Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has asked Quảng Ninh Province People’s Committee to direct local agencies to enhance State management at relics and festivals and stop superstitious activities at religious sites.
That’s the main guideline mentioned on an official document signed by the Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Trịnh Thị Thủy, on dealing with problems involving Ba Vàng pagoda in Quảng Ninh province, a popular religious and tourism destination.
In the past few days, clips and articles published in Lao Động (Labour) print newspaper and on its website showed the pagoda has hosted events including necromancy and receiving payments for sins in a past life.
The newspaper said that worshippers have been paying the pagoda huge amount of money to have their bad karma vanquished.
The payments range from several million đồng (at least US$100) and several hundred million đồng.
Deputy Minister Thủy asked the local authorities to examine and clarify the information reported by the newspaper at Ba Vàng pagoda.
The authorities should solve the matter following the law as well as widely inform the press and the ministry before March 25, the document says.
The ministry’s Heritage Department and concerned agencies will also send a team to the pagoda to investigate the situation.
In an interview with Lao Động’s reporter on Thursday, Nguyễn Mạnh Hà, chairman of Quảng Ninh People’s Committee said the head monk of Ba Vàng Pagoda, Venerable Monk Thích Trúc Thái Minh confirmed that the pagoda received money but “Buddhists voluntarily contributed money.”
Hà said Uông Bí City authorities worked with monks at Ba Vàng Pagoda on Wednesday, after receiving the order.
At the meeting, head monk Minh confirmed that the newspaper published real activities at the pagoda.
Hà said relevant agencies would then work with Phạm Thị Yến, a Buddhist, who often hosts talks on previous life karma, at the pagoda.
“What Yến said has caused outrage in the community,” Hà said. “If her teachings are proved to be superstitious ideas, harming Buddhist followers, who have believed that contributing money to the pagoda may end their disease, poverty and bad luck, she should be seriously punished.”
Most Venerable Thích Đức Thiện, General Secretary of Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha confirmed that necromancy [calling for souls to appear] doesn’t follow Buddhism and profiting from people will be examined by State agencies.
“I haven’t taken part in conjuring ceremonies at Ba Vàng Pagoda, but through clips on social networks, I found various things unsuitable with Buddhism and social morality,” Thiện said.
The speaker [Phạm Thị Yến] mentioned a recent crime in Điện Biên Province, in which a 21-year-old student was raped and killed by five men, as an example. Yến said that in the victim’s previous life, the girl had committed sins, so she was killed.
Thiện said that it was completely wrong.
"We cannot use an action in a previous life to explain a crime today. I don’t agree with that, especially when the teachings took place in such a popular pagoda like Ba Vàng,” he said.
“People should do good things to bring themselves happiness in the present,” he said.
“The Buddhist Sangha looks straight to the truth to adjust Buddhists’ wrong doings so as not to let more cases harm Buddhism’s reputation.”
Thiện added that the head monk of Ba Vàng Pagoda will be responsible for teachings by Buddhists at the pagoda.
“The local Buddhist Sangha’s agency will examine and have conclusion on whether the head monk still has enough prestige and capabilities to fulfil his mission,” he said.
After watching the video by journalists from Lao Động newspaper, lawyer Nguyễn Danh Huế, from Hà Nội Lawyers’ Association, said he found signs of cheating to take people’s money and practice superstition.
“If accused of cheating to take people’s assets, they will be sentenced to 20 years or life in prison,” he told Việt Nam News. “Practising superstition may be charged with up to ten years in prison.” — VNS