Thích Quảng Độ

Last updated

Thích Quảng Độ
HT Thich Quang Do.jpg
TitleTăng Thống (Patriarch)
Personal
Born27 November 1928
Died22 February 2020(2020-02-22) (aged 91)
Religion Buddhism
NationalityVietnamese
School Thiền
Senior posting
Predecessor Thích Huyền Quang

Thích Quảng Độ (chữ Hán : 釋廣度) ( [ThíchQuảngĐộ] ; 27 November 1928 – 22 February 2020) was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and scholar who was the patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) from 2008 until his death. [1] Since the execution of his master at the hands of the communist Việt Minh in his teenage years, Thích Quảng Độ had been involved in political activism, firstly against the anti-Buddhist policies of the Catholic President of South Vietnam Ngô Đình Diệm. After the fall of Saigon, the UBCV was banned by the communist government, and as one of the senior monks in the organisation, Thích Quảng Độ was at the forefront of the UBCV's defiance of the government, refusing to join the government-endorsed Vietnamese Buddhist Church. He was detained repeatedly by the communist authorities in the last 45 years of his life for his resistance and criticism of their policies, particularly his calls for multi-party democracy. During the Vietnam War period, he also served as a university academic in Buddhism, translated sutras and wrote books, notably a nine-volume Buddhist encyclopedia, and two-volume dictionary between Vietnamese and Sino-Vietnamese.

Contents

In 2002, he was awarded the Homo Homini Award for human rights activism by the Czech group People In Need, which he shared with his predecessor as patriarch Thích Huyền Quang and Thadeus Nguyễn Văn Lý. [2] He was also awarded the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Life

Thích Quảng Độ was born Đặng Phúc Tuệ in Thanh Chau village [3] in Thái Bình Province in northern Vietnam, [4] and became a monk at age 14. During the Vietnamese famine of 1945, he walked for two days from Thanh Sam Temple, where he was training to his home village, where he carried his gravely-malnourished oldest brother from the home to the local temple and nursed him back to health. [5] At age 17 he witnessed his religious master Thích Đức Hải executed by the revolutionary People's Tribunal. [6] He quoted in open letter to Communist Party Secretary-General Đỗ Mười in 1994 that "Then and there I vowed to do all that I could to combat fanaticism and intolerance and devote my life to the pursuit of justice through the Buddhist teachings of non-violence." [6] [3]

In the 1950s, Thích Quảng Độ travelled to India, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia to further his Buddhist training and serve as an academic at various universities, [3] spending seven years abroad before returning to Saigon in South Vietnam to teach Buddhism. [7] He was a professor at the Van Hanh Buddhist University and Saigon University among other institutions in the 1960s and 1970s. [3] He translated various Buddhist texts into Vietnamese and wrote Buddhist textbooks, [4] notably a two-volume Buddhist dictionary between Vietnamese and Sino-Vietnamese, and oversaw a nine-volume Vietnamese language Buddhist encyclopedia. [8]

Political opposition

While a member of the leadership of the UBCV, Thích Quảng Độ became an activist, fighting against the anti-Buddhist policies of the Catholic President of South Vietnam Ngô Đình Diệm. After a military raid of Buddhist monasteries in Hue and Saigon, Thích Quảng Độ was arrested on 20 August 1963. He and thousands of other Buddhists endured torture and persecution while imprisoned by the Diem government. He was released after Diem regime was toppled in military coup in November 1963. As a result of imprisonment, Thích Quảng Độ struggled with tuberculosis before having a lung operation in Japan in 1966. [3]

In 1965, Thích Quảng Độ was appointed as the Secretary-General of the Viện Hóa Đạo (Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma) of the UBCV. [4]

In 1975 Vietnam was under communist control, and the UBCV was once again unwelcome in Vietnam. As a result, the UBCV facilities were seized, and documents burned. Thích Quảng Độ was active in protesting the government's actions, and after attempting to gather Buddhists from other regions in non-violent opposition, he was arrested on charges of 'anti-revolutionary activities' and 'undermining national solidarity'. [3] He spent 20 months at the Phan Dang Luu Prison in solitary confinement in a cell approximately 2m2 in size with a hand-sized window, [9] before he was tried and released in December 1978. Later that year he was nominated by Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. [10] [7]

In 1982 the Vietnamese Government created a Buddhist alternative, called the Vietnam Buddhist Church, which was state sponsored and controlled by the Vietnam Fatherland Front. Because of Quảng Độ's opposition to the new church, he was again jailed. [3] At one meeting of the Viện Hóa Đạo, he stated to the attendees that 'If you want to pursue glory, then go ahead, but this boat, regardless of whether it is disintegrating, broken or unsteady, let us look after it'. [5] He rejected an approach from the Minister of Public Security Mai Chí Thọ to take up a leadership role in the government-backed Buddhist organisation. [3] Quảng Độ would spend the next 10 years in exile in the village of Vu Doai [10] in Thai Binh Province. [7] His 84-year-old mother was expelled with him, who died in 1985 due to inadequate medical care and malnutrition. [3] In 1992, he returned to the Thanh Minh Pagoda in Saigon. [7]

Yet again in 1995, while attempting to send a fax to overseas Buddhists to expose government abuse by obstructing flood relief efforts, [9] he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison and a further five years of probation on the grounds of 'undermining the policy of unity and exploiting the rights of freedom to impede the interests of the state'. [4] This led to condemnation by the likes of Nobel laureates the 14th Dalai Lama, José Ramos-Horta, Mairead Maguire and Francois Jacob, and the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. [3] He was released in September 1998 in response to international pressure on the communist government, and returned to Thanh Minh Monastery. [4] In October 2000, he led a delegation of monks to provide relief in An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta but they were detained by police, before being forced to return to Saigon after being accused of threatening national security. [7] [3]

Thích Quảng Độ became the President of the UBCV's Institute for the Dissemination of the Dharma in 1999, meaning that he was the second-ranking UBCV dignitary after patriarch Thich Huyen Quang. [10]

In February 2001, just before the 9th Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Thích Quảng Độ started a pro-democracy campaign as part of an eight-point program, including free elections as part of a multi-party democracy, trade union membership and 'the abolition of all degrading forms of imported culture and ideologies that pervert Vietnamese spiritual and moral values'. [7] The communist government responded by detaining him, before releasing him in June 2003. [7] In February, he published an open letter advocating multi-party democracy and civil rights. [11] He further stated that they were “more important than economic development” and without them “we cannot make any progress in the real sense.” [9] In a 2003 interview, he stated "People are very afraid of the government ... Only I dare to say what I want to say. That is why they are afraid of me". [9] However, he was again detained in October 2003 after an unauthorised UBCV meeting. [11] He was officially released in 2005, but a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention reported that he was still effectively under detention. [9]

In 2008, as one of his last wishes, Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang named Thích Quảng Độ as the new patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, a position he would occupy until his death. [4] Upon succeeding Thich Huyen Quang, Thích Quảng Độ stated that 'The best way to honour our late Patriarch is by putting his words into practice in our daily lives. The Supreme Bicameral Council pledges to do its utmost to re-establish the legal status of the UBCV and maintain its historic tradition of independence'. [3]

After 20 years at Thanh Minh, where he remained under continuous surveillance, [9] he returned north to Thai Binh, before returning to Saigon to stay at Tu Hieu Temple in November 2018. [4] [5] Saigon authorities continued to send police to the temple to harass Thích Quảng Độ and abbot Thích Nguyên Lý about the residency status of the former, [5] and tried to restrict access by his disciples. [9]

Death

Thích Quảng Độ died on 22 February 2020 at age 91 at Từ Hiếu Temple in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City. [12] [4] In his later years, he had been afflicted by diabetes, high blood pressure and a heart condition, the last of which required an operation in 2003. [7] Thích Quảng Độ asked for his ashes to be scattered at sea. [6] The exiled Vietnamese dissident blogger Điếu Cày stated that his death was 'a great loss for the UBCV as well as the movement for freedom and democracy in Vietnam. The Most Venerable Thích Quảng Độ dedicated his entire life to struggling for religious freedom for Vietnam'. [4] Điếu Cày described him as 'one of the main pillars of the UBCV, withstanding many oppressions and persecutions from the communist authorities but nevertheless remaining steadfast in maintaining the independence of the UBCV and not accepting the administration of the communist regime'. [4] Thích Quảng Ba, the Vice Chairman of the UBCV in Australia and New Zealand, stated that Thích Quảng Độ's contributions extended beyond his work as a scholar and translator, and that his greatest legacy was his 'indomitable spirit', which made him the 'conscience' of the Vietnam people and 'shown the path to our generation'. [5] The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom called his death 'an incredible loss for the people of Vietnam' and said that 'With his quiet strength and grace, he fought for decades to preserve and promote religious freedom in Vietnam'. [9]

Awards

In 2001, Thích Quảng Độ received the Hellman-Hammet Award from Human Rights Watch for persecuted writers. [3]

In 2003, Thích Quảng Độ was honored with the Homo Homini Award for human rights activism by the Czech group People in Need, which he shared with Thích Huyền Quang and Father Nguyễn Văn Lý. [13]

In 2006, Thích Quảng Độ was awarded the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize, in recognition of "personal courage and perseverance through three decades of peaceful opposition against the communist regime in Vietnam, and as a symbol for the growing democracy movement". Thích Quảng Độ was unable to the receive the award, as the government prevented him from attending the ceremony. [14]

In 2006, Thích Quảng Độ was also awarded the Democracy Courage Tribute by the World Movement for Democracy. [4]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thích Nhất Hạnh</span> Vietnamese Buddhist monk and activist (1926–2022)

Thích Nhất Hạnh was a Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk, peace activist, prolific author, poet and teacher, who founded the Plum Village Tradition, historically recognized as the main inspiration for engaged Buddhism. Known as the "father of mindfulness", Nhất Hạnh was a major influence on Western practices of Buddhism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ngo Dinh Diem</span> President of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963

Ngô Đình Diệm was a South Vietnamese politician who was the final prime minister of the State of Vietnam (1954–1955) and later the first president of South Vietnam from 1955 until his capture and assassination during the CIA-backed 1963 South Vietnamese coup.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nguyễn Khánh</span> South Vietnamese military officer and politician (1927–2013)

Nguyễn Khánh was a South Vietnamese military officer and Army of the Republic of Vietnam general who served in various capacities as head of state and prime minister of South Vietnam while at the head of a military junta from January 1964 until February 1965. He was involved in or against many coup attempts, failed and successful, from 1960 until his defeat and exile from South Vietnam in 1965. Khánh lived out his later years with his family in exile in the United States. He died in 2013 in San Jose, California, at age 85.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hòa Hảo</span> Buddhist sect founded in 1939

Hòa Hảo is a Vietnamese new religious movement. It is described either as a syncretistic folk religion or as a sect of Buddhism. It was founded in 1939 by Huỳnh Phú Sổ (1920–1947), who is regarded as a saint by its devotees. It is one of the major religions of Vietnam with between one million and eight million adherents, mostly in the Mekong Delta.

Articles related to Vietnam and Vietnamese culture include:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thích Quảng Đức</span> Vietnamese Buddhist monk and self-immolator (1897–1963)

Thích Quảng Đức was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who died by self-immolation at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963. Quảng Đức was protesting against the persecution of Buddhists by the US-backed South Vietnamese government of Ngô Đình Diệm, a staunch Roman Catholic. Photographs of his self-immolation circulated around the world, drawing attention to the policies of the Diệm government. John F. Kennedy said of one photograph, "No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one." Malcolm Browne won the World Press Photo of the Year for his photograph of the monk's death.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Buddhism in Vietnam</span> Buddhism in Vietnam

Buddhism in Vietnam, as practiced by the Vietnamese people, is a form of East Asian Mahayana Buddhism. It is the main religion in Vietnam. Vietnamese Buddhism is generally inclusive and syncretic, drawing on the main Chinese Buddhist traditions, such as Tiantai and Huayan, Zen (Thiền), and Pure Land.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thích Trí Quang</span> Vietnamese Buddhist monk

Thích Trí Quang was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk best known for his role in leading South Vietnam's Buddhist population during the Buddhist crisis in 1963, and in later Buddhist protests against subsequent South Vietnamese military regimes until the Buddhist Uprising of 1966 was crushed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Buddhist crisis</span> 1963 political and religious tension in South Vietnam

The Buddhist crisis was a period of political and religious tension in South Vietnam between May and November 1963, characterized by a series of repressive acts by the South Vietnamese government and a campaign of civil resistance, led mainly by Buddhist monks.

The Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam is a Buddhist organization in Vietnam. The Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam was founded in 1964 to unify 11 of the 14 different sects of Vietnamese Buddhism which were present in South Vietnam at the time. The unification also came in response to Diệm government's increasing hostility against Buddhists during the Vietnam War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xá Lợi Pagoda</span> Buddhist temple in Vietnam

The Xá Lợi Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam. It was built in 1956 and was the headquarters of Buddhism in South Vietnam. The pagoda is located in District 3, Hồ Chí Minh City and lies on a plot of 5000 square metres. The name Xá Lợi is the Vietnamese translation for śarīra, a term used for relics of Buddhists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thiên Mụ Temple</span> Historical Buddhist temple in the Thừa Thiên Huế province of Vietnam

While the Constitution of Vietnam officially provides for freedom of religion, in practice the government imposes a range of legislative measures restricting religious practice. All religious groups must register and seek approval from the government. The government requires all Buddhist monks to be approved by and work under the officially recognized Buddhist organization, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS). The number of Buddhist student monks is controlled and limited by the Committee on Religious Affairs. According to a 2020 report by Human Rights Watch, prohibited religious activities are those deemed to be contrary to arbitrary notions of the "national interest", "public order", or "national unity". Unrecognized religious groups, including Cao Đài, Hòa Hảo, and some Christian, and Buddhist groups face "constant surveillance and harassment". Some religious groups may be subject to "public criticism, forced renunciation of faith, detention, interrogation, torture, and imprisonment." Laws continue to be applied unevenly however, with some local government areas taking a more relaxed and tolerant approach than others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Giác Lâm Temple</span>

Giác Lâm Temple is a historic Buddhist temple in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam. Built in 1744, it is one of the oldest temples in the city. It was officially listed as a historical site by the Vietnamese Department of Culture on November 16, 1988, under Decision 1288 VH/QD. The temple is located at 565 Lạc Long Quân, Ward 10, Tân Bình district, near Phú Thọ Hòa region of the city. It stands on Cẩm Sơn, and is also known as Cẩm Đệm and Sơn Can.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thích Huyền Quang</span>

Thích Huyền Quang was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, dissident and activist. At the time, he was the Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, a currently banned organisation in his homeland. He was notable for his activism for human and religious rights in Vietnam.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phạm Văn Đổng</span>

Phạm Văn Đổng was a South Vietnamese general. In 1965, as military governor of Saigon, he had successfully repressed Buddhist mobs instigated by Thích Trí Quang of the Ấn Quang group and Thích Tâm Châu of Việt Nam Quốc Tự. With his commanding skills and knowledge, Đổng was regarded highly by American and French officers, and well respected by many ARVN officers. A staunch nationalist and anti-communist, he was considered an ally to the labor union, the Northern Catholics, several Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng factions, multiple Đại Việt groups, Việt Nam Cách Mạng Đồng Minh Hội high-ranking members, Duy Dân and Hòa Hảo leaders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trúc Lâm</span>

Trúc Lâm Yên Tử (竹林安子), or simply Trúc Lâm, is a Vietnamese Thiền sect. This is the only native Buddhist school that still exists in Vietnam. The school was founded by Emperor Trần Nhân Tông (1258–1308) showing influence from Confucian and Taoist philosophy. Trúc Lâm's prestige later waned as Confucianism became dominant in the royal court.

Lý Thị Ngọc Kiều, dharma name Diệu Nhân (妙因), was a princess during the Lý dynasty in Vietnamese history. She was the 17th leader of the Vietnamese Vinītaruci school of Buddhism.

Therese Jebsen is a Norwegian human-rights activist who is a senior advisor at the Rafto Foundation in Bergen, Norway. She was formerly the executive director of that organization.

References

  1. Self-Immolation 'Only Possible Recourse', RFA, 17 February 2012
  2. "Previous Recipients of the Homo Homini Award". People In Need. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Thich Quang Do is appointed new leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam" (PDF). European Parliament. 17 August 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Hòa thượng Thích Quảng Độ 'hiến dâng cả đời đấu tranh cho tự do tôn giáo". BBC. 23 February 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Tương lai GHPGVNTN sau khi Hòa thượng Thích Quảng Độ qua đời". BBC. 25 February 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  6. 1 2 3 "Vietnamese dissident monk, a Nobel Prize nominee, dies". The Straits Times . 24 February 2020. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Taylor, p. 310.
  8. Diệu Nghiêm (23 February 2020). "Trưởng lão Hòa thượng Thích Quảng Độ viên tịch".
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Vietnam dissident Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do dies at 91". 26 February 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  10. 1 2 3 "Profile on Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam". Biography. Que me. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  11. 1 2 Taylor, p. 311.
  12. "Vietnamese dissident monk who was a Nobel Prize nominee dies at 93". The Japan Times. 23 February 2020. Archived from the original on 23 February 2020. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  13. Martin Hrobský (11 April 2003). Homo Homini Awards recognize the work of three Vietnamese activists, Radio Prague International, Czech Radio
  14. The Rafto Foundation, 2006 Laureate Thích Quảng Độ Archived 28 February 2020 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading