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Monks expelled upon passing of the monastery’s chief lama

Sonam Gyatso, 27, a monk at Thashar Monastery in Samdo Townshi, Tsolho “TAP”, Qinghai Province, described Chinese authorities’ intervention in the affairs of the monastery upon passing of the chief lama of the monastery.

Sonam told TCHRD, “I was born in a nomadic family in Gonga Village, Samdo Township, Tsolho “Tibet Autonomous Prefecture” (“TAP”). When I reached seven years old, my parents admitted me in the Thoshar Monastery.  The chief lama of the monastery, Yongzin Lobsang Khedup Rinpoche, was the root lama of the monks in the monastery and the Tibetans living in the areas surrounding the monastery. Many Tibetans in the neighbouring Gansu Province also revered to him. Apart from that, he had followers in Hongkong, Taiwan, Japan, the United States, England and some Chinese cities. Rinpoche made the monastery an ideal place to study and practice Tibetan Buddhism. He also financed the monastery’s expenditures. He built elementary schools in all the 12 villages under Thoshar Township and 11 villages under Samdo Township. For the benefit of the poor Tibetans, he also built a hospital where treatments were carried at a lower cost than the government hospital.”

“Rinpoche was influential and the Tibetan officials working in the government offices held him in high regards and were loyal to him. The Chinese officials wanted their say in the affairs of the monastery and tried to halt his teachings on numerous occasions. When his followers requested the Kalachakra teachings, the authorities intervened on the grounds of security and healthcare. However the Tibetan officials offered their responsibility and sought permission from the higher authorities and the teaching was conducted.”

“On 1 June 2004, Rinpoche passed away at the age of 77. Around two months later, a meeting was called comprising of eight heads from the monastery and eight government officials from the county and township government offices. The government officials demanded a cut down on the monastery population from 600 monks to 400 and expulsion of monks below 18 years of age. Against all reasonings by the monastery heads, the ceiling was put into effect and the monks were either expelled or transferred to other monasteries. The authorities also made a limited stay period for the foreign students of Rinpoche who could earlier stay much longer peacefully studying  the Buddhist texts.”

“I was sent to Lhasa by the monastery heads to offer prayers for Rinpoche on behalf of the monastery.It was in Lhasa that I decided to escape to India. I reached the Kathmandu Tibetan Reception Centre on 17 March 2005.”

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