Lang Mai followers voluntarily return home, say officials

Lam Dong, Vietnam - Buddhist followers practising teachings of the France-based Lang Mai ( Plum Village ) voluntarily left Phuoc Hue Pagoda in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong for home on December 30, 2009, officials said.

The Vice Chairman of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, Nguyen Thanh Xuan, met with reporters on January 11 on issues relating to followers of the Lang Mai sect.

According to the committee, before June 2008, a large number of Lang Mai followers arrived at Bat Nha Monastery with permission of its head, Venerable Thich Duc Nghi, to practise meditation according to teachings of Lang Mai meditation centre, which was established in France by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Lang Mai centre, however, interfered in internal affairs of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha by appointing a deputy head of Bat Nha Monastery and ordaining a Venerable to Most Venerable without asking for permission from the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) and the Monastery’s head.

The move ran counter to the VBS’s Charter and the Vietnamese law, the official said at the press conference, which was also attended by the Vice Chairman of the Lam Dong provincial People’s Committee, Nguyen Ngoc Dong, representatives from the Foreign Ministry, foreign diplomatic corps in Hanoi and local and foreign reporters.

Displeased with the acts, Venerable Thich Duc Nghi sent a petition to the VBS to withdraw his guarantee for Lang Mai followers. The VBS accepted the Venerable’s request and asked the followers to leave Bat Nha Monastery and return to pagodas in their native land.

However, Lang Mai followers stayed on despite Venerable Nghi’s repeated demands, which led to a clash between them and followers of Bat Nha Monastery on June 27, 2009.

On September 28, 2009, all Lang Mai followers moved out of Bat Nha Monastery to Phuoc Hue Pagoda and some of them even returned home. And on December 30, 2009, the remainders voluntarily left the Phuoc Hue Pagoda for home.

Mr Xuan stressed that differences in the way of conducting religious practices between Lang Mai followers and Bat Nha Monastery monks, nuns and believers led to the clashes.

Lam Dong vice chairman Dong said local authorities did not interfere in the incident but only maintained security and public order. He also rejected allegations that the local administration had pressured Lang Mai followers to leave Phuoc Hue Pagoda.