One thing that’s pretty clear is that religious movements are, for the most part, conservative and have served as bulwarks of authoritarianism (and a shield against challenges to the wealth and power of the privileged) at least since the days of the Social Democrats.
Authoritarian atheism, after a brief, 20th century heyday under Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, is perhaps headed for the dustbin of history.
Religion is too good for business, billionaires, and bosses, both in liberal democracies and post-Communist states.
Modern plutocracies have rediscovered the fact that there’s nothing like appeals to religious identity to split the electorate and marginalize those obstreperous liberal activists whose political views usually combine irreligious sentiments with enthusiasm for democracy and a nasty penchant for economic justice.
The PRC is having limited success replacing Communism with nationalism and Confucianism as organizing national faiths. It’s hard to get excited by a quasi-state religion promising little more than order and stability to its followers and offering bland, risk-averse apparatchiks like Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping as its father-figures. And despite Bo Xilai’s Red surge in Chongqing, I don’t think Mao nostalgia is going to make a comeback.
At the same time, the PRC’s attempts to present itself as a protector of Buddhism by sponsoring a tooth tour to Myanmar look rather unconvincing, especially considering the organized pounding the PRC government is giving to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in western Sichuan (I write about the Sichuan campaign—which looks like nothing less than an organized effort to eliminate the recalcitrant monastery at Kirti through the most onerous oppression possible—in my most recent piece for Asia Times, Will Aba be the CCP’s Waterloo? Yes, Europop lovers, I constructed that title with care and considerable pride).
I think the Russians under Putin have broken the code. You can read about it below in the story of the Virgin Mary’s girdle.
Note in particular that the Russian state now works its religious legerdemain through an ultra-conservative, well-financed, firebreathing defender-of-the-faith-esque religious foundation instead of China’s retro-socialist, atheistic, bureaucratic, and broadly disliked government State Administration for Religious Affairs.
What China’s elites need to energize their rule is a shot of that old time religion, feeding off the invincible charisma of Jesus Christ, or for that matter, Buddha instead of relying on whatever technocrat the Politburo burps out every few years. Maybe, in a few years, we’ll see some Chinese leader profess his militantly Christian (or, what the heck, Buddhist) faith, pour state resources into institutionalizing a mass conservative religious base, and create a virtually unassailable bulwark against his political opponents and those pesky democratic activists.
Religion is not just religion when it comes to national politics and geopolitics.
As a current affairs bonus, there’s a passage on a competing Virgin Mary’s girdle held at a Syriac Orthodox Church in the rebellious city of Homs, and a competing Buddha's tooth that Taiwan will enshrine at a complex built at a cost of one-third of a billion US dollars in Kaohsiung on December 25, 2011.
According to the Sacred Tradition and the history of our Church, the Most Holy Theotokos [Virgin Mary] three days after she fell asleep she rose from the dead and ascended in body to the heavens. During her ascension, she gave her Holy Belt to the Apostle Thomas. Thomas, along with the rest of the holy Apostles, opened up her grave and didn't find the body of the Theotokos. In this way the Holy Belt is proof for our Church of her Resurrection and bodily ascension to the heavens, and, in a word, at her metastasis.
From AFP, the socio-political angle:
Clerics said they hoped the relic would help more Russian women become mothers as the influential Russian Orthodox Church is actively promoting motherhood to help the government curtail a population decline.
Church officials in several cities plan to take the relic to pregnancy centres that counsel women contemplating an abortion, the Russian Orthodox Church said.
“This event is of huge significance especially when it comes to strengthening people’s faith,” Father Kirill, a spokesman for the Saint Petersburg diocese, told AFP.
“And the fact that this is such a singular relic helping women is especially important for our city and our country, where the demographic situation leaves much to be desired.”
Russian leaders have called the shrinking population a matter of national security.
The country’s latest census released earlier this year showed that the country’s population had shrunk by 2.2 million people since 2002 and now stands at 142.9 million.
Yet it would be a mistake to label this discreetly influential man as just another power-hungry party apparatchik or ex-KGB “siloviki”, the unflattering term given to describe the network of ex and current state-security officers. He has a fascination with Russia’s religious legacy and has helped launch a foundation that encourages reconciliation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"I think traditional family values and childbearing should not be substituted with some notorious imitations invented by the homosexual propaganda which could be only arbitrarily called attributes of a democratic society," he said at the opening ceremony of the 15th World Russian People's Council held on Wednesday in Moscow.
Yakunin told that he wanted to address this issue in his speech delivered at the Berlin forum last year, but he was warned that "this country will hardly understand you; and you may have troubles here."
"Nothing of the kind. There was not a single protest made and not a single person left the room because I mentioned that the propaganda of homosexuality was the same pollutant for the social environment as other pollutants were for the natural one," he said.
It is the fourth time that the Chinese Buddha sacred tooth relic was brought to the country for obeisance 15 years after the last conveyance.
Myanmar held a grand ceremony at the Nay Pyi Taw International Airport to greet the arriving tooth relic in accordance with Buddhist practice with national characteristics.
Vice-President Dr. Sai Mauk Kham and other high government officials, representatives of Buddhist circle and followers totaling about 2,000 greeted the Buddha sacred tooth relic at the airport.
The sacred tooth relic is being transferred to colorful floats and white-elephant-decorated vehicles and heading for Nay Pyi Taw' s Uppatasanti Pagoda where President U Thein Sein, along with 6, 000 Buddhist followers, is awaiting for greeting the relic for paying homage.
The Chinese tooth relic will be kept in Myanmar for a total of 48 days for public obeisance from Nov. 6 to Dec. 24 covering three major cities -- Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and Mandalay.
Of Myanmar's 60-million population, over 80 percent believe in Buddhism. The conveyance of the Chinese sacred tooth relic to Myanmar represents not only a major event of the Buddhist believers but also a fine story of China-Myanmar friendship.
It would seem that this lavish and lavishly costumed exercise was planned well before the recent, orchestrated chill in PRC-Myanmar relations that accompanied the civilian Myanmar government’s recent tilt toward the West.
One would imagine that China decided to proceed with the tooth tour anyway, to show it could be big about the snub.
Buddhism also has its relic-related controversies, sometimes exacerbated by political scraps.
The provenance of China's tooth is relatively secure. It is generally accepted that only two of Buddha's teeth survived his cremation to exist in the earthly realm: one at Lingguang Temple in China, and another at the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
In the 1990s, Taiwan had well-funded government pretensions of establishing itself as a world center of Buddhism, including Tibetan Buddhism, and even luring the Dalai Lama to reside there. In 1998 a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche bestowed a Buddha's tooth (as authenticated by other rinpoches) rescued from the Namgyal Monastery inside Tibet to Fo Guang Shan Temple in Kaohsiung China.
It has taken ten years for Fo Guang Shan Temple to complete the facility that will house and reverence what it claims to be Buddha's third tooth, the Buddha Memorial Center.
The BMC is a colossal structure that, by the temple's own calculation, cost NT 10 billion to construct. That's US $350 million dollars. I repeat:US $350 million dollars. Its official opening is scheduled for December 25, 2011. This artist's rendition gives the best idea of the facility's inter-galactic awesomeness. Those little specs? People. That Buddha in the back there? Largest seated Buddha statue in the world, 108 meters high, roughly the height of a thirty-story building.
Predictably, the PRC government was not amused when Taiwan first shouldered in on the tooth-relic action, as the BBC reported in 1999:
A third relic in the possession of a Tibetan monk caused great excitement when moved to Taiwan last year, but was angrily denounced by Chinese officials as a false tooth.
Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, said there was no Buddhist scripture to prove its authenticity - a claim rejected as irrelevant by Taiwanese Buddhist leaders.
Quite possibly, the Chinese government decided to send its tooth on tour this year in order to remind the world once again that the PRC, not Taiwan, possesses a Buddha tooth of widely acknowledged provenance (the Lingguang Temple tooth was sent to Hong Kong for display in 1999, following the Fo Guang Shan bombshell).
Impoverished Myanmar may not be able to match the multi-million dollar spectacle slated for the BMC's Christmas Day 2011 official opening, but it made the arrival of the tooth a national event.
A Myanmar publication, The Village Weekly, depicted the procession on its Facebook page:
In addition to two elevators installed at southeast and south-west corners of the hill for the sake of public convenience, members of social organizations helped the elders and the disabled climb the hill.
Three pathways are systematically designed in the cave to enable the pilgrims to pay close homage to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic and sites for those who want to meditate in the cave are created.
The artistes of Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture performed Dhammapuja songs in the accompaniment with harp troupe. Religious associations of ministries and in Nay Pyi Taw Council Area recited religious verses.
Donation boxes and pavilions are opened at the southern arch and the eastern arch on the precinct of the pagoda for accepting donation of cash and jewellery. A total of 24 donors of K 100000 and above emerged today. Chairman of Financial Sub-committee Deputy Minister for Finance and Revenue U Win Than returned certificates of honour to them.
In the evening, Director of Armoured Unit of Commander-in-Chief (Army) Office Maj-Gen Hla Myint and wife Daw San San Aye and family donated one earring with jade and diamond with estimated value of K 650000, US$ 100 and K 100000.
Secretary of Financial Sub-committee Deputy Director- General Dr Lin Aung of Budget Department under the Ministry of Finance and Revenue accepted donations and returned certificate of honour. Cash donation at the donation centres from 7 November evening till 7 pm today amounted to K 16789410 and US$ 207, RMB 23 Yuan, 100 Baht, 60 jewelleries with estimated value of K 3065600, two silver vases worthy of K 350000 and Non Jade Buddha Image worthy of K 500000.-MNA
For the convenience of pilgrims, an elevator at south-west corner helps monks, the aged and the disabled climb the hill. Apart from Myanmar people, visitors from Germany and Japan paid homage to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic.
A total of 14 wellwishers who donated K 100,000 and above and 22, various kinds of jewelries emerged today.
Among donors were U Myo Myint Aung and wife Daw Khaing Su Yin and son Maung Ye Yint Aung of MRTV in Nay Pyi Taw Tatkon who donated two gold rings worth K 312,000 and U Aye Kyaw and wife Daw Myint Myint Than and family of Natalin in Bago Region, a gold ring worth K 295,200. An official of financial subcommittee received the donation and presented certificates of honour to them.
Today’s donation amounted to K 18,406,511, US$ 39, 500 bahts, 500 pesos and 100,000 Indonesia rupiahs and 47 kinds of jewelries worth K4,034,500.
The Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic was showed on large TV screens for enabling pilgrims to pay close homage to the tooth relic.
Moreover, booklets, pictures of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic and religious books are on sale at the bookstall of the Department for Promotion and Propagation of the Sasana at the foot of the Uppatasanti Hill.
For the convenience of pilgrims who pay homage to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic, buses of Nay Pyi Taw Council are providing free-of-charge transportation service to pilgrims on this Fullmoon Day of Tazaungmon.
A total of 64 wellwishers who donated K 100,000 and above and 92, various kinds of jewellery emerged today. Among the donors were Deputy Minister for Communications, Posts and Telegraphs U Tint Lwin and wife Daw Khin Mar Lwin and family who donated K 300,000, U Nyi Nyi Hlaing and wife Daw Khin Myo Myat and family of Yati Min Silk House in Mandalay, K 500, 000, Cambodian pilgrims led by Bhaddanta Vilasa of Tipitaka Maha Gannayon Monastery in Mayangon Township, K135, 200, US$ 365, 1000 Vietnamese dongs, 2000 Cambodian riels and 20 bahts.
Today’s donation amounted to K 34,691,370, US$ 794, 820 yuans, 40 bahts, 1000 Vietnamese dongs, 2000 Cambodian riels, 320 Malaysian ringgits, 10 Indian rupees, two units of FEC and 118 items of jewellery worth K 6,269,460 .
Sky Net family donated LED Display Boards at southern and northern archways to enable pilgrims from around the country to pay close homage to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic.
U Kyaw Nyunt Yi-Daw Wah Wah Kyaw (Kyaw Nyunt Yi Publishing House) family and U Moe Hsaung- Daw Aye Thuzar Win family donated K 0.3 million each, U Hla Nyunt-Daw Myat Thida Ko and family, three jewellery worthy of K 820000, U Aung Win Htay-Daw Khin Htay Myint family, seven gold rings worthy of K 216000, U Win Khant-Daw Win Pale family, jewellery worthy of K 561500. Members of financial sub-committee returned certificates of honour to 35 donors of over K 0.1 million and 45 donors of jewellery.
Union Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry U Win Tun and wife Daw Swe Swe Chit donated K 0.3 million to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic yesterday evening.
Donation at the centres from 10 November till 6 pm today amounted to K 26920909, US$ 551, RMB 110, Baht 20, one Ringgit, 10 Singapore dollars, and 81 jewellery worthy of K 4268700.
Donation at the centres from 6 November till 6 pm today amounted to K 107389987, two FEC, US$ 1961, RMB 953, Baht 660, 500 Peso, 321 Ringgit, 100000 Rupiah, 10 Rupee, 100 Dong, 2000 Riel, 10 Singapore dollars, and 332 jewellery worthy of K 19997160.
Pilgrims continued to crowd Uppatasanti Pagoda in which the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic is sojourning in front of Gautama Buddha Panima Yadana Jade Buddha Image in the Pagoda cave for paying homage to it.
Among the crowds this morning, a total of 21 elder persons- four males and 17 females- from Nay Pyi Taw Pyimanna Home for the Aged participated in the donations for the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic, accepting take care of Patron Dr Daw Kyawt Tha Sein and officials concerned of the committee for Home for the Aged.
Pilgrims led by Myanmar Monastery Presiding Sayadaw Dr Bhaddanta Nannisara from Kuthinayon of India donated K 0.4 million, 80 bahts and 20 rupees, Director-General of Energy Planning Department U Htin Aung and wife Daw Cho Cho Win and family, K 0.3 million, U San Shwe Aung from the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs and wife Daw Aye Aye Than, K 0.2 million, Warrant Officer Class I Sein Win and Daw Sein Sein Aye, one gold crystal and one gold chain
estimated amounted K 720,000, CaptainNaing Zaw Oo (Retd) and brothers and sisters, one gold ring estimated amounted K 0.5 million, U Wumsowe and (Daw Lintngar) Shwewa Family rice shop, one gold ring, a pair of gold earrings estimated amounted K 349,000, Brig-Gen Aung Myo Min (Retd) and Daw Thazin Nwe, two gold rings estimated amounted K 310,000, Daw Khin Aye (Latpan Kharhla) of Zabuthiri Township, one gold bracelet estimated amounted K 310,000.
Members of financial sub-committee accepted donations of 18 donors who made donations over K 0.1 million and 76 donors who donated various kinds of jewelries and presented certificates of honour to them.
In yesterday evening, Commanderin- Chief of Defence Services General Min Aung Hlaing and wife Daw Kyu Kyu Hla donated K 0.5 million, Union Minister for Immigration and Population U Khin Yi and wife Daw Khin May Soe, K 0.2 million.
D o n a t i o n s - K 30682186, US$ 100, 112 yuans, 1159 bahts, 20 rupees, 54000 dongs and 90 kinds of jewelries estimated amounted K 7,965,000, were accepted from yesterday evening to this evening.
The channel stops airing on 24 December, the date set for conveyance of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic back to China.
The Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic was conveyed to Myanmar from China for fourth time on 6 November and is displayed in the cave of Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Taw from 7 to 21 November, in the cave of Maha Passana cave on Kaba Aye Hillock in Yangon, and in Maha Atulawaiyan (the unrivalled) Monastery in Mandalay from 8 to 23 December.
To update DTH Receiver, click Menu and select Installation. The DTH Receiver will require you to enter Password plus four zeros. To pay homage to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic on Dhamma channel, complete Auto Scan.-MNA
NAY PYI TAW, 14 Nov - Today is the ninth day on which the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic had conveyed for the fourth time from the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar for public obeisance.
Pilgrims thronged the cave of Uppatasanti Pagoda to pay homage to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic which is temporarily being kept in front of Maha Manimaya Gotama Buddha Panima Yadana Jade Buddha Image from dawn to dusk.
The compound of the Pagoda and surrounding area of the hill were packed with pilgrims who took a walk from the southern archway on Yazahtani Road to the foot of Uppatasanti Hill and free-of-charge ferries of Nay Pyi Taw Council to pay obeisance to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic.
Among the crowds, Pa-O pilgrims from Phayaphyu ward of Taunggyi led by U Khin Maung Koe donated K 500,000, U Tin Sein-Daw Sandar and family of Thabyegon ward in Zabuthiri Township, K 250,000, U Myint Lwin of ACE Construction and Daw Moe Moe Ngae and family, K 150,000, Managing Director U Hla Thein of No (2) Mining Enterprise and Daw Malar Myo Sein and family and religious association of the Ministry of Home Affairs and staff of Correctional Department and families, K 100,000 each, U Aung Moe Kyaw-Daw Mar Mar Tun and family from Yangon, K 235,000, a family of wellwishers, a block of gold worth K 739, 000, Col San Myint of Command and General Staff College in Kalaw and Daw Aye Aye Mu and family, two pairs of earrings and one gold ring worth K 360,000, U Khin Maung Zaw-Daw Chit Chit Su and family of Mogok, one gold ring worth K 200,000 in memory of Daw Khin Than Myint, Daw Khin Lay Myint (Doh Nyinaung) and family of Takon Township, two gold rings worth K 190,000, U Khun Thein Htut-Daw Nan Lin Lin Aung Win and family, a pair of platinum earrings worth K 150,000 and others, K 100,000 and above and various kinds of jewelleries to the chairman and officials of financial subcommittee who presented certificates of honour to them.
Donations-K 25,922,220, one unit of FEC, US$ 47, 30 yuans, 40 bahts, three Malaysian ringgits, 25 Singaporean dollars and 97 kinds of jewelleries worth K 6,196,600 were accepted from yesterday evening to this evening.
First, the visiting delegation led by Mr. Bai Jingfu paid obeisance to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic which is temporarily being kept in the cave of Uppa-tasanti Pagoda.
After signing visitors’ book, Mr. Bai Jingfu presented K 50,000 to the Pagoda and paid homage to Jade Buddha Image being kept in the cave of the Pagoda.
Then he donated K 50,000 at the donation centre which is kept open for the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic on the compound of the Pagoda. -MNA
The pagoda was crowded with monks and pilgrims and member of the State Central Working Committee of the Sangha of All Ganas Yadanasi Sayadaw Agga Maha Saddhamma Jotikadhaja Bhaddanta Silananda of Loilem in Shan State (South) paid homage to the sacred tooth relic.
Likewise, representatives of Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw paid homage to the sacred tooth relic and donated cash.
Bureau Chief Mr Jon Patrick Barta of South-East Asian branch of Wall Street Journal paid homage to the sacred tooth relic this morning and viewed peaceful and happy obeisance of the people to the tooth relic and making donations at the donation centres.
Staff families of the Ministry of Finance and Revenue donated K 401,000, staff families of Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Religious Affairs K 365,000, Maj-Gen Nyan Tun and family of the Commander-in-Chief (Army)’s Office K 500,000, Asia World Co family K 400,000, U Kyaw Swe and family K 100,000, Daw Khin Aye Than-Daw Nwe Nwe Than family and U Aung Mya Thein-Daw Le Yi Moe family K 50,000 each, U Myat Min-Daw Phu Pwint Thwe and family K 30,000 and others. Their donations amounted to K 1,896,000.
Likewise, members of the financial subcommittee accepted K 370,000 by Pyithu Hluttaw representatives, K 375,000 by Amyotha Hluttaw representatives, K 500,000 by reporter U Zaw Min Aung of Kyemon Daily, daughter The Su Hlaing of Ministry of Commerce and family in memory of late Daw Tin Hlaing, K 333,300 by manager and staff of Yaypyar drinking water factory of Myanma Economic Corporation (Nay Pyi Taw), K 300,000 by U Aung Kyaw Thu-Daw Thida Myint (Thida Biriani) family of Lashio, K 237,000 by a family of Ywathit Sub-Township of Bawlake District in Kayah State, K 200,000 each by Col Kyaw Win and family of Commander-in-Chief (Army)’s Office and grandson Thit Htoo San, U Aung Kyaw Moe-Daw Khin Kyi and family and U Htaik Sein-Daw Lily and family of the US, one ring decorated with nine precious stones worth about K 340,000 by U Maung Sein-Daw Mya Kyi Aye, daughter Amyotha Hluttaw Representative Daw Yi Yi Myint of Mawlamyine Constituency, one golden bracelet worth about K 332,000 by U Thein Aung-Daw Than Myint and family of Dawei, two golden rings worth about K 294,000 by Captain Myo Zaw Aung-Ma Yamin Swe Zaw of Nay Pyi Taw Command, one golden necklace worth about K 280,000 by Daw Hla Myint of Hline Township, one pair of golden earplug worth about K 257,500 by Col Aung Myint Oo-Daw Tin Mar Nwe and family of Kyaikto in memory of late father U Kyaw Sein, one golden chain worth about K 250,000 by U Myo Hlaing-Daw Nan Loung Hsai and family of Pyinmana under the patronage of both side parents, one golden locket worth about K 230,000 by Daw Ngwe Kyi and daughter Khin Su Su Htwe of Kyaikto in memory of late U Kyaw Sein, one golden ring worth about K 227,000 by daughter Daw Nan Loung Hsai and family of Pyinmana in memory of late Sayadaw U Vimalasami, one golden ring worth about K 200,000 by U Htay Lwin-Daw Phyu Phyu Lwin and family of Namhsan of Shan State (South) and K 100,000 and above donations by 63 wellwishers and gold, silverware and jewellery by 58 wellwishers.
Certificates of honour were presented to the donors.
Yesterday evening, Director-General U Kyaw Myint Hlaing of Irrigation Department and wife Daw Sanda Khin (Deputy Minister for Culture) and family and Union Minister for Rail Transportation U Aung Min-Dr Wai Wai Tha and family under the patronage of grandfather U Tha Khaing donated K 500,000 each, Union Minister for Religious Affairs Thura U Myint Maung-Daw Aye Aye Tun and family K 300,000, Union Minister for Labour U Aung Kyi- Daw Thwe Thwe Sein and family K 100,000 and Daw Mya Sein and family of Zeyatheikdi Ward K 200,000, US$ 200 and ¥ 1000.
From evening of 14th November to 6 pm today, donations at the centres amounted to K 28,184,207, FEC 10, US$ 479, RMB 203, Thai baht 1010, Indian rupee 62, S$ 20, Korean Wam 500, Japanese ¥ 1000, Sri Lankan rupee 100, 81 items of gold, silver and jewellery ornaments worth about K 6,419,400.