Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Scapegoating of Dorje Shugden and Dorje Shugden Practitioners

In a recent letter, taking up many pages, Shugden (‘Dholgyal’) is once again blamed for Tibet’s religious and political problems:

Dharamshala, Edition 205, December 3, 2008

The warning that overpowers the dark side of the Three Realms, the self-voice of truth that reveals nakedly the self-embarrassment of the enemy who ambushes Tibetan religion and politics!

Written by some interested persons including Thupten Choepel

With our own eyes, we are observing a matter of life and death, where Tibetan religion and policies, including Tibetan nationals, are on the verge of extinction. This gloomy predicament has not occurred without a cause, nor was it simply due to the invasion by China. It is also not that there is lack of sufficient instruction from qualified gurus and deities, nor something that has taken place suddenly. This is a repercussion of negligence, backward, and many unfavorable conditions in many ways – the most serious of which is the Dholgyal issue… I view that China, Dholgyal, and Dholgyal society are equal in creating obstacles to Tibetan religion and politics.

Which brings us to a series of articles called "The Buddhist Witch", whose author has presented theory and research into how a witch-naming, scapegoating psychology has enabled the superstitious persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners (induced by the actions of the Dalai Lama). Judging by the comments, people have found these articles thought-provoking, so we include some extracts here. If you are interested, please go to the original blog.

The Buddhist witch: Part one

... it is still apparent to me that there are enormous parallels between the naming and shaming of Shugdenites, particularly in India’s exiled Tibetan community, and the naming and shaming of so-called witchcraft practitioners all over the world.

The Buddhist witch: Part two

Well, let’s remove the Shugden scenario from its current political and religious context and examine it in stark academic terms. The fact is, once you’re familiar with examples of witch persecution around the world, the similarity with the kind of social ostracism and persecution that’s being visited on Shugden practitioners in the Exiled Tibetan Community in India, and indeed in the West too, becomes all too apparent.

Like ‘witches’, Shugdenites are accused of conducting harmful practices. In the language used, the nature of this harm is often vague, but it includes a general harm against other practitioners and against unwitting Shugden worshippers too. And just as with accusations against so-called ‘witches’, actual proof of this harm is rather scant. In fact, there is none. Not even the most ardent detractors of Shugden worship have been able to show any tangible evidence of the harmful and destructive nature of Shugden practice…

Like ordinary witchcraft trials the world over, no evidence has been needed to confirm the guilt of Shugden worshippers in perpetuating what is considered a harmful practice . With witch persecution, the effectiveness of the accusation has never depended on actual or reliable evidence. The same is the case here. For the most part, the claim of harmful practice against Shugdenites is reliant on hearsay and hypothesis, and the same would be true at any witch trial. It is given authority by numerous lamas, including the Dalai Lama, just as once inquisitors and sometimes even the Pope lent weight and authority to allegations of witchcraft and heresy…

And like those accused of being witches elsewhere, Shugdenites are currently being shunned within their communities. More than that, this ostracism is completely socially acceptable to most constituents of those communities.

The Buddhist witch: Part three

Witchcraft cannot be proven. Indeed, no proof is required. The success of any accusation relies entirely on whether or not the accusation can gain popular sanction. This is the basis of another theory: status degradation. If the accuser is able to convince the community that the person he or she has accused really is a witch, then he or she will have managed to reduce the status of that person in the eyes of everyone else. Moreover, they will have elevated their own status considerably….

I think it’s certainly pertinent that the Dalai Lama did not begin his campaign against Shugden in earnest until many of the most influential Shugden practitioners had died or had passed from influence….

It is an interesting fact that it’s taken over 10 years for Shugden to surface as a human rights issue within any degree of credibility. The impregnable reputation and status the Dalai Lama has enjoyed has ensured that the issue has never received popular sanction. And the vilification of proponents of Shugden has ensured that their case has not, until recently, been properly aired.

Moreover, as a consequence of the ban on Shugden, and the claims levelled against Shugden as a practice, lamas such as Trijang Rinpoche and Phabongka Rimpoche, who once enjoyed great status, are now discredited and even widely despised.

The Buddhist witch: Part four

The traitor within the gates: The underlying thesis of this theory is that, in the view of the persecutors, witches can be likened to traitors. It identifies the fact that, in social terms, witches are not generally viewed as an external threat. They are almost always people known to the accusers, and close to them. In truth, in most communities, the witches identified are usually neighbours, friends or family members – not strangers. So they are ‘within the gates’, operating within the confines of the community, part of the fold. And this makes the malicious acts attributed to them even more reprehensible. After all, there’s nothing more despicable than betrayal. And nothing inspires fear quite like the suspicion that someone close to you is out to get you.

Of course, the acts of treachery ascribed to witches are as invisible as they are harmful. And this makes the perceived breach of faith that much more acute….

…. In Dorje Shugden and his practitioners, Tibetans have been able to find the cause for a host of misfortunes that afflict them- from cattle disease to inexplicable deaths.

….. Tibet has found its scapegoats. And so has international Tibetan Buddhism.

The Buddhist witch: Part five

Where a cause to something is not evident, it is readily created. This is the real psychology behind witch naming. It is born from fear. And it is universal.

In many ways, the Yellow Book seems to be where much of the current conflict started. It’s a book of stories. Or, I should say, it’s a catalogue of misfortunes. The same sort of misfortunes I became familiar with in stories relating to witch naming in African, European, North American, Asian and Pacific accounts. Something bad happens, something supernatural is attributed as the cause. This is the pattern…

When you look at the stories above, there is nothing remarkable about the cause of death. These are ordinary deaths, by all accounts. Falling on a bicycle spoke is unfortunate, but it’s not unfathomable, and neither is it mysterious. Well, of course, neither is getting hit by lightning. Neither are any of the multitude of misfortunes generally attributed to witches….

How come these far-fetched accounts seem to have had such a big impact on the Dalai Lama, on lamas in other schools, and on ordinary Tibetans?

The Buddhist witch: Part six

“The danger of Dorje Shugden practice is that it can cause Buddhism to degenerate into a form of spirit worship.”

The above statement by the Dalai Lama was used to explain his stance on Dorje Shugden practice during the first demonstrations on the ban in the late 1990s. It is something he has reiterated several times in 2008 during the most recent demonstrations.

For those who are aware that the Dalai Lama himself is involved in various forms of spiritism, this has often been a source of tremendous bemusement. That involvement includes personally consulting the Nechung oracle on numerous issues, the nature of Dorje Shugden being just one of those issues…

The Buddhist witch: Conclusion

In Australia in 2008, when members of the Western Shugden Society protested against the Dalai Lama outside Sydney’s Olympic Park, a TV reporter asked a Tibetan supporter of the Dalai Lama what all the fuss was about. Her response was insightful. She said she didn’t really know much about the protesters, but she suspected they practiced some kind of Tibetan witchcraft. These were the words she used. They were in English. Nothing was lost in the translation.

In New York a month or two later, during the most dramatic moment of the protests by far, WSS demonstrators were surrounded by a highly energised and volatile crowd of Tibetan Dalai Lama supporters. I watched footage of the event online later. The most striking thing for me were the many Tibetan women waving their aprons at the protesters. This is a gesture Tibetans use to ward off spirits.

Of course, there was another common reaction that day. Many people waved money, or threw coins at the protesters, indicating that they had been bought off by the Chinese. In other words, they were treacherous. There were perfidious violators of trust. Like witches everywhere, they were traitors within the gates, and objects of utter contempt.

There is a great deal of evidence to support the points I’ve been making in this series - that supporters of Shugden are indeed the ‘witches’ of Tibetan Buddhism. They are the scapegoats of the Tibetan predicament. …

Ironically, China then is not the real problem. The real problem is Shugden. China’s invasion is just the natural consequence of the evil of Shugden worship. Though karma is invoked here, the parallel to accusations of witchcraft elsewhere couldn’t be clearer.


Tenzin said...

It is not just Tibetans who have fallen prey to the witch-hunting mentality. Educated Westerners have also been suckered into it through some strange suspension of disbelief (the emperor's new clothes mentality).

One of the best examples of this is Namdrol of E-Sangha, who is virulently anti-Dorje Shugden practitioners (including some of the greatest Gelugpa Lamas who ever lived) for a bewildering array of superstitious and anti-rational 'reasons'. This is simply, it seems, because he has fallen for the see-through propaganda spread by various fearful and fear-mongering Tibetans, and because:

"My Guru, the late Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje [1926-1993], was personally appointed by the present Dalai Lama to control this spirit in Dharamsala."

What on earth is he talking about?! What does this kind of animism have to do with Buddhism?It has far more to do with the pre-Buddhist religion of Bon in Tibet, if anything -- but mainly it is sheer superstition.

However, basing his decision on foolish statements like this, Namdrol has banned Shugden practitioners in general and the New Kadampa Tradition in particular from his chat group E-Sangha, in a modern variation of a persecutory witch hunt. More about that here:

Gail McFadden said...

I found this well-expressed comment on American Buddhist Net, which seems to have relevance to the subject of witch hunting at hand. I know the person who posted it and am sure he won't mind me re-posting it here. He is answering points made by a previous blogger:

1. You say that Shugden practitioners brought this situation onto themselves because they kept 'pushing the issue.' If you read the account from the person at Sera monastary, what his account essentially amounts to is the Shugden practitioners had the audacity to 'insist' on continuing to engage in their practice 'openly', and to even 'buy statues' despite the fact that they knew the Dalai Lama was against the practice and that it would aggravate the other monks in the monastery. They should have instead been good monks and just quietly did as they were told, not creating any trouble. Hmmmm, lets think about this. If you follow this logic, then Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks likewise are to be blamed for the white backlash against the civil rights movement in the U.S. They had the audacity to insist on being able to ride in that bus just like those white folks, and 'openly' want to be able to drink from the same water fountains, and, can you believe it, they even wanted to attend the same Churches!!! They did this despite the fact that they knew the good White-folks of the South would be most upset. How dare they! They should have just quietly led their segregated life and not complained. For that matter, what about that Ghandi guy? What was he thinking...

2. You say popular opinion was with the Dalai Lama. Well of course it was. After 30 years of relentless propaganda saying that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit who is to blame for every Tibetan misfortune and that anybody who engages in the practice is a blood-thirsty murdering Chinese collaborator, what else is popular opinion supposed to think? The fact that these allegations are all false is of course besides the point... Popular opinion was with Goebbels after only a few years of propaganda against the Jews. The Dalai Lama has had 30 years and is revered as a 'God-King'. Popular opinion was also in favor of segregation in the South. I guess things should have just stayed that way...

3. You quote that 'fortunately' some people have explained the events that lead up to the current situation. If you read what these articles have to say, you will see the following: The 5th Dalai Lama (or his supporters) had Tulku Dragpa Gylatsen killed due to his opposition to the 5th Dalai Lama mixing religion and politics by using State power to enforce an ecumenical approach to Buddhism in an effort to consolidate his own political power. He then became paranoid that the spirit of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen had come back to haunt him. And now, 400 years later, the current Dalai Lama (who is supposedly the same mental continuum as the 5th) is still trying to silence any opposition by banning the practice of Dorje Shugden and thus severing the link between Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen (now Dorje Shugden) and this world. In route, he persecutes innocent Dorje Shugden practitioners for crimes they never committed and seeks to vilify the last major defender of Dorje Shugden, his own spiritual father Trijang Rinpoche. Or to use a more modern metaphor for this farsical, yet tragic, story:

Darth Vader was a bit bummed that OB1 Kenobe came back more powerful than Darth could possibly imagine after he had killed him, and then Vader went about pursuing young Skywalker in a spiritually-oedipal effort to destroy any last influence of his spiritual father (OB1) from that galaxy far far away. The more you think about it, the parallels between the story of Darth Vader and the Dalai Lama are striking! Too bad the defenders of the Dalai Lama do not realize that they are on the wrong side of the force. Annakin told OB1 that 'from my perspective, the Jedi are evil'. To which OB1 replied, 'then you truly are lost...' (Sorry for the Star Wars digression, I found it amusing. But it should not distract from the essential substance that is being argued here and that affects real human lives suffering under this ban).

Thom said...

Herein lies the victim of the Last Witch Hunt in 1692, known as the Salem Witch Trials in Massachussetts. All were hung by the neck until dead. The persecutors were remembered as will be the idiots who persecute the Devoted of Shri Dorje Shugden. This Dalia and his cohorts will be remembered as small minded people filled with fear,ignorance and greed. The same attributes that Cotton Mathers, who persecuted the citizens of Salem and has been branded in history as a complete self serving idiot.
January 19th is the last day for the TGIE to get their act together before the New Delhi High Courts.
The image of TGIE attempting to defend their position on Dorje Shugden in the Light Of Day will be thrilling, to say the least.

Bridget Bishop

Rev. George Burroughs

Martha Carrier

Giles Cory

Martha Cory

Mary Easty

Sarah Good

Elizabeth How

George Jacobs Sr.

Susannah Martin

Rebecca Nurse

Alice Parker

Mary Parker

John Proctor, Sr.

Ann Pudeator

Wilmot Redd

Margaret Scott

Samuel Wardwell

Sarah Wilds

John Willard

Thom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thom said...

Dear Tenzin Gyatso Norbu[alias Dalia Lama]Samdung,TGIE,TYC,

Consider this a basic lesson in Democracy 101. It would behoove you to take note of the transition of medieval feudalism of Tibetan Mahayanna Buddhism into the embrace of Western Democracy. It serves as an anchor for the New Dharma to fourish. Unhindered and unmolested by theocratic dictators as manifested in the guise of this Dalia Lama. His cohorts consider thuggery as the medthodolgy to accomplish their small-minded ambitions. We will not tolerate the abuses from this cult that has embedded itself on a hillside of India.Their backwardness cannot be tolerated in the emerging world of mutual cooperation and protection of the tenets of global freedom that are inherent for each and every human being on the face of our planet Earth.
No more will our right be threatened by such small minded people. Whose only ambition is to control and subjugate others with lies and deceits of every kind.

10 Principles of True Patriotism
American Exceptionalism

Responsibility for the Common Good

Equality of Opportunity

Patriotic Capitalism

Mutual Obligation

Service to Country


Common Sense Virtue

Tolerance and Common Cause


Anonymous said...

Nowadays, some of HH the Dalai Lama's followers have their own special pride. They claim that HH the Dalai Lama is so superior that they themselves should be considered superior.

HH the Dalai Lama, it is true, is very great, but it does not necessarily follow that one who claims to be among His followers is also great. The greatness of a master depends upon his realization. Blind allegiance to a master cannot make a practitionner superior.

It is common for them to look down on the practitionners of Dorje Shugden, thinking of them
as ignorant practitionners whose practice is not supported by right understanding of the Dharma's true meaning.

Some of them claim that the Dorje Shugden practitionners don't belong anymore to their Gelugpa tradition. Others, go as far as claiming that the Dorje Shugden practitionners are not to be considered as Dharma followers.

These are attitudes commonly found among tibetan buddhist monks and lay people.
They may be common attitudes, but they are not Buddhist attitudes.

One who despises another Buddhist school despises the Buddha. He impairs the transmission of the Dharma. The presence of the Dharma is jeopardized by such an attitude, and one becomes cut off from its transmission. This is so because one's refuge vows are based upon reliance on the Enlightened One, His Teachings, and the Holy Community. If one rejects Dharma one breaks one's refuge vow and thereby becomes cut off from the Dharma. By rejecting this Dharma that is the only door to happiness for beings and oneself, one accumulates inexhaustible sin.

Therefore, the Buddha taught that one should also not despise the Dharma of non-Buddhists for it is their source of happiness and benefit. One should not despise or harbour contempt for the doctrines of the Hindus, Christians, or other non-Buddhist religions because this attitude of attachment to one's own side while rejecting the possibility of differences is harmful to one's own spiritual career.

Those people who harbour voiced or unvoiced contempt for the teachings and the lineage of other schools incur great sin and terrible consequences. Worst of all, this attitude is as unnecessary as it is harmful.


BellBookCandle said...

Such ritual is sacred in nature which requires high respect and complex understanding. Its force should never be underestimated for it is why beyond powerful.

Bell, Book & Candle - Gifts & Fine Metaphysical Supplies