Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Now is the time

Should we demonstrate? Are we rocking the boat? Are we wrong to call the Dalai Lama into question? Are we betraying Tibetans and tarnishing the reputation of Buddhism itself? These and other questions are discussed below.

The Western Shugden Society demonstrations have met with objections from Tibetans who believe that criticism of the Dalai Lama has an adverse effect on the cause of Tibetan independence and unity. They complain that it tarnishes the reputation of Tibetans worldwide as the Dalai Lama is their leader in the eyes of the world and their most recognizable symbol.

At the same time, some Western Buddhists and supporters of Tibetan independence have objected to the demonstrations on the grounds that these damage the reputation of Tibet or of Buddhism. It seems that we are spoiling their fantasy of Shangri-la.

These people say that we are wrong to protest publicly, to challenge the Dalai Lama's perceived authority, to "rock the boat", as it were. Some say we are wrong even to question the Dalai Lama and to oppose his edicts. Some say simply that, even if we disagree, we should do so privately, without bringing such shame down upon our house. They say that it is horrible to see monks and nuns on the streets shouting -- that this is un-Buddhist, that we appear angry, and that we should stop.

The critics are correct insofar as, without doubt, the current schism is having an adverse effect on the reputation of Buddhism worldwide, but they are wrong to say that we should be silent for the sake of temporary harmony and to save face. To do so would be like the family of an abusive father staying silent about the abuse for the sake of the family name. Effectively, we would enable and allow the Dalai Lama to continue to commit whatever abuses and atrocities he chose, unchecked.

Our house is not in order. All is not well. We cannot pretend that it is.

When the scandal of abusive priests within the Catholic church broke recently, the greatest shame and pain came from the cover-up that had occurred. What outraged people the most was that no-one within the church had spoken out to expose the abuse and stop it. It was this that was perceived to be the greatest deception and the most horrible betrayal of trust.

If we make ourselves accomplices to the Dalai Lama's present abuse of human rights by staying silent, then how will the world react when, as will definitely happen, the abuse finally comes to light? How will it affect the reputation of Buddhism and Buddhists throughout the world if no-one among us had dared stand up and blown the whistle: "Our house is not in order. This is not right."?

As sincere Buddhists, all Dorje Shugden practitioners must stand up and be counted. We have the responsibility to expose this decay in the highest levels of our community and to oppose it. If we do not do this, where is our honesty and our integrity – our decency? Who will trust us when the Dalai Lama's mask falls? If we say nothing, then we will be morally bankrupt, accomplices, and the Dharma will truly have been destroyed from within, as the Buddha predicted.

It is completely wrong to say that the Dalai Lama is beyond reproach because he is the Dalai Lama. Buddha Shakyamuni himself taught us that we must question and clarify the meaning of the Dharma that we hear and never blindly accept what any teacher says, however famous or charismatic they may be. Blind acceptance is not Buddhism: it is creating the conditions for dictatorship and fanaticism.

It is completely wrong to hide the faults within our house from the world, pretending that all is well while thousands, even millions, suffer as a result of one man's delusion. That is not loyalty; it is cowardice and deception.

We must fight this, however painful and embarrassing it may be for us: that is our responsibility as Bodhisattvas. No Buddhist wants to protest, or would choose to be seen waving their fists and shouting; but we have, literally, no choice. We did not create this situation; that responsibility lies solely with the Dalai Lama and his government in exile. He and he alone is responsible for this unprecedented schism in the Sangha. As Buddhists, the responsibility we do have is to bring this shame to light and to do what we can to control the damage. If we don't do this now then we make of ourselves cowards and accomplices.

Of course we feel deeply sorry for the Tibetan people and for all the Dalai Lama's faithful disciples: he is betraying them all. As sincere practitioners of Dorje Shugden we must not also betray them by staying silent. Keeping a patient mind within, we must fight this with truth and wisdom, with compassion and love. If we do so, we will definitely prevail and Je Tsongkhapa's tradition will remain for the benefit of future generations.

Now is not the time for Buddhists to sit there -- now is the time for them to stand up for what is right. Now is the time to dispel false accusations against the innocent. Now is the time to protect the pitiful and the protectorless.

If we do not take this challenging and brave step at this point in history, then an immensely profound and compassionate lineage of Buddhadharma is lost in our very lifetimes. This must not happen.

Published courtesy of Atisha's Cook

1 comment:

Adam said...

I'd just like to quote a couple of paragraphs from Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail in support of the above article. The parallels here will be obvious:

"You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative."

"You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of diret action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent register may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic hights of understanding and brotherhood."

Let's hope and pray that the protests of the WSS will lead to negotiations that will bring an end to the discrimination which Dorje Shugden worshippers are presently being subjects to; and bring peace, understanding and brotherhood to the world-wide Tibetan community.