Buddhists provide psychological support for quake victims

Xinhua, May 4, 2010

YUSHU, China -- "With the help of the eminent monk, my mom can go to Sukhavati," said 14-year-old Nyima Tendru as he grieved for his mother lost in the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Yushu in northwest China's Qinghai Province on April 14.

The Tibetan teenager said Monday an eminent Buddhist monk who had come from Daqing in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province, thousands of miles from Yushu, had promised the boy he would release the soul of his mother from the purgatory and bring it to Sukhavati, or Western Paradise.

With the tremendous relief effort, quake survivors have received tents, food and drinking water. However, their traumatized minds still need spiritual and psychological support.

According to the Tibetan-style Buddhism, Yushu residents believe in, the souls of dead family members and relatives wander mysterious places between heaven and earth for the 49 days after their death.

Only after monks release them can the souls go to the Western Paradise.

There are 23,000 monks and nuns in 192 Tibetan-style Buddhist monasteries in Yushu.

After the earthquake, thousands of Buddhist monks from different schools all over China came to Yushu join in the rescue and relief work.

The Central Government has praised those efforts.

Premier Wen Jiabao met representatives of the monks on Saturday in Yushu.

"In the face of enormous disaster, the monks have done a great job in rescuing and consoling the survivors, as well as maintaining proper social order. I express gratitude and appreciation to you monks on behalf of the Central Committee of the Party and the State Council," Wen said.

"Almost all of the structures of our monastery were toppled and we need to rebuild it. But first of all, we should build a 'temple in mind' for the believers," said Trinlin Pasum, the khenpo, or abbot, of Trangu Monastery which was destroyed in the quake.

Among the religious teams offering psychological support, there were also ethnic Han monks. The yellow garments they wore made them stand out from the Tibetan-school Buddhists in their claret-colored garments. The ethnic Han monks were also accepted and respected by the local Tibetans.

Answering the call from a Buddhist society in northern China's Hebei Province, Xinyuan, a 33-year-old reverend Buddhist nun, stopped her courses at a college in Sri Lanka and returned to take over from he master, Changhui, who had fallen ill after driving long distance to Yushu and giving alms of more than 100 tents.

Xinyuan, a Han-school Buddhist, has done what her master had wished.

Wearing the claret kasaya usually worn by Tibetan-school Buddhists and twirling a string of beads, she has visited many bereaved local families and helped them release the souls of the dead.

"In the face of calamity, all Buddhists, no matter what school they belong to, are the same family," she said.

On April 26, she caught a minivan to Xialaxiu Township from Gyegu Township. The Tibetan driver noticed she was a Buddhist and showed her the ID card of his elder sister who had died in the quake.

Xinyuan chanted scripture in the Tibetan language and released her soul. Out of gratitude, the driver cried loudly. He then took her to other bereaved families.

"I could feel he vented his yearning and sorrow for his sister through his tears," Xinyuan said.

Besides psychological support, some Buddhists have brought their medical skills to Yushu.

"Now it's the time for me to reciprocate the kindness of the masses," said Xinyuan.