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Progressive Buddhists in Trouble with "Progressive" Government

Updated on September 9, 2012

In 1968 - "the crazy year", including some previous and later years as well - I was a university student in Uppsala, Sweden.

This was the time of the Vietnam war in South East Asia. It was also the time of a strong leftist movement among Western intellectuals. Many of my fellow students were engaged in the support of the National Liberation Front (or Viet Cong, as the US:ians called it).

Ironically, many NLF supporters - and especially the leaders - were Maoists, although the Vietnamese Communists themselves were Pro-Sovietic and Anti-Chinese.

As this was the time when I got seriously interested in Buddhism, I couldn't help noticing that Swedish leftist students as a rule didn't know very much about Asian culture, religion and philosophy. I also found out there was a third way among the Vietnamese themselves, neither in favour of the US war nor of a Communist dictatorship, and I read the book "Lotus in a Sea of Fire" by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

As often when somebody has a nuanced opinion of things, Thich Nhat Hanh managed to be fought by both sides in the main conflict. He was a citizen of South Vietnam, but when the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973, the South Vietnamese government denied him permission to come home again. He settled down in France.

Two years later, there was no South Vietnam any more - impermanence! - but the victorious Hanoi regime didn't like him very much either, and he could re-visit Vietnam only thirty years after the end of the war, in 2005. There, some monastic disciples of his have recided at the Bat Nha temple in Vietnam's central highlands.

But the Vietnamese government wants to control Buddhism. There is an official Vietnam Buddhist Church, controlled by the state; but it is part of the ideals of Buddhist monks neither to exercise power, nor to bow down to power.

Not all Buddhist monks are actually practicing these ideals, but some of them do.

Now Thich Nhat Hanh's disciples are chased away from the temple. You may read more about it at these web sites:

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=55,8571,0,0,1,0

http://www.plumvillage.org/sangha-news/204-urgent-bat-nha-needs-your-help.html


See also my next hub about this matter:

http://hubpages.com/hub/More-About-Religious-Policy-in-Vietnam

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