Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wanted Posters of Tibetan Western Shugden Society supporters

On the bus from New York City to Madison, on the way to the Western Shugden Society Demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin, July 19, 20, 21

I had the good fortune to be on the bus from New York to Madison with over 30 Tibetans. They were part of the Tibetan WSS contingent going there to protest the Dalai Lama in order to protect their spiritual lineage from his unpopular political ban.

After journeying for a few hours deep in the woods of Pennsylvania, the Tibetans in the front of the bus began to sing a folk song. Upon its conclusion the Tibetans in the back of the bus reciprocated with another folk song. After much whooping, hollering and applauding, the Tibetans in the front of the bus then came back with yet another folk song -- and so it went for over an hour.

We the Westerners felt quite culturally deprived as we realized that we would hardly be able to pull together even two complete songs before running out. The Tibetans were easily demonstrating the richness of their culture as well as their joie de vivre even in these trying times. It was a poignant and touching moment to hear these beautiful voices celebrating their culture. As Lobsang (not his real name) later said to me:

"They accuse us of being Chinese agents and against Tibet, but we love our country. Of course we want a free Tibet. This is why we bring the Tibetan flags to our demonstrations. It is because of the Dalai Lama's words that we have been thrown out of Tibetan exile communities. Now we are like refugees among refugees.”

All of a sudden, the atmosphere in the bus changed and the Tibetans began speaking amongst themselves in hushed tones. Some of them started texting and making phone calls. Clearly something had come up.

One of the Tibetans who spoke good English came and sat down next to me and explained that they had just received a text. All their photos had been posted on the wall of a Tibetan restaurant in Queens, wanted posters, along with sentences such as: "These people are paid by the Chinese", "These people are bad", and other implicit and explicit threats.

For a while the Tibetans discussed what to do, but then they decided that they could not run from this.

As Lobsang explained to me: “Where am I going to go now? I've already left India for America. There is no place else to run. Now is the time for me to make my stand. I have to do this even though I have a mother in India and they have threatened her, and told her that she must stop all contact with me, her son. My wife and children don't want me to do this but I feel I have no choice. The Dalai Lama and his government and security forces are destroying our lineage. They are killing our Gurus.

We have to take these threats in Queens very seriously. They have killed people. For example, it is an open secret -- everyone in the Tibetan community talks about this -- that Dagom Rinpoche was quite possibly poisoned in 2006. Two or three days afterward, one of the oracles of Dorje Shugden was killed in similarly mysterious circumstances. They can use sophisticated poisons; after all they are trained by the CIA. When two young and healthy pro-Shugden leaders die for such unexplained causes, this is a strange coincidence.
[NB No autopsy was performed and the cause of death remains unknown.]

Lobsang continued: “Most of the Tibetans on this bus do not have family in India. Their families are in Tibet. Most Dorje Shugden practitioners in the West who still have families in India feel that they are not able to stand with us in public demonstrations because it puts their families in danger. However, they call me and thank me for what we are doing. They say they want to help, for example with money.

There are hundreds of Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners in the New York area. There are hundreds in the Madison area. All of them are behind us, but mostly they cannot show their support in public.

In Tibet, there are still whole regions where people practise Dorje Shugden and so there is no danger in those areas at this time. However they have begun to bring the oath swearing to Tibet as well.

They are very skilful. They have one piece of paper that is kept hidden and the other one that is legal. The secret one is the Dalai Lama's saying that you have to sign this. The legal one is how would you like to have a vote in which you decide whether to do this or not?

Most of the Tibetans here used to be monks. We were all forced to leave our monasteries after what happened in 1996 when the Dalai Lama first implemented and enforced the ban on Dorje Shugden.

For example, for one of the Tibetans, what took place during the New York demonstrations [when thousands of Tibetans started shouting and pelting us with spit, water bottles and coins] was nothing in comparison to what happened to him in India. He said: "Oh that was nothing. When the monks demonstrated against the ban in 1996 in India, we were pelted with stones and sixty monks had to be taken to hospital."

All we want to do is practice our lineage in peace. Lately the Dalai Lama has been giving a new justification. He says: "I give religious freedom and they take it away." This is completely untrue. We don't want to restrict anyone's right to practice their religion. Why should we? We are just trying to protect our own lineage from being destroyed. Now we need to make a stand. We had a big meeting in which we decided this and now we will see it through. What else can we do?

All of us on this bus and elsewhere have had to flee India for America. Now that they are bringing in the signature campaign and destroying our lineage even here in America, I have nowhere else to run to. When you know that they are destroying your lineage and killing your Gurus, you have to make a stand. I have no choice. I don't care if I myself die. Of course I am worried about my wife, children and mother. But I have taken out life insurance so then I don't need to worry.

Many of these people here don't have a wife or children because they used to be monks until they were expelled from their monastery and home. I used to run my own monastic community. A small monastery that practiced Dorje Shugden. Now I work twelve hours a day, six days a week, in a restaurant.”

[Another Tibetan, who was actually a Rinpoche, laughingly told me that he used to debate for twelve hours a day in a monastery. Now he spends twelve hours a day cutting vegetables.]

Lobsang continued: “We were very happy to come to America because at least we have freedom here to do our spiritual practice. But even now here in America we are completely ostracized from our communities. My child cannot go to a school where there are other Tibetan children because they have been told to ignore any child connected with a Dorje Shugden practitioner.

We have been discussing these threats against us in Queens. And we have made a decision. We will contact Radio Free Asia and let them know that these threats have been issued and let them know that if anything should happen to any one of us, it will be the Dalai Lama's responsibility. Previously we would never have said it like this but now we have no choice. It is his responsibility to protect his people but instead he is doing the opposite.”

I reflected to myself on the reasons articulated in the recent New York Times article for the Dalai Lama's defence of his position on the practice of Dorje Shugden, where he had said that 99 percent of his people are with him and only 1 per cent against him. He said: "I am for freedom of expression so let them have freedom of talk."

It is considerably more than 1 percent of his people who are against him. Once upon a time, the practice of Dorje Shugden was relied upon by almost every Gelugpa, which was the largest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, even if it was only 1 percent, any normal Western politician would actually have said that the 1 percent is very precious to our democracy and that they need to be protected. They wouldn't just be given freedom to talk but freedom to practice.

The Dalai Lama's statement "give them freedom to talk" was actually patronizing and dismissive and clearly did nothing to curb the anger of the Tibetans listening to him, who came out in New York and promptly attacked us. It is amazing how people are bedazzled by his words and overlook his contradictory actions.

I thanked Lobsang for his explanation and first-hand stories. He replied: "I know it is useful to hear personal first-hand accounts. When you just read the various words, it is easy to develop doubts and therefore we feel the need to tell our stories.”

An increasing number of stories are coming to light. See the Western Shugden Society website for more videos and testimonies, including the recent documentary by the French news team.

Published by Western Shugden Society demonstrator and kind courtesy of Lobsang.

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