Sunday, November 23, 2008

Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People (including Shugden practitioners?)

Theoretically, there is much to recommend in this recent Memorandum (which came out prior to the recent meeting about Tibet in Dharamsala). However, the stumbling block in practice is the section on "Religion", where the Central Tibetan Administration (Tibetan Government in Exile) is asking the Chinese for something that they and the 14th Dalai Lama are not prepared to give themselves.

"Religion is fundamental to Tibetans and Buddhism is closely linked to their identity. We recognise the importance of separation of church and state, but this should not affect the freedom and practice of believers. It is impossible for Tibetans to imagine personal or community freedom without the freedom of belief, conscience and religion. The Constitution recognises the importance of religion and protects the right to profess it. Article 36 guarantees all citizens the right to the freedom of religious belief. No one can compel another to believe in or not to believe in any religion. Discrimination on the basis of religion is forbidden."

If everyone was indeed allowed "the freedom of belief, conscience and religion", it might would be possible to imagine once again "personal and community freedom" for all Tibetans in exile and even back in Tibet, as opposed to the division and confinement caused by the unconstitutional ban on Dorje Shugden (which breaks Article 36) and ostracism of Shugden practitioners.

How is the forced signature campaign compliant with this ideal "No one can compel another to believe in or not to believe in any religion"?

It is really hard to see how the TGIE can justify speaking these noble words when their deeds go in the opposite direction, away from the "freedom of religious belief" and right toward "discrimination on the basis of religion".

This is a telling and somewhat ironic statement:

"We recognise the importance of separation of church and state, but this should not affect the freedom and practice of believers."

The fact that church and state in the exile community are not separate is precisely what has "affected the freedom and practice of believers". This constitutional violation of religious freedom would never have happened if the Dalai Lama were not both a religious and political leader.

A patriotic Tibetan woman who is not a Shugden practitioner comments on the recent meeting in Dharamsala in He Has Got it Wrong. (This is based on Eliot Sperling's article of the same name.) Here are some extracts:

This meeting could have been both special and historic, if we had taken the bold and painful step that I believe is unavoidable: To allow the Dalai Lama to retire into the religious sphere, and set the stage for the separation of religion and politics.

We all know that Buddhism doesn’t claim to answer the world’s problems. And yet we are expecting the Dalai Lama to solve our political problems. We even elected another Lama, Samdong Tulku, to be our Prime Minister. But by having religious leaders doing political work, we have also been limiting ourselves in ways to struggle for the freedom of our country, which in essence is a worldly problem.

There were specific historical events which led to the emergence of a theocratic form of government in Tibet 500 years ago. But in the last 50 years, since external forces made us join the modern world, the geopolitical situation has become so complex, the demands to government so overwhelming that one guy alone at the top cannot deliver.

In our hearts, we know that worldly problems should be dealt with by worldly measures and by worldly people. As a consequence, let our Lamas return to their monasteries and resume their roles as spiritual teachers. This will clear the way for capable laypeople, men and women, to come forward and eventually, from their midst, a new leader will emerge who will unite and lead us in our struggle for freedom and justice.

In Dharamsala this month, we missed the opportunity to take charge. Now that would have made the meeting not only special but truly historic.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A response to "India Update – Present Situation" on Tenzin Peljor’s anti-Shugden blog

On his anti-Shugden blog, Tenzin Peljor posted an “update” from his friend, a Western monk visiting India. Even reading between the lines of this monk’s account from Sera Monastery, there is something really quite sinister going on in this enforced segregation of monks. It is also not made any the less sinister by a Buddhist monk attempting to justify it:

- By all accounts the situation at Sera, despite the anti-Dalai Lama vitriol of some Shugden monks in the breakaway faction of Pomra Khangtsen, is largely peaceful. In fact, the demands of WSS have already been met! Both sides are continuing their practices without interruption and, through the division into two monasteries, there has been little conflict to mention the past two months. Both sides have kept all their own buildings and no one is homeless as a result of this dispute.
- The seperation has in fact eased tensions and made it easier for both sides to focus on their divergent goals.

In fact, the WSS aims have not been met at all. It is most regrettable that the monks should be separated. Segregation did not work out too well in the South of the U.S. or in South Africa.

However, if the choice is between “separate but equal” (Jim Crow) or being deprived access to basic social services, then separate but equal is better. The question is then whether Shugden practitioners are still denied access to shops and medical care within the monasteries and nearby communities? It would appear that yes, they are, and there are accounts to show this.

If within the monastery they wish to keep things separate to keep the peace, this is better than nothing, despite the sad irony that the peace was only shattered in the first place by the forced signature campaign. But if in the larger Tibetan community, Shugden practitioners are shunned and denied equal access to public places, then clearly there is a problem.

- The Shugden portion from Pomra Khangtsen at Sera Mey (about 120-130 monks and novices) is not attracting any new Tibetan monks as those who come into exile do so in the spirit of being close to HHDL.

This is actually a pretty disquieting statement. To see why, and what is going on here, please read the account of the sixteen young refugees who escaped Tibet last year to come to Pomra Khangtsen but were turned away (and beaten) by the ironically named “Tibetan Reception Center” as they would not renounce their worship of Dorje Shugden. This might explain why Pomra Khangtsen is “not attracting any new Tibetan monks”!

Here is another update from India from some bhikkshus who are living through the ban and segregation and others who are witnessing it. This report, quoted in blue, answers the specific points made in Tenzin Peljor’s monk’s report:

More recently, no Tibetans have been able to come into exile because of the recent uprisings in Tibet. Once things calm down, refugees will again try and come to India for schooling and monastic education. But what will happen when they arrive in Nepal? They will approach the Tibetan Reception Center (TRC) in Nepal, and later in Dharamshala. They will be asked if they are worshippers of Dorje Shugden or not. If they are, and if they do not sign their names to saythey will give up their religion, they will be accused of being enemies of the Dalai Lama and they will not be given the necessary recommendation letter to join any monastery in India. Without this letter, no Abbot is permitted to admit them.

On February 23rd, 2007, Tsering Dondup, the General Secretary of the Department of Religion & Culture (from the Tibetan Government in Exile) sent a letters to the Abbots and staff of every Gelug monastery. It read:

“Even at the head Tibetan Reception Center they are explaining why H.H. the Dalai Lama has banned the worshipping of Dholgyal (Dorje Shugden) to our brothers who newly arrived from Tibet.” … The Reception Center must explain as before why H.H. the Dalai Lama has imposed a ban on worshipping Dholgyal. If, despite your explanations, they don’t listen and take a strong stand, there is no way to let them go to any of the Gelug monasteries, including Sera, Drepung and Ganden, as has been happening until today.”

Tenzin Peljor’s monk continues:

- Most of the Tibetan Pomras have left the Khangtsen and re-joined Sera Mey. Especially the young monks want no part in the vitriol of the more militant leaders who now largely control the breakaway faction. The nasty rhetoric spewing forth from several of the leaders of the faction against the Dalai Lama, in the words of this monk “literally had the monks running out the door back to the majority faction of the monastery.” The nasty comments and lies are so poisonous even many monks loyal to Shugden cannot stand it and have left the monastery altogether.

Now, lets ask why monks from Pomra Khangsten would leave? If you were a Shugden practitioner, treated as a pariah by your former friends and Abbots and made to live in separate quarters, falsely accused of being a demon worshipper, a Chinese traitor and an enemy of state, how brave would you have to be to stay put? How soon would you succumb to the pressure to renounce your faith so that you can return to the main part of the monastery and be on the side of right and might again? Especially if you were young and saw your whole life ahead of you as one of exile, an object of suspicion and contempt? It takes a great deal of courage to stand up for your religious beliefs against those in power, as has been seen throughout history in many different parts of the world.

It is not rather cynical to call the Shugden monks a “breakaway faction”?! These are the same poor monks who were forcibly expelled from their monastery for refusing to renounce their faith in the forced signature campaign. They did not leave because they wanted to! They were pushed out. They were not trying to start a new movement – they just wanted to continue in peace with the practice that had been done for generations in the monasteries.

In terms of supposedly spreading vitriol against the Dalai Lama, lets face it -- anyone whoever questions the Dalai Lama about anything is accused of this. The fact is that all Shugden monks were friends of the Dalai Lama and respected him, many used to have great faith in him; and having to defend themselves against him is incredibly painful.

The position of Shugden practitioners is that everyone should be free to practice as they wish and they seek mutual tolerance and respect between the different traditions, something they themselves are denied. However, there is nothing wrong with informing people of the Dalai Lama's actions and explaining why they are self-contradictory and harmful. Then others are free to decide.

Besides, as the sources in India point out:

Many monks have indeed left Pomra, and many monks still remain in Pomra. But those who left Pomra did so under pressure and fear of being deported from India. The word has been spread widely: “If Shugden devotees do not give up, they will be thrown into the street”. Not only that, but they have been threatened with being driven out of India in the name of an organization called the “Himalayan Cultural Association”.

Pomra monks have no animosity toward these monks who have left. People are free to practice or not as they choose, and will not be asked to give up that choice.

These days, monks who want to join a monastery come from Tibet. For Tibetans living in exile and abroad, it is very rare for them to ask for their children to be admitted into the monastery these days. They are not prepared to send their children. They prefer sending them to school and college. They have seen too many who have disrobed, and monks who disrobed earlier had no other skills and therefore no choice but to join the army divisions or sell sweaters on the street.

Now due to too many problems in the monastery, monks from both sides are not happy. They do not feel like staying in the monastery, so they leave and, when they can, go to America and Europe. You can now find hundreds of ex-monks, including many Geshes, in New York and other places in America and Canada. They are working as laborors in restaurants, shops and factories. Some of the more fortunate monks, or those who have a link with the Buddhist Centers, have the opportunity to teach Buddhism.

Most of the monks who joined the monastery at the beginning of 80 are hardly found in the monastery any more. There only remain a few senior monks who came to India in 1959. Many have passed away.

There are many monks who stayed in the monastery for three years and then left for abroad. Every day, two or three monks from all the Tibetan monasteries go abroad to Europe, America, Canada, South America, Asia. (American visas are difficult to get. Some apply three or four times. If you get an American visa, people think you get a ticket to paradise.) If a Shugden monk has an Indian passport, then he can go. Otherwise, as a Tibetan refugee, a Shugden monk is not issued the Identity Card or Certificate, which is the necessary traveling document for Tibetan refugees.

Every year, fewer and fewer monks join the monasteries, so most Tibetan monasteries now have a lot of Nepali monks.

As for the false claim that Pomra is recruiting Nepali children and then teaching them to hate the Dalai Lama, this is denied.

Pomra now has over 400 monks, over two hundred of whom are living outside the monastery. The majority are Tibetan. There are almost 100 Nepali monks. No one was made or taught to worship Shugden. They came to the monastery to learn Buddhism. They are taught to respect all religious beliefs, and never speak badly about other religious beliefs. The monks usually study the five texts, Valid Cognition, Perfection of Wisdom, The Middle Way, The Treasure of Knowledge and the Vinaya. Dorje Shugden is the Dharma Protector of Pomra. He is propitiated in the assembly hall once a month and at the end of puja.

No one is against the Dalai Lama. No one has developed enmity towards him despite the persecution and discrimination over more than a decade.

Tenzin Peljor's monk continues:

- Despite threats from Shugden worshippers, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will perform hundreds of bhikshu ordinations for novice monks of both Sera Mey and Jey this year around Losar at Sera Monastery.

What threats?! Where is there any sign of threats? This is typical propaganda. Of course HHDL would love to perform hundreds of bhikshu ordinations for novice monks, and that’s fine – but in which case, how can the Shugden monks be hypocritically accused of bolstering their numbers? One thing is for certain: none of these novices will ever hear a good word about Dorje Shugden.

The Bhikkshus continue:

Monks in Sera and Ganden are not happy that the Dalai Lama is about to visit again. Every time he goes there, he stirs up the Shugden issue, and then there is a problem. There are many monks who are not from Pomra who are also complaining: “Why is the Dalai Lama coming to the monastery so often?” A month to go, and people are expecting worse things to happen in the monastery. They think: “The Dalai Lama is coming. He will definitely make the matter worse. He is making this visit as an excuse to retaliate for the worldwide protests and Delhi High Court Case.” Whenever the issue calms down a bit, the Dalai Lama comes along and says something to raise the issue again. Every time he comes, he says something that provokes people.

Tenzin Peljor's monk says:

- His Holiness has continued to withdraw from any political responsibilities in order to allow the Tibetans to take charge of their own future. This indicates all the talk about him being a dictator is baseless. The current meeting is being held largely in his absence, and on Phayul you can read a document where he begs the Tibetans to discuss every option openly.

The Dalai Lama said he has withdrawn from political responsibility but he is still the political head and he always will be. Although the present meeting about Tibet’s future is called a public meeting, eventually they will do what the Dalai Lama wants. He himself avoided attending the meeting to try and show that he is not involved. They are holding the meeting now. I will give you their resolution: their resolution will be that the majority of public want to follow the Dalai Lama’s way.

Pomra monks have to seek food, water, medicine etc themselves. Mostly they are supported by Pomra. No one else supports them. But they are fine with these things, they have faith, as Buddha said: “My practitioners will not starve.”

The situation is relatively peaceful in Sera for the time being. But peace can be destroyed at any time. Shugden and non-Shugden monks live in separation. I don’t think Shugden monks will be allowed to live peacefully.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The story of 16 young Tibetan refugees in Nepal and India

Testimony of Lobsang Tsultrim, Tibetan Refugee

My name is Lobsang Tsultrim. I am from Gyaltang province - Yunan in Chinese - in Tibet. July 16, 2007 was the date I arrived at the Tibetan Reception Center (TRC) in Kathmandu, Nepal. Upon our arrival at the TRC, we rejoiced as though we were home and we felt secure and at ease, meeting fellow Tibetans there. However, that feeling abruptly ended when we were interviewed by the Head of the TRC.

"Do you have a Chinese passport?” the Head asked. “We have no Chinese passport,” we replied. He laughed and yelled: “Tell me honestly. If you don't have a Chinese passport, which way did you take to come down to Nepal?” I responded that I really didn't have a passport and that we gave money to a guide to help us cross the border. He then asked which monastery we were going to, and I told him Sera Mey monastery. He further inquired which Khamtsen (monastic section) I would join and I told him Pomra Khamtsen.

He clearly disliked my answer and began speaking badly to me. I was confused about what had gone wrong. I figured out that he was angry because Pomra Khamtsen practices Dorje Shugden.

I then was escorted to Room no. 5, where I gave an interview again. The staff asked my name, my parents’ names and my fatherland, and I answered them. They also asked the monastery and monastic section (Khamtsen) of my choice. I said I would go to join Pomra Khamtsen at Sera Mey. I was then asked if I worship Dorje Shugden, and I replied that I do.

I was then told that I would have to sign a statement renouncing my faith and practice in Dorje Shugden if I wanted to go to Pomra Khamtsen at Sera Mey.

I appealed to him not to force me to sign.

The staff member conducting this phase of the interview said:

"You are a Chinese spy. You dislike the Dalai Lama. If you worship Shugden, you are against the Dalai Lama.”
I denied those allegations, saying that the Dalai Lama is the spiritual master of Tibet and he is also my guru. Dorje Shugden is a Deity who is worshipped by our monastery and our province and our family.

I was pushed again regarding my reasons for refusing to sign the statement renouncing Dorje Shugden. And I repeated my earlier statement that the Deity Dorje Shugden is worshipped by our monastery and province, and that my family also has worshiped the Deity for several generations. I strenuously denied that my worship of Dorje Shugden meant I disliked the Dalai Lama. I begged him to have sympathy for me and not force me to give up my religious faith.

I was then told that I needed to think carefully about this matter, as there was no way I would be admitted to the monastery if I didn’t sign. He refused to give me a reference letter, which would have stated that my admission to Sera Mey was sanctioned by the Dalai Lama and the Kalon Tripa, head of the Tibetan cabinet.

Our purpose in risking escape from Tibet was to have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to join the monastery where we could study Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. We had no purpose apart from that.

We stayed for two months in Kathmandu without getting a reference letter from the TRC.

We are grieving.

The delegates from Pomra Khamtsen, Dhokhang Khamtsen, Shugden devotees and the Nepali government provided us help. The ministry of Nepali Home Affairs sent a notice to the UNHCR and the TRC not to engage in discrimination. The UNHCR then asked the TRC not to provide any letter to newcomers from Tibet. We left Kathmandu on July 12, 2007.

Even after we left the TRC, we were harassed. Before boarding a bus to Delhi, the head of the TRC and his staff searched our bags -- stealing our new things and leaving only those items that were second-hand. The items they took were clothes and tins of meat we needed for our journey.

Their behavior shocked us. What could we do? Our eyes filled with tears.

Instead of Tibetans helping Tibetans, they repressed and robbed us. They maltreated and discriminated against us because we worship Dorje Shugden. We felt that Shugden devotees in India suffered more than us. We then left.

On July 14, 2007, we arrived at the TRC located at Budh Vihar in Delhi. We sojourned there for approximately 10 hours. We were then sent to Dharamsala by bus. On July 15, in the morning, we arrived at Dharamsala and went to the TRC there. As soon as we arrived at the center, a staff said:
"We all are Tibetans. We all should maintain harmony and unity. And we must obey the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
He said further things we didn't understand because of differences in our dialects. Then he showed us our beds, gave us each plates and spoons, and collected Rs.150 from each of us. We were served breakfast of rice noodles and egg. After breakfast, our names were collected. For three days no one was called for interview.

A staff member (whose height was 5.5 and whose age was around 25) wrote down my name and that of Tsering Norbu, who is 14 years old. He said we needed to go somewhere else. I asked him where we needed to go, but he said nothing. As we do not speak the Lhasa dialect, communication was difficult. We asked the staff person to call a monk we knew from Sera Mey. We gave him the number and asked him to call on his mobile, but he did not do this, saying that the number didn’t work. He then took us to a two-story building. There was one Indian, a nun and three other men including the person who brought us here. The Indian didn't ask any questions.

The interrogation went as follows:
Department: "Which Deity does your monastery worship?"
Lobsang: "Our monastery worships the Deity Dorje Shugden."
Department: "If so, do you worship the Dalai Lama?"
Lobsang: "We worship Dorje Shugden as a Deity and the Dalai Lama as a Guru. Not only that, I brought a photo of the Dalai Lama. "
Department: "It is said that the photo was not allowed."
Lobsang: "As we have faith and belief, we keep the photo in our pocket."
Department: "If you worship Shugden, you are against the Dalai Lama. If you worship Shugden, you can't worship the Dalai Lama. You must choose one or the other."
Lobsang: "From generation to generation we have worshipped both the Dalai Lama and Shugden. Therefore we cannot choose between them, as I mentioned earlier."
They had a discussion among themselves and then told us to leave. We returned to the TRC. The next day, each of us was questioned by the TRC.
Interrogator: "What is your name, province and monastery?"
Lobsang: "My monastery is Gyaltang Songtsen Ling."
Interrogator: "How many monks are there in your monastery? Do they worship Shugden?"
Lobsang: "Our monastery has over eight hundred monks. They worship Shugden."
Interrogator: "Is the main statue of your monastery Lama Tsongkhapa or Guru Padmasambhawa?"
Lobsang: "The main statue is Tsongkhapa (the founder of the Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism)."
Interrogator: "Which monastic section of the monastery are you going to?"
Lobsang: "I am going to Pomra Khamtsen."
Interrogator: "If you are going to a monastery, you must sign that you never worship Shugden. You cannot go if you do not sign. This is in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s direction and the Kashag’s (Tibetan cabinet) order. We didn't formulate this policy. Therefore, you cannot have a reference letter. If you want to go to a school, there is no objection. But you cannot go to a monastery as long as you worship Dorje Shugden. So you must think well. I have no options for you."
A few days later, we were told not to stay in the TRC. We said we would leave the TRC if they gave us the reference letter, but that without a letter we had nowhere to go. A staff person threatened that if we didn’t leave the police would beat us and put us in prison. On September 20, the TRC stopped giving us meals and blankets; we were put in a empty room in the roof. We felt cold and hungry for the first time in our lives.

The staff again told us that we couldn’t stay at the TRC and would have to leave soon. We again asked them to give us the letter; they replied that they would not provide it if we didn’t sign a statement renouncing Dorje Shugden. We responded by saying that if they didn’t have the authority to provide a letter, let us meet Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche.

Then Lobsang Norbu and I were brought to the office of the Tibetan Cabinet. We didn't meet the Kalon Tripa. However, there was a young man in the Cabinet Office. We gave him our petition and returned.

“You can't stay here more than three days”, the TRC staff told us, “and you had better discuss this.” We repeated that we would go if they provided us with a letter; otherwise, we had nowhere to go. The next day we approached the Cabinet Office. After waiting a few minutes, Kalon Tripa and five or six men came together. We got up to show our respect. Kalon asked us our names and what was the matter. We said, “Rinpoche, please give us a letter of reference so that we can join the monastery.”

Kalon Samdhong responded:
“If you don’t sign declaring that you will stop worshipping Shugden, there is no way to send you to the monastery. It is better for you go back to Tibet. You’ll have to get the money for the journey”.
His response really hurt our hearts. He had no regard for us, as was evidenced by his words. Heartbroken, we returned to the TRC.

We continued to be threatened and harassed by the TRC staff, who told us they didn’t know when the police would be coming to arrest us and that we should leave as soon as possible.

On September 22, the police did come to the TRC and told us to leave Dharamshala as soon as possible or we would be imprisoned. The TRC and the police forced us to give two different signatures, declaring that: (1) we are leaving Dharamshala, and (2) we will go back to Tibet.

When I refused to sign, the police beat me with a stick. Lobsang Tseten got slapped.

They continued to interrogate us and told us again that we must sign the statement that we were returning to Tibet. The said our refusal to sign would result in our being booked into jail, and that those of us under the age of sixteen would be taken to a different facility.

The TRC staff informed us that the police gave us one week to leave or else we would be imprisoned. This was heartbreaking beyond belief. Our parents sent us to study Tibetan Buddhism and philosophy. To this end, we risked our lives to escape. We risked everything for this, but we journeyed to a free country only to have our own people persecute us—Tibetans, who always talk about peace, love and compassion for all living beings.

Again we were brought to the police station. We stayed there without food and drink for one day and were brought back to the TRC in the evening. The TRC staff said it was definite that the police would arrest us if we didn’t leave as soon as possible. We were young newcomers who were ignorant about this place and system, and had difficulty communicating. Given the situation and our experiences of the previous six months, it was clear we were trapped and that we should leave for the time being. Our hope was that we would have recourse with the Indian government to investigate our case and protect us.

We are deeply grateful to the Government of India for providing us asylum as Tibetan refugees. It is certain that the Tibetan Administration exiled in Dharamasala would not, even if they had the authority, give us refugee status.

(Background to these disturbing events can be found here.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dorje Shugden practitioners denied medical care and friendship

Report from South India, November 7, 2008:

(1) Denying medical care to Buddhist monks at their own monastery
A meeting was held in Gaden Lachi to discuss the dispensary run by Shartse monastery. They came to this conclusion:

“The dispensary has a relationship with the Dholgyal* organization and some Shugden monks are coming to the dispensary. Therefore, the dispensary must post a notice on its door, announcing that Shugden devotees are not allowed in the dispensary.”
*Dholgyal is a disrespectful term for Dorje Shugden.

Letter later posted by the clinic
(Translation from Tibetan text)

To the public,

The monks of Gaden Shartse Thoesam Norling monastery have already taken the oath and given their signatures, declaring that we will never keep a spiritual or material relationship with those who worship Dholgyal. Therefore, we announce that the Dholgyal followers, whoever they are, are denied access anything in the clinic of the monastery, directly, indirectly or thoroughly.

Gaden Shartse Norling Clinic Association

(This undated letter was posted on November 20, 2008. This same letter was posted on the wall of Shartse Library.)

(2) Deliberate destruction of friendships between Buddhist monks
On November 11, 2008, Shartse Monastery convened a meeting, which was attended by the Abbot, Disciplinarian, Chanting Master, and so on. The Chanting Master Tenzin Namdak reportedly said:
“Some Shugden devotees and non-Shugden devotees are friendly like before they were separated. They ride motorcycles and jeeps together. We should stop this friendship and company between monks from Shar Gaden monastery and Gaden Shartse monastery.”
This last incident is both distressing and curiously hopeful, showing that once the Dalai Lama has lifted his illegal and unconstitutional ban on Shugden practice and stopped the witch hunt of Shugden practitioners, perhaps life may return to normal for all the monks relatively quickly? This and other reports from the monasteries of South India are indicating that no one is happy with the ban, Shugden and non-Shugden practitioners alike, and that Abbots and so on are only going along with it as mandated by the TGIE and Dalai Lama. As shown on the documentary on the Al Jeezera News Report earlier this year, the Dalai Lama says:
“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.”

Important Announcement
(Translation of Tibetan Text)

To the public,

The monks of Gaden Shartse Thoesam Norling monastery have already taken the oath and given their signatures, declaring that we will never keep a spiritual or material relationship with those who worship Dholgyal. Therefore, we announce that the Dholgyal followers, whoever they are, are requested not to contact the the monastery, directly, indirectly or thoroughly.

Gaden Shartse Thoesam Norling monastery

(This undated letter was posted on November 19, 2008. And the same letter was posted on the wall of Shartse library.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Human rights violations of Dorje Shugden practitioners

In her well researched book of the late 1990s, Exiled from Exile, Dr Ursula Bernis explains how the ban of Dorje Shugden and resulting persecution came about. An extract:

"In the summer of 1996, the Tibetan government in exile was accused of human rights violations by many Tibetans and some of their Western supporters. Since then most critics have been pressured into silence. Although two prominent human rights organizations expressed their concerns privately to the exile government, they refused to do so publicly for several reasons including that it could be seen as undermining the efforts of the Dalai Lama and the much larger and more serious issue of improving human rights in Tibet under Chinese control. I have seen one of the letters shown to me on condition I not disclose it and its source."
Here is one of many examples of the human rights violations Dr Bernis is talking about. For more first-hand interviews of people conducted at that time -- chronicling abuses that continue right through to the present day -- see Detailed reports of discrimination from inside India and elsewhere.

Extracts from An Interview with Jamphel Yeshe

"For all my life in exile, I have had the welfare of Tibetans and the idea of freedom constantly on my mind. As is well known in the Tibetan community, I worked towards that end in many different ways. All of this is destroyed now by the defamation campaign against me and my family. Because of death threats, I cannot go anywhere alone. I have to live in constant fear of losing my life, my family, my community, my access to religion, my livelihood, -- in short, everything that is dear to me and makes my life worth living....

Q: How has the ban affected you personally?
A: Since the ban we have endless inner turmoil, day and night. My situation is not exceptional. Each and every Tibetan Buddhist who is not able to relinquish faith in his or her Guru is in the same situation. Since the ban was imposed by the Tibetan exile government, families have broken down in every Tibetan community. Children broke relations with their parents and teachers and students have stopped speaking with each other.

These things happened because the Tibetan exile government started a signature campaign against our faith. We were asked to sign a list swearing that we will give up our reliance on the Dharmapala (Dorje Shugden) for this and all future lives. These lists were passed around very publically so everyone could see who signed and who not. When the government stopped the Women's Association and Youth Congress continued to push people to sign. Through the public nature of this campaign we have been completely marginalized. As the president of the Dorje Shugden Society, it was my duty to inform all Tibetans about the situation.

If a Tibetan speaks out, the automatic reaction now is to find out whether or not he relies on Dorje Shugden. If he does, then as a Tibetan I should not have any contact with him, according to the Tibetan exile government. Because of the atmosphere of distrust created this way, I have lost many of my former friends and business contacts. They all know I rely on Dorje Shugden. It has become a trend within the Tibetan exile community for people to declare openly that they want to go after me and finish me. Threats are also made openly against my colleagues in the Society and we experience this prevailing atmosphere of fear and distrust as a great burden.

I am a family man, I have three children. My oldest son is twelve years old, the second son nine years, and my daughter is six years old. The two older children were in school at the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) in Dharamsala. I and my family received many explicit death threats. I found out through reliable sources -- I can't tell you who -- that an ex-military man and a member of the Tibetan parliament from Rajpur was discussing my two sons and their whereabouts in school in Dharamsala and my involvement with the Dorje Shugden Society with other Tibetans from a military background. Many Tibetans have joined the Indian army as part of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police after the CIA supported Khampa resistance ceased to be active. They have their own units, their own uniforms with their symbols but do not wear them publically.

He said they were well trained and that he and his colleagues would do whatever was necessary and whatever the Tibetan exile government wanted them to do against the Dorje Shugden people. For Tibetans who firmly believe that the Dalai Lama's life is threatened by those who rely on Dorje Shugden, these sentiments, and the willingness to act on them, are completely credible. So I took my children out of the school in Dharamsala and sent them to a safe place in another country. The perception was that anyone who wanted to attack us was free to do so.

The threat letters I received included statements like, "We will not spare your wife and children." One such letter says (in translation):
"To Tashi Dolma [Jamphel Yeshe's wife], from D.P. Gyatso. According to what I heard, your president husband, Chatreng Yeshe, has engaged in many plans regarding the Dalai Lama. Moreover, it is also said that you are going on a film shooting about the Dalai Lama, [Seven Years in Tibet] This being the case you are not permitted to participate in this filming. If you go, I will not spare you easily. We are youths of Darjeeling Voluntary Youth. If you don't believe it, you can come to Darjeeling anytime. Do you understand, slut. Secretary of Youth Group, Darjeeling, Kalimpong. P.S. Some of us are now in Delhi. You have to inform Chatreng Yeshi."
My wife and I received many threatening phone calls, and even our six year old daughter. When asked for a name, the answer was only "I am a man." Once, when they called, the child answered the telephone, as she often did, and the person on the other end told her, "There are fifteen of us here in Delhi and we will kill you and we will kill your father. We will destroy you." My daughter was very upset. She went to close all the doors and told me to stay inside. Early in the morning she would come to my bed and touch me. When I moved, she shouted, overjoyed, "Daddy is still alive."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Exiled from Exile

If you are interested in the subject of the Dalai Lama banning the practice of Dorje Shugden, you may find the following scholarly research by Dr Ursula Bernis, who was around all the main protagonists in the 1990s, very helpful. Here is an extract. The whole study can be found on the Dorje Shugden Devotees Website and also elsewhere on the worldwide web.

Exiled from Exile
© by Ursula Bernis, 1996 - 1999


While gathering material for a book on seminal Buddhist masters of this century I became aware in 1996 that because most belonged to the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and relied on the religious protector Dorje Shugden, they were suddenly at the center of a raging controversy. Told by the Dalai Lama to renounce ties with that venerable tradition they were put into a position of either breaking their vows or facing ostracism from the community. These greatest of masters who included one of the two tutors of the Dalai Lama had been central to the transmission of Buddhism as it traveled from Tibet to India and the rest of the world after 1959. They ensured the integrity of a living wisdom tradition that had been passed on from one adept to another for millennia. I was shocked to hear the ugly allegations against such venerated and highly respected Lamas. I personally knew many of them, had studied with them, and had had a chance to observe them in close proximity over many years. Like most everyone else, I found their gentle kindness, open-mindedness, and inclusive teachings exemplary.

Since every accusation against them contradicted facts, reason, and my own experience, I felt compelled to get to the bottom of the controversy that had generated such extreme views. It was impossible to continue my project without finding an explanation of how such a dramatic shift from the most revered masters to "devil worshipers" could have occurred and, moreover, how it could so completely possess the Tibetan cultural psyche in such a short time.

In the process of my work on this book I found that open debate about the subject was impossible in the exile community and that the conflict was driven by an emotional zeal for the Dalai Lama beyond all rational considerations, suggesting an identity crisis of unexpected proportions. The conditions of exile, the loss of country, home, family and the threat to the established religious world view certainly contributed to the Tibetans' exaggerated hold onto the one institution left to them, that of Dalai Lamas. However, there seemed something else at work that extended far beyond the Tibetan community to affect Western Tibet supporters as well. They exhibited similarly irrational responses to the conflict. No matter what approach one brought to the subject, all attempts at rational debate became immediately polarized and turned into a series of outlandish accusations none of which held up under scrutiny.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

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

In this article we continue to examine Thurman's book and point out the inconsistencies in what he writes about the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama's actions over the years. Through the Dalai Lama’s actions, we can glimpse his real qualities and beliefs; and we can see a big difference between Thurman's lavish hype and the truth.

To quote his own expression, the Dalai Lama's “Three Main Commitments in Life” are:

1. As a human being, to promote common human values, tolerance, compassion, and so on
2. As a religious practitioner, to promote world religious harmony, Buddhist self-discipline, and so on
3. As a Tibetan, to represent his people until oppression by China is solved, then retire to being a spiritual teacher in Drepung, his traditional monastic university. (p 35)

If the Dalai Lama claims that this is what he is trying to do with his life, let's examine these claims to see how much he is acting in accordance with his commitments. Thurman uses the world 'promote' rather than 'practice'. Does the Dalai Lama see himself as a promoter of these values, or as someone who encourages people to adopt these values through his own practice and example? Given the frequent discrepancy between his example and his rhetoric, it might fairly be said that he is acting like a salesman for something he hasn't bought himself.

For example, do these speeches by the Dalai Lama sound like tolerance, compassion and promoting world religious harmony to you? :

“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 the Dalai Lama is responsible for this." (Al Jazeera news report, October 2008)

“Until now you have done 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 Dholgyal (Dorje Shugden) is remembered.” (At a meeting of Tibetans in Caux, Switzerland in 1999)

For more examples of the Dalai Lama’s harsh and intolerant attitude toward fellow Buddhist practitioners, see In the Dalai Lama’s words.

Thurman now talks about the third commitment of the Dalai Lama:

In terms of the third commitment, the Dalai Lama is Tibetan and Tibetans place their trust in him (p 37)

Although the Dalai Lama is loved by many Tibetans, not all Tibetans trust him, and with good reasons. Here are some examples of Tibetans who do not trust him or accept the function of the Dalai Lama as it stands presently:

From the pro-Tibetan “Phayul” website:

“The institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose and is now obsolete. It has to end for the sake of Tibet. Religion, like a lot of other things, is personal. It must never meddle in the politics of Tibet. We have the past blunders to prove it. There must never be another regent. There must never be another religious king. There must never be another monk or nun Prime Minister. There must never be another Dalai Lama, at least with political powers. There must never be another Lama with political powers no matter who, whether it is a Bonpo, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug et al. It all now depends on the current Dalai Lama, the type of legacy that he wants to leave for Tibet…… The Dalai Lama has to resign in this incarnation as it will be almost impossible to do so if a 15th Dalai Lama/s is/are enthroned.”

From the recent France 2 Documentary Report, translated from French) (source)

Reporter: 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: 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 committed 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

And, of course, the Mongoose-Canine Letter, written in the 1990s by a group of Tibetans: always give priority to your own well-being and power, even at the cost of Tibet’s future. I am not trying to tell you that you should be concerned with the future Dalai Lamas regarding them being leaders of Tibet. I am telling you that you are not working for the future progress and democracy of the Tibetan people in Tibet. Also, I am telling you that you are extremely dishonest and hypocritical.

Thurman continues:

His sense of himself as a Tibetan comes, in this incarnation, from an extraordinary life, detailed in two autobiographies so far, and many works by others. Born in a well-off peasant farmer-trader family, he was recognized as the Dalai Lama very young, was brought up as a monk with a special education, was trained to be a head of state, and was entrusted with the political leadership of his people. (p38)

No mention is made that he was born into a Muslim family. Many people misunderstood why the Western Shugden Society made known in the West what is already public knowledge to many Tibetans. There was no insult to Muslims; it is just curious why, if the Dalai Lama was genuine, he would choose to be born into a family of a completely different religion. Given that the genuine Dalai Lama is supposed to have control over his rebirth, is it not a curious choice? The implication is that the Dalai Lama may not be genuine and that his non-Buddhist actions in discriminating against the practitioners of his Spiritual Guide’s tradition seem to corroborate this. This is further supported by the article on the Western Shugden Society website explaining how the Reting Rinpoche, the regent of Tibet, caused the wrong boy to be chosen as the Dalai Lama. The deception by Reting Regent was suspected in Tibet at the time, but naturally covered up for political reasons. (Later, the deception was compounded by recognizing the Dalai Lama’s siblings also as reincarnate Lamas).

That, of course, was no fault of the boy who became the Dalai Lama. One cannot help but feel compassion for the Dalai Lama if he is not a realized being. His upbringing must have been curious and lonely. Indeed, Thurman makes the observation earlier in the book that the Dalai Lama seemed to him to be “slightly stressed, lonely and a little sad” (p 6). No wonder the eleven-year-old boy greeted the arrival of Heinrich Harrer in Lhasa in 1946 with such excitement, receiving from him much tutoring about the outside world, despite Harrer having been a Nazi sergeant in the Waffen-SS from 1938.

The young Tenzin Gyatso was certainly invested with a lot of responsibility and the heavy weight of everyone's expectations from an early age. However, no matter how abnormal the Dalai Lama's childhood may have been, it cannot be used as an excuse for his present sectarian actions in persecuting Shugden practitioners, for which he should be made to answer internationally. If the Dalai Lama's actions of working for a peaceful solution to the Tibetan problem was recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize, his actions of persecution, curtailing religious freedom and causing disharmony in the Tibetan community should also fairly be recognized.