Vajrayana in China

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Vajrayana in China

Postby Vidyaraja » Sun Feb 03, 2013 3:38 am

I apologize if this question has been asked before, but what is the situation with Vajrayana in China? Obviously due to the political circumstances of recent times there is tension, and many (most?) Tibetans fled to India and elsewhere after China invaded. What I am wondering is, are there Tibetans practicing their religion in either Tibet proper or among the Tibetan minorities in Sichuan or elsewhere? What about Tibetan Buddhism among non-Tibetan minorities, such as Mongols or others, such as the Qiang, who practice this tradition? Do Han Chinese practice Vajrayana in any significant numbers?

For these individuals that do practice this tradition, Tibetan or non-Tibetan, do they face discrimination, suppression, or are they looked at with suspicion by the Chinese government?

Though some may not call it Vajrayana, is there any Shingon Buddhist or other esoteric/Tantric based Buddhist practices within China?

Thanks in advance for any information anyone can provide.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 03, 2013 3:46 am

I was strolling around Guangzhou once and found a shop selling all manner of statues and other such items from Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhism is to be found all around China, though you won't find images of the Dalai Lama. Lamas don't have religious freedom. Buddhism in China is supervised by the state as they're paranoid about it.

However, Tibetan Buddhism is somewhat popular in Taiwan. There are also Shingon groups which have their roots in Japan. Some Taiwanese went to places like Koyasan to get the training and empowerments before returning and starting organizations around Taiwan. Some are more successful than others. There are a few officially tied to Koyasan (being branch temples of Koyasan), too. It isn't really significant though. There's actually widespread bias against Shingon and Tibetan Vajrayāna practitioners in Taiwan, especially the latter because of consort practices.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Yudron » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:41 am

Tibetan Buddhism is practiced widely in the ethnically Tibetan areas of the PRC. The Chinese are concerned with keeping things politically under control, so they visit monasteries frequently, and have mandatory meetings where everyone has to denounce the Dalai Lama and so forth. They have spies everywhere, including Tibetans, so there is an atmosphere of constant paranoia. They monetarily reward lamas for supporting them, and for spreading negative rumors about monasteries and other lamas who are thought to support the Tibetan cause. So, along with the paranoia, there is apparently a lot of negative gossip that circulates about lamas, and there is no way of knowing what is true and what is false.

There are a lot of Chinese people who are serious students of Tibetan Buddhism in the PRC. The government does not like that, so the lamas downplay the number of Chinese students they have.

The PRC now has to approve new tulku recognitions in their country. I don't know how the monasteries are working with the relatively recent regulation.

The political -- mostly Gelugpa -- monks and nuns who are protesting and self immolating are stimulating crackdowns by the government that makes everything even tighter for Tibetans in their area.

There are also Christian missionaries in the ethnically Tibetan regions, and I've heard they meet with some success with young people who feel little connections with the old-style Buddhism of their parents and grandparents' generation.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Salomon » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:46 am

What a nightmare, thank you for sharing this, both of you and thank you for the OP for bringing this subject.
This will probably affect my travel to China.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Yudron » Sun Feb 03, 2013 7:20 am

Salomon wrote:What a nightmare, thank you for sharing this, both of you and thank you for the OP for bringing this subject.
This will probably affect my travel to China.


Just FYI, I've never heard any Tibetans saying that folks should not travel to the Tibetan areas of China. They seem to generally like international visitors. That being said, I haven't gone yet, so I am just relating the stories I hear.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby plwk » Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:15 am

Though some may not call it Vajrayana, is there any Shingon Buddhist or other esoteric/Tantric based Buddhist practices within China?

Shingon is a full fledged East Asian Vajrayana School, having the transmission from Indian & Chinese sources via Kobo Daishi aka Kukai who established it in Japan and flourished there, having missed the Great Tang Persecution of 845 A.D. which saw the original Chinese Vajrayana School there suppressed (and somehow never revived) along with its exoteric cousins during a wave of anti Buddhism propaganda by Emperor Wuzong.

Within Chinese Mahayana, there are tantric rites, if this term can even be used, practiced but these are not 'full fledged' Vajrayana practices. Tian Tai and its Japanese cousin Tendai for instance, do have some esoteric practices but neither one of them are full fledged Vajrayana Schools. Even the more dominant Ch'an and Pure Land Schools have some and minimal standard esoteric practices. Some samples of esoteric practices (besides dharani/mantra chanting) that comes to mind are like the Yogacara Flaming Mouth Rite, the Meng Shan Offering, the initiation and empowerment for the 42 Hands and Eyes of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva practice and also Maha Cundi & the rare practice of performing a fire puja.
See below the video, a fire puja in Taiwan done by Chinese Mahayana monastics...


The other only full fledged East Asian or Chinese Vajrayana School that I have read about and regarded as 'proper' by sources back on the defunct E-Sangha is this one: Tang Mi and little is known about them in China and elsewhere. They are a good example of how a Chinese delegation went to Japan to receive the Shingon transmission and reintroduce it back to China. So, back then it was India-China-Japan, now it's Japan-China.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby jmlee369 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:46 am

The video of the fire puja is an example of the Shingon transmission in Taiwan, if I remember correctly.

As for the situation in Tibet, I don't think it is as grave as the OP may have pictured it. It's certainly not ideal, but there the religiosity of the Tibetans is still strong, and the Chinese do have a great interest. Somewhat dated news, and Larung Gar has faced trouble too, but a summary of things as they were some time ago: http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=5799&t=1

Khenpo So Dhargye is continuing Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche's legacy. http://www.zhibeifw.com/English/ssjs/

I'm surprised to hear that Shingon isn't received all that while in Taiwan; I take it the issue is related to the lack of bhikshu/ni ordination?
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby michaelb » Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:28 am

Might be best to avoid posting links to phayul.com. Chinese government paranoia and aggression ensures the website is riddled with viruses and assorted malware. All monasteries in Tibet now have permanent Chinese government officials on site to ensure everyone's behaving themselves and not inciting splittist activities against the mother land. Tibetans are very pragmatic people and some lamas are working with the authorities to ensure their monks and nuns are able to carry on their practice with as little interference as possible.
Anyway, here's a link to information on the new Chinese policy on human rights watch website.
http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/16/chin ... irect-rule
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Vidyaraja » Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:46 pm

Then I imagine studying or participating in tantric/esoteric Buddhism in China, which is already limited in numbers, wouldn't be the best place to do so. I was just wondering because I am attracted to tantric Buddhism and had future plans of teaching English abroad in (mainland) China, so I figured I'd ask what the situation is. Perhaps if I go there I might discover something while on the ground, but it won't be good if there is a constant aura of suspicion and paranoia.

I appreciate everyone's input though.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby pueraeternus » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:56 am

plwk wrote:Some samples of esoteric practices (besides dharani/mantra chanting) that comes to mind are like the Yogacara Flaming Mouth Rite, the Meng Shan Offering, the initiation and empowerment for the 42 Hands and Eyes of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva practice and also Maha Cundi & the rare practice of performing a fire puja.


The practice of Ucchusma is also maintained in many Chinese lineages.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby uan » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:35 am

Vidyaraja wrote:Then I imagine studying or participating in tantric/esoteric Buddhism in China, which is already limited in numbers, wouldn't be the best place to do so. I was just wondering because I am attracted to tantric Buddhism and had future plans of teaching English abroad in (mainland) China, so I figured I'd ask what the situation is. Perhaps if I go there I might discover something while on the ground, but it won't be good if there is a constant aura of suspicion and paranoia.


China is an excellent place to learn Tibetan Buddhism. It helps to have a good grasp of Chinese (or Tibetan). Language may be the biggest barrier. I'd suggest going to Wu Tai Shan (Mount Wutai). It's one of the 4 Sacred Mountains in China. There are some Tibetan monasteries up there - my first guru is there. I even have a Guiyi Zheng (Buddhist Certificate) sponsored by him, which allows me to stay in Monasteries, etc. The Dalai Lama has expressed interest in going on a pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai due to it's association with Manjusri (the 13th DL had done so).

but it won't be good if there is a constant aura of suspicion and paranoia


It's interesting. You haven't even gone, and you are already surrounded by an aura of suspicion and paranoia. :rolling: There's a lesson in there.

If you go with a heart to learn the Dharma then trust that you've accumulated the merit to meet with a guru or spiritual teacher. That's at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, the guru. There are many very qualified and realized lamas living in China. I think it's disrespectful to imply otherwise.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby ngodrup » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:34 am

I know a Tibetan-American, i.e. a Tibetan born in Tibet, who
is now a citizen of the USA who recently visited Tibet. This person
was required to attend special meetings "to learn about all the progress
and positive changes the Communist Party of China has brought." But
the other US Citizens in the group, were not required to attend.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:08 pm

uan wrote: China is an excellent place to learn Tibetan Buddhism. It helps to have a good grasp of Chinese (or Tibetan). Language may be the biggest barrier. I'd suggest going to Wu Tai Shan (Mount Wutai). It's one of the 4 Sacred Mountains in China. There are some Tibetan monasteries up there - my first guru is there. I even have a Guiyi Zheng (Buddhist Certificate) sponsored by him, which allows me to stay in Monasteries, etc. The Dalai Lama has expressed interest in going on a pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai due to it's association with Manjusri (the 13th DL had done so).


Thanks, your advice is reassuring. One of the reasons I'd prefer China over going to India is, despite China being polluted and dirty in the cities, I've heard over and over that India is the filthiest country on Earth. Now my particularity of wishing to avoid filth might sound like Western pickiness, but I really am quite Stoic and don't mind being in a place not as clean as where I am now. However India, form everything I've heard and seen, seems pretty terrible in this regard. Perhaps Ladakh with its lower population or Nepal might not be as bad, but this is one of the reasons I had preferred the idea of China (along with my like of traditional Chinese culture and the ability to teach English as a means to enter China.)

uan wrote:It's interesting. You haven't even gone, and you are already surrounded by an aura of suspicion and paranoia. :rolling: There's a lesson in there.

If you go with a heart to learn the Dharma then trust that you've accumulated the merit to meet with a guru or spiritual teacher. That's at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, the guru. There are many very qualified and realized lamas living in China. I think it's disrespectful to imply otherwise.


I am not suspicious or paranoid, I was just reiterating what I was hearing from other posters regarding the overall situation. I also meant no disrespect toward Chinese masters and I am sure they are in plenty.

Which leaves me with another general question. Is there amicability between the various schools of Buddhists? For example, could I study at a Chan monastery and later a Tibetan or vice versa or both? Do the Tibetan Buddhists and Chan Buddhists get along?
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby uan » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:43 am

Vidyaraja wrote:
uan wrote:It's interesting. You haven't even gone, and you are already surrounded by an aura of suspicion and paranoia. :rolling: There's a lesson in there.

If you go with a heart to learn the Dharma then trust that you've accumulated the merit to meet with a guru or spiritual teacher. That's at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, the guru. There are many very qualified and realized lamas living in China. I think it's disrespectful to imply otherwise.


I am not suspicious or paranoid, I was just reiterating what I was hearing from other posters regarding the overall situation. I also meant no disrespect toward Chinese masters and I am sure they are in plenty.



I didn't mean to imply that you were suspicious or paranoid, though the framing of my words can certainly be read that way. We all make up our realities from our own experiences. My wife is Chinese and follows Vajrayana. One of her gurus is a legitimately realized master (who spent 20 yrs in prison after 1959) in Eastern Tibet. A few years back she was speaking to his student (he only has one that he teaches full time at this point) who basically said "people from America keep causing us (him and his master) trouble, always calling us on the phone, telling us become political, etc." So they left their monastery to go into retreat.

If you're not political, it's not a problem. I would recommend establishing yourself a bit in China first, and seeing if you can meet with some Vajra follower, and see if you can find opportunities in that way.


Vidyaraja wrote:Which leaves me with another general question. Is there amicability between the various schools of Buddhists? For example, could I study at a Chan monastery and later a Tibetan or vice versa or both? Do the Tibetan Buddhists and Chan Buddhists get along?


Not a problem. My second guru in China was a Chan master on Putou Island (another of the 4 sacred mountains in China - this one associated with Guanyin). My wife had previously spent 6 months at a nunnery there. It's funny, we went to one of the temples there, I forget which one, and when I went into the main hall, I was actually kicked out lol. It wasn't a government official, just one of the lay volunteers iirc) who didn't want a foreigner there. (It was a special Buddhist day, but I forget which one). I didn't (and still don't) feel any animosity towards them. They have their own suspicions and paranoia :lol: Besides, at the time, I was still smoking, so it gave me a chance to go have a couple smokes :).

Later we went to a Chan monastery and met the master who would be one of my gurus. So it's all good.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Huifeng » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:27 am

Vidyaraja wrote:Which leaves me with another general question. Is there amicability between the various schools of Buddhists? For example, could I study at a Chan monastery and later a Tibetan or vice versa or both? Do the Tibetan Buddhists and Chan Buddhists get along?


In general, genuine teachers of both these traditions get along just fine. After over 1000 years of being neighbours, the majority of Tibetan and Chinese traditions get along really well in my experience, and there is a huge amount of commonality between them. Recent political events have often obscured that connection, which I feel is very sad.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:08 pm

Huifeng wrote:In general, genuine teachers of both these traditions get along just fine. After over 1000 years of being neighbours, the majority of Tibetan and Chinese traditions get along really well in my experience, and there is a huge amount of commonality between them. Recent political events have often obscured that connection, which I feel is very sad.

~~ Huifeng



Cordial perhaps, but how far would most Chinese teachers allow their disciples to practice Tibetan Vajrayāna? For instance, at FGS if you wanted to leave for a few months to get tantric initiations (the ones with consort visualizations) and actively practice it afterwards, would your superiors be okay with that?
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby uan » Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:28 pm

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:In general, genuine teachers of both these traditions get along just fine. After over 1000 years of being neighbours, the majority of Tibetan and Chinese traditions get along really well in my experience, and there is a huge amount of commonality between them. Recent political events have often obscured that connection, which I feel is very sad.

~~ Huifeng



Cordial perhaps, but how far would most Chinese teachers allow their disciples to practice Tibetan Vajrayāna? For instance, at FGS if you wanted to leave for a few months to get tantric initiations (the ones with consort visualizations) and actively practice it afterwards, would your superiors be okay with that?


I'd be curious as well. I'd also be curious how this would be viewed outside of China. It also seems a unique situation, dealing with advanced practitioners or disciples, rather than lay people.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:31 pm

uan wrote:I'd be curious as well. I'd also be curious how this would be viewed outside of China. It also seems a unique situation, dealing with advanced practitioners or disciples, rather than lay people.


A lot of Japanese, especially in Shingon, take an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and even request initiations to be given from Lamas in Japan.
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby uan » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:05 pm

How does it work from the Lama's side of things? I'm sure they are open with some types of initiations, but not with others (at least it would be based on the relative level of the practitioners practice, commitment to keep samaya, etc.).
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Re: Vajrayana in China

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:09 pm

uan wrote:How does it work from the Lama's side of things? I'm sure they are open with some types of initiations, but not with others (at least it would be based on the relative level of the practitioners practice, commitment to keep samaya, etc.).


With Shingon practitioners who already do yoga-tantra and formally invite a Lama to a major temple for an initiation, it isn't an issue I imagine.
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