In the region of Kham in Tibet, a 99-foot statue of the Buddha, 45 large prayer wheels, and Drakgo Monastery’s Gaden Namgyal Monastic school were razed and demolished by Chinese authorities based on false grounds of insufficient building documentation and the violation of zoning laws.
Earlier last year, Drakgo Monastery’s Gaden Namgyal Monastic school, which was a center for education in the area providing classes in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan language, along with Mandarin Chinese and English, was closed and demolished under the false ground of not having proper documentation and for violating land zoning laws. Students were given a three-day notice before being expelled, and after its closure, the 130 students were forced to return home to their villages without alternative access to education.
The enormous bronze statue was erected in 2015 after consulting guidance from local Lamas and monks. The statue is said to have been constructed to protect against unfavorable events such as natural disasters, famine, war, etc. The project was completed with full approval from local authorities and district government offices and is said to have even received praise from local officials. The project was funded by the contribution of local Tibetans amounting to around 4,000,00 Yuan ($6.3 million USD) and around 1,800,000 Yuan ($282,500 USD) were spent on prayer wheels.
It is believed that more recently, higher-ranking government officials criticized the size of the statue. Reports allege that county chief Wang Dong Sheng was responsible for the destruction in Drakgo; he is a top official who was also implicated in the destruction of Larung Gar and Yarchen Gar, one of the most famous centers of the Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist school where around 20,000 monks and nuns inhabited. Later, county authorities claimed that construction documents were not approved and that the height of the statue violated local building codes and was prohibited, thereby ordering its demolition. During the demolition, military troops were present in order to discourage any form of protest.
Before the destruction of the statue and prayer wheels, authorities and officials called all of the local Tibetan people who were forced to come to the site of the statue before the demolition. Initially, people were vetted to ensure the absence of recording devices and phones in order to suppress images and news from spreading. Actually, the Tibetan locals did not want to come to see the desecration of the site, but officials enforced their participation. They were told, “Look at it! You cannot do this in the future!”. Officials terrified and greatly disturbed the people. It is so terrible that this was done, and so mean-hearted towards the poor, humble Tibetan people.
Everything was destroyed: the Buddha statue, the prayer wheels, the school, prayer flags were burned. But this was not enough. They broke all of the Tibetan people’s hearts. I heard from a confidant who hails from the Drakgo village that many people wept and covered their faces.
As those of you who have visited my Dharma Center know, I have a few Buddha statues in my garden. Sometimes, when non-Buddhists, such as my neighbors, locals, etc., pass by the Manjushri Dharma Center, they tell me that when they see the statue and look at the Buddha’s face, they feel great happiness. Even some of my friends who are non-Buddhists have Buddha statues in their own homes and gardens. Buddha Shakyamuni also said that whosoever sees my statue and face, I wish that you get peace of mind. This was his prayer. We cannot see the Buddha physically, but this is his form, or rupa, that we can see now in his memory. The statue of the Buddha is unique in that many, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, say that they love to see Buddha’s face. This is so interesting.
To hear of this happening in Tibet deeply saddens me and I commiserate with Tibetan people. I don’t know why the Chinese authorities would commit such terrible and atrocious acts. It does not make any sense to me. Here in the United States, we read about events like this and are dumbfounded; it is really hard to believe. I don’t know how long the Chinese will continue to abuse the Tibetan people. They began in 1959 and have continued for over 60 years. It seems that every time I mention Tibet, I have bad news, and I apologize for this, but it is very important for us to know and understand what is going on and the reality of the situation, even if this is very painful for those who care for Tibet and Tibetan people.
I live here in the United States, and there is not much that I can do, but I can act as a messenger and continue to follow the situation in Tibet. I want to update and share with those of you who care about Tibetan people, human rights, and who follow the Truth. This is something that I can do for Tibet and the Tibetan people is to spread the truth. It is a very strange time that we live in. There are so few people who follow the truth, really. No one seems to care; most don’t care about the truth. They just follow money and power. You see this everywhere, in countries and society, etc. That is why the world has become a sad place, with a suffering, disease, natural disasters, the disruption of the environment and the five elements, and Dharma is disregarded. This stems from human beings and our actions, or our karma.
I, Khenpo Karten Rinpoche, dictated this short blog post following destruction in Drakgo. This blog was transcribed by my student, Karma Choeying, through a series of audio recorded messages and conversations.