“China’s version of Buddhism is already having immense consequences for Asian landscape”

P. Stobdan drills down into the Chinese Government’s use of Buddhist Soft Power narrative.

“It is ironic that India no longer has the fuel for spinning its own dharma wheel, leave aside replenishing others’. Instead, China’s version of Buddhism is already having immense consequences for the Asian landscape.

The spectre of China’s economic rise has certainly boosted people’s quest for spirituality. In fact, after having failed to project Confucianism as an ideal alternative guide for ethical standards, the Chinese state has been patronising Buddhism as an important social and spiritual movement, realising that it would also make China more acceptable to the world outside.

The world didn’t realise how and when China injected new life into the hitherto moribund Buddhist Association of China (BAC), established in 1953. The BAC’s activities have grown phenomenally both within China and outside.

Within China, the number people who believe in Buddhism seems to have risen at an astonishing rate. As told to this author recently by the prominent Chinese scholar Hu Shisheng, the total number of people professing a combination of Buddhism and Taoism in China would be almost one billion. In fact, for the Chinese, Buddha is not just a teacher but also considered a God to be worshiped by those seeking salvation.

But it is the external dimension of Buddhism that the Chinese are keenly promoting. The Chinese are already translating their economic weight into spiritual might – aggressively projecting China as the chief patron of Buddhism at a global scale. In fact, Beijing is doing everything possible to build psychological links with the people of other nations through Buddhism.

Not only has the BAC deepened links with overseas Chinese Buddhists, but also with other Asian Buddhist nations. With the idea of setting up Confucius centres world over being abandoned, China seems to be using Buddhism as the latest tool to project the country’s softer image and its ‘peaceful rise’ onto the global stage.

Never has China project Buddhism at a global scale like this before. After 1949, China held the World Buddhist Forum for the first time in 2006. The forum, held four times since, drew thousands of monks from across the world. China now plans build Lingshan city as the Vatican for Buddhism.

Almost every prominent Buddhist institution in the world seems to have fallen into the BAC’s fold. The most prominent, the World Buddhist Sangha Council founded in Sri Lanka in 1966, is run directly by Chinese masters.

Similarly, the prestigious World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), founded in Si Lanka in 1955 by 25 nations (headquartered in Bangkok), is currently headed by Masters Hsing Yun and Yi Chen of China and Taiwan. China also hosted the annual general conference of the WFB in 2014 in the city of Baoji, that drew global Buddhist leaders.

China’s outreach programme extends to cover the sanghas of both Therāvāda and Mahāyāna traditions in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Korea, Mongolia and other countries. Chinese Buddhists make generous donations to deepen institutional ties through funding Buddhist projects and assisting educational systems, such as the daham pasala education system in Sri Lanka. The Chinese Mahāyāna institutions devote funding for reviving new bhikkhu and bhikkhuni-sanghas across Asia.

It is another irony that Buddhist globalisation and diplomacy, originally practiced by Indian emperors such as Ashoka and Kanishka, is now being lifted by the Chinese to embed into their soft power game. Beijing has started helping friendly countries repair, renovate, resurrect and even build new Buddhist institutions. China garners support in favour of friendly countries to hold major international events such as the UN Vesak Day.”

P. Sobdan

To deploy the soft power of Buddhism India needs to embrace the sangha


This is what 70 year old Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche thought in 1992 to be the best way to preserve Tibetan Buddhism.



Filed under Buddhism

6 responses to ““China’s version of Buddhism is already having immense consequences for Asian landscape”

  1. Lhaktar

    In other words, he stymied the practice right out of the practice lineage, transforming that Karma Kagyu lineage into a gilded Mahayana lineage.

    In essence, the antinomian quality of tantra (the seat of Tilo, Naro, Marpa, Mila and the rest) has been exchanged in favor for lojong and very general mahayana practice that firs Chinese cultural norms.

    A brilliant and diabolical move on his part; KTD is afforded a new generation of Chinese donors While the very essence of the tradition is removed and spirited away as if it never existed.

    Needless to say, if Marpa were to walk into KTD’s shrineroom right now he would fly into a terrible, violent rage over this lunacy.

  2. Dechen Khadro.

    I would say, “Let Marpa speak for Marpa.” I just think you are projecting your mind with that of Marpa’s. Tai Situ says and teaches about impartiality. After all he was Marpa.

    • In 1981 22 year old me met 27 year old.

      58 year old me can with the benefit of hindsight that 62 year old Situ Rinpoche was never Marpa.

      To think otherwise is an obvious example of magical thinking run amok, symptomatic of what happens when a Rinpoche’s followers act out their anxiety about their relationship with their guru.

      The lunatics take over the asylum.

      27 year old Situ Rinpoche didn’t see Marpa in himself.

      He envied 22 year old me for the opportunity to practice that at 27 years of age Situ Rinpoche knew he would never have.

      27 year old Situ Rinpoche knew who he was.

      He hated it.

      62 year old Situ Rinpoche may be resigned to the life he was condemned to live since he was a 7 year old child.

      58 year old me assures you 62 year old Situ a Rinpoche has no respect for anyone who sees in him anyone who sees in him
      anyone other than who he is, a prisoner for life in Shangri-la.

      • Dechen Khadro.

        Of course, he does not see himself as Marpa now. He is Tai Situ and has a “lot of baggage” to carry with that title. Are you arguing with his website claims of his past lives? I do not mean to be totally defensive but I do not understand your reasoning of disclaiming this lineage claims of past lives. If he is a prisoner than he is an extraordinary being given his circumstances and is doing his best to fulfill his predecessors works. 27 is young and he might feel different now at 63.

  3. It sounds more and more like we should make sure we represent our lineage and its true and traditional teachings now more than ever. This includes rejecting the Chinese Karmapa and his cronies. This for many is unfortunate but required to keep the lineage clean of political and economic abuse.


  4. Sam

    I once thought I was the incarnation of somebody, but since realized my mistake.

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