Amidst the ongoing fiery episode of self-immolations in Tibet by Tibetans studying in monastic institutions, China on Thursday inaugurated its first ever official Buddhist college aimed at producing “anti-splittist monks”.
According to China’s official news agency Xinhua, 150 students from various Tibetan Buddhist sects have enrolled in the Tibet Buddhist Theological Institute (also called the Tibet Buddhist College and Tibetan Buddhism University in other official Chinese reports) in Nyerthang near Lhasa, Tibet’s ancient capital city.
However, it is unclear whether the students, which include Tulkus (reincarnate lamas), had voluntarily sought admission or were forced by Chinese authorities to enrol in the new college.
The report noted that apart from Buddhist and cultural studies, it is has been made mandatory for the monks to undertake legal studies with programmes ranging from two to four years.
A report in the People’s Daily online, China’s party mouthpiece, quoted Zhu Weiqun, China’s vice minister of the United Front Work Department as saying that the college will strive at modernising the Tibetan Buddhist system and fight against the activities of the splittists, a loose term used by China to describe pro-Tibet forces.
“The college is expected to meet the demand of bringing normal order to Tibetan Buddhism, further enhance the standardisation and modernisation of Tibetan Buddhist study system, cultivate more Buddhist talents and effectively fight against splitists’ attempts to infiltrate through religious fields,” the report quoted Weiqun as saying.
Zhukang Tudeng Kezhu Rinpoche, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was appointed as the president of the newly built college.
The report quoted Zhukang Tudeng as saying that the new college will “actively guide Tibetan Buddhism in adapting to the socialistic society.”
The establishment of institution was officially approved by the State Administration of Religious Affairs in 2009 and has reportedly been built on a budget of 99.33 million yuan (US $ 16.1 million).