Buddhism meets the Red Scare in Communist countries

More than two thousand years ago, after Siddhartha Gautama preached the Buddha’s teachings, which he had witnessed, many sentient beings walked through the door of practice. As Buddhism flourished, it also spread to Asia and Europe, which included the communist countries of the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam. Because of the communist belief in atheism, Buddhism was subjected to the Red Scare in all of these communist countries and the true Buddhist culture was nearly destroyed.

The Incorporeal Lama Predicted the Red Terror

The Red Terror of the Soviet Communist Party was predicted by a Soviet monk long ago. Recently, it was revealed online that the flesh of the 90-year-old Tibetan Buddhist Lama of the Soviet Union, Hampo Lama, is still intact, and even Russian President Vladimir Putin went to see him.

The 12th Khambo Lama (Pandido Khambo Lama), named Itigilow, was the reincarnated spiritual child of the 11th Khambo Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, who became the leader of Tibetan Buddhism in Buryatia, Russia, in 1911. He devoted himself to reviving Buddhism by building monasteries and publishing scriptures. In 1913-1917, he opened the first Buddhist monastery in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In 1926, a year before his death, he prophesied to the monks that “the Red Terror is coming”, referring to the communist movement’s impending pogroms against humanity. This prophecy soon came true, and over the next 10 years, the Soviet Communists killed 30 million Russians, including Buddhist lamas and believers.

Moscow exhibition reveals Soviet persecution of Buddhism

As early as 1917, when the Bolsheviks under Lenin seized power, the Red Reign of Terror began, including the suppression of religion.

In the spring of 1919, Lenin and another leader, Vladimir Kalinin, signed an order declaring that priests and religion must be “eliminated as soon as possible,” proposing that churches be closed and converted into warehouses, and that priests be shot “without mercy. However, this order was delayed by the civil war and the famine, but only two years later, the repression became more intense. By one count, nearly 8,000 clergy died in the 1921 anti-church campaign, many of them tortured to death. The Soviets confiscated between $4 million and $8 million worth of treasures.

In addition to the persecution of Orthodox clergy, the Soviet Communist Party’s persecution of Buddhism was even more brutal, especially during Stalin’s purges, when Buddhist culture was almost entirely destroyed.

In May 2014, the Gulag Museum in the center of the Soviet capital Moscow hosted an exhibition on the Soviet regime’s persecution of Buddhism, which detailed in pictures, objects, videos, music and photocopied archival documents how the Soviet regime destroyed the entire Buddhist culture and physically eliminated lamas and monks back then.

According to a Voice of America interview at the time, Russian Buddhist expert Dzerentsev said that while Orthodox Christianity and Islam also suffered great persecution at the time, a small number of churches, mosques and clergy remained, but Buddhist culture was completely destroyed. More than 200 monasteries in the Soviet Union were destroyed, more than 20,000 lamas and senior monks were persecuted, a significant number were executed, and the rest were thrown into concentration camps in Siberia, where most died, leaving only 1,000 to 1,500 survivors.

Because Buddhism was treated as a minor religion in the Soviet Union, the Bolshevik regime was not interested in it in the early years of its rule and did not see it as a threat to domination, Dzerentsev said. But when the policy of collective farming was introduced, the Communists felt that Buddhism became a resistance and decided to go after it.

It turned out that in the three regions of Kalmykia, Tuva and Buryatia, where Buddhism was practiced, the lamas were the intellectual and upper class of society, so when the peasants were faced with the question of whether they should join the collective farms, they approached the lamas and listened to their advice, and the lamas thus became the legitimate opposition to the authorities. In the Communist Party’s view, eliminating the lamas would make the peasants listen to the Communists.

In 1923, the Soviet Communist Party began an atheistic propaganda offensive in areas where Buddhism was practiced. The cartoons on display in the exhibition that satirized and vilified Buddhism at the time were remarkably similar to those that discredited the Orthodox Church in those years. The authorities then increased taxes on monasteries and monks, which were so high that the lamas were overwhelmed. At the same time, the authorities prevented the spread of Buddhist culture, banning Buddhist-related painting, theater, and even Tibetan medicine. For example, all 50 Tibetan doctors in one district of Buryatia were arrested and executed.

The exhibition shows that the Soviet regime’s persecution of Buddhism reached its peak between 1931 and 1937. The last Buddhist leader was arrested in 1937. The extent of the Red Terror at the time can be seen in the fact that there was not a single empty place in the prison in Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia, in those days.

According to Terentsev, of the three Buddhist regions, Buryatia was less persecuted. When he visited the region in the 1970s and 1980s, he could still see small Buddhist niches in people’s homes, and the number of local lamas who survived was 500. In Tuva, at the same time, there were no niches or traces of Buddhist culture to be seen, and only six or seven lamas survived. It is said that the Communists and Young Communists in Tuva who participated in the persecution behaved like the Red Guards of the Chinese Communist Party. And the Kalmyks were exiled en masse to Siberia by Stalin because they were accused of treason, so all the Buddhist temples and culture there were destroyed.

After 1945, the Soviet Communist regime began to relax its persecution of Buddhism somewhat. A modest temple was allowed to be built in Buryatia, but Buddhist revival and freedom of worship came after Gorbachev’s administration.

Communist Persecution of Buddhism in Vietnam

According to an article published in the May 27, 2013 issue of the mainland’s Study Times, Vietnam is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, with major religions containing both imported religions, such as Buddhism, Catholicism, Christianity, Confucianism and Taoism, and indigenous religions, with Buddhism and Catholicism having the greatest influence, having been introduced to Vietnam in the late 2nd and 14th centuries AD, respectively. Studies show that more than 80% of the Vietnamese population participates in various forms of religious activities and holds some kind of religious beliefs, mainly Buddhist beliefs.

Before the Viet Cong unified North and South Vietnam in 1975, the Viet Cong allowed the people to believe freely in religion, and the constitution stated that “citizens are guaranteed the basic rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly, and belief”. During the First Indochina War (1945-1954), Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Viet Cong, also included Catholics in his cabinet. During the Second Indochina War (1961-1973), the Viet Cong and the South Vietnam National Liberation Front (SNLF) stated that they would “respect and protect the rights of their religious compatriots to freedom of worship, make no distinction among religions, and truly realize religious equality. However, such propaganda was consistent with the hypocritical face of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China in the early days to achieve their own goals.

In 1975, after the unification of Vietnam, the Vietcong began to suppress religions and nationalize the land and property of religious sites. 1976, the Vietcong began to implement a “triple revolution” policy, namely, a revolution in production relations, a revolution in science and technology, and a revolution in ideology and culture. Among them, the ideological and cultural revolution involved the “purification” of culture, including the “purification” of religion.

During this period, the Vietnamese government adopted a harsh religious policy, and religious organizations such as Buddhism, Catholicism, and Christianity were suppressed to varying degrees. For example, between 1975 and 1977, the government destroyed and expropriated religious buildings such as pagodas, statues, and offices, arrested many monks and restricted their freedom, banned worship at rural temples, and branded Buddhists as “war criminals”.

In addition, the United Buddhist Church was banned, and in 1981, the authorities established the Buddhist Church of Vietnam under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam and made the Buddhist Church of Vietnam the sole official representative of Buddhism in Vietnam, with other Buddhist organizations and sects being forcibly subsumed into the Buddhist Church of Vietnam. This is similar to the Patriotic Buddhist Association established by the Chinese Communist Party.

Persecution of Buddhism by the Chinese Communist Party

The persecution of Buddhism by the Chinese Communist Party has been described in detail in the article “The Communist Party Destroys the Faith of the Chinese People through the Transmission of Buddhism by Sakyamuni”, in which the Communist Party, in order to promote its ideology of “atheism”, launched a massive crackdown on religion and banned Taoist sects, burning a large number of scriptures of various sects. The CCP also demanded that members of organizations and gangs such as Christianity, Catholicism, Taoism, and Buddhism register with the government and repent; if they failed to do so, they would be severely punished if found.

On July 1, 1955, the CCP also arrested and shot monks, nuns and Taoists who did not cooperate with the CCP as counter-revolutionaries. The economic deprivation, political oppression, and the intimidation of “making up charges, holding public trials for ten thousand people, pronouncing sentences, and shooting them” made many monks and nuns side with the Communist Party.

With the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the Communist Party’s repression of religion reached its peak during the “Breaking the Four Olds” campaign, in which countless temples were destroyed, countless Buddha statues were mutilated, and countless monks were forced to return to the monastic world. The land of China, once filled with temples and Taoist temples, has long been devastated after the devastation of the Cultural Revolution. There are only a few true practitioners left. Those who entered the temples after the Cultural Revolution have long been unaware of the true meaning of cultivation.

In addition to destroying traditional temples and persecuting practitioners, in the 1950s the Communist Party established Buddhist and Taoist associations that were completely under its control and occupied key positions with its agents. These associations were under the jurisdiction of the United Front Work Department in the CCP’s organizational system and the Religious Affairs Administration of the State Council in the government system, and their purpose was not to prosper religion, but to control it.

For example, the Chinese Buddhist Association begins its founding document with a warm eulogy of the CCP’s suppression of counter-revolution and “thanks the leaders of all this, our great leader Chairman Mao and the Central People’s Government,” with a sycophancy that compares favorably with that of any secular organization. Moreover, the purpose of the Chinese Buddhist Association, as established in its constitution, explicitly requires Buddhists to participate in the so-called “construction of socialist spiritual civilization. Taoism is similar.

The Buddhist Association and the Taoist Association are politically affiliated with the CCP and naturally interpret their teachings in accordance with the CCP’s views. In addition to following the CCP politically, their agents also secularize and vulgarize religion. In the CCP’s view, as long as believers shift their focus from the “kingdom of heaven” to the “earth”, the CCP can easily invent more lies and manipulate the minds of believers. Thus, Zhao Puchu, a disciple of the monk Taixu and a preacher of “earthly Buddhism,” became the ideal agent for the CCP to disrupt Buddhism from within. The chaos in contemporary Chinese Buddhism is the result of the Chinese Communist Party’s chaos.


The Red Terror of Buddhism in several communist countries has once again demonstrated to the world the dangers of communism, that is, the fundamental lack of freedom of worship as long as communist states exist. Can the tragic history make the present generation more aware of the dangers of communism and communist parties and expel them by practical actions?