UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News


Monks in Vietnam ordered to stop money-making rituals

Pagoda in country's north also accused of not having registered rituals with local govt

ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi

ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi

Updated: March 26, 2019 04:03 AM GMT
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Monks in Vietnam ordered to stop money-making rituals

A Buddhist monk stands in the courtyard at Tu Hieu pagoda in Hue on Nov. 15, 2018. Monks at a prominent pagoda further north in Vietnam have been ordered to stop karma-reducing rituals. (Photo by Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

Share this article :
Buddhist monks at a prominent pagoda in northern Vietnam have been ordered by state officials to stop offering highly profitable “bad karma-removing” ceremonies.

Monks at Ba Vang pagoda, which stands on a mountain slope in Uong Bi City of Quang Ninh province, have been ordered to stop rituals where karma would be removed from worshipers who reportedly pay large sums of money.

On March 24, the People’s Committee of Uong Bi City ordered the pagoda’s head monk, Venerable Thich Truc Thai Minh, to stop these rituals which “cause widespread discontent among people and danger of security disorder in the locality.”

The next day the pagoda also closed down its website at the request of authorities.

The monks from the pagoda have not publicly responded to the government order.

The pagoda’s monks had held regular two-day ceremonies to “summon wandering souls” and “remove bad karma.” For someone to participate in the ceremony, the monks ask for financial donations or voluntary labor. Such acts supposedly constitute good deeds that help cure bad karma or resolve bad deeds committed in previous lives.

Venerable Minh told a gathering — which was live-streamed on the pagoda's site on March 15 — that practices of “summon wandering souls” and “remove bad karma” are real and are mentioned in Buddhist teachings.

He said Buddhists willingly make donations at the request of souls and they could pay or not pay.

Those rituals have been going on for years, but the practice has drawn adverse attention as the amounts allegedly demanded by monks have rocketed to the point where they have been taking payments via bank transfers and in instalments.

Local media reported that the pagoda receives 100 billion dong (US$4.3 million) per year from worshipers’ donations.

The Uong Bi City committee has also accused the pagoda of not having registered those rituals for its 2019 plan with the local government.

The pagoda belongs to a registered Vietnamese Buddhist association. Religions that are not registered with the government are prohibited.

Local media reported that police are also investigating an inspirational speaker associated with the pagoda for spreading the practice.  

The speaker, Pham Thi Yen, attracted criticism for reportedly blaming a 20-year-old college student for being gang raped and murdered, saying it was a result of evil acts that she committed in a past life.

Father Joseph Tran Van Yen, priest assistant of Yen Bai parish, said: “The practice [of paying to have karma removed] is not real and against Buddhist teachings.”

The majority of Vietnam’s 95 million people follow Buddhism or practice a form of folk religion that includes some Buddhist practices.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution