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Vietnamese Buddhists clash over scripture, real estate

Reports have emerged of violent confrontations since June 28 between 
two groups of Buddhist monks and local police at a monastery near the
resort town of Dalat, in southern Vietnam.

A group of monks at the Nha
 Bat monastery who follow the teachings of the internationally renowned
 Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh were reportedly confronted by a mob of monks
 and laypeople who follow the mainstream, government-approved Vietnam 
Buddhist Sangha, along with plainclothes police.

"About 200 people
from outside came into the monastery," said Brother Phap Hoi, a senior
 monk from the group that follows Thich Nhat Hanh, by telephone.

said the mob did some damage to the monastery's kitchen and to the
 monks' possessions, and demanded that they leave the monastery within
 a week. Subsequently, the monastery's electricity was cut off, though 
it had been restored by July 6.

The conflict appears to stem from a clash between the group of monks
 following Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings and the main abbott of the
 mainstream government-sanctioned monastery, Thich Duc Nghi.

The monks
 associated with Thich Nhat Hanh had established a subsection of the
 Nha Bat monastery in 2005, with Thich Duc Nghi's approval. But Phap 
Hoi said Thich Duc Nghi had rescinded that approval last year because
 of doctrinal disputes with Thich Nhat Hanh, and now demanded that
 Hanh's followers leave the monastery.

Hanh's followers say they have 
built several buildings at the monastery at a cost of thousands of
dollars in donations from international followers, and have so far 
refused to leave.
 Vietnamese Zen sage Thich Nhat Hanh is perhaps the best-known 
international Buddhist figure apart from the Dalai Lama. He has 
lived in France and the U.S. since leaving South Vietnam in 1965, when 
he was involved in the anti-war Buddhist Movement.

He has tens of
thousands of followers at monasteries in Europe and the U.S. Hanh's
 writings began to circulate in Vietnam in the early 2000s, and in 2005
 he reached an agreement with the Vietnamese regime that allowed him to
 return and lecture in the country. He has since returned twice on 
well-attended lecture tours throughout the country, gathering huge 
crowds in Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City, and has built up a modest
 following inside Vietnam, where his New Age brand of Buddhism appeals
 to many young people and professionals alienated by the stagnant
 mainstream Vietnam Buddhist Sangha.

The group of monks at Bat Nha was the first group in Vietnam to establish a monastery specifically 
affiliated with Hanh, but that group's survival appears to be in
 Some reports had linked the clashes at Bat Nha to recent 
environmentalist opposition to Chinese-run bauxite mines in Vietnam's
 Central Highlands, but Brother Phap Hoi said he knew nothing of any
such connection.