Ascetic pilgrim stops journey after discussion with authorities

By Viet An, Vo Thanh   June 3, 2024 | 03:21 pm PT
Ascetic pilgrim stops journey after discussion with authorities
Thich Minh Tue answers reporters' inquiry during his pilgrimage through Ha Tinh Province in central Vietnam, May 17, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung
An ascetic practitioner with Buddhist name Thich Minh Tue has stopped his nationwide pilgrimage following a talk with authorities, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs announced Monday.

The Committee's information portal said that after certain people followed Thich Minh Tue, also known by his birthname Le Anh Tu, on his pilgrimage, some of them had encountered health problems.

Authorities had met Tu to discuss religious freedom, and they had also allowed opportunities for him to embark on his pilgrimage at his own will. However, people's health and lives, as well as social stability, need to be ensured, the committee added.

"Le Anh Tu is aware of his rights and duties as a citizen, and has voluntarily stopped his ascetic pilgrimage," the committee said.

Last week, a 47-year-old man named Luong Thanh Son, who was retracing Thich Minh Tue's pilgrimage in Quang Tri in central Vietnam, died of cardiac arrest, allegedly induced by strong heat.

At the time Son collapsed, the weather in Quang Tri was extremely hot, with temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius, and the group was walking on the asphalt road, without wearing anything to cover their heads.

During his pilgrimage from the north to the south, Tue and the people who followed him on Sunday reached Thua Thien-Hue.

On Monday morning, hundreds of people brought food and water to a Hue road, waiting for Tue to arrive. When he did not, many people left the scene, while others waited for him in nearby cafes.

43-year-old Thich Minh Tue was born in the central province of Ha Tinh before his family moved to the Central Highlands' Gia Lai Province.

From 2017 to 2023, he embarked on his personal pilgrimages three times, walking from the south to the north, and then back.

In 2024, for the fourth time, he walked from Khanh Hoa along the main route to the Cao Bang-Ha Giang area, and is now traveling back.

During his journey, several people followed his tracks, with some livestreaming him on social media. On Sunday, two women who followed him also got heatstroke and have since been hospitalized.

The executive council of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) has sent documents to provincial committees of VBS, saying Tu is not a Buddhist monk, does not practice Buddhism, and is not the personnel of any pagoda or facility under the VBS.

Tu has said he once practised at a pagoda for a short time, where he got his Buddhist name Thich Minh Tue.

He said he has never called himself to be a monk, and he wants to go on pilgrimages his whole life, to "follow the teachings of Buddha to complete himself."

Tu said he did not call for disciples, but he did not stop anyone who wanted to follow him.

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