhism.
In any case, i'm happy to see Tibetan Buddhism being accepted in Beijing... Tibetan monk pursues studies, embraces modernity in Beijinghttp://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90882/7772673.html
By Zhang Yi, Wang Chunyan (Xinhua)
08:41, March 29, 2012
BEIJING, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Even in the midst of a maddening crowd in the modern metropolis of Beijing, Yungdrung Tenzin can still find a place of tranquility, at least in his own heart.
The monk from Nagqu, Tibet autonomous region, has lived in the Xihuang Lama Temple for two years, studying an intermediate course on Bon, a religion indigenous to the Himalayan region.
Secluded in Beijing's downtown hutongs, or alleys, the cloistral monastery is only several blocks away from the famous Yonghegong Lama Temple, where thousands of devotees pay homage every day.
The Xihuang Lama Temple, where the 5th Dalai Lama and the 6th Panchen Lama preached, now houses a high-level Tibetan Buddhism academy, which was founded in1987 with the 10th Panchen Lama as its head.
The academy's official name, the China Advanced Institute of Tibetan Buddhism, is written in Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian on a board outside the temple's inconspicuous west gate.
The academy not only offers courses on Buddhist classics for monks from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, but also conducts research on Tibetan Buddhism, operating more like a modern college.
Yungdrung, 34, will secure his status as a Geshe, an honorable high-level academic degree for Tibetan monks, after his graduation in May.
"I dreamed of being a Geshe when I was a kid. After 18 years of learning, I will finally become one," he said.
A desire for knowledge of Buddhism prompted Yungdrung to become a monk when he was 13.
Yungdrung's performance won him a recommendation from a Geshe in his hometown temple, enabling him to go to Lhasa and attend an examination organized by the region's Buddhist association.
The examination included debates on Buddhist doctrines and essay writing. He wrote about religion's positive effects on society.
For Yungdrung, life in the Beijing temple involves a rigid routine.
Every student there is an early riser, usually waking up before 6 a.m. to begin the day by chanting Buddhist classics.
Two sessions of Buddhist teaching -- one in the morning and another in the afternoon -- are arranged on all weekdays, during which Khenpos, or Buddhist teachers, from renowned Tibetan monasteries pass on their knowledge to the young Tibetan Buddhists.
"We listen, discuss and sometimes debate," Yungdrung said.
In addition to Tibetan Buddhism, the students in the Buddhist institute have two sessions of Chinese Mandarin lessons every week.
Yungdrung said he knew a little Mandarin when he first came to the college, but now he speaks fluent Chinese and his interview with Xinhua was conducted in Mandarin.
Though some students still abstain from using computers, modern devices are not uncommon possessions in the academy, Yungdrung said.
Yungdrung has a laptop, and he often uses it in the evening to surf the Internet or do homework for his Chinese class. He also has an iPhone and a Nikon camera.
"I used to resist modern devices. But later I realized that religion, in order to influence the secular world, must be somewhat adapted to social changes," the Bon monk said, adding that Tibetan Buddhism is not contrary to modernization.
The students in the Buddhist college, with an average age of 30, spend their leisure hours engaged in modern activities such as basketball.
"I play basketball, too," Yungdrung said. "We are monks, and we are also young."
Unlike his mentor who spent almost all his life in the small monastery in Nagqu, Yungdrung enjoys traveling. He has visited Shenzhen, Shanghai, Harbin and other Chinese cities during summer and winter vacations.
His camera was a gift from a friend he made in Shanghai.
"My mother said it's better to have closed-door meditation like my mentor did than spend time traveling around. But I think it is worthwhile, because I can learn more and make friends with different people," Yungdrung said.
Some friends come to Yungdrung for help when they feel pressured and frustrated.
"People in cities sometimes fail to find true happiness even if their wealth grows. I don't have the ability to help them find true happiness, but, with my knowledge of Buddhism, I can try to help them find inner peace."
If possible, Yungdrung said, he plans to return to the Xihuang Lama Temple for an advanced course on Bon next year.
"I have no exact plans after finishing the advanced course, but I know I'm duty-bound to carry on my religion," the Tibetan monk said.
Bon religion adherents believe the religion was founded by Tonpa Shenrab 18,000 years ago, and it is often considered a branch of Tibetan Vajrayana extensively linked with Tibetan Buddhism by scholars.
(Wu Qinglan with tibet.cn contributed to the story.)