(TibetanReview.net, May25, 2016) – To China’s official Xinhua news agency Bonism is one of six lineages of Tibetan Buddhism – the others being Gelug, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Jonang. However, this pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet, though similar in outward appearances and practices with Buddhism, is an entirely different religion. Xinhua reported May 23 that 13 Tibetan monks had become the first followers of the “Bonpo branch of Tibetan Buddhism” to graduate from a Tibetan Buddhism doctorate program in Beijing.
According to the report, even Liu Peng, vice president of the China Tibetan Buddhism College from which the monks earned their degree, is ignorant of this fact. The report cited him as calling their graduation “remarkable” as it meant that “all six lineages of Tibetan Buddhism had benefited from the country’s modern Tibetan Buddhism education”.
The report said, “since the college was established in 1987, doctorates, or ‘Tho Ram Pa’ (the highest degree), have been awarded to 135 monks across the Bonpo, Gelug, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Jonang branches.” It added that most of the graduates had returned to their monasteries to become teachers.
The report noted that over the past 10 days, the students were appraised by an academic committee led by Drukhang Thubten Khedrup, vice president of the Tibetan Chapter of China’s Buddhist Association.
Apart from a debating test, the candidates had to sit exams on subjects such as history and law. The latter are Chinese novelty designed to test the candidates’ loyalty to the Communist Party of China and patriotism towards the People’s Republic of China ruled by it.
The report said that unlike traditional monastic schools where monks of the same sect study together, state-run Buddhism colleges bring together Buddhist students “from all six lineages”.