(TibetanReview.net, May18, 2018) – China has banned parents and their school-going children from observing Saka Dawa, the month-long fourth Tibetan calendar month religious festival on whose full moon day the Buddha Shakyamuni is believed to have been born and to have attained enlightenment and passed away. It is the most important religious festival to Tibetan Buddhists and China has imposed the ban, which extends also to government officials, every year. This year’s Saka Dawa began on May15.
The Central Tibetan Administration at Dharamshala, India, said on its Tibet.net website May 16 that a leaked document revealed that parents and particularly their children in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) had been barred from performing and engaging in Buddhist practices and religious proceedings during the month.
It cited a directive issued by the Education Affairs Committee of the Municipal People’s Government and Municipal Education Bureau of the TAR as ordering Tibetan parents not to take their children to monasteries or allow them to take part in religious events during the month-long festival.
The order was further stated to direct parents, as the guardians of their children, to also abstain from visiting monasteries or attending the festivities connected with the religious month.
The order was said to warn that authorities would keep a close watch and those caught violating the directive would be dealt with sternly.
The directive is said to notify schools to inform the education bureau about pupils found to be absent from classes during the month in case the purpose was to take part in the Buddhist festival.
Schools have issued their own written orders to parents in keeping with the above directive. A May 14 notice issued by Kindergarten No. 2 of Chamdo City is said to order Tibetan schoolchildren and their parents to avoid group religious activities during the holy month, threatening them with unspecified punishments if they were caught ignoring the ban.
“If your children miss any days of school, and are later found to have been secretly taken to a monastery or religious festival, your family will be reported directly to the City Education Bureau,” the Tibetan Service of rfa.org May 16 quoted the notice as saying.
“Action will be taken against anyone not complying with this order,” the notice was quoted as saying.
The notice was said to explain the need to remove children from religious influence in order to promote “critical thinking” in their education.
In Dharamshala, India, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, marked the commencement of the Saka Dawa by conferring an Avalokiteshvara Empowerment. He also bestowed the Bodhisattva vows and explained the six syllable of Chenresig-Om Mani Padme Hum.