- Tuesday, 04 November 2014 07:11
- By: Huffington Post, Robert Thurman
In the case of the current wave of ISC “protests” against the Dalai Lama, we have to ask ourselves–what is the real motive? What does the small group of highly motivated, well-organized, seemingly media-savvy “protesters” really want? They say they want “religious freedom,” but they have always had religious freedom in India or the West, nobody has banned them worshiping as they wish. Within Tibet they have special support from the Chinese government that dominates Tibet (not giving such freedom to pro-Dalai-Lama Tibetan Buddhists), and outside of Tibet they have their own monasteries, Meditation Centers, and support networks. Their Western followers are free to worship as they choose, and are also free to attack the Dalai Lama, as they are doing. They say they want to end “segregation,” but they themselves choose to separate themselves from member of their own Gelukpa sect who decline to propitiate the protector entity they call Shugden, as well as from other sects of Buddhism.
They say they want human rights for their “millions” of followers, but no one in India or elsewhere deprives their actually very small numbers of individuals of human rights, as Amnesty International and the High Court of Delhi have asserted in rejecting their false claims. They are just as well provided for as other refugees, in terms of medical clinics, hospitals, schools, and their own chosen monasteries and communities. They say they want the Dalai Lama to agree with them that the fierce “deity,” “spirit,” that they call Dorje Shugden and most Tibetans call Dolgyal, is really a Buddha. They know the Dalai Lama thinks it is a hostile spirit, since he considers that it has been malevolent in history toward his former incarnations, and also toward the Tibetan people under his protection.
However, it is a fact that the vast majority of the six million Tibetans love their precious Dalai Lama and depend on him from their hearts. Therefore, they do not like it when anyone, Tibetan or non-Tibetan, attacks him and treats him as an enemy. This NKT /ISC group is doing just that very thing. They are not really protesting: they are using the form and language of social protests over fabricated causes and baseless claims in a concerted campaign of defamation. In doing so they are striking at the heart of the Tibetan nation, in that the beloved Dalai Lama is the iconic representative of the Tibetan cause, the prime exemplar of the Tibetan nation, and its distinctive spiritual culture.
These protesters have published two pamphlets (A Great Deception, and False Dalai Lama) attacking not only this Dalai Lama, but all his predecessors from the Great Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) onward, in which they make all manner of wild assertions to argue that all Dalai Lamas have been “evil,” “dictators.” etc. The bottom line is that they are attempting to confuse public opinion and ruin the Dalai Lama’s reputation.
However, the Dalai Lama has already retired from his political authority and role as head of the Government in Exile. He has encouraged and ratified legislation that future Dalai Lamas, if there are any, will not again assume political responsibilities. He wants to future “local government” in Tibet to be fully democratic, as is the international Tibetan community in exile. He wants the abbots and sages of the Gelukpa order to decide for themselves how to regard such spirits as Shugden/Dolgyal. They recently voted in a great majority not to do so, though the minority that does want to carry on with Shugden was given its own monasteries, its own resources and support network. So the protesters’ claim that they don’t have these things is simply untrue, refuted even by some of their own websites.
They also do have the support of some of the Communist Chinese authorities in Tibet. The Chinese propaganda of the last thirty years, especially since the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and became popular everywhere in the world, including underground in China itself, has had exactly the same aim as that of the protesters: namely to tarnish his reputation and convince the world he’s a bad person and should not be listened to as representing the real feelings of the Tibetan people. Therefore, the Shugden schism attempt is considered ideal by the PRC’s United Front Work department which has had Tibet in virtual lockdown since the plateau-wide non-violent rebellion of 2008 before the Beijing Olympics. It suits its policy because it wants a Communism-compatible form of Tibetan Buddhism that has dispensed with the Dalai Lama.
Their chosen Panchen Lama (considered a false imposition by the Tibetan people at large) is often photographed in front of icons of Shugden, and frequently meets publically with the small handful of Shugden lamas. They send Shugden monks into India to agitate against the abbots of the monastic universities and man the smaller Shugden monasteries, and they have destroyed large popular statues of Padmasambhava, the “St. Patrick” of Tibet, a favorite of the Dalai Lamas, and a symbol of nonsectarianism. This is why ordinary Tibetans who turn out to support the Dalai Lama, often say that the Shugden protests are the work of the Chinese, though there is no documentary proof of a direct link between the NKT front groups ISC or WSS and the Communist United Front. It is just that the message is the same: “The Dalai Lama is a bad guy.” Anyone can look up on line to see the propaganda from the Buddhist Association of China (BAC), to find there many of the same slogans as carried on placards by the “protesters.”
In conclusion, it is tragic that the well meaning Western, new, would-be Buddhists of the NKT are starting off their Buddhist studies and practice so drastically misinformed as to what Buddhism is about, as if all it is, is a power struggle between good and evil sects, creeds, beliefs in local deities or spirits. They are not being given education in the higher trainings in ethics, meditation, and critical wisdom, and so being taught to find calm and insight in their own minds and hearts, and are being prevented from learning about themselves and life from the most important world teacher in this era, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness frequently insists that he does not think it a good idea to convert people of other faiths or of the secular humanist faith, in order to recruit mere nominal “Buddhists,” but these protesters are not allowed to read anything other than the works of Kelsang Gyatso. They only participate in ceremonies designed by him, unique to his personal version of Gelukpa Buddhism. They are taught to adopt an extremist attitude toward other non-Shugden worshiping Gelukpas, and other sects as well.
Fortunately, there is a group of ex-cult members, numbering so far over 1200 individuals, who are appalled at the behavior of the “protesters,” and have come forward with a detailed statement refuting all of their claims, which states:
“We, the undersigned, as former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and ex-practitioners of Dorje Shugden, are appalled and saddened that those who were once our NKT Sangha [community] demonstrate against and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Inaccuracies and distortions of what we know to be the truth have been published as fact. The New Kadampa Tradition currently operates as the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC) and also as the ‘Western Shugden Society’ (WSS). Many allegations and insults are made against His Holiness which are completely unwarranted. At demonstrations and on numerous web sites and Facebook pages, the NKT/ISC viciously attacks the reputation of His Holiness. We have tried to address inaccuracies with the group, but without success. We believe it is time to speak out with one voice……”
(There follow ten points refuting the false claims of the protesters. They conclude:)
” With the backdrop of continued Human Rights abuses against the Tibetan people, who number little more than 6 million in total, and the mass slaughter of an unknown number of Tibetans due to the Chinese occupation and colonisation often quoted as being more than one million, claims made by the ISC such as that ’4 million Dorje Shugden practitioners are suffering’ are obviously lies. No established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT/WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’.
“We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture and question the intentions of those who use this culture but appear not to support this struggle. Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT. In view of the consistently unkind behaviour of his own organisation, we feel that Kelsang Gyatso and his students can have no moral right for making such attempts to discredit and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
“Those of us who once belonged to the New Kadampa Tradition are resolved to bring these inaccuracies, disinformation, and outright lies to light. Who better to reveal the truth than we who were once inside the organisation?”
Robert Thurman is a Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies, Columbia University and President, Tibet House US.
(For academic papers and more detailed corrections of the copious misinformation spread by the protesters, please consult the websites, www.shugdeninfo.com and www.dalailama.com.)