May 2011


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Saka Dawa Nyung Ne Prohibited at Drepung Monastery

Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy


According to reliable information received by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), the Chinese government stopped and prohibited the usual practice of observing Nyung Ne (fasting) during the important Buddhist month of Saka Dawa. Saka Dawa is one of the most significant Buddhist months of ritual. The full moon day of Saka Dawa commemorates Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana (death). The celebrations typically last the whole fourth Tibetan month (usually May or June).

Drepung Monastery observes the Nyung Ne practice during Saka Dawa for 15 days from the first to the 15th day of the fourth Tibetan month. During this time, monks, nuns and lay people participate in the fasting. However, since the uprising in 2008, the Chinese government has put a stop to this practice. This year Drepung Monastery repeatedly appealed to the Chinese government to allow them permission to continue the practice, which was eventually accepted.

Therefore, as of May 30, people began flocking to the monastery, and the monastery also became busy preparing for the festival and the prayer sessions. In the meantime, however, members of the Chinese work team and the Drepung Monastery’s police arrived at the Ham-dong team (Kham-tsen), and they were ordered to immediately stop all preparations for the Nyung Ne. All the people were notified to return to their homes, the majority of whom were elderly people who had made an arduous journey for the festival.

Fearing possible protests, the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and the Drepung Monastery police were stationed around the monastery to intimidate the locals, the monks and nuns who were there.

Under the leadership of the vice chairmen of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government, the TAR National People’s Congress (NPC) and the TAR Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), approximately 60 officials have been stationed in the monastery to conduct “legal education.” In addition, a PAP contingent is also posted inside the monastery to monitor the monks.

TCHRD is appalled at the level of intrusion into the religious life of the Tibetan people and the blatant disregard of their right to freedom of religion and expression. TCHRD thus calls on the Chinese government to immediately reverse this outrageous interference.

* The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) is the first Tibetan non-governmental human rights organization formed in exile in 1996. It is based in Dharamsala in northern India. More information about the organization and its work is available on its web site at <>.