Over a hundred senior Tibetan Buddhist scholars gathered this week at Kardze monastery in southwestern China’s Sichuan province to hold formal debates on a core subject of Buddhist philosophy, the Middle Way, and to instruct laypeople in the fundamentals of their religion, sources in the region said.
The senior teachers, or Geshes—many of whom had received advanced religious degrees in monasteries in India and then returned to Tibet—came from about 50 other monasteries in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county and nearby areas for the discussions, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They joined many other monks, reincarnated lamas, and other scholars, so that about 500-700 were in attendance altogether,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Their debates are on the texts of the Madhyamaka, the Middle Way of Buddhist philosophy,” he said.
Over a thousand laypersons also gathered to hear the debates, “and the scholars took the opportunity to give them basic Buddhist teachings and speak on the need to preserve the Tibetan culture and language,” the source said.
“They also emphasized the importance of mental peace for the overall health of the Tibetan community,” he said.
Many had trained in India
The monastery’s original plan was to invite over 500 Geshes from across Tibetan-populated areas of China, but only around a hundred arrived to take part in the debates, RFA’s source said.
“Many of those who participated are returnees from Buddhist monasteries in India who are now enrolled in different monasteries in Tibet,” the source said.
Apart from Kardze monastery, other monasteries in the county sending representatives included Dargye, Tonggo, Koma, Draggo, La, Yarga, Jowo, Dza Sershul, and Aga, he added.
The debates, which began on Oct. 10, were scheduled to run all week and end on Friday, Oct. 14, he said.
Public assemblies at monasteries in Tibetan regions of China have greatly increased in size in recent years, observers and participants say, as tens of thousands of Tibetans gather to assert their national and cultural identity in the face of Chinese domination.
Chinese security forces, fearful of sudden protests by Tibetans opposed to Beijing’s rule, often monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds, sources say.