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Wednesday, 29 December 2021 09:48
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The influence of Buddhism on spiritual-cultural life in Quang Ninh

(PTOJ) - In Quang Ninh, Buddhism has a great influence on the cultural and spiritual life of the people, from ethics, customs, culture, arts to social security, contributing to enriching the spiritual culture of the nation. To promote the values of Buddhism for social life in Quang Ninh, it is necessary to raise awareness, strengthen state management and improve the material life and qualifications of all aspects for Buddhists.

Photo: vnanet.vn

1. The current situation of Buddhism in Quang Ninh

Quang Ninh is a coastal province in the North East of Vietnam, with a natural area of over 6,100 square kilometers, with 250 kilometers of coastline and 132.8 kilometers of the national borderline. Quang Ninh has a border area and territorial sea that borders China. This province has 13 administrative units including 7 districts, 2 towns, and 4 cities directly under the province. The current population is more than 1.32 million people with many ethnic groups living together(1). The distribution of the population is uneven, mainly concentrated in urban areas and western districts.

Quang Ninh is a land with a long history and cultural traditions with features and geographical locations that are favorable for Buddhism soon propagated into. Before King Tran Thai Tong (1225-1258) came to Buddhism in Yen Tu mountain, many spiritual practitioners continued to practice there. In 1299, King Tran Nhan Tong- the third insightful King of the Tran Dynasty, returned to Yen Tu mountain and took the title of Huong Van Dai Dau Da to ordain and establish the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect, which was the only independent Buddhism founded and led by the Vietnamese. Quang Ninh became the relic of Truc Lam Buddhism and the capital of Dai Viet Buddhism, creating the tradition of patriotism and dharma, which was attached to the nation of Vietnamese Buddhism.

In the 14th century, Yen Tu and Quynh Lam (Dong Trieu) were the centers of Vietnamese Buddhism and the training place for monks and nuns throughout the country. After many centuries, Buddhism continued to develop with hundreds of temples in Quang Ninh, including famous temples such as Loi Am Pagoda, Long Tien Pagoda (Ha Long), Cai Bau Pagoda (Van Don), Linh Khanh (Tra Co - Mong Cai), Ba Vang (Uong Bi), Ho Thien (Dong Trieu), Linh Quang (Quan Lan) and so on.

Over the past years, the living situation of monks, nuns, and Buddhists in monasteries in Quang Ninh has been relatively stable, united, and harmonious. They abide by the Charter of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha, the rules of the Board of the Central monks, well implement legal policies, fulfill citizenship, and effectively implement the Church’s motto: “Dharma - Nationality - Socialism”, contributing to the development of the Church in the heart of the nation.

Currently, the Executive Board of Buddhist Sangha of Quang Ninh Province has 37 members who are typical monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists. The two churches at the district level are Ba Che and Co To. This is a strong and comprehensive organizational development, creating a premise for the propaganda of the Dharma to remote areas, border areas, and islands. Currently, there are more than 600 monks and nuns (of which 80% are young monks and nuns), 4 monks and nuns in the province, and 99 temples with abbot gathered in 12/13 districts, towns, and cities. The whole province currently has 159 worshiping facilities and Buddhist ruins. In which, 107 temples are in operation. 52 temples are ruins. 99 temples have monks and nuns who abbot and practice there(2). Every year, the Executive Board of Buddhist Sangha of Quang Ninh Province implements the policies of the Central Committee of the Church, directs and organizes the settlement of monks and nuns in the whole province at 3 settlements, namely Trinh pagoda, Quynh Lam, Lan pagoda - Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen Monastery with 330 monks and nuns(3).

Each year, more than 250 monks and nuns gather in the settlements. This number of the following year is higher than the previous year. The schools also organize extracurricular activities to visit famous monuments and organize great prayers, donations, and charity in the central provinces and the northern mountainous provinces. Executive Board of Buddhist Sangha appointed 31 monks and nuns to be the abbot of temples in the province. The monks and nuns who wish to receive and transfer a suitable religious place will be handled under the Charter of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha and the laws of the State.

Regarding believers, as of April 1, 2019, there are 6 different religions in Quang Ninh with 89,455 followers. Among them, the largest number is Catholicism with 44,330 followers. Buddhism has 44,278 followers. Protestantism has 552 followers. Cao Dai religion has 87 followers. Islam has 07 followers. The Vietnamese Pure Land Buddhism Association has 01 follower(4). The remarkable point about the Buddhist situation in Quang Ninh is the uneven distribution in the localities. The monks, nuns, Buddhists, and monastic institutions are mainly concentrated in districts, towns, cities in urban areas, plain areas such as Ha Long, Cam Pha, Uong Bi, Dong Trieu, and Quang Yen. In the mountainous and island districts in the East such as Binh Lieu, Ba Che, and Co To, there are very few monks, nuns, Buddhists, and monastic institutions.

The Buddhist Sangha of Quang Ninh Province has organized the practice of Eight Precepts (Bat Quan Trai Gioi) at pagodas, clubs for entertainment, and Buddhist martial arts. The classes about activities and practice for teenagers hold regularly at Trinh Pagoda (Yen Tu), Ba Vang (Uong Bi), Canh Huong Pagoda (Dong Trieu), Long Tien Pagoda, Hung Quoc Pagoda (Ha Long), Pha Thien pagoda (Cam Pha), Cai Bau pagoda (Van Don), Phuc Khanh pagoda (Hoanh Bo), Xuan Lan pagoda (Mong Cai) in the summer and they have attracted a large number of Buddhists.

Over the past years, the province has taken refuge in more than 20,000 laypeople and Buddhists, especially developed Buddhists in border areas, islands, mountainous areas, and ethnic minorities. As of 2017, the whole province has more than 165,000 Buddhists, accounting for about 18% of the population, living in 230 ashrams and associations. In particular, the number of Buddhists is increasingly rejuvenated and educated(5). Representatives of Buddhist monks and nuns also actively participate in Vietnam Association for Promoting Education, Viet Nam Youth Federation, Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin - VAVA, Sponsoring Association for Disabled People and Orphans, Viet Nam Women’s Union, Veterans’ Union... all levels and many other organizations, making great contributions to the construction and defense of the country.

The Church has actively coordinated with the Committee of Religion - the Department of Home Affairs and the Vietnam Fatherland Front to organize many classes to train knowledge of religious law for monks, nuns, and Buddhists to improve legal knowledge on the Party and State’s religious policies. As a member of the bloc of national unity, Quang Ninh’s monks and nuns are always associated with the nation in all activities for the stability and development of the country.

These results demonstrate the maturity in all aspects of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha of Quang Ninh Province. The monks and nuns of Quang Ninh province have constantly upheld the tradition of patriotism, associated with the nation of Vietnamese Buddhism, united to serve the religion and the nation, actively participated in implementing social security work and environmental protection, built a cultural lifestyle in the residential area, and a new countryside, contributing to consolidating the government, the Front and unions. The people confidently introduced many monks and nuns, who abbot of monastic institutions, to participate in local elections.

2. The influence of the Buddhist philosophy of life on the spiritual life of the people of Quang Ninh today

a. The influence of Buddhism on morality and lifestyle

Through many ups and downs of history, Buddhism has integrated into the spiritual life of the Vietnamese in general and people of Quang Ninh in particular through the modification of the content of doctrine, beliefs, organizational forms which are suitable with people’s spiritual life.

The principle of compassion of Buddhism takes peace as the essence with a simple and open-minded attitude that affects people’s minds. It encourages them to think and act according to moral standards and towards goodness. The highlight of Buddhism is rich in love and love of peace, bringing the mark of the spirit of humanity and charity, teaching people to do good things, and avoiding evil...

In Quang Ninh, Buddhism both accompanies and contributes to the enrichment of the local cultural identity and the integration with social life. Buddhism is not only a commandment but also practice and incarnation. The aspiration for a peaceful life... has made Buddhism be closer and associated with the national culture to form several moral criteria that everyone wants to aim for.

In Buddhist ethics, the responsibility of each person for the good and evil deeds of one’s body and mind is highly appreciated. The standards in the Buddhist ethical system are very close to the traditional ethical values of people in Quang Ninh, so they are quickly accepted. Through a long process, Buddhism with its human values has contributed to the formation of people’s life-style in Quang Ninh. There is the fact that tolerance and generosity in the rule of the Tran dynasties (the period in which Buddhism played the role of the leading ideology of society) has a great contribution from Buddhism, especially Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen Monastery.

In terms of behavior and communication in the family, Buddhism always upholds the harmony and responsibility of fathers and mothers. The Buddha taught that a husband and wife must love and be faithful to each other. Parents must have the responsibility to advise their children to do good things and to avoid doing bad things. At the same time, Buddhism also promotes the willingness of children to grandparents and parents through the performance of four gifts. According to the Buddhist concept, a perfect family is to respect love seriously and family members must strive to overcome difficulties and tribulations by themselves. At the same time, that family always helps others in their same situation to reach a prosperous and happy life.

Up to now, Buddhism is still a religion close to the psychology and spiritual needs of many people in Quang Ninh. They perceive Buddhism from the humanistic nature of the teachings through encouraging people to live and act according to good things, advising people to stay away from evil and stop before the “greed - anger - foolish”... Some of the Buddhist teachings are significant in building human morality, making the spiritual life of society more and more healthy.

b. The influence of Buddhism on social security

Buddhism develops with the spirit of reincarnation through the path of cultivating three virtues to solve problems of social security. Promoting the Buddhist spirit of compassion to save suffering and the alliance of compassion of the Vietnamese, over the last years, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha in Quang Ninh Province has regularly carried out charity activities and social security under the spirit of compassion of Buddhism, such as support and care programs for the elderly in difficult circumstances and the orphan. They also visit, give gifts to poor families and policy families on holidays and Tet holidays, contribute money to support building solidarity houses, and renovate schools in disadvantaged areas... Some temples in the province have organized to nurture the elderly and orphans. Phuc Nghiem Pagoda (Dong Trieu) and Giua Dong Pagoda (Quang Yen) have raised nearly 20 orphans. The Buddhist Sangha of Quang Ninh, monks, nuns, and pagodas in the province have donated more than 3 billion VND to contribute to the cost of pulling the national grid to Co To island district(6) and supported funding to build 80 houses. Each house is worth from 50 million to 150 million dong. The Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha in Ha Long City donated 360 million dong to build a kindergarten in Vu Oai Commune, Hoanh Bo District (now it is Ha Long City). Besides, the Church also mobilizes monks, nuns, and Buddhists to help people in flood areas, contribute funds for the poor, study promotion funds, the foundation for orphans, disabled and agent orange children, provide for humanitarian aid centers, and support other funds inside and outside the province with a total budget of over 20 billion dong(7).

Responding to the Party and State’s call on the prevention of COVID -19 epidemic with the spirit of “Preventing epidemics like fighting the enemy”, on April 6, 2020, the Executive Board of Buddhist Sangha of Quang Ninh Province handed over a negative pressure room worth 650 million dong to Quang Ninh General Hospital and donated 1 billion dong to the fund of COVID-19 prevention of the province(8). At the same time, the temples in the area do not organize festivals gathering people. The monks actively guide the people and Buddhists to take measures to prevent and control epidemics.

c. The influence of Buddhism on culture and art

Buddhism in the process of formation and development in Quang Ninh has deeply embedded in the life, emotions, culture, ethics of the nation and naturally integrated into the people here, becoming an invaluable spiritual value. It not only has a profound impact on the psychology and morality of the people of Quang Ninh but also has a strong influence on culture and art.

Yen Tu, the cradle of Zen Buddhism, is the site of a Buddhist sect - Truc Lam Yen Tu. This place has the interference between Buddhism and Taoism, creating a cultural and spiritual space Yen Tu. These cultural interferences and acculturation are expressed in the landscape, the art of architecture, and the art of decoration with diverse cultural developments through historical periods. Truc Lam Buddhism was the first church organization in the history of Buddhism in Vietnam. Truc Lam Zen is a place to practice and is the ideology for people to contemplate in thinking and action in life. Truc Lam Zen flourished in the Tran dynasty and existed throughout history. It is associated with solving problems of people and the life of the Tran dynasty.

Yen Tu relic - scenic complex is considered a holy land of Vietnamese Buddhism because of its long history and international cultural values that it owns. Yen Tu mountain is famous for its spiritual culture associated with the ideology, quintessence of Buddhism, the life of practice, the transformation into Buddha of Emperor Tran Nhan Tong, and the incarnation spirit, associated with the life of Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect. With a system of relics of hundreds of ancient and sacred temples and towers and meaningful and unique spiritual festivals, on average, Yen Tu welcomes about 2 million visitors to visit and worship in four-season each year. Among more than 600 historical and cultural monuments and landscapes of Quang Ninh Province, many monuments have become tourist destinations attracting numerous tourists every year. Taking advantage of this, Quang Ninh has developed spiritual tourism with a series of monuments and landmarks such as Tran Dynasty Historical Relic (Dong Trieu Town), Yen Tu scenic relic complex, Ba Vang Pagoda (Uong Bi), Loi Am Pagoda, and Long Tien Pagoda (Ha Long), Cua Ong Temple (Cam Pha), Cai Bau Pagoda (Van Don District)... forming a sustainable spiritual tourist destination, developing at the right level, and making an important contribution to making tourism be a key sector of the province.

The unique and preeminent Buddhist ideology of Emperor Tran Nhan Tong and the emergence of Truc Lam Buddhism have greatly contributed to the brilliant development of Buddhism in the Tran dynasty and the flourishing of Dai Viet, becoming a unique spiritual value symbol of the Vietnamese, and creating a solid foundation for the development of Buddhism in Quang Ninh and Buddhism in Vietnam.

The outstanding features of Yen Tu cultural and spiritual space are reflected in the system of temples, pagodas, and towers. The system of monuments in this heritage area includes dozens of temples, hundreds of buildings, towers, thousands of rare and precious ancient relics, especially texts and rare books, which contains spiritual and ideological values of Truc Lam Zen. The spiritual-cultural space in Yen Tu is reflected in the festival culture bringing spiritual elements of religious beliefs. The characteristics of the spiritual culture in Yen Tu come from the sacred space of the geomorphologic topography and Buddhist meditation, which is the essence of the culture, the system of temples and festivals, creating the uniqueness of the spiritual culture.

Buddhist values that have a direct influence are village temples with high artistic value, contributing to the cultural and spiritual life of the people increasingly rich and healthy... The temple to worship Buddha become a village temple. This is a sacred space for people in Quang Ninh to convey their beliefs. In addition to worship, people can come to learn experiences on farming. They are treated by monks and taught literacy. “Village pagoda and the landscape like Buddha realm” has become the cultural beauty of the village and is the place that holds the heart.

The Buddhist architectures of Trinh pagoda (Yen Tu), Ba Vang pagoda (Uong Bi), Canh Huong pagoda (Dong Trieu), Long Tien pagoda, Hung Quoc pagoda (Ha Long), Pha Thien pagoda (Cam Pha), pagoda Cai Bau (Van Don), Phuc Khanh (Hoanh Bo), Xuan Lan Pagoda (Mong Cai)... are both historical relics and pride of culture of Quang Ninh, attracting many Buddhists all over the country to visit and worship Buddha.

For Buddhists, going to the Buddha’s ceremony on holidays, New Year’s day, or the full moon and the first day of each month has become an indispensable life in their spiritual life. People go to the pagoda to relax, pray and find peace of their mind. The Buddha’s Birthday, Vu Lan Festival, and Release Festival are no longer Buddhist holidays because many people in Quang Ninh have participated in.

3. Solutions to promote the positive influences of Buddhism on the spiritual life of people in Quang Ninh

Firstly, it is necessary to conduct effective communication so that people and Buddhists have proper awareness of the role of Buddhism in cultural and spiritual life

Buddhism is the major religion in Quang Ninh today. Religious life is a need of a part of people. Buddhism in Quang Ninh also includes positive humanities, especially culture, ethics, social security, and arts. It is necessary to increase propaganda and education so that the non-religious people and the religious people have a clear understanding and awareness of the role of Buddhism and Buddhist ethics in social ethics. On the other hand, it is necessary to propagate and educate the people to raise the sense of vigilance, against hostile forces that take advantage of Buddhism and Buddhist ethics to propagate superstitious behaviors, affecting the nation’s fine traditions and customs.

Besides, it is necessary to encourage the revival of traditional cultural festivals of Buddhism to direct people towards the roots and traditional ethical values. It helps people to properly realize the values of truth, goodness, and beauty in Buddhist ethics, promoting the positive aspects of Buddhist ethics in building human and social morality.

Secondly, it is to strengthen the management of the State on Buddhism in Quang Ninh

In the current complicated religious situation, strengthening the management of the State of Buddhism in Quang Ninh is very necessary. The State should promptly supplement the guiding documents and specific regulations on religious belief activities to suit the new situation.

It is necessary to properly implement the Law on Belief and Religion 2016 to protect the legal rights and interests of religious organizations, religious facilities, religious ceremonies, and religious dignitaries. It is necessary to prevent in-time elements from taking advantage of religion to cause disturbances and crimes and prevent forces from taking advantage of religion to divide national unity. Therefore, the management of Buddhism by law not contrary to the policy of freedom of belief of the Party and State is also a requirement of maintaining the social order and ensuring the interests of the people.

A new feature of the current religious policy is being placed in the overall social policy. The formulation and promulgation of laws and religious policies are aimed at gradually overcoming negative aspects of religious ethics, promoting its positive aspects in building healthy and progressive social ethics.

Thirdly, take care of the material life and comprehensively improve the lives of Buddhist followers

Currently, in Quang Ninh, a few monks, nuns, and institutions have not yet truly united, which has a significant impact on the local Buddhist activities. Therefore, raising the level of Buddhists in all aspects is the prerequisite for Buddhism in Quang Ninh to develop in the right direction, taking the religion to serve the nation. That is also a condition to eliminate superstitions in remote areas, mountainous areas, and island borders, guide healthy Buddhist activities and promote good values of Buddhist ethics in community life.

It is necessary to strengthen the implementation of the policies on hunger eradication and poverty reduction, improving the material life of the working people in general and the Buddhists in particular for the comprehensive development of people.

On the other hand, it is necessary to create conditions for monks, nuns, Buddhists to participate in activities to develop production and culture and the realities of social life so that they do not alien to real life, arousing in them the spirit of national ownership, and contributing to the local innovation.

Up to now, Buddhism in Quang Ninh still has some limitations such as not focusing on preparing human resources. Therefore, it is recommended that the Central Buddhist Sangha and the provincial authorities open intermediate classes for Buddhism for newly ordained monks and nuns, contributing to the improvement of their capacity and awareness.

The teaching of Buddhists in remote and island areas is still limited due to the uneven distribution of monks and nuns and divided terrain. There are some strange forms of practice that are not consistent with the tradition of the practitioner. They draw followers and even classify colors and costumes. Therefore, in the coming time, it is necessary to focus on propagating the core and good values of Buddhism to islands, remote areas, and areas of the ethnic minority.

Accompanying with the nation, maintaining its role as a member of the national unity bloc, actively participating in socio-economic development, eliminating hunger and reducing poverty, participating in maintaining security and order... are the wishes of the majority of monks, nuns, and Buddhists in Quang Ninh. It is also the most effective way for Buddhism to participate more actively in the renovation, construction, and defense of the nation n

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Endnotes:

(1) Statistical Report of The People’s Committee of Quang Ninh Province in 2020.

(2) The Survey results of The Vietnam Population and Housing Census in 2019, General Statistics Office.

(3) Report on Buddhist work in 2019, Quang Ninh.

(4), (5), (6) Documents of the 4th Buddhist Delegation Congress of Quang Ninh Province, tenure 2017-2022, 2017, pp.15, 19, 20.

(7) The Buddhist Sangha in Quang Ninh Province donates nearly 2 billion VND to support epidemic prevention and control, the website of the Fatherland Front, April 6, 2020.

NGUYEN THE VINH, MA

Academy of Journalism and Communication

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