Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Critique of 'Why the Dalai Lama Matters' by Robert Thurman, Part 2

Chapter 1: Who is the Dalai Lama?

Here Thurman continues the work of expounding on the Dalai Lama's good qualities. As this chapter proceeds, superlative is piled upon superlative. It is like being at a banquet where one rich course after another is served, but each new course is received with less and less enthusiasm until it's not possible to eat another morsel.

At a certain point, you become aware that you're had your fill and are feeling a little nauseous. Is any living being on the planet truly worthy of such transcendent praise? Especially a politician?!

Thurman begins:

In the forty-three years that I have known the Great Fourteenth Dalai Lama, he has never failed to impress me with his sincerity, his compassion, and his commitment to purpose.....

....The Dalai Lama is a giant of spiritual development – a living exemplar of the best qualities of a Buddhist monk, an inspired practitioner and teacher of the ethical, religious and philosophical paths of the bodhisattva, a Sanskrit term suggesting a cross between a wise saint and a compassionate messiah. He is believed to be a conscious reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of universal compassion. (page 3)

Let's critically examine Thurman's claims. We can all agree that the Dalai Lama has commitment to purpose. For example, he is very committed to destroying the spiritual tradition of his root Guru, Trijang Rinpoche. From the Dalai Lama's speech on the Al Jeezera News Report:

“Recently monasteries have fearlessly expelled Shugden monks where needed. I fully support their actions. I praise them. If monasteries find taking action hard, tell them Dalai Lama is responsible for this.”

From a talk in Caux, Switzerland in July 1996:

“Until now you have a very good job on this issue. Hereafter also, continue this policy in a clever way. We should do it in such a way to ensure that in future generations not even the name of Dhogyal (Dorje Shugden) is remembered”

The Dalai Lama has single pointedly pursued the persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners, banning the practice at home while lying to the Western media abroad:

“So then it is my duty or moral responsibility to make clear, but whether listen or not, up to them. So some people criticise me, I banned that sort of spirit worship, that is not true...” (From an interview in Nottingham, UK, May 2008)

More calumnies from the Dalai Lama: (Al Jazeera news report)

“Shugden followers have resorted to killing and beating people. They start fires. And tell endless lies. This is how the Shugden believe. It is not good."

Where is the evidence of the violence and arson? The only violence for which monks have been sent to jail is the bombing a Shugden practitioner’s residence by Dalai Lama followers. Who is telling endless lies? The Dalai Lama has told hundreds of lies over the years to justify his persecution and ostracism of Shugden practitioners. Can a liar exemplify the best quality of a Buddhist monk? Do the Dalai Lama's lies qualify him as a Teacher of Buddhist ethics? Do they make him worthy of Thurman’s extravagant praise?

Strangely for a Buddhist scholar, Thurman reverts to biblical language to express his emotions, and in doing so sounds like he is gearing people up to believe in the Second Coming! He really does seem to see the Dalai Lama as a messiah or saviour of the world, even though this is not a Buddhist understanding of what a Bodhisattva is (that is, a person striving for enlightenment motivated by compassion for all living beings.)

As to the claim of being the bodhisattva or Buddha of universal compassion, let's hear from some of the victims of the Dalai Lama:

"If he is really Buddha, if he's really God, he would not create so much problem. He won't give us so much trouble. If he is the Buddha, he would not give any problem to any human being."

"Dalai Lama is being unfair and selfish. He is doing his own wish."
(Al Jazeera report)

From the same report:

(Reporter:) No Shugden worshipper has ever been charged or investigated for terrorism and yet the monks that continue to worship Shugden remain victims of name and shame.

(Shugden monk:) "What the posters say is that we are related to the Chinese government. We don't have anything to do with China. There is no proof, yet many people are harassing us and threatening us."

(Reporter:) Fearing for their lives, these Shugden monks are now living in hiding in a monastery in southern India where they sought refuge after being told they must leave their monastery.

And from a recent report by popular French documentary channel, France 2, quoting one of the Dalai Lama’s faithful, old bodyguards:

(Lobsang Yeshe:) The Dalai Lama, I don't want to hear about him any more. He is no longer the Buddha of Compassion. He is a traitor. The Dalai Lama has commited the gravest crime. He has divided all the Tibetans. He is against our deity, Dorje Shugden. He has forbidden us from venerating him. Because of him, I had a heart attack. Today, I am a broken man.

The Dalai Lama's persecution of Shugden practitioners is the source of these sufferings. For all the sweet words plucked from his Guru's teachings, he displays no compassion whatsoever for his enemies, who were his erstwhile closest friends and supporters -- the practitioners of Dorje Shugden. In this respect at least, he is acting like an ordinary, deluded person, not an exemplar of the holy qualities of a Buddha or a bodhisattva.

Wake up, Robert Thurman. You look complicit or at least foolish writing a book of such high praise to someone who is now being publicly revealed as persecuting others like this. It is only a matter of time before everyone knows what the Dalai Lama has been up to in his own backyard, and then how will you defend your words?

The next section is 'Personal Encounters' -- a misty-eyed trip down Memory Lane in which Thurman recounts his meetings with the Dalai Lama. What he seems to be describing is how he gradually came under the Dalai Lama's power. He recounts firstly how he ordained and then abandoned his ordination for a worldly life:

“...I had firmly expressed my lifetime determination only later to change my mind” (page 7)

and later:

“I spent the next eight years in the sword dance of overachievement required to get tenure as a college professor” (page 8)

Thurman abandoned his meaningful spiritual life as a monk within just a couple of years to seek the position of a college professor. Yet his ordination as the first Western monk ordained by the Dalai Lama is still heralded as a credential in all his biographies and profiles, despite it being totally undermined by the fact that he was also one of the first Western monks to disrobe!

Thurman openly admits that he felt the Dalai Lama was strongly disappointed with him for disrobing. However, in some ways it is not Thurman's fault because the Dalai Lama does not seem anyway to have much respect for Westerners who practice Dharma. Certainly, the liberal and seemingly open-minded speeches to Westerners abroad are at stark variance in tone and content to the authoritarian speeches to his Tibetan faithful at home. From a talk in Caux, Switzerland in 1996 by the Dalai Lama:

...As for foreigners, it makes no difference to us if they walk with their feet up and their head down. We have taught Dharma to them, not they to us. ...

Moreover, the Dalai Lama has said that it is only in getting Tibet back that Dharma can really flourish again – in other words, Westerners are not capable of carrying on Buddhist traditions without Tibetans. This belief is also plain to see from the hierarchy of Western Buddhist Centers under the Dalai Lama’s patronage, where Tibetan teachers always come first.

In reading this section, it becomes clear that Thurman became more and more enamored with the Dalai Lama, falling under his charismatic power. First he had a dream of the Dalai Lama as a giant Kalachakra Buddha towering over the Waldorf Astoria where he was staying during a visit to New York (the Dalai Lama doesn't stay in modest accommodation) and then he says:

During that trip and the following year, I couldn't get over the rich power of his charismatic energy. He had always had charisma of office; now he had ten times more charisma of person. (page 9)

In a Newsweek article in 1998, Thurman vilified Dorje Shugden practitioners as a cult:

“Shugden appeals to crazies by offering instant gratification,” says Thurman. “Once you get involved, you’re told you have to devote your lives to the cult, because the god gets very angry if you don’t attend to him every day.

He did not back these wild statements up with any evidence or examples. No one who practices Dorje Shugden recognizes what he is talking about.

Here, by leaving reason and truth outside the door in a desperate attempt to defend the Dalai Lama in the national press, Thurman appears to be the one who has been brainwashed. He has fallen under a spell that makes him feel he can describe holy beings and sincere Buddhist practitioners of the past 400 years, including the Dalai Lama’s own teachers, as “crazies” – with no seeming fear of censure. He has devoted his life to the Dalai Lama, to fulfilling his wish to exert power and control over Tibet once again; and his entire career is bound up with the Dalai Lama. Therefore, he must defend him at all costs, even if it means telling lies to the public. The whole purpose for writing this book is to serve the Dalai Lama and to accomplish his goals. Who has been swept up by the charisma, who is behaving like someone in a cult?

Thurman praises the Dalai Lama's talks on various topics:

Especially since around the time he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, his general talks – on kindness, the common human religion; on non-violence, even disarmament; on science, focusing on the ecology of the environment; and on comparative religion, focusing on Buddhist-Christian dialogue in particular – have gotten better and better, more moving, lucid and powerful in understanding and passion (page 10)

Actions speak louder than words. The Dalai Lama is full of words, but his actions speak differently. Talk of kindness is cheap – one has to act kindly to make a difference.

The great Indian Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna says that spiritual practitioners are like mangoes – some are ripe on the outside but unripe on the inside, some are unripe on the outside and ripe on the inside, some are both ripe on the outside and ripe on the inside, and others are unripe on the outside and unripe on the inside. Based on his divisive and harmful actions, the Dalai Lama is clearly very ripe on the outside but unripe on the inside. Like many politicians, he's good at saying one thing and doing the opposite. He knows the effect he is looking for and how to achieve it with his speech.

The next section is entitled 'The living embodiment of the Buddha' in which, amazingly, Thurman argues that the Dalai Lama has grown so close to Shakyamuni Buddha that they are indistinguishable.

This is a clear case of double standards. Bob Thurman and other Dalai Lama devotees think nothing of praising him to the high heavens because they know that no one will lift an eyebrow, yet the phrase "third Buddha", used precisely once about Geshe Kelsang 15 years ago, is quoted again and again by the Dalai Lama's supporters to prove that Geshe Kelsang's disciples are cultishly enslaved by him.

Later on in the book is a picture by the artist Alex Grey, depicting the Dalai Lama as Avalokiteshvara. What if someone painted a similar picture of Geshe Kelsang as Buddha? NKT would never hear the end of the accusations of being a cult, brainwashed by a charismatic leader. What hypocrisy!

In the next section, 'What the Dalai Lama Represents Today', Thurman begins:

It is not merely that the Dalai Lama represents Buddhism. He is much more than a nominal leader of an organization. (page 11)

The Dalai Lama does not represent Buddhism for everybody. He is a political leader who has received a religious education and who happens to be a monk. He may be regarded as the leader of Tibetan Buddhism but in reality he cannot speak for any of the individual schools of Tibetan Buddhism because he is not the head of any school of Tibetan Buddhism, let alone any other Buddhist tradition in the world. The Dalai Lama is, in fact, the nominal leader of the Tibetan Government in Exile, nothing more. That is really as far as his authority goes; his spiritual authority is self-assumed.

Usually Dharma Teachers are appointed by senior Teachers in their tradition. Who appointed the Dalai Lama and gave him spiritual authority? Who gave him permission to give Buddha's teachings throughout the world?

It is precisely the use of the Dalai Lama's self-assumed spiritual authority to interfere with the individual schools of Tibetan Buddhism that is the root of both the Karmapa and Dorje Shugden controversies. In 2001, the International Karma Kagyu Organization wrote an open letter to the Dalai Lama completely rejecting his interference in the matters of the Kagyu tradition:

Up until Your Holiness' interference in 1992, no other Dalai Lama has ever played a role in the recognition of a genuine Karmapa. As Your Holiness well knows, the Karmapa incarnations precede the Dalai Lama line by over three hundred years. There is no historical precedent for Your Holiness' current involvement.

It doesn't matter that Thurman views the Dalai Lama as being Buddha Shakyamuni -- the Dalai Lama has no authority to interfere in the spiritual matters of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has similarly interfered with the Gelugpa school, but he has no authority to brand Dorje Shugden practice as 'a cult' and 'spirit worship', and he certainly has no authority to pass a law to ban the practice. The Dalai Lama's ban is unlawful and immoral. There is currently a case against the Dalai Lama in the High Court in Delhi for his breach of the Indian law of Deity discrimination, which will be heard in November 2008.

Thurman concludes:

What is the Dalai Lama? I have come to see him as a living Prince of Peace, a teacher of intelligence, an inspirer of goodness of heart, a reincarnation of the Buddha of universal compassion. He comes to join us in our world today, offering us hope in our stressed-out lives and calling upon us to take up our own wild joy of universal responsibility.

The Dalai Lama does not offer hope to Dorje Shugden practitioners, he just makes them more stressed-out:

‘There will be no change in my stand. I will never revoke the ban. You are right. It will be like the Cultural Revolution. If they (those who do not accept the ban) do not listen to my words, the situation will grow worse for them. You sit and watch. It will grow only worse for them.’ (January 1999)

If the Dalai Lama really was as pure as Thurman has portrayed him, by practising the love, compassion, tolerance and religious freedom that he espouses, there would be no problems: no Karmapa controversy, no Dorje Shugden issue, no Western Shugden Society and no demonstrations. Buddhists of all traditions could continue their practice in peace and harmony with all other Buddhists.

However, all the problems that the Dalai Lama blames on Dorje Shugden are of his own making, principally because he's acting as a politican and not practicing what he preaches. It's about time he started to act responsibly and put Buddha's teachings into practice if he really wants to solve everyone's problems.

Later on, more hyperbole:

The Dalai Lama has been called a “Buddhist Pope”, a “bodhisattva” a “head of state” in exile, and so on. Each of these is incomplete but has a grain of truth. He describes himself as a “simple Buddhist monk”, though he is not aware of the other dimensions of his being. (page 13)

Maybe the Dalai Lama has been called a “Buddhist Pope”, but only by those who do not understand Buddhism. There is no supreme head of Buddhism like there is a supreme head of the Catholic Church. There are some who believe that the Dalai Lama does have ambitions in this direction. We can certainly say that the Dalai Lama is the most well-known Buddhist in the world, but that's due to his tireless self-promotion, aided and abetted by Bob Thurman, more than anything else.

How do “simple Buddhist monk” and “head of state” go together? Does Thurman not see some contradiction in some of these roles? Later on he says that the Dalai Lama is “a statesman, a politician, a diplomat, a personal manager, and a chief executive officer”. Again, more contradiction with being a “simple monk” who traditionally practises renunciation and has no interest in power, politics, diplomacy or being a statesman because he understands that they are the nooses of samsara. Nagarjuna, for, example, used to pray never to be reborn as a politican because it is an obstacle to pure spiritual practice.

Furthermore, the Dalai Lama's more 'commercial' interests do not sit well with being 'a simple Buddhist monk'. In the article om “money” padme hum? on the Dalai Lama's book on leadership “The Leader's Way” he is quoted as saying some very strange things:

Buddhism also values free enterprise. “Buddha recognized entrepreneurship as a valuable activity,” the Dalai Lama writes. “He encouraged entrepreneurs to be successful by being reliable and having an eye for what should sell.”

The article concludes:

Free marketers will be happy that the Dalai Lama - with his moral stature - has unequivocally backed capitalism and globalization, with the usual riders about mitigating its excesses.

Is it really right for a 'simple Buddhist monk' -- who has taken vows to not even handle money or obtain profit through business, and who regards wealth and worldly attainments as deceptive -- to advise big business on how to make more?

Clearly the Dalai Lama can't be all things to everyone, despite what Thurman says.

It is a concern that when Thurman attempts to explain various aspects of Buddha's teaching, his casual use of language can actually lead to misconceptions. I understand that he is trying to be 'populist' and is appealing to an audience that is not necessarily Buddhist but he does take considerable liberties. For example, using the word 'soul' for the root mind that transmigrates from life to life will quite possibly evoke an understanding in the minds of Christian readers that is not what Buddha intended.

There are other examples too. When describing karma, Thurman says:

According to this Buddhist view, the effects of these actions become encoded at a super-subtle energy level in a “mental gene” or “soul gene” which then shapes the experience and quality of the individual's gross mind and body as it evolves through many lifetimes.

Huh? This raises more questions than it answers. Where is the 'super-subtle energy level' – is it the ether?, what encodes the action? What does the encoding look like? Actually, all these questions are spurious because Thurman's initial explanation is inaccurate and, as we know, there's no meaning in trying to refine your understanding of something that's wrong in the first place. Karmic actions leave an imprint on the mind – no encoding! This imprint is not a gene in the sense the most people understand genes because it's non-physical; it's not made of DNA. There's no 'super-subtle energy level', just the very subtle mind, and so on.

I think that Thurman has gone too far in trying to adopt scientific language and concepts in his attempt to make Buddhism acceptable to people who view science as a religion in itself. Perhaps the lack of clarity will pique their curiosity and they will start reading about Buddhism, who knows? I'm used to Geshe Kelsang's explanations where he gives clear definitions for all his terms and never uses pseudo-scientific language to explain Buddha's teachings. The muddiness of Thurman's explanations suffer in comparison.

I'm disappointed with Thurman: I would have expected a more accurate and careful explanation from a Buddhist scholar. It would have been better not to include this material at all rather than to present it badly with the possibility of causing serious misunderstandings in his readership. There are enough problems in this world without people misunderstanding the path that leads away from problems!

The rest of the chapter continues in this vein, highlighting the good qualities and achievements of the Dalai Lama in the same sycophantic manner as before. There's nothing new to say. The material is too much and too monotonous to warrant further examination. One thing that Thurman says is

“The present Fourteenth Dalai Lama has already earned the title “Great Fourteenth”, due to his profound inner development and his magnificent works of teaching, writing, political leadership, and prophetic engagement with global society.” (p 32)

Who confered this title on him? There's no committee like the Nobel committee in Buddhism to bestow such honours. This smells of something introduced either by Thurman or the Dalai Lama. Perhaps they hope that such an honorific will become common currency, like “the Pope of Buddhism” and that it will be widely accepted and held to be true. Here Thurman seems to be disingenuously attempting to write history. He has an eye to the Dalai Lama's 'legacy', just as many politicians are concerned with how they are seen by history. He's a good servant!

And Thurman's final, convoluted description of who the Dalai Lama is:

The Dalai Lama is something more and something less than a pope of Tibetan Buddhism. He is more than a pope because he is not merely a vicar of the Buddha; in messianic form as the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, he is actually seen as the returning presence of the Buddha himself. He is like Jesus returned, not just for the second time but always returning. (p 34)

(Hmmm, Sarah Palin anyone?) What a stew of mixed religious terms! It's difficult not to poke fun at this final over-the-top comparison. He's a Catholic, Church of England, bodhisattva messiah Buddha, multiple Jesus kind of guy! Just remember that the next time someone asks you who the Dalai Lama is!

He's not just a politician with delusions of grandeur then?

Postcript: I am not pointing out Bob Thurman’s and the Dalai Lama’s flaws just for their own sake and especially not for political reasons, but because they are having an adverse effect on Buddhism and Buddhists. If people believe all the hype about the Dalai Lama perpetrated by Thurman, the Dalai Lama will be able to continue to persecute Dorje Shugden practitioners with impunity, and succeed in destroying a priceless spiritual tradition.

All I am aiming for is to allow people to see Thurman's and the Dalai Lama’s actions more clearly. Then they may question them about the Dalai Lama's ban of Dorje Shugden, and maybe even urge the Dalai Lama to lift that ban. Once he has lifted the ban and met the aims of the Western Shugden Society, there will be no further need for book reviews.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who really is the Dalai Lama?

Sur les traces du Dalaï Lama
Un reportage de Gilles Jacquier, Patrick Desmulie et Franck Nosal

Translation of part of the documentary on the Dalai Lama shown on France 2, one of the most popular documentary TV channels in France. This was watched by 4.000.000 to 5.000.000 people on Thursday October 9, 2008.

C’est l’apôtre de la non-violence, le pape du bouddhisme. Prix Nobel de la Paix, il est connu dans le monde entier ; mais qui est vraiment le Dalaï Lama?

Dalai Lama: C'est vrai, je suis toujours au pouvoir, mais cela est lié a la situation particulière au Tibet. Je mene un combat national, ca ce n'est pas de la politique ordinaire.
Dalai Lama: That's true, I am still the head of state, but it is because of the special situation of Tibet. I'm leading a national fight; this is not ordinary politics.

S'il y avait un débat démocratique entre 2 partis démocratiques comme chez vous, alors le dalaï-lama et les moines devraient quitter le pouvoir.
If there was a democratic debate between two democratic parties as you have in your country, then the Dalai Lama and the monks should give up their power.

Le dalai-lama serait donc chef de gvt malgré lui, investi d'une mission divine : sauver le Tibet. Mais fait-il l'hunanimité parmi les siens et d'autre voie peuvent elles se faire entendre ?
Thus, the Dalai Lama would be the head of government despite himself, entrusted with a divine mission: Save Tibet. But do all his people agree with him, and can other views be heard?

C'est en enquetant dans les monasteres que je vais le savoir.
Dans le sud de l'inde, je retrouve des moines dissidents. Eux ont choisi un autre chemin.
It is by investigating the monasteries that I'll come to know the answer.
In Southern India, I meet some dissident monks. They have chosen another way.

Lobsang Yeshe et Namgyal sont les anciens garde du corps du dalaï-lama. Il y a 50 ans, ils sauvaient la vie du chef tibétain fuyant les Chinois. Mais aujourd'hui, ils se sentent trahis.
Lobsang Yeshe and Namgyal were previously the Dalai Lama's bodyguards. 50 years ago, they saved the life of the head of Tibet, running away from the Chinese. But today, they feel betrayed.

Lobsang Yeshe: Le Dalai Lama, je ne veux plus en entendre parler. Ce n'est plus le bouddha de la compassion. C'est un traitre. Le dalaï-lama a commis le crime le plus grave. Il a divisé tous les Tibétains. Il s'oppose à notre divinité, Dordjé Shougdèn. Il nous interdit de la vénérer. A cause de lui, j'ai fait une crise cardiaque. Aujourd'hui, je suis un homme brisé.
Lobsang Yeshe: The Dalai Lama, I don't want to hear about him any more. He is no longer the Buddha of Compassion. He is a traitor. The Dalai Lama has commited the gravest crime. He has divided all the Tibetans. He is against our deity, Dorje Shugden. He has forbidden us from venerating him. Because of him, I had a heart attack. Today, I am a broken man.

Le dalaï-lama, Ocean de Sagesse, a offensé ses vieux compagnons. Et même, en janvier 2008, il va perdre un peu de son sang froid. Devant des milliers de fidèles, il tient des propos d'une rare violence contre des adeptes de cette divinité mystérieuse: Dordjé Shougdèn.
The Dalai Lama, Ocean of Wisdom, has offended his old friends. Furthermore, in January 2008, he will lose a bit of his composure. In front of thousands of supporters, he speaks with an exceptional violence against the followers of this mysterious deity: Dorje Shugden.

Dalai Lama: A cause de cette déité, certains sont devenus violents, c'est intolérable. Je ne veux plus de désordre dans les monastères. Et à ceux qui ne sont pas content, dites leur que le Dalaï Lama approuve les expulsions ordonnés par les abbés dans les temples.
Dalai Lama: Because of this deity, some have became violent, it’s intolerable. I don't want any more disorder in the monasteries. And to those who are not happy, tell them that the Dalai Lama approves of the expulsions prescribed by the abbots in the temples.

Pour la première fois, je découvre un visage autoritaire, lui le sage Tibétain appelle à l'exlusion de fidèle. Pourquoi et qui est cette divinité ? Pour le comprendre je vais rencontrer les adeptes de Dordjé Shougdèn. Ces moines sont pour le dalai-lama de dangereux extrémistes.
For the first time, I discover an authoritarian face – himself the wise Tibetan is calling for the exclusion of the faithful. Why, and who is this deity? To understand this, I am going to meet Dorje Shugden followers. These monks are for the Dalai Lama dangerous extremists.

Moine : Allez-y, c'est par la.
Monk: Go ahead, this way.

Dissimulé au fond de cette salle de prière, je découvre enfin la divinité Dordjé Shougdèn. Elle tient dans sa main droite un couteau, et dans l'autre un coeur humain. Pour ses partisans, Shougdèn apporte la protection, mais pour le dalaï-lama, cette divinité encourage la violence, c'est elle qui divise le Tibet.
Hidden at the back of this prayer hall, I finally discover the deity Dorje Shugden. He is holding a knife in his right hand and a human heart in the other. For his followers, Shugden brings protection, but for the Dalai Lama this deity encourages violence, and is the one who is dividing Tibet.

Moine : Cette déité n'a jamais divisé les Tibétains. C'est faux. C'est le dalaï-lama qui nous a divisé, en nous interdisant de vénérer Shougdèn. Avant, tout se passait bien. La communauté vivait en paix.
Monk: This deity has never divided Tibetans. This is untrue. It is the Dalai Lama who has divided us, by banning Shugden practice. Before, everything was going well. The community was living in peace.

Aujourd'hui les adeptes de Shougdèn sont expulsés de leur monastère, et leur photo placardé dans les rues. Une chasse au sorcière a commencé dans le sud de l'inde, et sur cette affaire, le dalaï-lama a une réponse de spécialiste de la logique.
Today, Shugden followers are expelled from their monasteries, and their photos are posted in the streets. A witch hunt has started in Southern India, and on this matter, the Dalai Lama has the answer of a specialist in logic.

Dalai Lama : Je vous assure, je n'ai jamais donné d'ordre pour écarter les adeptes de Shougdèn. Rien n'est venu d'en haut. Ce sont les abbés qui décident de ces expulsions.
Dalai Lama: I guarantee you, I have never given the order to get rid of Shugden followers. Nothing came from above. It is the Abbots themselves who decide these expulsions.

En fait, le dalaï-lama soupçonnerait ces moines d'etre manipulé par la chine, et ces opposants d'un genre nouveau, je vais même en retrouver en France.
In fact, the Dalai Lama would suspect these monks of being manipulated by China ; and I will even find some of these new types of opponents in France.

Manif: Dalai Lama, Menteur!
Demo: Dalai Lama, liar!

Une démonstration de force sur la plage de la Baulle. Ces bouddhistes européens paradent avec un slogan choc, quitte à déplaire.
A strong demonstration on the beach of La Baule. These European buddhists parade with an impactful slogan, even if unpleasant.

Homme sur le trottoir : Vous etes récuperer par les Chinois !
Man on the sidewalk: You are being used by the Chinese !

Reporter :
Tous ces bouddhistes manifestent pour défendre leurs freres tibétains, adeptes de la divinité Shougdèn. Anabelle vient de Marseille. Cette opposante pointe du doigt les contradictions du dalaï-lama.
All these Buddhists are demonstrating to help their Tibetan brothers, followers of the deity Shugden. Anabelle comes from Marseille. This opponent is pointing the finger at the Dalai Lama's contradictions.

Anabelle: Il y a une escroquerie de la part du dalai-lama à porter les deux robes : et le politique et le moine. Le dalaï-lama est un homme politique, et c'est a dire qu'il a des interets politiques. Et il faudrait qu'on s'en rende compte parce que on dirait qu'on voudrait se voiler la face en Occident parce qu'on veut coute que coute voir apparaître sur l'estrade politique un homme immaculé.
Anabelle: It is fradulent on the Dalai Lama’s part to wear the two robes -- that of the politician and the monk. The Dalai Lama is a politician, and that means he has political interests. We need to realize this because in the West we don’t want to see the truth -- we want by any means to see a stainless man on the political stage.

Principale critique de ces dissidents européens : l'intolérance religieuse du dalaï-lama.
The principal criticism from these European dissidents: the Dalai Lama's religious intolerance.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Critique of 'Why the Dalai Lama Matters' by Robert Thurman

Robert Thurman is the Je Tsongkhapa Professor of Buddhism at Columbia University, New York. He is also a close friend of the Dalai Lama and his chief advocate in the West.

This year (2008) he has written a book: 'Why the Dalai Lama Matters'. Its purpose seems to be to praise the Dalai Lama and to propose how the People's Republic of China could benefit by making friends with the Dalai Lama and establishing an autonomous Tibet to which the Dalai Lama could return. Thurman suggests that the Tibetan plateau could be designated as a 'Zone of Peace', a giant environmental preserve.

The rather sycophantic book is clearly intended to improve the popularity of the Dalai Lama and support him in his stated political goal of gaining autonomy for Tibet.

The purpose of this critique is to exhibit how the Dalai Lama is quite a different man to the one depicted by Thurman, by examining the Dalai Lama's actions of the past thirty years in relation to both the Karmapa and the Dorje Shugden issues. It will hopefully raise questions as to whether the Dalai Lama is as trustworthy as Robert Thurman would have it appear; and also show that Thurman's depiction is so out of touch with reality that his views are not to be trusted either.

The reason for this critique is to call Thurman and the Dalai Lama into question so as to reduce the power of their speech. Why? Because both men are adept at poisoning Dharma with politics and have sadly used their considerable reputations to cause harm to pure spiritual practitioners and the Buddhadharma over the past thirty years. This has to be stopped -- already their sectarianism and politicking has caused much damage in the Buddhist community.

This critique is not motivated by Chinese or Tibetan politics, nor concerned with Thurman's proposal for an autonomous Tibet. We wish only to show the discrepancy between the characters of the two men (as presented in the book) and their actions. We do not intend to harm anyone by doing this. Our motivation is to disclose various facts and inconsistencies so that people can see themselves if they are being deceived by Thurman or the Dalai Lama. The worst deception is one that is given in the guise of spiritual teaching that causes others to go in the wrong spiritual direction. This is something that both these men are guilty of.

For the purposes of this critique, only the first three chapters that comprise Part 1: Who is the Dalai Lama and why is he key? will be examined. The rest of the book is Thurman's political solution and of no interest from a religious point of view.

Introduction of the book

The book starts with a sweeping generalization:

Everyone tends to like the Dalai Lama, even when they don't think they will.

Not everyone tends to like the Dalai Lama. This sentence alone reveals how out of touch this book is. Even Buddha had to deal with people who didn't like him. Does Thurman think that the Chinese leadership likes the Dalai Lama? If they liked or even trusted him, he would be back in Tibet by now. In some ways, the Chinese have been quite shrewd judges of character when it comes to not trusting the Dalai Lama because, as will be shown, he is a consummate wily politician -- adept at saying one thing and doing another.

From the Mongoose-Canine letter, this is what at least one Tibetan thinks of the Dalai Lama:

In your words you always say that you want to be Gandhi but in your action you are like a religious fundamentalist who uses religious faith for political purposes. Your image is the Dalai Lama, your mouth is Mahatma Gandhi and your heart is like that of a religious dictator. You are a deceiver and it is very sad that on top of the suffering that they already have the Tibetan people have a leader like you.

Not everyone tends to like the Dalai Lama, even when they think they will or they should – interviews of the audience after his public teachings have shown that people of course have differing opinions of him, and that some of these are surprisingly unfavourable (one of the most common being “he doesn’t seem sincere”). Although in general the Dalai Lama is a media darling, he has also received criticism from journalists and writers over the years because of seemingly commercially motivated actions, such as advertising Apple Computers, guest editing Vogue Magazine, wearing Gucci shoes or staying in very expensive hotels, that are not in keeping with the spiritual leader image that people expect. Whether these opinions of him are valid or not, it is a fact that he is not universally admired or liked. No one is.

Thurman also writes (pages x -xi):

The Dalai Lama's wish and vision for humanity are absolutely right and reliable, realistic and not far-fetched, helpful and not harmful. And he has been living his act of truth for the last sixty years, as you'll see throughout this book. I present to you his exemplary act of truth and the implications of his wise words as the key to solving the problems of China and Tibet and, indeed, flowing away from the planetary crisis into which we are plunging headlong.

The Dalai Lama's vision for humanity as expressed in his public teachings is indeed right and reliable because it comes from the holy masters of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and ultimately from Buddha himself. However, the Dalai Lama does not 'walk the talk'. He has been using the Buddhist teachings of his root Guru Trijang Rinpoche to bolster his own reputation worldwide. Through these teachings he has managed to gather a circle of followers and maintain power and status as a political and spiritual leader. Given that the teachings themselves are so effective, anyone in his powerful position, with a little charisma, could have become as popular.

Thurman claims “he has been living his act of truth for the last sixty years.....I present to you his exemplary act of truth”; and the subtitle of the book is 'His act of truth as the solution for China, Tibet and the world'. According to one plausible sequence of events, the Dalai Lama's 'career' began with deceit, not with truth, although this deceit was not his own fault. The Reting Rinpoche, regent of Tibet, caused a false boy to be chosen as Dalai Lama over the true candidate, who was the son of a rival. Tibetan history has always been full of such intrigues and misuse of the Tulku (reincarnate Lama) system.

What is this 'act of truth' that is so important to Thurman? He says:

The act of truth is an ancient Indian concept refering to an action of a person of great integrity who confronts seemingly overwhelming power and yet, without violence, stands on the truth and justice of her or his intention and real situation; the impossible becomes possible....Inspired by these ancient and modern sources, the Dalai Lama has always said that against the great might of China, Tibet's only weapon is the truth.

The problem is that the Dalai Lama is not a person of great integrity as Thurman claims. One of the Western Shugden Society's slogans at demonstrations against the Dalai Lama's ban of Dorje Shugden practice is “Dalai Lama, stop lying!” This can seem surprising to some when they first hear it, but becomes clearer when you tot up the number of things the Dalai Lama has lied about in relation to this controversy. For example, he says:

  • There is no ban on Dorje Shugden practice (when speeches prove that he himself introduced it)
  • Dorje Shugden is a harmful spirit.
  • His Teachers were 'wrong' to worship Dorje Shugden
  • Dorje Shugden harms his health and the cause of Tibetan independence
  • Shugden practitioners are murderers, terrorists and arsonists
  • Shugden practitioners are Chinese agents
  • The oracle for the Deity Nechung was responsible for his safe escape from Tibet (when in fact it was the oracle of the Deity Dorje Shugden, whose practice he has banned)
Proof that these are lies will be given later. Suffice it to say that the Dalai Lama is not a person of integrity but has been shown to act out of political expediency in order to maintain his own power and influence over Tibet and the Tibetan people. Although he claims to want to introduce democracy in ruling the Tibetan people, he has made little effort to do so and still behaves like an autocrat.

The Tibetan Government in Exile is still a theocracy controlled by him. From the news report by Al Jeezera:

The decision to ban the worship of Shugden was taken here in Dharamsala. Since 1960 there are 46 MPs working here to decide the affairs of Tibet and the refugees living here. This is the heart of Tibetan democracy.

Reporter: “Did you debate about Shugden in parliament?”

(Tsultrim Tenzin, parliament member): "There was no argument. There was no argument. If there is some opposition then there will be argument. But there is no opposition. We do not have any doubt about Dalai Lama's decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He's a supreme human being and he is god. He's Avalokiteshvara. He has no interest of himself. He always thinks of others. Everybody is happy. In our system everybody is happy because there is full democracy. Everybody can express whatever he likes."

There is no argument because everyone does what the Dalai Lama says.

Since the Dalai Lama lacks integrity, what ‘act of truth’ is he performing? This is another romantic fiction of Thurman's. Can Thurman really not see the political machinations of the Dalai Lama and his 'government'? These are clear to see, even for those with limited experience of the Dalai Lama, but Thurman claims to have known him for forty years! He is liberal with his praise:

He is a Prince of Peace and Philosopher King of Tibet, by which I mean that he walks successfully in the path of loving meekness so powerfully pointed out and exemplified by Jesus, while also fulfilling the ideals of Plato in action. He is the champion of the Buddha's wisdom, deep, vast and exquisite for his carry one Shakyamuni's scientific teaching of the ultimate freedom of voidness, his religious teaching of the vast art of compassionate action, and his psychological teaching of the power of beauty to liberate. The Dalai Lama calls himself a simple Shakya monk but he is also Shakyamuni's devoted heir. He reaches out to all humans, nonreligious as well as followers of every kind of religion, as upholder of the common human religion of kindness, embracing all, regardless of belief system, in the church of life in the rite of human kindness..... (pages xiii-xiv)

And so it goes for several more paragraphs. If such statements were made about other Teachers, they would cause raised eyebrows. If the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) students ever said anything remotely like this about Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, they would be accused of being brainwashed and cultish – they already have been accused of this by the Dalai Lama’s followers for far, far less. It is clear that Thurman is going completely over the top in his rose-tinted view of the Dalai Lama's qualities.

What Thurman writes is not only the worse kind of purple prose, like a bad English school essay, but it is not true. Let's examine some of these extravagant claims and provide evidence to the contrary:

He is a Prince of Peace....

The Dalai Lama's divisive ban of Dorje Shugden has not brought peace to the Buddhist community but fractured it beyond repair. Look at the segregation wall at Ganden monastery as an example.

Quote from a transcript of a news report by Al Jeezera on the Dorje Shugden issue:

On the streets of the Tibetan refugee camp of Bylakuppe in southern India, Delek
Tong, a Shugden worshipping Buddhist monk, is no longer welcome.

(Delek Tong) "Look at this, it says: 'No Shugden worshippers allowed.'"

(Delek Tong) "Hi, I worship Shugden, can I come in?"

(Shopkeeper) "No, I am sorry, I don't want you or any Shugdens in my shop."

Another point: Why was the 'Prince of Peace' on the CIA's payroll in the 1960s, receiving $180,000 per year?

Philosopher King of Tibet....He is the champion of the Buddha's wisdom

If the Dalai Lama is such a great philosopher, why can he not use logic and reasoning to justify and debate the ban of Dorje Shugden? Rather, he claims irrationally that Dorje Shugden harms his health and the cause of Tibetan independence, based on no logic whatsoever.

he walks successfully in the path of loving meekness so powerfully pointed out and exemplified by Jesus...

Hmmm. 'Meekness' is a curiously Biblical word – will Thurman be claiming that the Dalai Lama is the Son of God next? Perhaps Thurman is another John the Baptist, proclaiming the arrival of the saviour of the world? Meekness is defined as 'the feeling of patient, submissive humbleness'. Is the Dalai Lama humble? Is the Dalai Lama patient? Read some of his spiritual demands and decide for yourself:

‘You might feel that by publishing letters, pamphlets, etc. against this ban, the Dalai Lama will revoke the ban. This will never be the case. If you take a hard stand, I will tighten this ban still further.’ - on the Dorje Shugden ban, 1996

‘There will be no change in my stand. I will never revoke the ban. You are right. It will be like the Cultural Revolution. If they (those who do not accept the ban) do not listen to my words, the situation will grow worse for them. You sit and watch. It will grow only worse for them.’ – on the Dorje Shugden ban, 1999

From Time magazine's article this year, 'The Dalai Lama's Buddhist Foes':

In transcripts that Shugdenpas allege record the Dalai Lama's comments, he sounds atypically (to the Western ear) authoritarian. "Shugden devotees are growing in your monastery," he is quoted as snapping at one abbot. "If you are this inept, you had better resign."

He reaches out to all humans, nonreligious as well as followers of every kind of religion, as upholder of the common human religion of kindness, embracing all, regardless of belief system, in the church of life in the rite of human kindness.....

The Dalai Lama does not reach out to everyone. Why has he banned Dorje Shugden practitioners from attending his teachings? Non-Buddhists are welcome but Buddhists are not! If the Dalai Lama is kind, why has his government, under his control, legislated against Dorje Shugden practitioners so that they cannot enter shops, go to hospitals, receive travel visas or live safely in their communities? The Dalai Lama has made Tibetans promise not to have anything to do with Shugden practitioners. They are cast out and ostracized by their own communities. From the news report by Al Jeezera:

(Shopkeeper) "I have taken an oath and I won't have anything to do with the Shugden people who are doing bad things for the Tibetan cause. I won't do anything he says. But he is telling the truth. I'm not a person who just blindly believes someone. I believe someone who is telling the truth. Here Dalai Lama always tells the truth."

Shugden practitioners are not doing anything bad for the Tibetan cause, it's just that the Dalai Lama has told his people that they have. He has lied and destroyed their reputation, whipping up resentment for his political purposes. Is this the 'common religion of human kindness' that Thurman thinks the Dalai Lama exemplifies?

As for (Buddha's) psychological teaching of the power of beauty to liberate – what does this mean? Wisdom liberates, not beauty. Does Thurman even understand basic Buddhist teachings? He's not making any sense!

These few examples serve to show the discrepancy between who the Dalai Lama is, what he is doing in terms of causing suffering and problems to Buddhists worldwide, and Thurman's view of him.

Thurman's blindness to the Dalai Lama's faults and his exaggeration of the imagined good qualities he does not possess makes this present book a work of fiction and thus irrelevant. When the purple prose is analysed for facts, there are not many of them, and Thurman appears naïve and gullible.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden Website Update

We are pleased to announce that the Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden Website (which this blog accompanies) has been completely updated and is even more informative than before.

Plus, it has all been translated into German!

Pretty much every page has been improved. For example, check out: Detailed reports of discrimination from inside India and elsewhere, which gives a broad sampling of discrimination and human rights abuses as well as links to relevant articles. There is also a useful new Video section and a new Book Review section.

Please take a few moments to visit the site again, and let your friends know about it. You can always let us know if you have any questions or comments -- just write to us through the comments section of this blog.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Does Lama Zopa’s closeness with H.H. the Dalai Lama validate FPMT Centres and members to be some kind of spiritual police?"

By Bhikku Yeshe Sangye -- a senior FPMT monk and close disciple of FPMT Founder Lama Yeshe -- who speaks up after 20 years about his grave concern over the FPMT's discrimination toward Dorje Shugden practitioners. Here are a few extracts from his long letter.

“We of FPMT, especially the people who joined after Lama Yeshe’s passing, should think of the future from a wide scope. Our founding father was a sound Dorje Shugden practitioner, and his legacy was passed to Lama Zopa, who was invested as a Tulku by Dorje Shugden. Our lineage lamas all practiced Dorje Shugden as their principal protector. We must not criticize this protector in any way.”

"Many, many, many of the older Lama Yeshe students have gone underground with their practices of Dorje Shugden. Some like me do not really go to the centers here in the USA anymore. They will not abandon their practice of Dorje Shugden because of their great devotion to Lama Yeshe and are somewhat flabbergasted at the direction that some new FPMT centers’ are going with their arrogant witch hunts. What is important to remember is JUST BECAUSE YOU ATTEND THE DALAI LAMA’S TEACHINGS, OR HAVE TAKEN PHOTOS WITH HH DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY VALIDATE YOU AS A SPIRITUAL POLICEMAN AND GO ON WITCH-HUNTS. We must practice the essence of what HH teaches as did Lama Yeshe, which are tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and not ever slandering any lama, dharma, lineage or practice. As the karmic retributions will fall onto us. We should never mislead new FPMT students toward this line of thought. We are destroying our organization slowly if we do so."

"We shouldn’t practice or not practice what the current political situation pressures us to or not to. We should do what our lama says. So during Lama's life Dorje Shugden is good and now Lama is dead, so Dorje Shugden is bad??? Wouldn’t that infer that lama was wrong, had bad degenerate practices, lacking in wisdom, had no refuge, had no attainments and wasted his life praying to a spirit?? So if lama gave us Heruka initiation and practice, then it had no blessings because lama's refuge degenerated due to his practice of Dorje Shugden?? Since Dorje Shugden is a spirit and Lama kept up his ‘sogtae’ (Dorje Shugden’s initiation) or life entrustment practices his whole life, then all of the other practices lama did was degenerated and ineffective when passed to us.

So any practices Lama Zopa received from Lama Yeshe and passes it to others would logically be degenerate also??? Wouldn’t it?

The implications are quite big if we choose to believe that way....So that would mean many of the practices that Lama Zopa does now and gives others that are directly from Lama Yeshe are degenerated because Lama Yeshe was degenerated?? Of course not. Very dangerous line of thought. Very ruinous direction we are heading toward. I watched Lama Zopa get brow-beaten into ‘giving’ up his Dorje Shugden practices."

Please go to the Dorje Shugden website for the full letter. Yeshe Sangye has been brave in speaking up, seeing as the FPMT now even disallows Dorje Shugden practitioners from attending teachings at their Centers. May Yeshe Sangye's pure spiritual wishes for the FPMT come true, and religious harmony and freedom be restored in the East and the West.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tibetan government bans Dorje Shugden practice in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery wards off Dolgyal practice
Press Release/ Tashi Lhunpo Monastery[Monday, January 28, 2008 16:11]

On January 22 all the monks from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in exile gathered to deliberate over Dorjee Shugden issue.

The monastery of Tashi Lhunpo, which has always been dedicated and devoted to His Holiness' welfare as well as to the Central Government's policy, formally declared that the problematic Dolgyal Shugden was not worshipped or propitiated by the monks of its monastery, nor will it be in the future.

In the evening of January 22 the entire community gathered in the prayer hall and each and every single monk took a formal oath in front of the pictures of Gyalwa Gedun Drup, the 10th Panchen Lama and Tashi Lhunpo's protector deity Palden Lhamo not to rely, practice and worship Dolgyal Shugden under no circumstances.

On 26th January, Tashi Lhunpo monks swore once more in the presence of dignitaries from the religious and political departments of the exile Government by drawing and counting wood sticks (tshul-shing). This came to confirm the already known stance that Dolgyal Shugden was not propitiated by the monks of Tashi Lhunpo.

Finally the office of the monastery stated that Tashi Lhunpo Monastery does not want to have any kind of relationship whatsoever with individuals, groups or organisations dealing with Dolgyal Dorjee Shugden.

For an article examining the validity of the "vote sticks", please see Dalai Lama's Referendum Contradicts Vinaya.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Al Jazeera News Documentary Video on Dalai Lama's ban ~ Transcript

Here is a full transcript of the recent footage on Al Jazeera, called The Dalai Lama: the devil within.

Hello and welcome back.

The Dalai Lama is revered as a hero by his people and respected worldwide for his peaceful philosophy. But a number of exiled Tibetan Buddhists living in India no longer believe in his leadership. They are accusing him of religious discrimination.

At the heart of this dispute lies a Buddhist Deity Shugden. Considered a god by some and a demon by others.

The Dalai Lama has banned worship of Shugden. In May, 400 monks were thrown out of monasteries because of their religious beliefs and Shugden worshippers have been shunned by other Tibetan Buddhists.

On the streets of the Tibetan refugee camp of Bylakuppe in southern India, Delek
Tong, a Shugden worshipping Buddhist monk, is no longer welcome. 

(Delek Tong) "Look at this, it says: 'No Shugden worshippers allowed.'"

"Hi, I worship Shugden, can I come in?"

"No, I am sorry, I don't want you or any Shugdens in my shop."

The Dalai Lama has asked the Tibetan community to stop the worship of the 400 year old Deity Shugden.

"When you followed the Dalai Lama's advice, did you not forget that us Shugden are also Tibetans like you?"

What this means in practice is that Delek Tong cannot walk into this shop because of his religious beliefs.

"I have taken an oath and I won't have anything to do with the Shugden poeple who are doing bad things for the Tibetan cause. I won't do anything he says. But he is telling the truth. I'm not a person who just blindly believes someone. I believe someone who is telling the truth. Here Dalai Lama always tells the truth."

(Another monk) "What do you think you are doing? Aren't you ashamed of yourself? We are both Tibetan monks. The Dalai Lama is our only protector."

(Delek Tong) "I am not violating the teaching of Lord Buddha."

(Another monk) "You have nothing to do here. There are certain rules in worshipping idols. If you don't do it right your idol becomes the devil."

For some, Shugden is an idol that protects you from harm. For the ones that follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama, Shugden is simply a spirit that brings evil.

"This is a sensitive issue. Filming is not forbidden. But filming these Shugden people can create a lot of problems. Be careful what you say in front of the camera. We are going through a critical time."

"Can you please stop. Otherwise I'm going to break that camera. I said I'm refusing all this and you are taking again and again."

Now this Deity is at the center of the controversy. On the one hand, the Dalai Lama wants to ban it; on the other, there are more than 4 million people across the world that worship Dorje Shugden.

According to the Buddhist tradition, the deceased monk came back as a spirit and was deified by the 5th Lama. Ever since, Shugden has been revered as a Protector Deity.

The worship of Shugden is a sensitive issue that is creating tension in the exiled Tibetan community. Last January the Dalai Lama asked his community to stop the worship of the 400 year old Deity so as to end the divisions.

Dalai Lama:
"I used to worship Shugden. The spirit was very fond of me. However, I realized it was a mistake. So I stopped. Recently monasteries have fearlessly expelled Shugden monks where needed. I fully support their actions. I praise them. If monasteries find taking action hard, tell them Dalai Lama is responsible for this. Shugden followers have resorted to killing and beating people. They start fires. And tell endless lies. This is how the Shugden believe. It is not good."

For Mai and her family, Shugden remains a protector. Her family have been worshipping the Deity for generations. Because they have defied the rule of the Dalai Lama, they have been ostracized from the community.

"They have made separate rules for us. They said that no one is supposed to talk to us. And no one is supposed to have any contact with us."

"If he is really Buddha, if he's really God, he would not create so much problem. He won't give us so much trouble. If he is the Buddha, he would not give any problem to any human being."

"Dalai Lama is being unfair and selfish. He is doing his own wish."

The decision to ban the worship of Shugden was taken here in Dharamsala. Since 1960 there are 46 MPs working here to decide the affairs of Tibet and the refugees living here. This is the heart of Tibetan democracy.

“Did you debate about Shugden in parliament?”

(Tsultrim Tenzin):
"There was no argument. There was no argument. If there is some opposition then there will be argument. But there is no opposition. We do not have any doubt about Dalai Lama's decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He's a supreme human being and he is god. He's Avalokiteshvara. He has no interest of himself. He always thinks of others. Everybody is happy. In our system everybody is happy because there is full democracy. Everybody can express whatever he likes."

So why are Shugden people discriminated from the community? We asked the Prime Minister what he thought about the signs posted outside the shops.

(Samdhong Rinpoche):
"That is true. ‘Who have not disassociated the perpetrating the spirit, kindly not come in this shop.’ This is very clear. Then why should they go into that shop? That is unfair on their part. A lot of Shugden perpetrators are becoming terrorists and that they are willing to kill anybody. They are willing to beat up anybody. It is very clear that now people who are perpetrating Shugden are very close to the PRC leadership. That is clear."

Being linked to the PRC, the People's Republic of China, is the highest act of treason in the eyes of the Tibetan government in exile. 

No Shugden worshipper has ever been charged or investigated for terrorism and yet the monks that continue to worship Shugden remain victims of name and shame.

"What the posters say is that we are related to the Chinese government. We don't have anything to do with China. There is no proof, yet many people are harassing us and threatening us."

Fearing for their lives, these Shugden monks are now living in hiding in a monastery in southern India where they sought refuge after being told they must leave their monastery.

Now these monks living here in India have taken matters into their own hands. They've decided to take the Dalai Lama to court on the grounds that he is breeching their freedom of religion.

Thubten is on a campaign to gather evidence of religious discrimination. 

"Why I am here - I am working very hard for religious freedom. I fight for religious freedom. So therefore, I'm here. There is no chance to have religious freedom. If you fight for religious freedom with the Tibetan exile government, then automatically they will put your picture on the poster and everybody says, “Don't talk to them. Don't listen to them.” So therefore, we haven't any chance to tell our truth all over the world."

With the help of rebel monk Kundeling Rinpoche, they are taking the most famous ex-Shugden practitioner, the Dalai Lama himself, to court.

"So there is no democracy. The man, Dalai Lama, talks about democracy, talks about compassion, talks about dialog, talks about understanding, talks about a solution, but for us there is no solution. There is no dialog. There is no understanding. There is no compassion. Because in his perception we are not human beings. We are just evil. We are evil and we are agents of the Chinese. That is what it is. It is as simple as that."

With just a few days to go before the Dalai high court hearing, Kundeling and Thubten meet with their lawyer.

(Shree Sanjay Jain:)
"It is certainly a case of religious discrimination in the sense that if within your sect of religion you say that this particular Deity ought not to be worshipped, and those persons who are willing to worship him you are trying to excommunicate them from the main stream of Buddhism, then it is a discrimination of worst kind."

No matter what the outcome of the court case, in a country where millions of idols are worshipped, attempting to ban the Deity is an uphill battle. One in which many Buddhist monks have lost their faith in the spirit of the Dalai Lama.

Earlier this month the Dalai Lama's lawyers requested a 3-month extension on the   grounds that he was ill. The case will be heard on the 9th of December and we will definitely keep you updated.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mixing Religion and Politics -- the Dalai Lama's ban on Dorje Shugden

There is currently a very well reasoned and interesting article on the unfortunate mixture of religion and politics in Tibetan society on Investigating the Campaign Against Dorje Shugden.

Here is an extract:

"The fact that the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile have been able to subject the Tibetan populace to an oath swearing campaign, whereby they promise not to engage in prayer to Dorje Shugden or have dealings with anyone who does, harkens back to the religious persecution in England during the 17th century whereby religious uniformity was mandated by the state.

That this oath swearing campaign initiated by the Dalai Lama has bypassed our conscience and our concept of religious freedom as an unalienable human right is a sign of a deeper crisis that has emerged in the Tibetan and Buddhist Community. ....

...In the Al Jazeera news footage, the interviewer asks Tsultrim Tenzin, member of the Tibetan Government in Exile, if the government debated the Dorje Shugden issue. He replied:

“There was no argument. If there was some opposition, then there will be some argument, but there is no opposition. We do not have any doubt about the Dalai Lama’s decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He is a supreme human being, and he is god, he is Avalokiteshvara, he has no interest [in] himself, he always thinks of others. Everybody is happy. Our system is everybody is happy. There is democracy, full democracy. Everyone can experience whatever he likes”

.... So what we have here is the divine right of the Dalai Lama versus the rights of individuals to practice the prayer of their choosing. Thomas Jefferson could not have scripted a better example as to why the divine right of kings and the divine right of individuals are incompatible governing principles...

Click here for the full article.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Is the Dalai Lama a Fake?

This article is in response to Tenzin Peljor’s article entitled “Refutation of WSS sowing dissent with baseless allegations”, where he comments on the recent WSS article “Reting Lama – How he chose the false Dalai Lama

1. There is no evidence or sources supporting your claim

  • This is a view held by many Tibetans. As Namdrol of E-Sangha says, this is an account that has been circulating for many years in both Tibet and India. It is not as if this is being made up by the WSS -- rather they are reporting what many people already believe to be true. The Dalai Lama himself acknowledges these rumors when in New York he said that he is continuing the ban on Dorje Shugden so that he can demonstrate he is indeed the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama (who also opposed the practice). So who is to say that the current ‘Dalai Lama’ is not persecuting Dorje Shugden practitioners to shore up his credibility as the authentic reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama?
  • The principal case in favor of the recognition of the current Dalai Lama is the visions of the Reting Lama.  Everyone agrees about certain facts concerning this lama and the recognition. Only he saw the visions. He is the one who oversaw the process. He was a morally questionable character. He had a lot to lose (namely his own power) through the recognition of Langdun’s relative as the Dalai Lama. Everyone agrees to this. Everyone also agrees that Tibetan politics at this time were no Shangri-la. Even by the Dalai Lama’s own account, there was widespread corruption and buying of ‘recognition’ of lamas. Is it really so ‘unthinkable’ that an ambitious, morally questionable political leader might do something to maintain his power and prevent his rivals from gaining power? Since we may never know whether or not Reting Lama had these visions or oversaw the process correctly, perhaps we will never know for sure whether or not the recognition process was corrupted. However, given Reting’s character, the political corruption of the time and the rivalry between Reting Lama and Langdun’s relative, there is a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence to create reasonable doubt about whether or not Reting Lama was acting as a ‘pure and holy being’ or as ‘a politician’ striving to hold on to power. We don’t know, but the evidence points in one direction.
  • All the WSS is doing is raising the question ‘Did they find the right guy?’ Who has the burden of proof here? Surely, given the political context of the decision, there is sufficient room for doubt to arise. Given how this 14 th Dalai Lama’s has created division within the Tibetan community over the Dorje Shugden issue and given how he is encouraging the Tibetans to engage in Chinese-like actions of persecution against Dorje Shugden practitioners (thereby creating the karma for the Tibetan people to once again have to go through the same ordeal of being exiled, etc.), it is certainly worth asking the question whether he is the right guy or not.
  • The only evidence in support of Tenzin Gyatso being the right guy is Reting’s visions and the fact that others have since accepted him as the Dalai Lama. Reting oversaw an universally acknowledged corrupt government and was undisputably involved in serious breaches of his moral discipline. He also stood a lot to lose politically, so his credibility is questionable at best. So that only leaves the fact that other lamas have since accepted him as the Dalai Lama, which will be addressed below.
  • And to turn the issue, there is no evidence whatsoever showing that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit (unless you count as evidence dough balls, strange dreams about a bearded monk, and the incoherent and contradictory utterings of somebody in a trace who has been ‘possessed’ by some spirit). So if you and other defenders of the Dalai Lama are going to hold up the standard of the necessity of evidence to prove one’s case before advancing any claims, then you should apply the same standard to the nature of Dorje Shugden. You cast doubts on the nature of Dorje Shugden without evidence or basis, yet you cry foul when someone does the same thing about the nature of the Dalai Lama. It is you who is contradicting yourself and applying double standards. Your defense against this is: ‘There are two views, and thus legitimate doubt, about the nature of Dorje Shugden.’ In the same way, ‘There are two views, and thus legitimate doubt, about the nature of the Dalai Lama.’ What is the difference?
    2. Article done to maintain momentum of WSS activities since now the Dalai Lama is sick and can’t do his talks in the West anymore.
  • The fact that the WSS has more to say about the activities and authenticity of the Dalai Lama does not mean that the WSS is doing this as another way to maintain momentum. For one thing, public interest in the problem is being maintained naturally through press interest in the situation – such as the articles and videos appearing on France 24, Knight News, The New Statesman, Al Jazeera, Cincinnati City Beat, and so on. Rather, it is that the WSS has the space now to explore further the core of the matter – one essential aspect of which is the trustworthiness of the Dalai Lama.
  • The entire case against Dorje Shugden rests on the opinion of the Dalai Lama. If his trustworthiness is questionable, then his opinions on Dorje Shugden are also questionable. The only ‘evidence’ that says that Dorje Shugden is not a Buddha is ‘The Dalai Lama says so’. People believe him on Dorje Shugden because they believe him to be trustworthy and reliable. Thus whether or not he is the correct Dalai Lama goes straight to the point – his reliability. His actions of religious persecution are certainly not Buddhist and there is this controversy surrounding his recognition, so it raises the questions – is he who we think he is? If he is not, then we should not be so eager to take on his views of Dorje Shugden just because he tells us to.

  • 3. Just trying to undermine the Dalai Lama
  • The WSS actually has no desire to undermine the Dalai Lama per se. They would be perfectly content to allow him to be if he weren’t engaging in a systematic campaign to make sure that not even the name ‘Dorje Shugden’ is known by future generations.
  • But since he has embarked on such a campaign, it seems perfectly legitimate to undermine the basis of his case against Dorje Shugden, namely people’s belief that he is trustworthy. If he is an imposter (he himself may actually believe he is the reincarnation, but that doesn’t make it so), then we shouldn’t believe him blindly on Dorje Shugden.
  • If the Dalai Lama wants to continue to be the head of the Tibetan government, then the WSS has no problem with this. They only have a problem with his actions aimed at exterminating Dorje Shugden practice. If he lifts the ban and stops his persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners, the WSS would be happy to leave him be in his position.
  • But if he continues to act in ways that undermine the cause of Tibet (by being hypocritical on religious freedom, creating division within the Tibetan community and encouraging Tibetans to create the karma for another Chinese-style persecution to befall them), then the real question is not whether or not he is the legitimate Dalai Lama, but why are his supporters calling him ‘the defender of Tibet’ and supporting him? George Bush says he was defending America, but practically everything he did made America worse off. Yet he still has supporters and those same people are quick to label anybody who criticises George Bush as being unAmerican and unpatriotic. In the same way, the Dalai Lama says he is defending Tibet, but Tibet is no better off, and indeed is worse off. Yet there are still those who say he is defending Tibet and these same people say that anybody who criticizes the Dalai Lama’s actions is being unTibetan and unpatriotic.
  • The reason why the Dalai Lama is harming the Tibetan cause is as clear as day (even beyond the Dorje Shugden issue). All the Chinese care about is maintaining absolute political authority over Tibet. Since the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of the union of religion and politics the Chinese cannot grant ‘religious freedom’ without simultaneously granting ‘political authority’ to the Dalai Lama. If the Dalai Lama were to 100% renounce any ‘political authority’ over Tibet, then he could strike a deal with the Chinese on religious freedom for Tibetans. But because he favors his own political power over the interests of his people, he is not willing to strike this deal with the Chinese. So it is the Dalai Lama’s own stubborn refusal to renounce political power that Tibetans in Tibet continue to suffer oppression and persecution. Their freedom could be won tomorrow if only the Dalai Lama were not trying to hang on to power (after a more than 60 year reign).
    4. Political attempt to overthrow him

  • The WSS has no political ambitions whatsoever. They have only one objective, and that is the lifting of the ban. The Dalai Lama can stay in power as long as he wants, as long as he lifts the ban.
  • While many people might feel that politically speaking the Dalai Lama is doing more harm to the Tibetan cause than good, because Dorje Shugden practitioners have no political agenda whatsoever they take no position on whether he should be overthrown or not. They only take a position on the ban.
  • It is quite paranoid to think questioning of any policy of a political leader is a disguised attempt at a coup! It is only authoritarian dictatorships who have such paranoid fears, not mature democratic leaders.
  • Besides, if the WSS wanted to ‘overthrow’ the Dalai Lama, then surely they must have a political leader in waiting, ready to take charge in the ‘glorious coup’. But who is this phantom leader? Nobody. Dorje Shugden practitioners are not interested. They simply want to go about their religious practices in peace without harrassement and persecution. Is that so much to ask? Would it really kill the Tibetan cause to let the monks in Tibet continue with their practices?
    5. If TR was a Buddha, why would he go along with this?
  • The present Dalai Lama’s ‘status as Dalai Lama’ was a fait accompli by the time Trijang Rinpoche came along. This was something that he felt he could not change without causing even more harm to Tibetan society, so, consistent with the Lamrim teachings on patience, it seems he accepted what he could not change and attempted to transform it as best he could by providing pure Dharma teachings to the present Dalai Lama.
  • Since the present Dalai Lama did seem to take a liking to the teachings of Trijang Rinpoche, and there was nothing that could be done about his status, then it was reasonable for Trijang Rinpoche to fill him with as much Dharma as he could, knowing that the Dalai Lama would then spread these teachings (even if in a mixed form) far and wide.
  • If Trijang Rinpoche said anything, then it would not be the Dalai Lama who fell from power, it would have been Trijang Rinpoche who would have been fired from his post as Junior Tutor. So perhaps he reasoned he could do more good by remaining his tutor than by being fired. People make these sorts of calculations all the time.
  • Besides, everyone agrees that Tibetan society and monastaries were filled with ‘questionable Rinpcohes’, as the entire recognition process had grown terribly corrupt. And since religion and politics are mixed inseparably in Tibetan society, it is obvious that if somebody is ‘recognized’ as a Tulku, then tremendous political power and wealth will flow from that. Since the recognition process is open to abuse, is it any wonder that so much corruption abounded in the recognition process? If Trijang Rinpoche called into question the Dalai Lama, then maybe he felt he would have to call into question all the other questionable Rinpoches, including, for example, the Dalai Lama’s brother. If he did that (or if people feared he might) then, given Tibetan politics, he could very well find himself assassinated. So perhaps he chose to not sacrifice a greater virtue (namely all the good he could bring about through his teachings) on the altar of a smaller virtue (namely outing the Dalai Lama). This is perfectly rational and consistent with the Dharma.
  • Answers to the remaining points in Tenzin Peljor’s replies coming soon.