Coloured Flags

3 Dec 2018

Among the various strands of Buddhism, the one most popular in Australia is probably Tibetan Buddhism. Many Aussies admire this “religion of peace,” venerate the Dalai Lama, and idealise their imagination of Shangri-la – a beautiful scene with snow-capped mountains in the background and colourful prayer flags flapping in the breeze.

But the reality for people living in the remote mountain passes of the Himalayas is quite a different story. Up there, the weather is frigid, subsistence farming is plain hard work, and every aspect of daily life is controlled by the religious leaders – the high monks or “lamas”. Every family must give at least one child to be raised and educated in the monastery. Through astrology and rituals, the lamas decide when people can travel (and in which direction), when to plant and harvest crops, when is an auspicious day to get married, how a dead body should be disposed of, what rituals a person must carry out when caught in sin, and what fee families must pay to the lamas for their services.

Up there, religion is not an option or a small part of a person’s life. It is an integral part of their community and cultural identity. And in a place where a person’s land is their family’s future, there is community-wide agreement that if someone changes religion, they forfeit their land to the monastery.

For centuries, these areas have been closed to outside influences, and one wonders then how it can ever be possible for these people to meet Jesus. But there are glimmers of hope for these lands of shadows. In the hilly areas on the fringe of the mountains, believers are looking to the mountains and seeking ways to reach up with good news. Children and young people from the mountains who are sent out for education are being discipled, then returning as little beacons of light in their families and communities. Young monks seeking a way out are reading the Scriptures in secret and encountering the One who brings freedom and hope for the future.

Please pray with us for a light to shine in the darkness, for those who come into the light to stand firm despite fierce opposition and a very high cost, and that as they shine with the joy of the Lord, their light would spread further into the remotest mountain villages.

Read more on Buddhism:
Buddhism Part 1: Buddha, The Burka and Christian Kids
Buddhism Part 2: Escaping Sin

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