Saturday, June 21, 2008

Frequently asked questions about Dorje Shugden and the Dalai Lama, Part Three

Q: What prevents anyone from practising it anyway in his/her privacy?
A: In theory there is nothing to stop people practising 'in secret', but as part of his campaign to remove the practice from Tibetan society, each person either has been forced to swear an oath to Palden Lhamo (another powerful Dharma protector) or be ostracised from Tibetan society and be denied travel, food, family relationships and basic human conditions. In effect the Dalai Lama is forcing Tibetans to make a vow to break their previous commitment to their Spiritual Guides to practise Dorje Shugden, or to suffer ostracism if they refuse. The oath is as follows:

I swear on the name of the Dalai Lama and glorious Maxor Gyalmo (Protectress Palden Lhamo) to never venerate and worship Dorje Shugden and to never have any relation on material and other levels with those who worship Dorje Shugden.

The Dalai Lama is seeking to publicly denounce the practice of Dorje Shugden with a view to removing the practice and its adherents from Buddhism; and to oppose this requires public action such as demonstrations. He has already banned the practice in the Tibetan Community in India and moves are afoot to try to force Tibetans living in the West to sign a similar oath to abandon the practice. For example, The Dalai Lama’s sister Pema was recently in Paris starting the forced signature campaign of Tibetans in France, Tibetans in Australia told the demonstrators that they had already signed the oath, and the forced signature campaign is being arranged for Madison, US, next month (July 2008).

The discrimination against Dorje Shugden is already affecting Buddhist traditions in the West. For example, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, which was founded by Lama Yeshe (a very devout Dorje Shugden practitioner, now perhaps turning in his grave), no longer allows any officer, Teacher or Administrator of the organization to be a Shugden practitioner. Also, one of the pre-requisites for requesting ordination in the FPMT is not to be a Shugden practitioner. The irrational ban is spreading like poison through the bloodstream of all Tibetan Buddhist institutions loyal to the Dalai Lama, even Western ones. The aim is the complete eradication of Dorje Shugden practice and the authentic Gelugpa lineage.

The Dalai Lama travels throughout the world talking about tolerance, religious harmony and the need for dialogue with one’s enemies. He speaks sweet words taken from his Teachers, but at the same time he is seeking to humiliate and destroy the reputation of Dorje Shugden practitioners throughout the world such that they will no longer be regarded as Buddhists but as sectarian spirit worshippers. He is destroying the very lineage he is teaching from!

A lot of people think that religion and religious figures are hypocritical. Sadly, the Dalai Lama is busy proving them right. If the Dalai Lama cared anything for Buddhism and its reputation he would not act in such a hypocritical way because in the long term it will destroy the reputation of a religion that many people are increasingly turning to for solving their problems. For the sake of power and influence he is showing a callous disregard for the spiritual lives of others.

Q:What do protesters hope to achieve by going public, and by all accounts, sow, what appears gratuitous discord, amongst the Tibetan community? And apparently undermine the moral and representative authority of the Dalai Lama at a very, very crucial time for him and Tibetans. To the public at large it has all the appearance of a rather self-centred opportunity for these practitioners to embarrass the Dalai Lama, and to gain maximum leverage for their cause, whatever the merits of it may be.

A: What the Western Shugden Society hopes to achieve is dialogue with the Dalai Lama so that the destruction of a pure lineage of Buddhism can be averted. Our wish is for the pure spiritual practice of Je Tsongkhapa's tradition to remain for many aeons for the benefit of all living beings. We want to persuade the Dalai Lama to reconsider, give religious freedom to Dorje Shugden practitioners in his own community and to stop slandering the practice and practitioners throughout the world.

In short, we want him to stop causing disharmony and gratuitous discord in the Buddhist community by lying about the practice, and for him to give religious freedom. When something as precious as the Buddhist teachings is threatened, something has to be done, which is why the Western Shugden Society is organizing demonstrations against the Dalai Lama. As soon as he agrees to listen, the demonstrations will stop.

Some people have said “why are Westerners protesting when it's only a problem for Tibetans in India? You're free to practice, the Dalai Lama isn't stopping you” Firstly, it's not just Westerners who are protesting. If you look at the videos and pictures of the protest at Colgate University in New York State, for example, you will see many Tibetans, and many more will be at future demonstrations. Secondly, this is a problem for ALL Shugden practitioners worldwide and is increasingly coming to affect Western practitioners in terms of unchecked slander against Dorje Shugden practitioners. Just as a forest fire may begin in one part of the forest but will eventually spread and destroy everything if it is unchecked, the Dalai Lama is trying to stop all of us from practising Dorje Shugden by using his charisma and good reputation, first in his own community but later worldwide. We must oppose this.

Those of us who are in the New Kadampa Tradition have already suffered from ten years of the Dalai Lama labelling us as a 'cult', even mainstream news magazines like Newsweek in April 1997 repeated the misinformation spread by the Dalai Lama: "Nobody would pray to Buddha for better business, but they go to Shugden for such favours - and this is where it has become like spirit worship," the Dalai Lama told NEWSWEEK. "This is a great pity-a tragedy."

There are now hundreds of stories throughout the world of people strongly deterred by Tibetan Buddhist groups from coming to or returning to NKT Centers because they are cultists and evil spirit worshippers, and all other sorts of hurtful nonsense. NKT publicity is torn down or defaced, teachers are heckled during their teachings, NKT people have been shouted and spat at in the street, some other Tibetan practitioners wear protective ribbons and make mudras (hand gestures) upon encountering any Kadampas, there is a lot of negative talk about us on the internet, and faith is destroyed.

Yet what has the NKT done wrong except for trying to keep the Gelugpa tradition intact and give Dharma teachings unmixed with politics? What have they done wrong except to stand up to the Dalai Lama for their own and others' spiritual lives? And it is clear that the source of this bias, disinformation and hostility is none other than the Dalai Lama himself. Tibetan Buddhists who are following the Dalai Lama's view are practising sectarian discrimination against the NKT in particular and against Dorje Shugden practitioners in general, just as their teacher is.

For example, on the popular E-sangha Buddhist discussion forum it is not permissible to post about Shugden practice or the NKT except to criticise. We are all 'banned' from this supposedly Buddhist forum, just as the Dalai Lama would like to ostracise all Shugden practitioners from Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has created all these problems through his sectarianism. This kind of discrimination is not Buddhist and is against the Bodhisattva vows. Therefore, it's incorrect to say that Western Shugden practitioners are unaffected by the Dalai Lama's slander of our tradition.

It is not our wish to sow discord amongst the Tibetan community but to heal it by allowing everyone to practice freely. The Dalai Lama is the one sowing discord with his campaign against Dorje Shugden. He is driving a wedge between practitioners and their families and denying basic human conditions unless you renounce the practice. The Dalai Lama is abusing human rights and breaking Indian Law by engaging in Deity discrimination. His actions are clearly uncompassionate and unlawful.

In February 2008, 900 monks were expelled from their monasteries for bravely refusing to give up their practice.
As Geshe Sopa said recently when he travelled from America to join the demonstration in Oxford, what the Dalai Lama is doing is worse than what the Chinese did – the Chinese destroyed the monasteries but they could not divide the monks. The Dalai Lama has succeeded in creating a schism in the monastic community by enforcing a ban that has stirred up disharmony and bitterness.

The protest against the Dalai Lama is not self-centered but is an attempt to draw media attention to this problem. The Western Shugden Society has no choice because the Dalai Lama refuses to discuss this issue even though many attempts have been made to have a meaningful dialogue with him. The WSS is trying to prevent the destruction of Je Tsongkhapa's tradition and to re-establish the rights of Tibetan practitioners of this Deity who are being oppressed, to allow them to carry out their practice without political interference. Is that really so much to ask?

1 comment:

adam said...

This is an excellent article. I think it's good for NKT WSS supporters to acknowledge the interest that they have in this issue for the NKT also. It helps show how broad and multi-dimensional the whole issue is.