This article was taken from the comment section of the New Statesman Faith Blog with the permission of the author. It is quite long but I decided to publish it all in one article -- so do get yourself a cup of tea and sit comfortably .... it includes a great deal of interesting background, history, analysis, stories and so on.
I would like also to give this story as I understand it, from my personal experience, research and reflections. No doubt I owe some data to the Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable Society, and I've given them my thoughts too.
But mainly because I've been inside the Tibetan Buddhist world since the late seventies. A chunk of time.
Heartfelt gratitude to the New Statesman for this opportunity of telling the world about our plight.
THE TIBETANS TWICE EXILED ~ VICTIMS OF THE DALAI LAMA
This summer I watched a TV program --"Buddhist Warriors" -- where they were showing Buddhist monks of different nationalities engaged in street demonstrations. The journalist kept asking each of them the same question: how do you reconcile your (demonstrations, protests, etc.) with the fact that Buddhism is a religion of peace and love?
Although political activism is not new to monks, it’s true that – at least for those who consider them as a last frontier of goodness for humankind – it can be shocking to see them forced to abandon their prayers and dignified demeanor.
Although not shown in that program, many saw the demonstrations that a group of both Western and Tibetan monks staged against the Dalai Lama, and probably many were shocked or pained by them as well. The most painful, though, in this case, is to have to say that those members of the Buddhist monastic community were right, what they were saying is the truth.
In the case of the Dalai Lama, the mere idea of him being ordinary is for many practically unbearable. The world is convinced that he is the embodiment of everything good and noble. How can it accept that he be like any other being, capable of doing things that we don’t approve of? Some feel that if we were to accept such thing we would become orphans in a way, deprived of a model, of a supreme father, an enlightened sage … a friend, a spiritual friend. The day the world is going to see the Dalai Lama as an ordinary man and judge his deeds, we cannot say that the world is going to be a worse place than it is now, but for many people it’s going to feel cold, it’s going to taste bitter, it’s going to be sad.
That a Buddhist – I am a Buddhist from the depths of my heart – needs to show him in such ordinary aspect is among the saddest chores that a person can undertake.
Thinking of those protesters that followed the Dalai Lama from
The Press does not want to believe them, refuses to investigate. It’s understandable. To bring down that sacred figure, what suffering for many! People should perceive the magnitude of the pain that produces the decision to expose the owner of that holy name as not being what he appears to be.
The Dalai Lama's success comes no doubt from his constant talk about compassion and religious tolerance. It’s quite a feat to sustain such success merely with words while simultaneously promoting for years a witch hunt in the Tibetan community against a group of his fellow Buddhists.
These Buddhists, contrary to what people under his influence and misinformed journalists are saying, do not constitute a cult or some kind of sect, split from the greater Buddhist body. They were the most mainstream among the Tibetan Buddhists, the Gelugpas, until he turned them into outcasts.
The Dorje Shugden issue is being presented to the world as a religious matter. In a general way, anything Tibetan usually has a mixture of political and religious elements, but this particular question is considered by many Tibetans as a more specifically political issue. We've heard Tibetans saying, in this context: "We care more about
THE POLITICAL BACKGROUND OF THE PERSECUTION
The first moves against the practitioners of the Protector Deity Dorje Shugden had an internal political reason. We are talking of the late sixties and the seventies. The Dalai Lama and members of his entourage thought that he had to strengthen his authority over the whole of the Tibetan community to better face the world while in exile, and that a good way of doing this was to mix the beliefs and practices of the 4 schools of Tibetan Buddhism –Sakya, Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug– creating thus, de facto, a single school with him at its head.
This was a political move without much religious basis, because while he was the political leader of
For the Gelugpa Lamas, the proposal of suppressing religious diversity by mixing up the practice of all lineages constituted a serious religious mistake, so they refused to accept it. The Dalai Lama didn't have any authority other than political to impose on them his idea. He is not the “Pope of Buddhism” as people believe, but more important: it is a tenet of Mahayana Buddhism that Lord Buddha taught many different Dharmas for different levels of practitioners. So the notion of heresy is not accepted, let alone the idea of persecuting other Buddhists.
Probably due to this lack of doctrinal basis to impose his will, the Dalai Lama decided to turn against the Dharma Protector of the Gelugpa lineage as a way to eliminate those Lamas who opposed him – his own teachers, the most revered and influential among Tibetans. Remember this, because today the Dalai Lama wants the world to believe that the Dorje Shugden people constitute a kind of cult. This is untrue. They were the most mainstream of Tibetan Buddhism.
For many years, the Dalai Lama was not very successful with the Gelugpa Lamas and monks in his attempts to vilify the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden. For the longest time all he obtained was that people would talk about the Protector in a hushed way so as not to wake up the Dalai Lama’s famous anger.
More than 20 years later the Tibetan leader suddenly decided to bring this old domestic tension with the Gelugpas to the general Tibetan community. He proclaimed a ban on Dorje Shugden and a tremendous persecution started then, with an inquisitorial destruction of books and images, the interdiction of holding civil jobs for the practitioners and much more. The Tibetan Draft Constitution that the Dalai Lama had much publicized as the basis for a democratic
Why all of a sudden had he done that? The absence of any new religious development and the events in the political field point to the fact that he needed the creation of a great red herring to cover an event that had taken place in Strasbourg, France, some months before receiving his Nobel Peace Prize. In that occasion, after decades of trying to convince the world that Tibet was an independent country, after prompting his Western followers to participate in the famous "Free Tibet" campaign that mobilized thousands of young Americans and other Westerners around the world, he gave up the independence of Tibet – offering China "autonomy" instead of independence – without ever once consulting the Tibetan people about it, nor alerting those many thousands of Westerners who had worked for him and for Tibetan independence … He gave up Tibet's independence all alone on his own.
His solitary, autocratic political move towards China practically remained unnoticed by the general Tibetan public, and the few individuals who became aware of it and were not in agreement with it didn't have time to conceive and start an opposition to the Dalai Lama because soon after that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When he received this extraordinary acknowledgment, Tibetans thought that the independence of their country was finally within reach. In the halo of victory of the Nobel Award, some oracular prophecies from his direct entourage confirmed the imminence of the so longed for independence.
But the years went by and the kindled hopes started vanishing. The victories ended up favoring only the person of the Dalai Lama, remaining exclusively in the field of his fame and public relations, while
This brother deserves that someone writes his biography (apparently Harrier wrote one but I’ve never seen it). Although still living in
Someone who was for years among his closest people told me two interesting bits of information.
Norbu had at a certain point his and the Dalai Lama's old mother living with him. Both of them, mother and son, together with the people in their household, used to do the prayers to the Protector Dorje Shugden. Fortunately the old mother left this world many years before the ban. But not the son. It’s terrible to see how this person was forced by the power of his brother to give up his religious beliefs. In an interview with Donald Lopez he goes on and on echoing all the slandering that his powerful brother is circulating about the Protector and the Gelugpa Lamas.
But at the end of the interview, he pronounces a couple of sentences that utterly deny what he said before, acknowledging the good work that the Dorje Shugden people are doing in disseminating the teachings of Lord Buddha, and then saying:
"But, too, you know, the good and the bad, which one is it?"
I also learned that Thupten Norbu, once he knew about the intentions of his brother to abandon independence, secretly produced and printed pamphlets in favor of independence that he smuggled directly to
But the Dalai Lama was not going to accept this rebellion against his will, so he had to make it disappear. In order to avoid the spread of the pro-independence movement among Tibetans – who are fiercely in love with their Motherland – apparently he considered that it was not enough to publicly scold his own elder brother – which he did while giving teachings in Japan; he needed to entirely divert the attention of Tibetans from such a dangerous issue. Thus, all of a sudden, in March 1996, he resurrected that old domestic disagreement with the Gelugpa Lamas, brought it to the general Tibetan public and came up with an idea that might sound strange to Western ears but for Tibetan ears held the strength of a powerful bomb: he declared that the Protector Dorje Shugden harmed his own health and the cause of Tibet and proclaimed a political ban against the deity.
In brief, at the end of the year 1995 began the pro-independence opposition against the Dalai Lama’s "autonomy" idea. In March 1996 the Dalai Lama issued the ban against the deity Dorje Shugden. These dates are not to be forgotten.
This red herring was a success. The persecution took inquisitorial tones, not only with the burning of sacred books and statues and even of houses of practitioners but with the prohibition for these to hold civil jobs, to attend public teachings and ceremonies, and many other unfortunate attacks on their human rights, as I will explain.
In March 1996, H.H. the Dalai Lama announced a ban against the worship of the Buddhist deity Dorje Shugden, declaring that such worship posed a "danger to his life and the cause of
Nothing fans fanatic concern of Tibetans more violently than the thought that His Holiness' life could be in danger. Thus the Dalai Lama, deliberately giving this as a reason for justifying the ban on Dorje Shugden, triggered the heaviest of discords and the relentless persecution of the Gelugpas faithful to their religious commitments.
His Private Office issued a decree for everyone to stop practising Dorje Shugden, with instructions to make people aware of this through government offices, monasteries, associations, etc.
The Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (Parliament) passed a resolution banning the worship of Dorje Shugden by Tibetan government employees.
The Dalai Lama personally encouraged the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Women Association to enforce the ban. Consequently a group of nuns dragged into the street a holy Dorje Shugden statue consecrated by some of the highest Tibetan Lamas by using a rope attached to its neck. They spat at the statue, sat on it, broke it up into pieces, and threw the remains into the town's garbage dump.
The Tibetan Freedom Movement and the Guchusum Organization barred the worship of Dorje Shugden among their members.
All government employees were ordered to sign a declaration to the effect that they do not / will never worship Dorje Shugden. Those who didn’t comply lost their jobs.
The Tibetan Department of Health gave a special notice to doctors and staff:
"We should resolve not to worship Shugden in the future. If there is anyone who worships, they should repent the past and stop worshipping. They must submit a declaration that they will not worship in the future."
Employees of the Tibetan Children's Village were urged to take oaths against Dorje Shugden.
The Dalai Lama made it mandatory for administrators and abbots of all major Tibetan monasteries to enforce the ban. A campaign of intimidation and forced signatures set the stage for many acts of violence against the practitioners in the various monasteries.
Through his private office the Dalai Lama commissioned Sera Je monastery 21 days of wrathful exorcisms against Dorje Shugden and his practitioners.
The Tibetan Youth Congress implemented the ban in every Tibetan settlement, with house to house searches, desecration and burning of statues, paintings, and other holy objects.
THE FIRST DENIAL
All of this and much more happened in the first two months after the ban.
Then some voices from the West started questioning what was going on.
This was the first denial.
From that time on the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government and all Tibetan institutions never stopped the persecution, simultaneously denying that it ever existed.
As mentioned before, the Draft Constitution of the Tibetans was changed to bar the practitioners of the deity from having civic responsibilities and in the facts all practitioners were forced to apostasy or were fired from their jobs.
Regretfully the world automatically protected the Dalai Lama's fame, never believing that the Lord of compassion was persecuting his own people. The state of denial of the Press regarding the actions of the Dalai Lama is a whole other matter, a phenomenon worthy of specialized research.
In the meantime, it seems that the Chinese government never believed the sincerity of the Dalai Lama’s desire to bring
Today it seems obvious that the Dalai Lama chose 2008, the year of the Olympic Games, to try to force
But again he needed peace at home while proclaiming to the world –this time very loud– his solution of handing
THE DALAI LAMA GIVES TIBETANS A TERRIBLE
So he used the same "distraction": he rekindled and intensified the persecution against the Dorje Shugden practitioners. He put all Tibetans on this terrible mission: locate them and erase them from the Tibetan world. Tibetans are today, as I write, massively following the unfortunate advice of their leader, and it’s working to an extent that the world prefers to ignore.
The opposition in the name of independence still exists, but its people are too involved in implementing this new witch hunt. There is another factor: they don’t dare truly oppose the leader. They might talk a little bit to the Press from time to time, but since 1996 they never organized again true actions of opposition. They know better. They've seen a clear mirror of the danger of opposing the Dalai Lama: the practitioners of Dorje Shugden. These Gelugpas who refused to give up their religious commitments are treated as traitors sold to the Chinese, as Chinese spies, and regularly and falsely accused to the Indian police of various crimes –in general of being a threat to the Dalai Lama and in particular of the heinous Dharamsala homicides of three monks. Even though the Indian Judiciary never found an author, and never found any fault in the people of the Shugden Charitable Society accused by the Tibetan government, the Dalai Lama keeps repeating that the culprits were the Dorje Shugden practitioners, with some people of the Press and well known people from the academic milieu irresponsibly perpetuating the calumny.
This ultimate chapter of the religious persecution started last January, 2008, and the main victims were the great universities for higher Buddhist studies, the
The year of the Olympics gave him the opportunity to both exterminate the Protector’s devotion in the Tibetan people and use it as a means of distracting the pro-independence Tibetans. So he went to
There started the final push to impose the ostracism, the segregation, the creation of an outcast group of Tibetans that Tibetans cannot even talk to. The Dalai Lama honored his own word: some years ago he had said to a group of people who tried to engage him in dialog to abate his wrath against the Gelugpa practitioners: "It’s going to get worse for them; it’s going to be like the Cultural Revolution."
ENACTING THE PERSECUTION
At least a thousand monks have been expelled from their monasteries –Ganden and Sera. Such forced schism is huge and constitutes the ultimate religious transgression: to divide the Sangha. But the lay people suffer too, defenseless in the midst of fanaticized communities. After the Winter 2008 events, the campaign of forced signatures and oaths is being extended to non-monks in the remotest parts of the world where you can find Tibetans, pervading the whole of the monastic and lay communities, from Southern India to
In a restaurant that I know well, in
Accustomed to his leadership, disoriented by exile, most Tibetans have chosen to stick to their Dalai Lama, ignore his failures and accuse others for the loss of their country. So under the Dalai Lama’s instigation, the Dorje Shugden practitioners have become the scapegoat at whom anybody can throw a stone.
The suffering in the fractured Tibetan community and the destroyed Buddhist Sangha is difficult to describe completely because it’s all pervading. Some days ago I was walking the streets of
"Well, I didn’t tell him the true name; my monastery is well known for being faithful to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and the Protector, so if I had said its true name to him, he would have felt so much hatred."
I wish other people could have seen the monk’s face. He remained calm, but a subtle compassion mixed with sadness pervaded his features, an expression that said something like 'such waste, such misfortune'. It was obvious that he was protecting the mind of the other person with his innocent lie. But nothing could protect him from the situation.
A couple from
Some friends of mine are sending money to help an old monk that takes care of a small Buddhist shrine somewhere in
I have only told some of the stories I personally know. But the pain out there is incalculable.
- People are denied travel documents because of their faith.
- Monks coming from
Tibetto looking for higher Buddhist education are forbidden to reach a monastery if they do not sign giving up their faith in the Protector. India
- hildren have been expelled from schools in
because their parents are Dorje Shugden followers. Some of these kids end up being sent to India for them to be able to receive an education. Nepal
- In the Tibetan settlements the practitioners can see their photos nailed to trees or street posts denouncing them as Chinese spies, because they have the courage of not giving up the practices that their Lamas gave them or that they traditionally received from their families.
- The monks following their faith have been denied access to their monastery’s kitchens and food provisions – even though the funds for the monk’s food came, in a specific case, directly from the donation of a renowned Lama who until his recent demise never ceased being a Protector’s practitioner – they are forbidden to enter the Tibetan stores in the neighboring settlements and forced to go far away to shop for basic daily needs in Indian stores.
- If another Tibetan sees them he crosses the street.
- In one of the big monasteries a gigantic wall was built in order that they will not be seen by others.
- They have been called unclean by the Tibetan Government – that only follows orders from the Dalai Lama. Other names and insults are not worth mentioning.
THE UNHOLY CRUSADE EXPORTED TO THE REST OF THE WORLD
There is another angle to this already sad story. The Dalai Lama has been exporting his unholy crusade to the rest of the world. It’s painful to see how Western Buddhists belonging to Dharma Centers fanaticized in favor of the Tibetan leader are following the Dalai Lama's lead, slandering the practitioners of the Ganden tradition just because they try to keep intact the teachings and transmissions of their Gurus.
Just think how would you like it if your students or your family receive emails or phone calls stating that you are a demon worshipper, or a bad person who opposes the kind Dalai Lama.
I find it shocking that Western Buddhists would give up our best values of the "other" Enlightenment, the one which gave us our sense of human rights, by which we were able to end slavery and so many awful things that humans did to humans up until not so long ago. In our Western world, we have really made progress in this area, and I've been thinking that it’s a shame and a pity that Westerners would so easily accompany the Dalai Lama in the discrimination, slandering and persecution of others because of their religious beliefs. This is a very serious matter.
If I were a politician, a political leader, an educator, I would be very worried. The basic principles that our founding fathers defended, the Dalai Lama is transgressing, and there are people perfectly aware of this that are defending him.
Says TIME magazine, commenting on the aggression that the Dorje Shugden practitioners suffered in the streets of
"Most scholars e-mailed for this story were hesitant to line up behind the Shugdenpas, partly … because many are themselves deeply invested in the Dalai Lama, and partly because of the whiff of fundamentalism and recklessness that clings to the sect."
And TIME forgets to mention that "fundamentalism" (recklessness is a new one) is the main accusation that the Dalai Lama invented to justify his religious persecution.
If scholars adopt as their own the arguments used by the Dalai Lama, what recourse is left to the victims? And those scholars, discussing at length a mystical figure like Dorje Shugden, as if it belonged to their field, did they ever realize that it does not matter the nature of the deity, it does not matter if their supporters are fundamentalists or not (and they are not) … nobody has the right to do to them what the Dalai Lama is doing? How come they, the intelligent ones, the knowledgeable ones, the ones who should know better, find justifications for the abuse, the segregation?
I would very much like that people interested not only in human rights but in the educational side of human rights were able to investigate this matter and react. This poison is so malignant ... it might be almost impossible to find an antidote if things are left as they are right now.
NOT A BAN? THEN WHY NOT SOLVE THIS MISUNDERSTANDING HIMSELF?
But the Dalai Lama is saying that there never was a ban against Dorje Shugden, only his good advice against an evil spirit or against spirit worshipping. This is a startling, nakedly untrue statement.
On the other hand, it could be answered to him, and it has been answered, that if such tremendous misunderstanding had taken place, his compassionate obvious action should be to publicly state that there is no such ban against Dorje Shugden and that the Dorje Shugden practitioners are as worthy of respect as any other Buddhist practitioner, and he should also publicly demand that they be restored to their original dignity, both as religious people and as Tibetan citizens. But he does not want to do this, such an easy way to stop such immense suffering.
I apologize to whoever follows his teachings, I apologize for him, for his using the holy words of Lord Buddha and at the same time doing the opposite of what these words teach. Do not believe the Dalai Lama, but please do not doubt of the supreme goodness of the holy Dharma.
What I said at the beginning about how sad it is for a Buddhist to have to expose the Dalai Lama is not rhetorical. It took me years to start writing. I’ve seen a close friend literally die because of this issue, a few years after the ban on the Protector. I chose to stop my thoughts after that, because I feared to follow her. Our hearts were broken and we were not Tibetans, I don’t want to imagine the pain of Tibetans. Still today there is a tremendous sadness, because of course we love him. The Dalai Lama is for us like a beloved uncle or elder brother gone crazy. One cannot stop loving him.
But one has to stop what he is doing because it’s wrong.
Then there are the millions of our fellow human brothers and sisters, most of them non-Buddhists, that might only have him as the model of what goodness is. To destroy the god of their innocent Pantheon is just awful, it breaks the heart of a decent person, not to mention what it does to someone who has adopted the Mahayana ideal.
But one has to stop what he is doing because it’s wrong.
After years of mental silence I came back to the issue. He made me come back. The Dalai Lama. What he did to our Sangha last winter is beyond description. So here is the first motivation for exposing him: we have to protect the persecuted monks. Now we know that the Dalai Lama is true to his own word: he said that he wanted to finish what he had started –the destruction of the faithful Gelugpas, the ones who didn’t abandon their Teachers, the ones guilty of preserving the transmissions that their Lamas gave them, the ones guilty of keeping the sacred bond with their Gurus– and he is doing it, he is destroying them.
Now the schism has taken place and the monks are separated, but even though the land where they live belongs to India, we know that the Dalai Lama is not satisfied, he wants to erase them from the Tibetan world, so as soon as the world forgets a little about the demonstrations, he is going to send again his people to expel them even from their now segregated quarters.
So one has to stop what he is doing because it’s wrong and he is hurting living beings.
THE ULTIMATE DORJE SHUGDEN PEOPLE
And then look: here are our Lamas. You probably don’t know who was Pabongka Deche Nyingpo, Trijang Dorjechang, Domo Geshe Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, Rabten Rinpoche, Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin, and all the others. Their hearts were an ocean of love and compassion, of blissful wisdom. They were friends to all beings, to all religions, to all Buddhists. Now the Press and the Academia are repeating the Dalai Lama’s calumny: that he banned the Protector of their lineage because it promotes a sectarian mind, because our greatest Gelugpa Lamas were sectarian.
And people use the "proofs" that the Dalai Lama has handed them, from obscure historic gossip that obviously he is manipulating. He manipulates events that occurred under our eyes, as I showed above, what credibility can be lent to his version of history? Why don’t they look into what happened in our present time, where every action of those slandered Lamas, the ultimate Dorje Shugden people, contradicted and still contradict the Dalai Lama? Those Dorje Shugden people were his people, the great Lamas who stayed with him in the very difficult first decades of exile, nurturing him and helping him and helping every exiled Tibetan from every one of the Buddhist schools, without the slightest discrimination, with a love and a sense of profound care that should be shown to the world as the true example of what Buddhism is.
The accusation of fundamentalism against them has been conceived to please Western ears. It’s a childish one, if it were not so tragic. As I said before, in Mahayana Buddhism we believe that the Buddha taught many different Dharmas to suit the minds of different levels of practitioners. Because of this it’s extremely important to keep the lineages of instruction and transmission pure, not to mix them, in order that they can serve their purpose for those who need them. This is not only true for the Gelugpas, but for the other sects as well. The refusal of mixing lineages is a protection of diversity among the variegated Buddhist tenets. Where is the fundamentalism in this position?
Those Lamas defamed by their egregious pupil were true living Buddhas, true embodiments of love and compassion. They were the living proofs of the wrongdoings of the Dalai Lama, and like innocent lambs they mostly never answered, following the Lojong rule that one does not defend oneself but leaves whatever victory to others, in order not to disturb their minds.
Those true Princes of Peace are still with us, although most all of them departed to the Pure Lands. They are with us through their precious, infinitely beneficial teachings. This is what the Dalai Lama wants to destroy: our sacred bond with our Gurus, with the ones who taught us what to keep and what to abandon, the ones who are never going to forsake us, all the beings suffering in samsara, so how could we forsake them? If we follow the Dalai Lama’s advice, we loose our connection to the source of all goodness, our Lamas.
But the Dalai Lama has destroyed their good name, their credibility. He says in the famous video of the Swiss television, talking about his and our Gurus: "Yes, wrong, they are wrong!" A lineage of almost 400 hundred years of enlightened beings that have been venerating the Protector Buddha Dorje Shugden is wrong and he, alone, right? This does not stand to reason.
Are our kind Lamas going to go down in history as evil spirit worshippers? No. The world needs to know the truth.
Of course, our enlightened Gurus don’t have the slightest need for our help. So here is the deepest motivation for exposing the Dalai Lama: all the beings in this world of suffering need our Lamas and sooner or later in the infinite round of lives they are going to encounter their teachings. At least that is what we desire, what we hope for. We cannot allow that the momentary imbalance of an individual, just because he is famous and has an endearing smile, destroys the good name of the lineage, the teachings and the Lamas. Many have abandoned already the noble ones because of his calumnies. That is why this has to cease, for the benefit of all beings.
That is why we have to stop the actions of the Dalai Lama.
Posted courtesy of Friend of Truth.