Stop exorcisms, stick to Buddhism, pagoda told

By Viet Tuan   March 24, 2019 | 06:56 am PT
Stop exorcisms, stick to Buddhism, pagoda told
Ba Vang Pagoda in Quang Ninh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Tuan.
A pagoda in Quang Ninh Province has been sanctioned after a follower sparked outrage with comments linking a rape and murder to karma.

Pham Tuan Dat, Vice Chairman of the Uong Bi Town People's Committee, has issued an official document requesting the pagoda’s abbot to stop organizing sessions to "commune (with spirits), exorcise spirits and undo bad karma.

The document also stated that activities like lectures given by Pham Thi Yen, head of a Buddhist group affiliated to the pagoda, are not in accordance with the list of functions registered with local authorities.

Yen has sparked widespread outrage with a comment in a publicized video that a young Vietnamese woman raped and killed recently suffered the fate because of evil deeds done in previous lives.

She was referring to the rape and murder of 21-year-old Cao Thi My Duyen by a group of men in the northern province of Dien Bien last month.

In the video, Yen had also said that people getting possessed by spirits was common these days and they could only be exorcised by "spending money [on rituals] or doing volunteer work".

Pham Thi Yen makes the statement on paid exorcisms. Photo acquired by VnExpress

Pham Thi Yen makes the statement on paid exorcisms. Photo acquired by VnExpress

The propaganda Yen has been spreading has caused public discontent and potentially risks fomenting insecurity in the locality, the Uong Bi administration noted.

It also asked the head monk of Ba Vang Pagoda, Thich Truc Thai Minh, advises the devout to strictly observe Buddhist teachings and abide by legal regulations.

Venerable Thich Truc Thai Minh also needs to rectify the teachings on mass media outlets managed by the pagoda, in line with the Charter of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha and the Law on Folk Belief and Religion, the Uong Bi administration added.

Thich Gia Quang, Vice President of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha's (VBS) Coordinating Board, earlier said there are so such things as communicating with spirits or exorcism in Buddhism.

Thich Duc Thien, Vice President and General Secretary of the VBS, said blaming Duyen’s murder on bad karma "is not true to Buddhist principles and goes against society’s moral values."

"We all feel pain when any person is brutally murdered. To blame this on past lives ... is a fallacy [that condones] brutal acts in society. This is unacceptable," said Thien.

This is not the first time that Ba Vang Pagoda has come under the scanner for propagating "superstitious beliefs."

Thich Dao Hien, deputy head of the Coordinating Board of Quang Ninh Province’s Buddhist Sangha, said that they had asked the pagoda to stop teaching about vengeful spirits in 2017.

Hien said they had specifically drawn the authorities' attention to the propagation of such beliefs by Yen.

Ba Vang Pagoda, located on the Thanh Dang Mountain in Quang Trung District, Uong Bi Town, Quang Ninh Province, was first built in 1706. It was rebuilt in 2011 with money donated by devout Buddhists.

Thich Truc Thai Minh became the pagoda’s head monk in 2007.

The pagoda has been holding three sessions every month for exorcism and lectures on vengeful spirits. The events, often attended by thousands of people, have been held for several years, local reports said.

Participants are required to leave their phones, recorders and cameras outside before entering any session involving exorcism or communication with spirits.

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