Hanoi, Vietnam (CHAKRA) — Followers of an influential Buddhist Monk were forced from two temples causing French-based Zen master and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh to make a plea for religious freedom.
Devotees of Nhat Hanh have gone underground since last month, after they were driven out of the Phuoc Hue temple, in Vietnam. They had been seeking refuge at the temple after an earlier eviction.
Nhat Hanh said, “hired mobs” were employed to force hundreds of young nuns and monks out of Bat Nha monastery in central Vietnam, last September, where they had lived peacefully and meditated for many years.
In his eight page plea, written in the form of a koan (a type of Zen riddle), he pleaded, “All we want is to practice –why can’t we?”
“Why is it that in other countries people can practise this tradition freely, and we can’t?”
Based at the Plum Village monastery in France, Nhat Hanh is known for being a confidant of assassinated US civil rights leader, Martin Luther King.
“The people’s deep wish is for every citizen to be able to speak his or her mind without fear of denunciation or arrest,” he wrote. “The people’s deep wish is to separate religion from political affairs, and take the politics out of religion.”
The communist state continues to control all religious activity in Vietnam. It claims to always respect the freedom of beliefs and religion. The driving out of Plum Village devotees has been denied by state authorities; instead they have placed the blame for the rise of such issues, on internal disputes among Buddhist factions.
“Buddhism demands freedom. Freedom of thought is the basic condition for progress,” Nhat Hanh wrote.
“This is an ugly stain on the history of Buddhism in Vietnam,” he said, in reference to the expulsion. He made clear that kings and politicians centuries ago, followed a virtuous Buddhist past in contrast to authorities and officials caught up in the middle of political corruption and other vices today.
Nhat Hanh asked if political communist officials were afraid of him having a mass following at their expense.
The US embassy and European parliament have both expressed concern over this matter.