Monday, September 28, 2009

CRISIS AT BAT NHA MONASTERY IN VIETNAM

(see update at end of post)
While Pope Benedict celebrates religious freedom in the Czech Republic, Buddhism is crushed in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. As Thich Nhat Hahn has such close ties with Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and the Berrigan Brothers from the Vietnam war days (as well as Martin Luther King), these monastics at Bat Nha Monastery are  brothers and sisters to us in the Roman Catholic Church in an especially close way. 

Dear Friends,
Please pray for the monastic brothers and sisters at Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam right now Sept.27,2009. They are being physically forced to vacate the monastery. Please intervene in anyway that you can!
LIVE REPORT:
WWW.PHUSAONLINE is giving updated information on the situation at BatNha.
9:45 a.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
*We are on the telephone with Bat Nha Monastery. The situation at the monastery is quite urgent and life threatening to the monastics.
*At the start of this current crisis, attackers gathered at 9:30am then began to destroy properties to this moment.
*Police in civilian clothes have been present the whole time, but they do nothing to intervene. It seems that they are there to direct the attack, and the attackers have been hired to do so?
*The monks are doing sitting meditation on the 3rd floor of their building, sending energy to the people who are blinded by ignorance, praying to the Bodhisatva of Deep Listening to cool the fire of ignorance in their hearts with the nectar of her compassion.
*We are hearing very loud banging sounds over the phone line.
*They are throwing meditation cushions outside the building.
*There are about 150 people attacking and destroying properties up to the second floor of the monks’ residence.

10:30 a.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
Our communication is having difficulties, but we know that right now:
*The attacking mob has told the Monastic community that they have to leave the monastery within 2 days.
*The monks have been forced to go outside of their dormitories; they stand outside, chanting in the corridor.
*Two monks are in their ceremonial robes doing sitting meditation in front of their room.
*All community and personal belongings of the monks have been thrown outside.

10:50 a.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
*The police have dragged Brothers Phap Hoi and Phap Tu outside (2 elder monks of the monastic community); they are dragging the monks by force like they would to animals.
*One Buddhist lay woman is being chased by the police; she is running and crying, calling out “We are in danger, dear teacher!”

11:06 a.m. ((VN time, September 27, 09):
*It’s raining in Bat Nha. The monks have to sit under the cold rain.
*The police is calling for large trucks to come and transport the monks away.
*All roads to the monastery are monitored. Lay friends try to come to help, but they are turned around from afar.
*The number of policemen present has increased. They have occupied all the monastic rooms; gathered all the monks to the field outside.
*The police has forced the monks to carry their backpacks outside and wait for trucks to come transport them away. Don’t know where they will be going.
*It’s still calm in the nuns’ hamlets.

11:23 a.m. ((VN time, September 27, 09):
*A large construction truck is heading towards the monks’ building named, “the Beginner’s Mind.”
*The monks are sitting together in circles under the cold rain.
*The attacking mob continues to curse and yell without stopping.
*Bells, Sutra books, clothings, personal belongings… are in disordered piles under the rain.

12:02 pm (VN time, september 27, 09):
*The monks are still being forced to sit outside in the rain, nothing to cover them. It’s still raining and very cold.
*Traffic police (in uniform) are controlling all the roads leading to Bat Nha Monastery. Police in civilian clothes are also on the scene to observe.

12:20 p.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
*they are breaking all the doors and trying to get all the sisters to outside of the building. It continues to rain here.
*Sisters lock themselves inside.
*The mob, led by the police, are moving towards the sisters’ hamlet “May Dau Nui” (Clouds on the Mountain).
*4 taxi are going towards the main gate; can’t tell who’s inside.

James: Please forward this information to any and all practitioners of Thay, fellow Buddhists, non-Buddhists and anyone who might be in a position to help. We need immediate assistance from the international community, international media, the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASA. I emailed ASEAN/ASA via the email for the Political and Security Directorate at: ps.dir@asean.org If you are apart of any of these groups or a non-governmental organization (NGO) please help in anyway that you can think of. I'm worried that a Burma-like purge of the monasteries associated with Thay in Vietnam is coming and the best way to prevent that is to shine the media light upon this emergency.

So as soon as I finish this I am going to fire off emails to as many organizations as possible. We also need to mail the media--CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and FOX news or whatever news agencies you know about in your country. The focused attention of the world is powerful and even if we can't stop these crimes from happening we need to be as loud of a witness as possible. Some of these monks and nuns are mere teen-agers but all of the monastics are innocent, peace-loving people who are devoted to bettering the lives of everyone. Yet they are being treated like criminals and animals for doing nothing more than practicing their non-confrontational religion.

The Communist government has been trying to remove the monks for two months now claiming tension between the abbot and the monastics. However, the monastics say there is no such tension. They say the Communist government is trying to evict them because they are associated with the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh who recently called for religious controls to end and the religious police be disbanned in that country. This at a time when the U.S. has decided to remove Vietnam from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) regarding religious freedom!! We need everyone to urge the U.S. to change that status and put more pressure on the repressive government. You can email the U.S. President at www.whitehous.gov. If you'd like to sign a petition on this emergency please click here.

My guess is that the government is concerned with their growing popularity inside Vietnam and thus see them as a threat to their strangle-hold on the people just like the sangha in Burma and Tibet. Please, spread the word so that we can bolster our brave monastics and take up their cause as they are further and further restricted from doing so themselves. As we meditate please take a moment to concentrate upon the freedom that allows you to practice the Dharma. This incident in Vietnam is a timely reminder that our freedoms, joys, sorrows and overall lives in this moment are but a candleflame in the wind that will snuff out just as easily as it ignited.

~Peace to all beings~

UPDATE:

From Help Bat Nha Monastery: All the brothers and sisters have been shipped to a temple Chùa Phước Huệ (address: Đường Trần Phú, Bảo Lộc, Lâm Đồng, Việt Nam). Our Brothers Thay Phap Hoi, Phap Sy, and Phap Tu have been taken away to other areas unknown. For their safety, if anyone who is in Vietnam now or knows of anyone there, please gather at Phuoc Hue Temple to give them support and to show that we are united and have no fear. This invitation goes out to especially international practitioners who are there.

We can not be divided. When we are together, nothing can harm us. The temple Phuoc Hue is in Bao Loc on the National Road from HoChiMinh City leading to Dalat City (map). There is large statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion on the side of the road. (photos of temple) Please be present there. Please help us get the word out through FaceBook, MySpace, or any other means at your disposal.

James: It is clear that the Vietnamese government is crushing the religious experiment in the Communist country instituted by long exiled Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. It is a dramatic turn-around of events since Nhat Hanh was allowed to return to his native Vietnam after nearly 4o years in exile. During his visit and another recent one in 2007 Nhat Hanh was welcomed by even the Communist authorities and lauded in the Communist state run media of all places. It was a sign by many that Vietnam was easing restrictions on religion.

"The Vietnamese government has won," said Sister Dang Nghiem, speaking by telephone Monday from a monastery in San Diego, California, where Nhat Hanh is visiting. "Their 'victory' is that Bat Nha is completely destroyed. Everything is smashed."

James: My heart aches deeply for not just the monastics and the loss of a foothold in Thich Nhat Hanh's home country for his tradition of Zen but I also grieve for the average people in Vietnam. It is always a great loss when the Dharma is crushed in this manner. That said, it is never fully lost as long as it lives in the hearts of those touched by it during the short time Nhat Hanh's tradition blessed the many seekers in that noble, proud country. I have confidence that the Dharma will return to Vietnam one day to flower into giving Vietnamese Buddhists a full, restoration of the Buddha's teachings. I say full restoration because while Buddhist monasteries are allowed to exist in Vietnam I have been told that they are severely limited in how purely they can practice the Dharma.

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