It’s 600 years from the death of the revered Buddhist master, Lama Tsongkhapa. Tibetans, however, were severely restricted from celebrating the anniversary.
by Massimo Introvigne
A key figure of the religious history of Tibet is Lama Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419). He founded the Ganden Monastery in 1409 and his reform of Buddhism opened the way to the emergence of the Gelug school, of which the Dalai Lama is the current leader.
Tsongkhapa died in 1419, at the age of 62. 2019 thus marks the 600th anniversary of his death. Wherever in the world there are Gelug Buddhists, ceremonies were held on December 20 and 21. Those in India were personally presided by the Dalai Lama. The festival in Tibet is called Ganden Ngachoe, and was eagerly awaited by Buddhists.
However, Tibetans discovered that even Ganden Ngachoe was not spared by the CCP’s crackdown on all religions under President Xi Jinping. To be on the safer side, the CCP prohibited the participation not only to Ganden Ngachoe, but to all sort of religious ceremonies in Tibet during the days of the festival. The prohibition applied to students, school officials, and government employees, but sent a strong message that everybody participating in the ceremonies will face consequences.
“The notice says that if anyone is found taking part in these events, they will be held responsible, and will face consequences for their involvement,” one citizen of Lhasa told Radio Free Asia. Another told the same radio that “students’ parents are being held responsible for their children’s compliance with the government order.”
This is just one incident in a continuing effort by the CCP to disrupt Buddhist gatherings in Tibet, as well as historical commemorations perceived as hostile to the regime. This year, March 10 was a Sunday but the authorities declared it a working day and schools held regular classes. The CCP was afraid that someone may commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1959 battle of Lhasa, i.e. the ill-fated Tibetan resistance against the Chinese.
July 6 was a Saturday, but again classes were held in all schools to prevent students from celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday, which fell on that date.