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Can the Dalai Lama Justify non-virtuous actions? Part II November 14, 2008

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 Dalai Lama Justifying non-virtue — Part II

A theory explaining why it is okay for the Dalai Lama to marginalize Dorje Shugden practitioners.

 

Many people accuse Dorje Shugden practitioners of being violent, terrorists, fundamentalists, cultish, etc.  These accusations are completely false and are not based on valid evidence that can be proven in a court of law.  If the accusations are true, why have those who oppose Dorje Shugden practitioners not bring such evil-doers to justice in fair trials?  To assert accusations as if they were fact while there is no evidence is a symptom of ignorance. It is superstitious and fear mongering.  

 

The reason why these criticisms are levied against the Dorje Shugden practitioners is done to discredit Dorje Shugden himself and subsequently justify the actions taken against Dorje Shugden followers.  It is the same psychology behind much of the discrimination and oppression that we have seen in this world.  Such as the Native Americans, African slaves, and Jews in the holocaust to name a few.

 

When such views are enforced by a higher power, a perfect being who is infallible, then it is blasphemy to disagree with that perfect being.  Because who are we, mere ordinary beings, to dare question the pronouncements of such a higher being? So then (in the case of the Dalai Lama) ‘Enemies’ of the church become enemies of the state, and enemies of the state are the worst kind because they threaten the stability of society and government. The reason I put enemies in quotes is because in  this case they are not really enemies. They are just people with a different view, practice, or belief who have been conjured up as enemies without proper reason.

 

Then we have the idea of faith.  In the purest sense faith helps us to see beyond this ordinary world and connect with higher beings who inspire us towards spiritual advancement.  Such faith is able to also see resemblances of higher beings in those who are around her, which serves as further fuel for her spiritual fire.  This is beautiful. We can see this happening in many sincere religious people around the world.

 

There is an apparent downside to faith, however, when we have blind faith or faith that is not based on reason.  I’ll call this incorrect faith for the sake of this article.  So how does this incorrect faith come about? It is important first to note that a correct faith is connecting with an actual truth with regards to the object of faith.  For example, when one has faith in Buddha he will regard Buddha as having perfected his love, and based upon this recognition aspire and act to attain a similar state.  So Buddha actually has this perfectly pure mind of love.  It would be incorrect faith to believe that someone who has not developed their mind in love and compassion is actually such a higher being.  This is because emulating their example would not lead the disciple along the path of enlightenment. 

 

Buddha looked at each and every being as though they were a dear friend or child, cherishing them and inspiring them to gain the realizations of renunciation, bodhichitta, wisdom realizing emptiness and the two stages of Secret Mantra.

 

Is this the type of behavior we see from the Dalai Lama?

I think not.

He’s got his own Tibetan people signing oaths to not associate with other Tibetan people, encouraging monasteries to throw out students who are practicing the prayer of Dorje Shugden and he openly claims full responsibility in front of a large audience. (See the Al-Jazeera news report http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqON2lxArek).  How can you become a benefactor of all living beings if you can’t even sit at the same table with them? Or sell them some food? These are not compassionate minds. These are minds of righteousness and hatred.

 

This negativity it is justified by demonizing the oppressed.  In the words of Samdong, the TGIE Prime Minister:

“A lot of shugden perpetrators are becoming terrorists and they are willing to kill anybody, they are willing to beat up anybody. “

 

It becomes good vs. evil, and then it is okay to do horrible things to the evil. It is the same as fundamentalist Christians who engage in ‘holy wars’ or Islamic extremists who are trying to rid the world of infidels. What is worse about this case is that the Dalai Lama has got the modern world fooled… with his Hallmark-card style sayings, signature smile, and old Tibetan monk giggle we’re all smitten.  The Path to enlightenment is much much more than this. 

Can the Dalai Lama Justify non-virtuous actions? October 22, 2008

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Justifying non-virtue

 

 

Can a sincere Buddhist practitioner ever justify engaging in harmful actions? Quite frankly, the answer is no.  The reason why this is impossible is because in order to be Buddhist you must take refuge in the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.  A Buddha is an enlightened being to works effortlessly to benefit all beings, loving them like a mother loves her only child.  It would be a blatant contradiction to turn to refuge to Buddha and then harm another living being, kind of like showing respect to a mother and then harming her child. 

 

The Dharma that is taught within Gelugpa Buddhism is Mahayana Dharma, which is distinguished from Hinayana Dharma by the bodhichitta motivation that a Mahayana practitioner generates while engaging in their spiritual practice.  This bodhichitta motivation is principally a wish to benefit living beings that is accompanied by a wisdom understanding that attaining perfect complete enlightenment is the only method to permanently free others from their pain and problems.

 

So then, how is it possible that so many people call themselves Buddhist yet continuously slander and shun practitioners of  Dorje Shugden around the world? There must be some discrepancy in the mind that would justify this.  (For evidence of such injustice and harm you can look at the following websites:

http://www.wisdombuddhadorjeshugden.blogspot.com/

http://www.westernshugdensociety.org/index.php?/

 

These links show some examples of countless cases of discrimination and persecution that is something like a witch-hunt.)

 

The discrepancy unfortunately comes from an unquestioning trust in the Dalai Lama   (which a majority of the modern world has) as being a kind, compassionate, wise person.  But for Tibetans he is more than that.  He is in fact a god, a living god on earth, infallible and omniscient. He also happens to be their president.  

As a result, a subservient attitude is built into this relationship that places the Dalai Lama on a pedestal where it is unacceptable to question or disagree. As a Tibetan if you question or disagree with the Dalai Lama it means that you are automatically against him and against the cause of a free Tibet, which necessarily means that you are an agent of the Chinese government. This is not logic; this is foolish. However, ‘intellectuals’ and ‘academics’ such as Robert Thurman believe and say such things about Dorje Shugden practitioners. Just one question for those who believe that accusation: How can you claim that all of the sudden, Dorje Shugden followers are agents of the Chinese Government? There have been generations of practitioners attaining enlightenment in dependence upon relying on Dorje Shugden, which took place before any Chinese involvement in Tibet. Those who are maintaining this practice are trying to simply keep this tradition alive.

 

We can see various examples of people who openly disagree with the Dalai Lama and subsequently become discredited, ostracized, or harmed in some way.  Such examples can be found on the websites above and from the testimonies of various Tibetans and Monks who I have met. I have heard their stories with my own ears. I have seen a restaurant owner and a jeweler lose their business partners and clients, I have seen a family of Tibetans in New York City lose the support of their fellow Tibetan community,  because they wish to continue their spiritual practice.  The Dalai Lama even has the gaul to discredit his own spiritual forefathers without whom he would have no Dharma teachings to offer.  This is completely heinous.

 

It is because of people’s trust and faith in him that his words are taken on as the truth without critically questioning. 

 

In New York City when the Dalai Lama is asked about the how to keep a peaceful mind when viewing the demonstrating Dorje Shugden Buddhists he says nothing about to keep inner peace through practicing love, patient acceptance, respecting other peoples beliefs.

 

So where are his priorities? Are his priorities on keep a peaceful mind and helping others keep peaceful minds, or is he more interested in politics and making his position on a particular issue clear to the public. Why does he not issue a statement saying that is unacceptable for his followers to throw bottles, coins, spit on, and give death threats to those who disagree with his view? 

 

The reason is because these actions are justified by him and by bad logic.  Some people might disagree and say that he has not actually condoned such negativity. I say that his silence on the matter is his approval.  As a leader it is his responsibility to guide his people in the right direction.

 

Unfortunately many people trust his words more than their own reasoning and wisdom.  In Buddhism it is explained that harming living beings is a path to suffering. But that basic Buddhist understanding is lost with respect to Dorje Shugden practitioners. You can believe me or not, it doesn’t matter, just look with your own eyes and examination… is there harm being done to these people? Regardless of all the elaborations, reasoning, complexities and politics that are put forth by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government, and others, none of these justify anyone engaging in negativity. Actions have effects, so I pray from the depths of my heart that whatever small merit I accumulate through my practice of Dharma may be used to protect these beings from future suffering. May they meet pure spiritual guides and pure Dharma, quickly realize the path of liberation set forth by the conqueror Buddhas and achieve release from the prison of samsara.

OM AH HUM

Stick Referendum Contradicts Vinaya September 9, 2008

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The purpose of this article is to examine whether or not the recent actions of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama with respect to the practice of Dorje Shugden are in accordance with the Vinaya, Buddha’s Code of Conduct. My intention here is not to engage in hurtful speech or divisive speech but rather to investigate the Dorje Shugden dispute through the lens of the Vinaya with a wish to determine which of the two opposing views on this practice is in accord with the Dharma. In particular, the Dalai Lama has initiated referendums at each of the great Gelugpa monasteries on this issue and my efforts here are focused on checking the validity of these referendums.

During a speech made by the Dalai Lama in January 8th 2008 at Drepung Loseling Monastery (transcript from Voice of America) he said:

“In the Vinaya rules also, when there is a contentious issue, the monks take vote-sticks and decide, as mentioned in the seven methods of resolving conflict. In contemporary democratic practice, there is such a thing as ‘referendum’, ‘consulting the majority’. The matter has now reached this point of consulting what the majority wants. Therefore, when you return to your respective places after this programme at Loseling Monastery, put these questions:

1. Whether you want to worship Dholgyal. This is the first question. Those who want to worship, should sign saying they wish to worship Dholgyal; those who don’t want, should sign saying that [they] don’t want to.

2. ‘[Whether] we want to share the religious and material amenities of life with Dholgyal worshippers.’ You should sign saying so. ‘We do not want to share religious and material amenities of life with Dholgyal worshippers.’ (You should) sign saying so.’”


The particular section of the Vinaya to which the Dalai Lama is referring , known as “The Seven Methods for Resolving Conflict”, is the scriptural basis for the referendums at the great Gelugpa monasteries of Sera, Ganden, and Drepung. I decided to study these instructions to discern whether or not those procedures are being followed. As I proceeded I was shocked to find that the protocols laid out by Buddha on how to handle such conflicts are being completely ignored by both the Dalai Lama and the abbots of those monasteries. In fact, the particular translation and commentary I referenced for this article offered many instructions that, if followed sincerely, would ease much of the suffering being endured by practitioners on both sides of this issue.

For the sake of readability and in the interest of space I will not insert all seven methods for resolving conflict here. I have based this article in its entirety upon The Buddhist Monastic Code, Volume I: The Patimokkha Training Rules Translated and Explained, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Thanissaro Bhikkhu for this work as I would be unable to investigate the scriptural validity of these referendums without his kindness in composing this work. In this instance it is not ideal to use the Pali translation of the Vinaya Pitaka because it would not be the translation that the Dalai Lama himself would follow. However, after some consideration, I realized that the violations of the protocols laid out by Buddha in the Pali translation of the Vinaya Pitaka would be reasonable objections to the referendums even if they were not mentioned in the Tibetan translations, thus I decided to compose this article.

The main reason why I didn’t use one of the Tibetan translations is that I could not find them translated into English. If you have access to a translation of these seven methods for resolving conflict from the Kangyur and Tangyur I would love to study those, please pass them along.

The particular method in question is method #5 which I have copied below.

5. Acting in accordance with the majority. This refers to cases in which bhikkhus are unable to settle a dispute unanimously, even after all the proper procedures are followed, and – in the words of the Canon – are “wounding one another with weapons of the tongue.” In cases such as these, decisions can be made by majority vote.

Such a vote is valid if –
1. The issue is important
2. The procedures of “in the presence of” have all been followed but have not succeeded in settling the issue. (The discussion in the Cullavagga indicates that at least two Communities have tried settling the issue; the Commentary recommends trying the normal procedures in at least two or three.)
3. Both sides have been made to reflect on their position
4. The distributor of voting tickets knows that the majority sides with the Dhamma.
5. He hopes that the majority sides with the Dhamma.
 6.The distributor of voting tickets knows that the procedure will not lead to a split in the Sangha.

7. He hopes that the procedure will not lead to a split in the Sangha.

8. The tickets are taken in accordance with the Dhamma (according to the Commentary, this means that there is no cheating – e.g. one Bhikkhu taking two tickets – and the Dhamma side wins)
9. The assembly is complete
10. The bhikkhus take the tickets in accordance with their views (and not, for example, under fear of intimidation or coercion)” (
Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Monastic Code I, Chapter 11 – Adhikarana Samatha)

This brings me to my first observation.

The Referendum is Under Fear of Intimidation or Coercion
(which invalidates the referendum according to #10)

On January 26th, 2008, the referendum was conducted in Sera-Je monastery. On February 9th,, 2008 the referendum was conducted in Ganden-Shartse Monastery. Prior to either of these referendums there were actions already taken against Dorje Shugden monks. Here is the time line of events:

On January 8th:

In the assembly hall of Ganden-Jangtse Monastery, each monk had to stand up in turn and declare that he will never practise Dorje Shugden. Twelve monks who practise Dorje Shugden did not attend and were expelled from the monastery.

In Phukang Khangtsen (also in Ganden-Shartse) signed statements were collected from each monk, declaring that the signatory never practises Dorje Shugden. Monks who do not want to sign the statement and take the oath to forego the practice of Dorje Shugden were pressured to do so. The signature and oath campaign was conducted in ten monastic sections. When the signatures were collected in Phukang Khangtsen, one monk was expelled for refusing to sign.

On January 11th 2008:

The abbot of Ganden Jangtse Monastery, Gen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tsephel was publicly scolded by the Dalai Lama in a public meeting for being a Dorje Shugden practitioner. He was accused of being ‘two faced’ for seemingly following the Dalai Lama’s advice while secretly practising Dorje Shugden.

Before any referendum was held at Sera-Je or Ganden-Shartse, monks were already being expelled and humiliated. This is a very important point.

In the shadow of these events, the Ganden and Sera monks were asked to participate in a referendum for which they were already aware of the consequences should they vote against the majority. My question, is this what we call a referendum? Does it sound like this referendum was held wholly without intimidation or coercion? I ask the reader to consider how you would vote in such a situation if your livelihood was on the line, knowing as well that you would have no more access to physical or spiritual nourishment and would be effectively disowned by your spiritual family. Might it be more prudent to vote against Dorje Shugden in public while continuing to practice in secret? This is precisely what many lay and ordained Tibetans are doing.

When these pre-loaded referendums were being held the Dorje Shugden practitioners had to cast their vote in the face of definite expulsion from their monastery. They also had to consider that non-Dorje Shugden practitioners had signed the oath to not to share material amenities of life. The choice made publically by Dorje Shugden practitioners would clearly impact their ability to survive outside the monastery. It is difficult to conclude that such a ‘choice’ is not coercion in its grossest form and that as such the Dalai Lama’s so-called referendums directly contradict the Vinaya and the spirit of Buddha’s teachings as a whole.


The Referendum will lead to a split in the Sangha
(which invalidates the referendum according to #6 and #7)

The second question put forth by the Dalai Lama is: “[Whether] we want to share the religious and material amenities of life (live together in the monastery) with Dholgyal worshippers.”

What this means is that practitioners who formerly lived together in the same Monastery would now not be able to use the same kitchen, do Sojong together, or use the same Khangtsen at all.


“A schism (saṅgha-bheda, literally a split in the Saṅgha) is a division in the Community in which two groups of bhikkhus of common affiliation, with at least five in one group and four in the other, conduct Community business separately in the same territory.” (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 21)

On February 7th 2008, in the assembly hall of Shartse Monastery, the disciplinarian – with tears in his eyes – announced: ‘Now Dhokhang Khangtsen will be separated from Shartse Monastery.’ This clearly meets Buddha’s definition of a schism (which I will explore in a future article). It is clear that the vote itself is on whether or not to split the Sangha. Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s commentary clearly indicates that if it is understood that the referendum would lead to a split in the Sangha the referendum is invalid.

Furthermore, on the issue of how to handle a schism according to the Vinaya, the present Dalai Lama has not been following Buddha’s advice.

“As for the laity, the texts quote the Buddha as saying that they should give gifts to both factions and listen to their Dhamma. Then, on consideration, they should give their preference to the Dhamma-faction. Notice, however, that in advising the laity to give preference to one faction over another, the Buddha does not say that only one faction should receive alms. After all, the laity may be misinformed about the Dhamma and in a poor position to tell the right faction from the wrong. At the same time, the Buddha has never been recorded as declaring a living being as unworthy of gifts, for that would be tantamount to saying that the being was unworthy to live.” (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 21)

This means that the signature campaign being conducted in the lay community by the CTA (within which the Dalai Lama is the final authority) to not share material amenities with Dorje Shugden practitioners directly contradicts the Vinaya. The language of the Vinaya makes clear that both Dorje Shugden practitioners and non-Dorje Shugden practitioners should be able to purchase goods and receive services like any other Tibetan living in exile. If the reader has any doubts as to whether this discrimination is really happening please refer to the France24 documentary which reveals such religious discrimination. http://www.france24.com/en/20080808-dalai-lama-demons-india-buddhism-dorje-shugden

The Referendum has not followed Buddha’s Protocols in the Vinaya
(which invalidates the referendum according to #2)

According to the commentary the referendum is only valid if the procedures of “in the presence of” have all been followed but have not succeeded in settling the issue. “In the presence of” means that the community has to meet and try to settle the issue before the referendum is taken (emphasis added). This has not happened. In fact, the Dalai Lama has never met with the community of Dorje Shugden monks from these monasteries. There has not even been a reply from the Dalai Lama or his representatives to the requests of Shugden practitioners to have a dialogue on this issue. This is a clear contradiction with the commentary given. The referendum is not the result of a meeting within the monastic community but rather it has been unilaterally decreed by the Dalai Lama himself (please refer to the January 8th, 2008 talk at Drepung for evidence of this).

This brings up the question, is the Dalai Lama a member of these monastic communities? If the answer is yes, then he (or a representative of his) has to meet with the Dorje Shugden communities at these monasteries prior to any referendum. If the answer is no, which can be stated in terms of the Dalai Lama not residing within that monastery, then on what basis is he even involving himself? Where does the Vinaya say that to resolve a conflict, high lamas should adjudicate? This is what the Dalai Lama’s supporters are saying but it has no basis in Buddha’s teachings.

Others might argue that the Dalai Lama is not involving himself but simply saying the matter should go to a vote. To refute this point please watch the france24 video (web link to this piece is above) where the Dalai Lama is on video saying from the teaching throne:

These monks must be expelled from all monasteries. If they are not happy, you can tell them that the Dalai Lama himself asked that this be done, and it is very urgent.”


The most compelling argument on this point is that the Vinaya provides an opportunity for any monk in the assembly to protest against having the matter settled by the group. If this happens then the group is deemed incompetent to resolve the issue. The purpose of this is to protect the Dharma from bhikkhus who advocate what is not truly Dhamma or Vinaya yet hold sway over the group. Surely if such a meeting would have occurred the Dorje Shugden monks would have protested.

The Outcome of the Referendum is not in Accordance with the Dharma
(which invalidates the referendum according to #4, #5, and #8)

Venerable Atisha said:
“Friends, until you attain enlightenment the spiritual teacher is indispensable, therefore rely upon the holy Spiritual Guide. Until you realize ultimate truth, listening is indispensable, therefore listen to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.”

The referendum contradicts the words of this holy teacher because the practitioners of Dorje Shugden received a commitment to do this practice from their Gurus Trijang Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten, Zong Rinpoche, Dagom Rinpoche, etc. To abandon their teachers’ advice by voting in favor of the ban would be non-Dharma according to Venerable Atisha.

The irony is that this puts the Dalai Lama and his followers in the position where if they are to establish their view as Dharma then they would have to say that Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama’s Gurus) taught non-Dharma thus invalidating his own teachers’ qualifications as authentic Gurus. How can a valid teacher teach non-Dharma? If the Dalai Lama’s teachers are not valid teachers then by what lineage is the Dalai Lama a lama himself?

Therefore, for all the reasons mentioned here, the referendum on Dorje Shugden practice is non-Dharma. Since the Dalai Lama is presenting the referendum as Dharma when in reality it is non-Dharma he is deceiving Buddhist practitioners around the world.

Furthermore, by denying these practitioners the basic necessities of life (by these I mean the aforementioned material amenities) the Dalai Lama and the abbots carrying out these referendums are breaking their refuge vows to Buddha which include not harming any living being.

Typically, those who have spoken out against the Dalai Lama on this issue have been portrayed as gullible, naive, and unaware of the harmfulness of Dorje Shugden. I would like to point out however that those in the Tibetan and Western communities who practice Dorje Shugden have experienced considerable slander and libel thus making this issue a point of internal reflection and consideration for many of us. This article is the result of one Dorje Shugden practitioner’s investigation, my own. What I ask to all those who disagree, can you establish – based on Buddha’s teachings – the validity of these referendums?

This is an article written by another blogger, to visit their site please see: 

http://dorjeshugdenblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/07/dalai-lamas-referendum-contradicts-vinaya/

much love and thanks to the author.

The Relationship Between WSS and NKT… September 9, 2008

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There is a lot of information floating around about the relationship between the New Kadampa Tradition and Western Shugden Society. Some individuals who are unhappy with the NKT and its activities claim that the Western Shugden Society is merely a front for the NKT so that the NKT can engage in an unwarranted campaign of protests against the Dalai Lama. 

These claims are untrue.  I can confidently say that these claims are untrue because they are not based in logic and understanding.  Check it out…the logic behind the method of four comparative points is as follows:

Is there something that is A and not B?

Is there something that is B and not A?

Is there something that is both?

Is there something that is neither?

This logic is used to establish understanding of the relationship of two objects and is commonly used in Buddhism. So here we go…

Is there something (or someone) in this case, that is a member of the NKT and not the WSS.

YES.  Despite the claims…there are many people within the NKT (even some resident teachers) who are not members of the WSS. I know some of these people personally and are good friends with a few of them.

Is there someone that is a member of the WSS and not the NKT.

YES.  There are many Tibetan and Western Dorje Shugden Practitioners who have decided on their own to join with the WSS to support the demonstrations for religious freedom.  They have nothing to do with the NKT and it continues to be this way.

Is there someone that is both a member of WSS and the NKT.

YES.  There are many NKT members who are also members of the NKT.  There is no need for someone to be deceptive in order to be part of two organizations. Many people are members of various organizations in order to support what they believe and enjoy their life.

Is there someone that is neither a member of WSS and the NKT.

YES. ex: Tenzin Peljor

So what is the conclusion? its like you’ve got two rings overlapping… There is a relationship between the NKT and the WSS but they are not the same. If someone asserts otherwise then they are not relying upon logical reasoning in order to make these claims.

Of the Dalai Lama and a witch-hunt September 7, 2008

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Volume 17 – Issue 26, Dec. 23, 2000 – Jan. 05, 2001
India’s National Magazine 
from the publishers of THE HINDU

 Of the Dalai Lama and a witch-hunt 

Interview with the 13th Kundeling Tagtsha Jetung Rimpoche.

For Lobsang Yeshi Jampel Gyatso, or the 13th Kundeling Tagtsha Jetung Rimpoche (as a large group of Tibetans believe is his incarnate identity), the abrupt decree from Dharmasala on March 7, 1996 banning the worship of the popular Tibetan deity D orje Shugden, came as a bolt from the blue. He was of course a Dorje Shugden devotee but was also, like many other Tibetans, an ardent and unquestioning follower of the Dalai Lama’s spiritual and political leadership. “I felt the ground slipping under my feet,” said Kundeling Rimpoche who received the news while he was in Europe. “What followed was even more shocking – the persecution of and propaganda against respected masters of the Dorji Shugden spiritual practice.”

Dorji Shugden is a Mahayana Buddhist deity, a “Dharma Protector” and an ancient object of veneration in Tibet and amongst Tibetans. He is said to have been a historical figure who lived in the 15th century during the period of the fifth Dalai Lama. The D orje Shugden tradition is part of the Gelugpa religious lineage, to which the Dalai Lama also belongs. Not only was Shugden worship forbidden by the Dalai Lama, Shugden followers were subjected to a witch-hunt that has been well documented in the interna tional media. The German television programme ‘Panorama’ and the Swiss ’10 Vor 10′ have documented the human rights abuses by the Dalai Lama’s administration – the violence and even death threats against the practitioners of this particular Buddhist trad ition and their ostracism.

M.A. SRIRAM

Although the Kundeling Rimpoche has become the spokesperson of the movement of dissent from within the Tibetan population in exile, he makes it clear that he does so as an Indian national who is of ethnic Tibetan origin. For taking on the Dalai Lama and his entire support base in India and abroad, the Kundeling Rimpoche has had to face extreme personal hardship – from petty harassment by the local administration and the police in Mysore where he lives, to veiled death threats from the Dalai Lama’s follo wers.

In this interview with Parvathi Menon in Mysore, the Kundeling Rimpoche links the ban on Dorje Shugden worship to the movement for Tibetan independence that the Dalai Lama spearheads and the contradictions within that movement. Excerpts:

Is yours the first open and organised movement of dissent against the authority and policies of the 14th Dalai Lama who is in exile? What led you and others to raise the banner of protest?

Yes, this is the first open expression of dissent and also the first organised expression of protest against the Dalai Lama. What is not known, however, is that opposition to the religious and political policies of the Dalai Lamas is not something new in Tibetan history. Indeed, opposition to the present Dalai Lama, the 14th one, has taken place for a long time within the exile community in India. However, the voices of opposition were throttled. Because of this, people feel this is probably the first d issent movement in Tibetan Buddhist circles.

Personal vendetta has nothing to do with my opposition to the Dalai Lama’s policies. His organisation has falsely alleged that it was because the Dalai did not give me recognition as the incarnate of the 13th Kundeling Lama that I have turned against him . I was, in fact, one of the first persons to congratulate the Dalai Lama’s recognised candidate – a bright young boy who is unfortunately a puppet in the Dalai Lama’s political manoeuvres. There is good reason for his recognition. He is from the Lhasa r egion, where the fanatic zeal for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan ‘freedom movement’ is concentrated.

As an individual I was a supporter of and believer in the Dalai Lama. It was only when he put a ban on the worship of the deity Dorje Shugden in March 1996 and presented a barrage of unfounded and false reasoning for the ban that our perception of the Da lai Lama underwent a drastic transformation, in the space of a fortnight. I was to discover that this man was an autocrat, willing to do anything and go to any extent to destroy a pure spiritual heritage on which many like myself rely, and of which he hi mself is part and parcel. That was the first time that I actually came to believe that this man uses religion to consolidate his political powers and politics to consolidate his religious powers. Thus he encourages all those believing and supporting him to adopt his political ideology too. In a nutshell, all those who become his followers and supporters would have to adopt an anti-China stand, and campaign for his ‘Free Tibet’ programmes, collect funds, and so on. In reality, this ‘Free Tibet’ political ideology of the Dalai Lama has no substance.

Could you explain why you characterise the ‘Free Tibet’ movement and the anti-China programme of the Dalai Lama as having no substance? After all, the institution of the Dalai Lama has been built around the demand for Tibetan independence on the one h and, and a high-profile anti-China political campaign on the other. This campaign eventually led to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Everybody has the right to political and religious freedom and the Tibetans are no exception. But who defines Tibetan political and religious ideology? Only one man – the Dalai Lama! The whole idea of the Dalai Lama and the large group of Tibetans going into exile was to campaign for a ‘free Tibet’. Tibetans are a placid kind of people as far as movements are concerned – religious or political. They solely relied on the Dalai Lama – from a religious point of view, to guide them to enlightenment, and fro m a political point of view, to guide them to a ‘free Tibet’. In this agenda, the Dalai Lama’s voice has been the last word. A large section of people still desire freedom but are disillusioned. Even the Indian government, to some extent, in particular t he Bharatiya Janata Party, has been cashing in on the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan freedom movement in some ways – playing the Dalai Lama card in the hope that some concessions can be realised in dialogues with China. It is believed that the previous Dalai Lama, that is, the 13th, initiated a ‘Free Tibet’ movement and hence the concept of Tibet as an independent country or nation came into being.

ANGUS McDONALD/AP
The Dalai Lama at Dharmasala.

Tibetan history is complex and confusing. The misuse of Buddhism in the political spheres of Tibetan society, the Lhasa government’s conflict with and over-dependence on Mongolia initially and China eventually, were historically responsible for Tibet’s p olitical complexity and unclear identity.

The 14th Dalai Lama initiated the Tibetan ‘freedom movement’ given the necessity he felt to achieve a position of undisputed infallibility of spiritual and temporal leadership. But he himself with a stroke of his pen went ahead in 1988 in the European Pa rliament in Strasbourg to sign off Tibet’s independence. It is here that he changed his stand – from the demand for Tibetan independence to the demand for Tibetan autonomy. This fact was not publicly known until after the ban on the Dorji Shugden spiritu al practice was announced in early 1996.

In exile the Tibetans could not achieve democracy and unity. What would Tibet look like if the Dalai Lama and his fanatic band of watchdog organisations and followers were in power? It would be a fascist regime, slaughtering opposition and dissidence, mu tilating the limbs and gouging out the eyes of political opponents of the Dalai Lama! The history of Tibet shows that what I have just stated is not an exaggeration. Finally, is there a White Paper on Tibet’s proposed development which the Dalai Lama or his government in exile has brought out? All claims by his exile administration are mere propaganda. This is what I mean when I say that the movement has no substance!

When I heard about the witch-hunt being launched by the Dalai Lama’s government in exile, and the public attacks, slander, and abuse of the leaders and followers of Dorje Shugden (who were initially supporters of the Dalai Lama, including myself), I was horrified. This person whom we believed to be the embodiment of purity, peace and compassion was nothing but an ordinary man bent on consolidating his powers by destroying opponents by all means.

Why did the Dalai Lama perceive the followers of Dorje Shugden and their spiritual practice as a threat to him? Was there a background of opposition from amongst them towards him in the past?

There was no need for anyone to feel threatened by the Dorje Shugden followers. They were a non-political group. In fact, it is a well-publicised fact that Dalai Lama himself was a follower of this deity. His very own Mulaguru (principal perceptor) and a succession of well-established prominent masters in Tibet’s history have all been followers of Dorje Shugden. Initially, to justify his ban, the Dalai Lama solely cited the objections of his oracle Nechung who said that the ongoing worship of Dorje Shug den was a hindrance to achieving the aspirations of the Tibetans. He called the deity a “Chinese demon helping the Chinese government”. He also said that the worship of the deity was a threat to the Dalai Lama’s life. Later, when the world media began to go deeper into the reasons behind the ban, the Dalai Lama began to give a more sophisticated reasoning. He said that the worship of Dorje Shugden creates sectarianism and fundamentalism in Tibetan society because the practice opposes his so-called ecume nical approach. He also said that Dorje Shugden worshippers are obstacles to the so-called Tibetan cause. Now the term ’cause’ has multifaceted meanings. It earlier meant independence for Tibet, and later autonomy. But the ban came because the Dalai Lama had to cover up the failures of his own policies. He had to consolidate political hegemony within the Gelugpa tradition and the followers of Dorje Shugden were not falling in line.

What is your reaction to these arguments?

It is rubbish and a distortion of facts and history. But looking at it from the Dalai Lama’s strategy, it is a superb initiative and a master plan to solve his problems and create scapegoats. Since he wants to become not only the supreme religious leader of all Tibetan traditions but also the universal leader of all Buddhists worldwide, he has been trying to initiate a new Buddhist tradition which incorporates all the lineages in the name of ending sectarianism and fundamentalism. Dorje Shugden follower s on the other hand reserve their right to follow their own spiritual practice as they always have. In order to justify the ban, he opened old wounds and bygone hostilities amongst the various Buddhist traditions, making it look as if conflict was still there. He cast aspersions on some of the most revered personalities in the history of the Gelugpa tradition, purely saintly spiritual practitioners such as the 19th century Phabongkhapa Rimpoche, and Thijang Rimpoche (who in fact was his Mulaguru).

What has been the impact of the ban?

Severe. I call it the Tibetan Inquisition initiated worldwide, but particularly in India. For example, the house of every Tibetan was searched, pictures and images of Dorje Shugden were trampled upon, desecrated, burnt or destroyed publicly. The houses o f prominent people – followers of Dorje Shugden – were attacked during the nights, and death threats issued to all those who did not follow the dictates of the Dalai Lama. A number of monks were expelled from the monastery at the Mundkod settlement for h aving participated in a peaceful protest march organised by me on May 15, 1996 in the Mundkod settlement. When the Dorje Shugden Society was established in April 15, 1996 in Delhi, the Dalai Lama and his so-called ministry used threats, money, and the In dian bureaucracy to close it down forcibly. Besides, when a prominent Buddhist teacher, a pro-Dalai activist, and his two students were murdered, the blame for it was put on the Dorje Shugden society’s prominent members. Charges were filed and the Kangra police more than enthusiastically supported the Dalai administration. The Supreme Court cleared the names of the accused in 1997. Regardless of this, the Indian police – at Kangra and in New Delhi – suppressed the free movement of Geshe Cheme Tsering an d Geshe Konchog Gyaltsen, two erudite scholars.

What kind of persecution have you had to suffer personally?

The worst forms. The Dalai Lama’s representatives in the camps, the heads of the fanatic women’s and youth organisations, and fanatic members of various monasteries have called me his ‘Enemy No. 1’ ! They accuse me of having dubious parentage, of loose m orals, of having a criminal record, and of being a Chinese spy on the Chinese payroll!

They have proffered false information about me to the police, intelligence and the State government in Karnataka. The police and State intelligence personnel have been after me since 1996 because the Dalai government has told them that my organisation is being funded by the Chinese. They have stated that the purpose of my stay in Mysore, which lies at the junction of three Tibetan settlements, is to attack the Dalai Lama physically if and when he visits (the settlements), and to create disharmony betwee n Indians and Tibetans. The fact is that I am the only ethnic Tibetan Lama of Indian nationality who is trying to build a bridge between Indians and Tibetans by engaging in social work projects with hard-earned money.

What do you see as your role in relation to the Tibetan ’cause’?

I want to clarify my role by stating that I am an Indian and not a Tibetan national. This issue of confrontation with the Dalai Lama with regard to his persecution of me and others is important, but is not my primary agenda. My life’s agenda has been to revive the Buddhist heritage in India as an academic or cultural heritage, if not as a religious practice, and to inspire Buddhist monks and Mahayana Vajrayana practitioners to come out of the conservatism of their outlook and contribute towards the soci al projects within the Indian mainstream. Since Buddhism is merely a living relic of past history in India and the holy places related to Buddhist development are now but mere open museums, my intention has been to revive the essential message of altruis m and compassion for all beings by putting it in a language of practical interaction that can be related to the masses in India.

Under what conditions do you think can Tibetans living in exile return to the Tibet Autonomous Region of China?

I think it is most important for the Dalai Lama to engage in a serious and positive dialogue with the Chinese rather than beating around the bush. His insincerity, his strategy of buying time, and not discussing or addressing the two issues that are rele vant to the society of Tibet is evident. If there ought to be a Tibetan nation, as the Dalai Lama desires, then there is the issue of its economic development along with the development of education, science and technology. The second issue is that of th e democratic rights of the society, which can only develop if there is literacy and intellectuals and thinkers are encouraged and developed into true policy-makers. The first set of development markers have been achieved to a great extent by China. This is not only my personal opinion but also that of others and the Dalai Lama himself who in his recent speeches on the question of autonomy for Tibet has been praising the current development of Tibet. He should be joining hands with the Chinese to bring f urther development within Tibet and seriously working towards a solution himself. He should ask his followers to cease all their anti-China activities within Indian soil and that of other countries.

What is the Indian government’s stand on the allegations made by the followers of Dorje Shugden about human rights abuses by the Dalai Lama?

The acts of discrimination and ongoing persecution of the devotees of Shugden by the Dalai Lama and his coterie are well known to the Central government and the Karnataka government. There is, however, a duplicity in the Indian government’s stand towards the Tibetan followers of Shugden. While the authorities in Delhi have understood the Dalai Lama’s antecedents and moves, there is little willingness on their part to ask him to refrain from abuse of human rights. During the Dalai Lama’s visits to the se ttlements, the Karnataka police keep a strict surveillance on Shugden followers and their shrines merely because the Dalai Lama and his supporters say they apprehend a threat from the worshippers of Shugden. The Dalai Lama, knowing the weight of his word , points to imagined threats from Shugden followers. The remaining job of citing individual names of dissidents is followed up by his henchmen. Since the ban, the Dalai Lama has increased the number of his visits to the settlements in India and abroad. H e is scheduled to visit the Kollegal settlement in Mysore district and is supposedly planning to spend two days in Mysore city. As usual whenever he visits I am forced to leave my home temporarily for the simple reason that the Dalai Lama has other enemi es, and if they harm him, I will be falsely implicated. This has forced me to take recourse to police security and limit my movements. The government of Karnataka, local authorities in Mysore, and the State intelligence department are bombarded with peti tions and complaints against me.

I understand that at a recent high-level meeting of the Home Ministry with the representatives of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile, they were told to tone down their campaign against the followers of Dorje Shugden. Perhaps in response to that, the Da lai Lama issued a public statement in the Tibet Times, published from Dharmasala, that appears to reflect a softening of his stand on Shugden worship. He now says that he never banned the practice, he only discussed its pros and cons! This is abso lutely false! It is perhaps in response also to the pressure from human rights groups in India and abroad that he was forced to say this! All undertakings or projects of the Dalai Lama begin with a lot of heat but end up in a fiasco – like the Free Tibet campaign! If the Dalai Lama is truly a man of peace who believes in dialogue, let us have a public discussion which would also include prominent Indians, from the press and the public. This will once and for all settle all disputes beyond doubt and put both parties under the scrutiny of the public.