The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
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Abbot of Gyumed Tantric College Speaks Out on Dorje Shugden
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An open Letter to Gelug Monasteries & Sangha Regarding Dorje Shugden
Dear all Gurus and monks,
Regarding the letter sent December 30, 2010, and received on January 13, 2011. The content of this letter asked me to give up the protector practice, let me explain:
In 1996 I was the Khenpo (abbot) of Gyudmed Monastery, at that time, from the Khenpo to the new monks at the end of the seats, everybody was to submit a statement to stop propitiating protector. Besides this, the letter also mentioned that we must make sure to cut off all Dharmic and worldly connections with people who pray to Gyalchen (Dorje Shugden) Protector. Such an order is impossible to carry out, please allow me to state my reasons:
Jangtse Dratsang (Gaden Monastery North College) is not a newly built monastery in India, there have been many Gurus, Rinpoches, and Geshes who propitiated Gyalchen Shugden: the attained Gurus that spread the Dharma nectar to learning monks in the Dratsang – Serkong Dorje Chang, his incarnation the 2nd Serkong Dorje Chang, Kenchen Tendakwa Rinpoche, [[Phara Rinpoche Lobsang Yeshe Sonam Chokyi Wangchuk, (Hardong) Geshe Rinpoche [[Kenrab[Samten]], (Gowo) Kensur Yeshe Gawa, (Tsawa) Drokmi Jampa Lodro Rinpoche, (Gowo) Geshe Nyima Gyaltsen, (Gowo) Ken Rinpoche Sonam Kunga.
These great Lamas are great masters who taught Sutra and Tantra teachings in Jangtse Monastery, if we swear to cut off all Dharmic and worldly material relationship with them, it is totally unacceptable. Forcing ourselves to cut off all Dharmic and worldly material relationship with our Gurus is something impossible to do even for non-Buddhists, let alone Buddhists like ourselves.
Where did you get your Sutra and Tantra lineage from? Maybe you dug it out from the ground.
Ken Rinpoche Sonam Kunga tirelessly taught us a lot of great scriptures, he received the teachings from his Gurus and Geshes. From Serkong Dorje Chang to Ken Rinpoche Sonam Kunga, and all the Dratsang great masters in between, it is widely known that they practiced protector Gyalchen Dorje Shugden.
You forced us monks to cut off all Dharmic and worldly material relationship with them, I cannot do it, because I am a monk, according to Tibetan traditional vinaya code a monk is not allowed to swear. This code is also in Shakyamuni’s Vinaya scripture towards the end, page 392, you can go and check for yourselves. You should request Samdhong Rinpoche, “Please be compassionate, don’t let the monks swear, because monks are not allowed to swear.” But you didn’t request, and you followed Samdhong Rinpoche’s order and you swore, and caused the great Gaden Monastery to fall apart into different factions. I did not swear because I did not want to create schism among Sangha. Some people abuse the vinaya power in their hands, this is widely known, it is like our Tibetan proverbs “The person in charge of the water flour mill is not the main person-in-charge, the head of the farm village is not the government officials.”
I have already quoted the scriptures for you in my letter above, and have shown to you with valid and solid proofs that Gyalchen Dorje Shugden is a saint, is a protector, is a Gelug protector. I am not trying to show off my knowledge in my letter, I wrote it because I had no choice.
It seemed like our government-in-exile had nothing better to do, they spent so many years to create chaos, excommunicate many monks, divided a fine dratsang into two factions, I wrote this letter because I had enough, it is too much.
Regarding Dorje Shugden, we just have to check the historical materials and we will understand the original facts. I wish the unnecessary chaos created in these 40 years can be pacified very soon.
This letter is sent to the religious department, Samdhong Rinpoche and various dratsangs, please read it openly in front of all sangha.
Gyudmed Monastery Kensur Sonam Gyaltsen
Gyudmed Kensur Sonam Gyaltsen Rinpoche, or known as Geshe Sonam or Gen Tati, was born in the Year of the Tiger fire, the 13th day of the first Tibetan month (March 13, 1926), in a large family of nomadic herders in Atsa Region, between Kongpo and Kham in central Tibet. Rinpoche entered religious life at the age of 5.
On March 23, 1959, like thousands of his countrymen, Rinpoche fled Tibet for exile in India. In 1971, Rinpoche passed the exams of “Geshe Lharampa” (Doctor in Buddhist philosophy) where he obtained the first rank.While at Gaden Jangtse, Rinpoche studied under teachers like Phara Rinpoche, Geshe Samten Kenrab, Geshe Nyima Gyaltsen, Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche.
In 1974, Rinpoche completed a 600-pages doctoral thesis which the theme focuses on “mental images” at the University of Varanasi, India. Rinpoche arrived in France in 1980, where Rinpoche lived until 1990. That year, Rinpoche was appointed as the Vice-Abbot, then three years later, the Abbot of Gyudmed Dratsang until 1996. After that, Rinpoche returned to and lived in France.
From 2002 to 2006, Rinpoche went into a solitary retreat. Since 2004, Rinpoche devotes his time to writing. Rinpoche completed a treaty on the Vinaya, specifically the ordination of Bhikshuni. It traces the history of the introduction of the Vinaya in Tibet and chronicles the debates, the decisions taken by great masters, and supporting references.
Isolationism was intensified when in 2008 the Dalai Lama started a new phase of persecution against Shugden practitioners. Whilst ostensibly on a religious visit to Drepung Loseling monastery in South India, instead he instigated a political referendum on whether the monastery wanted Shugden monks to remain in their ranks. He forced the monks to vote by having them select a stick of either red (for Dorje shugden) or yellow (for the Dalai Lama) colour in a public referendum. Very few monks were brave enough to go against the Dalai Lama and as a result of the 'referendum' which was undemocratic and unconstitutional - since when do monks engage in a political vote on a spiritual practice? - nine hundred monks were expelled from their monasteries. The Dalai Lama himself is on video shamelessly praising the Abbots of the monasteries for expelling the monks.
This intensified the schism in the Sangha that the Dalai Lama has instigated with the introduction of the ban in 1996. Eventually the monks found a home in two new monasteries that were purpose built for them by various Western benefactors, Shar Gaden and Serpom. It was clear that the monastic community was completely split. High walls were erected between the new monasteries and the old to separate the two factions.
The Central Tibetan Administration quickly introduced a process of oath-swearing for Tibetans whereby the had to swear in front of Palden Lhamo not to share material or spiritual resources with Shugden practitioners. Just as the monasteries were divided, this split families and set family members against each other as some swore and some bravely refused. The suffering that this caused was incredible and further isolated Shugden practitioners, making them pariahs in their own communities. It's difficult to believe that a so-called 'Buddhist' society could countenance this, but out of blind faith in the Dalai Lamae ordinary people have instigated his evil actions. There are many examples in history where the weak have been influenced by powerful and charismatic dictators to create evil - this unfortunate situation is just another one of those.
All of these actions, instigated by the Dalai Lamay show that he is not a qualified Buddhist Teacher, nor even a Buddhist, as it is a commitment of Buddhism not to harm others.
(continued in part 3)
The Dalai Lama: "Shugden practitioners: you're not welcome"
Dalai Lama: "don't come and receive teaching from me"
We recently received another sad proclamation from the Dalai Lamao regularly makes an issue of the practice of Dorje Shugden in his public teachings, and encourages his followers to stop this venerable, traditional Dharma practice. This time his teaching is from Mongolia.
We're grateful to the Dorje Shugden Society for translating this news item which appeared on Norway Tibet Radio (Voice of Tibet) on 9th November 2011:
Broadcaster: Since the Dalai Lama is giving Avalokiteshvara initiation tomorrow, he has announced that Dholgyal devotees (Shugden) should not attend the initiation. He also said the propitiation of Dholgyal has caused detrimental to the harmony among Buddhists.
Dalai Lama: Today it is like I am giving a lecture. It is not necessary that you listen by recognizing me as Guru. It is alright if you come to listen, saying what Dalai Bashi is saying. Tomorrow you will take a teaching. I am giving an initiation. I am giving vow. Therefore there will be Guru and disciple relationship. Pure commitment is necessary. During the course of initiation, the pure commitment is necessary. In time, I worshipped the so-called King Shugden. I didn't know and I make a mistake. Then, having paid attention, it was wrong. Also, during the course of through analysis, king Shugden emerged during the time of the fifth Dalai Lama. If I say about the way the fifth Dalai Lama recognize king Shugden, according to his text, the nature of king Shugden is evil spirit; its cause was the wrong prayer; and its function is to harm Buddhism and living beings. So if you say this is a protector of Buddhism, or a protector of Gelug Tradition, it is disgrace and shame. Je Rinpoche has empowered and entrusted Six hands Mahakala and Dharmaraj. Je Rinpoche has seen capability in them. Simply speaking, he didn't empower them on guesses. (laugh). If you worship king Shugden, you have broken commitment with the fifth Dalai Lama, and so to the thirteen Dalai Lama. If you receive an initiation from me, you will break commitment with me. If there is anyone who worship king Shugden – actually it is your choice whether or not you worship - , please don’t come to receive teaching from me. If you are a monk or a lay, please don’t come tomorrow. If you are deceived by saying that business and luck would flourish, you should stop from now. You don’t need to be afraid at all. In case a case is necessary to be filed, I would file the case. You don’t need to be afraid. It is a freedom if you contempt although you know it is wrong. It doesn’t matter if you walk upside down.
The only detriment to harmony is the Dalai Lama's sectarian and exclusive attitude towards Dorje Shugden practitioners. He alone is destroying harmony in the international Buddhist community by making an issue where is none.
Why Dorje Shugden Practitioners are not Isolationist - Part 1
Some people criticise Dorje Shugden practitioners for being 'isolationist' or 'sectarian', but it's important to understand why these perceptions have come about because it may appear that 'Shugdenpas' have deliberately decided to separate from Tibetan society or Tibetan Buddhism as taught by the Dalai Lama, as will be explained, this is not the case.
Despite showing an open and accommodating face to Westerners,the Dalai Lama is a religious dictator who controls Tibetan Buddhism completely
The principal cause of isolationism is ostracism by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama for political reasons. The Dalai Lama has banned the practice of Dorje Shugden, but unlike some religious disagreements where there is a 'live and let live' attitude, the Dalai Lama will never allow anyone to remain neutral on the issue. He has forced Tibetans to swear an oath in front of the Tibetan protectoress Palden Lhamo not to share material or spiritual resources with Shugden practitioners. Thus, it's not possible to abstain or remain neutral on this issue if you are Tibetan, because if you do not swear an oath, you are excluded from Tibetan society.
This ostracism began very early on, in fact, as soon as the Dalai Lama decided, for incorrect reasons, to stop practising Shugden. He then formed a plan to destroy the practice by exploiting the blind faith of the Tibetan people which has been encouraged by giving many public Kalachakra empowerments. The problems started in 1976 when the Dalai Lama gave up the practice. This caused many problems from the beginning. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explained how this ostracism began:
Out of sectarianism, the Dalai Lama has made it impossible for Shugdenpas to be his students
Lama Yeshe was the general spiritual director of Manjushri Center, while I had the responsibility of organizing the daily programmes. We were both very happy to have the picture of HH the Dalai Lama on the shrine because we hoped that the people of Manjushri and HH Dalai Lama would develop a good spiritual connection and relationship. Many times we invited the Dalai Lama to come to Manjushri Centre, although we both knew, even then, that he had rejected the practice of Dorje Shugden. We assumed it was not his real intention because we found it difficult to believe that he really wanted to destroy the practice of Dorje Shugden.
So for a long time we continued to practise Dorje Shugden and kept faith in the Dalai Lama. Then later the situation deteriorated because he intensified his ban on Dorje Shugden worship. I heard that he said in public that those who practise Dorje Shugden cannot be my friend. Then my mind gradually changed, especially as we received criticism from people who were saying that Manjushri Centre had broken its guru devotion to the Dalai Lama because of our continued practice of Dorje Shugden. As his picture was on our shrine, people believed that he was our root Guru -- on the other hand because we practised Dorje Shugden people thought we were against the Dalai Lama. Due to this contradiction we received a lot of criticism.
The Dalai Lama never visited Manjushri Centre because he was displeased that Lama Yeshe and Geshe Kelsang continued to practise Dorje Shugden.
Because the Dalai Lama's stance on Dorje Shugden was not to allow any religious freedom, Tibetan Buddhism began to polarise into two distinct camps – those who followed the Dalai Lama's view that Dorje Shugden was a harmful spirit and those who had faith in the traditional Gelugpa lineage view of Je Pabongkhapa and Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang that Dorje Shugden was a protector aspect of Je Tsongkhapa himself. The Dalai Lama made it clear on many occasions that he wanted to eradicate the practice of Dorje Shugden completely, and so it became a case of 'if you're not with me, you're against me'. This caused a lot of suffering for Shugdenpas who were torn between their faith in the Dalai Lama and their faith in their Lineage Gurus and Shugden himself. They had to make a choice, and no choice was comfortable as it involved the loss of something precious in either case.
Dorje Shugden practitioners are still discriminated against
It's sad to report that Dorje Shugden practitioners are still being discriminated against by the Tibetan public. The evidence comes from a recent blog post, 'The Bad Boys of Buddhism'. The writer is J.D. Lewis, an accomplished actor and playwright who has featured in such programmes as 'Friends' and 'Suddenly Susan'. He has also established a well respected actors coaching school called 'The Actor's Lab' in Los Angeles.
J.D reports discrimination in the shops around Shar Gaden monastery:
In this isolated area of south-central India where an entire community of monks live, there is a great divide. As I walk down the street with my friend, Losang Tenpa, or as the boys and I call him, Monk Duke, he is glared at and in certain shops, they even refuse to serve him.
J.D. continues later:
Over the last few years, words have been spoken, rocks have been thrown and most disturbing, great walls built around each of the many monasteries in the area. What’s wild is that, after the split, the properties here were allotted in a strange way so that some of Shar Gaden’s building are surrounding by building gained by the other monasteries that have issue with this group, making it an uncomfortable and tense living situation.
As an experiment the other day, Monk Duke and I visited a local store famous for not serving Shar Gaden monks. I went in and smiled, bought some flip flops for Buck, and then Duke came in to buy some incense. They wouldn’t even look up at him. So I piped in, “Hey, how much for the incense?” … they replied, “Forty Rupies”, and then I said, “I’ll pay for it.” They then smiled, took my money and when we went to leave, the man behind the counter and Monk Duke exchanged a smile. I felt like it was one step closer to Nirvana and I had done my small part to bridge a chasm between the two factions. Who knows… that simple meeting of the minds could have been the beginning of the reunification of the Tibetan Buddhist Federation. Or maybe not… I think it’s going to take more than a westerner’s smile to sort things out here. I’m thinking of coming back next year and shooting a documentary on the subject.
Let's hope that J.D. Lewis does indeed come back to this troubled part of India to shoot his documentary - the monks of Shar Gaden could do with a little high profile support to highlight their plight and to put pressure on the Dalai Lama to reverse his policy of discrimination and ostracism against Shugden practitioners, which is against Buddhism.
Tibetan Democracy Day? If only.
Press release from Shugden Society USA: Sept 1st, 2011
Today we would like to bring to the attention of all those who believe in peaceful coexistence of all faiths and beliefs in this world, and particularly the attention of the people who believe in freedom of religion and human rights.
September 2nd is The Tibetan Democracy Day, but the irony is that we the Tibetan people do not have true democracy due to the policies of the Tibetan government in exile, under the powerful guidance of the Dalai Lamat undermines the rights to Religious Freedom as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and other international conclaves. Hence, we, the proponents of equal human rights, are commemorating the date of September 2 to create a global awareness of the plight as the Dorje Shugden believers continue to struggle against the religious persecution and segregation that has been imposed in the Tibetan community throughout the world by the Dalai Lama. (Scroll below for the most recent developments this year.)
Check out this video by Al-Jazeera, which recounts the atrocities committed by Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile.
On 9 January 2008, the Dalai Lama declared:
"Dorje Shugden devotees are supported by the Chinese and therefore there is no need for them to be in exile, they can go back to Tibet (under Chinese rule)”.
Othe same day, he also called for:
“holding an open referendum, to decide if the majority of the Tibetans want to coexist with the devotees of the deity”.
This is an invitation for open segregation in the Tibetan society, in the disguise of practicing democracy. Furthermore, because of the Dalai Lama’s position and influence, his statements become government policies, and therefore have great consequences. These statements from Dalai Lama’s position, undermine the fundamental rights: the right to exercise freedom of religion, right to peaceful living, and right to equal opportunity for the people. These statements have great potential to cause communal violence in the society and mislead the Tibetan people into believing that the Dorjee Shugden practitioners as the enemy. As a result, the followers of this deity and their family members have been victims of ostracism and violence.
In 2008, we gave a deadline to a Tibetan Government in Exile and Dalai Lama to stop the religious persecution and segregation of the Shugden practitioners and their families, including children at schools. However, the situation is getting worse every day, and now in 2011 things have not improved -- the Dalai Lama has declared a war against the Shugden people, demonizing and segregating Shugden worshippers since 1996. This "war" has been fuelled by outrageous rumors promoted by the Dalai Lama and his supporters that if a non Dorje Shugden follower should kill a believer that is not considered a sin! and furthermore it provides cumulative merit towards the Dalai Lamas long life! Other such "non sins" include destroying Shugden monasteries, stupas and religious documents.
Recent developments in 2011
Following are few of the recent incidents of violence towards Shugden devotees (more details of the atrocities can be found here):
The most recent developments occurred this Summer (July 2011) when the Dalai Lama was here in the USA in Washington DC performing the Kalachakra Initiation which he requested that no Dorje Shugden followers attended. His tone seemed edited for the Western audience. Following this meeting,on August 23rd 2011 the Abbot of the Namgyal Monastery (the Dalai Lama's private monastery) in Dharamsala who travelled with him to the USA called an emergency meeting with the Lithang Organization of NY. As a result of this meeting anyone who is caught associating with a Shugden follower is automatically expelled from the organization and subject to persecution. This is religious persecution right here in New York City, USA right now in 2011!
Also, this year in January the Dalai Lama speaking at a Tibetan Monastery in South India angrily said that "Dorje Shudgen harms the Tibetan Government of Tibet" and proceeded to expel several High Lamas including the ex Abbot of Jumay Monastery who wrote to the Dalai Lama and the prime minister Samdong saying it was illegal as well as morally wrong to segregate and engage in religious persecution, even though he himself is not a practitioner of Shugden. Because of this repudiation of the segregation and ostracization of the Tibetan people, he was immediately expelled.
On March 10th the Dalai Lama dissolved the "Tibetan Government in Exile" creating the Tibetan Organization of which he is still the head. While the rest of the world believes that he is resigning from political power, he is still in fact making decisions and ruling behind the face of the the Tibetan Organization
Some earlier examples of ostracism and persecution
Another example of an unfortunate development occurred when the Chushi Gangdurk Organisation, New York USA (which is a political association) met with the Dalai Lama on May 2010 and informed him that they had removed the members who believed in Dorje Shugden and vowed to disassociate and remove any Shugden believers in the future for His Holiness' happiness.
On 26th February 2010, the Central Chushi Gangdurk Organisation's headquarters in New Delhi gave a letter to the Dalai Lama which stated that they hadn’t associated with the Shugden believers since 1996, and vowed to continue disassociating from the Shugden people in the future too.
On February 20, 2010, 68 of the 100 invited guests as well as performers left the wedding party in New York City because a few Dorje Shugden devotees were invited. Those who left apologized and explained that they did not want to break the oath that they had taken to segregate from the followers of Dorje Shugden.
In July 29 2009, the Tibetan section of Radio Free Asia, with the intention to turn the general Tibetan people against the Shugden devotees, demonized the Shugden devotees of being responsible for the abductions of Tenzing Thakpa, Woeser Rinpoche's father, and a 13-year-old boy along with few goats and sheep in Markham, Tibet. In reality, Woeser Rinpoche's father and the boy were victims of flood and Tenzing Thakpa was seen alive and well, traveling in Lhasa and India.
In 2008, the oath and signature campaign of breaking off religious and material relationship with Shugden devotees was introduced in the monasteries and Tibetan settlements.
Another example was the shutting down of Tibetan Association of Western Massachusetts, in US on October of 2008 because it had some Shugden believers as its members.
In July 2008, wanted posters of several monks involved in the Western Shugden Society protests appeared in Queens, New York. Al Jazeera reported about the wanted posters saying, "No Shugden worshipper has ever been charged or investigated for terrorism and yet the monks that continue to worship Shugden remain victims of name and shame."
On 2006, the burning of thousands of autobiographies written by Lamdrim Rinpoche (from Deipung Monastery, Tibet).
On April 5, 1996, after the Dalai Lama's teaching, Gaden Choeling nunnery in Dharamsala dragged the Shugden statue out, trod on it, and flung into a garbage pit. Throughout India and Nepal, tens of thousands of Dorjee Shugden statues, literature and scriptures were desecrated.
Threatening the lives of people who believed in Shugden and ostracizing them from the Tibetan community throughout the world.
An attack on Gaden Shartse monastery in South India by over three thousand Tibetans settlers resulted in 40 people wounded and properties damaged.
In Clement town, there was also an attempt of arson on a Shugden devotee's family house.
These are just a few cases from countless incidents of atrocities involving violence and discrimination towards Shugden followers. Some Westerners are beginning to understand the issues and the plight of the Tibetans people and editorials such as this one "Darkness behind the guru-bubble" by Mike Carlton for the Sydney Morning Herald are popping up here and there in international media. Still, these articles and the truth are few and far between.
"Silliness is one thing. Nastiness is another. The so-called apostle of kindness has been ruthless in crushing a rival Tibetan Buddhist sect known as Dorje Shugden, expelling its monks from monasteries and ostracising or exiling its adherents."
In reference to the letter to the prime minister of the Tibetan Government in exile, Samdong Rinpoche and the Dalai Lamad April 25, 2008, we had appealed to the Tibetan government to enforce our demands within the deadline of September 2, 2008. Our demands were:
To entitle us to the fundamental rights of freedom to speech, beliefs, and the rights to live peacefully as guaranteed in the Constitution of Tibetan Government-in-Exile and Democratic countries.
To lift the ban on Shugden practice and the religious persecution of its practitioners.
To stop the systematic process of segregation in the Tibetan communities in exile, that has led to the social, psychological and physical torture of Shugden practitioners.
As our demands were repeatedly blatantly ignored, and in addition to the plight:
The Tibetan government in exile continues to ostracize and segregate the Shugden practitioners from the rest of the Tibetan society.
Hundreds of monks who worshipped Dorje Shugden were ostracized and expelled from the monasteries. As a result, a new wall at Ganden monastery in Southern India was built in March 2008 to segregate the Shugden worshippers.
Monks who worshipped Shugden were denied medical services from the health clinics in the Tibetan communities in exile.
Students whose parents practiced Dorje Shugden were ostracized in the schools' system.
Until the Dalai Lama stops religious segregation and and admits his horrific mistakes, we will continue to fight for the peaceful coexistence of all faiths and beliefs in this world, and particularly the attention of the people who believe in freedom of religion and human rights.
A Great Deception, explaining the secret life of the 14th Dalai Lama, is now available as a free eBook on the Western Shugden Society website.
Wherever you stand on the issue of the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden, or the Dalai Lama and other controversies, this book is certainly worth reading. It is well-researched and contains a great deal of documentation from third-party sources.
There is also a letter that is being sent along with the paperback version of A Great Deception to people around the world.
What is in the book
This book shows that the Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden is the manifestation of Je Tsongkhapa, who is the embodiment of the wisdom of all Buddhas. It also brings to light the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso's actions in banning this traditional spiritual practice and causing its followers to be persecuted.
It also highlights other controversies, including the mixture of church and state for political and personal ends, the Dudjom Rinpoche affair, the assassination of Gungtang Tsultrim, the Karmapa affair, the politics of the Kalachakra initiations, the defamation of revered Buddhist masters, the Dalai Lama's being on the payroll of the CIA, the Dalai Lama's involvement with Tibetan Guerillas and the Tibetan arms trade, the attempted coup in Bhutan, the Dalai Lama's fascination with Nazism, the friendship with Shoko Asahara, the strange and somewhat sordid history of all the Dalai Lamas, and how the Dalai Lama really "won" the Nobel Peace Prize.
From the Preface:
The purpose of this book is to achieve the following four aims:
to liberate millions of innocent practitioners of the Buddhist Deity Dorje Shugden and their families from suffering;
to restore peace and harmony between Shugden and non-Shugden practitioners;
to re-establish the common spiritual activities of Shugden and non-Shugden practitioners; and
to free Buddhism from political pollution.
Achieving these aims depends solely upon whether the present Dalai Lama will accept the four points set out at the conclusion of Chapter 4 of this book.
The Dalai Lama wishes to ban Shugden worship in general; and in particular to remove Tibetan Shugden worshippers from their communities, and Western Shugden worshippers from the international Buddhist community. Since 1996 the Tibetan exile government has continually applied effort to fulfil these wishes. In February 2008 alone, 900 monks who are Shugden practitioners were expelled from their monasteries in India.
In 1996 the Tibetan exile government publicly decreed to the Tibetan communities of each country, including Tibet, that Shugden practitioners were their national enemies and were against the Dalai Lama's wishes. The decree stated that unless Shugden practitioners promised to stop Shugden worship they would not receive any official position or job, nor any help or support, even medical assistance, either from the Tibetan exile government or from individual members of the Tibetan community. Further, any connection at all with Shugden practitioners should be cut. Children of Shugden practitioners were no longer permitted to attend Tibetan schools, and Shugden practitioners themselves could not join community meetings, social events and so forth....
(... and the situation has gone from bad to worse.)
What does the Dalai Lama's 'retirement' means for religious freedom?
The romantic image of the Dalai Lama
as Spiritual Leader - a holy man in robes
There are recent reports that the Dalai Lama's decision to retire from politics, expressed earlier this month, has been accepted by the Tibetan Parliament. So does this mean that the Dalai Lama has really retired, and what are the implications for Dorje Shugden practitioners who are still experiencing discrimination at the hands of the Tibetan Government in Exile?
Time will tell. Perhaps the Dalai Lama has simply retreated into the background to create a 'democracy with 'Tibetan characteristics' (a continuing Theocracy) and from a practical point of view will continue to control all aspects of life for ordinary Tibetans, as has been the case for the past sixty years and beyond, or perhaps his decision heralds a new era of openness and true democracy with a genuine democratically-elected secular leader, the Kalon Tripa. The main question is - what will happen to religious freedom in this new system; will things be better or worse?
The hypocrisy of the Dalai Lama's 'non-sectarianism'
The Dalai Lama's
words and actions don't match
Although the Dalai Lama has encouraged Tibetans to freely practice all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and not to see any differences between them, a policy that heralds disaster for the future of Tibetan Buddhism and that is not even in accord with the Rime or non-sectarian movement of the last two centuries, he has been consistently hard on those who practise Dorje Shugden. To the Western world, the Dalai Lama proclaims that we should be respectful and open minded towards all faiths, even writing a book on the subject, but, with characteristic hypocrisy, he has been less charitable towards the followers of Dorje Shugden, the main Protector practice of many powerful Gelugpa Teachers for four hundred years, and has preached anything other than peaceful co-existence. He has introduced an undemocratic ban on the practice, galvanising both Tibetans and Westerns to abandon the practice and ostracise those who refuse to give it up. Tibetans have had to swear an oath to do these two things, even in free, democratic countries such as Switzerland and the USA.
Ostracism and discrimination
The unacceptable face of the
Dalai Lama's sectarian ban
The ban has meant that Shugden practitioners are denied basic rights, such the freedom to travel, enter certain shops and receive medical treatment and education. You can watch Al Jazeera's unbiased report on this issue. It seems that Dorje Shugden has been the Dalai Lama's particular political obsession of the past thirty years, along with the problem of Tibet, but it has only ever been a means to an end, a smokescreen to distract from his failure to secure any autonomy for Tibet. Behind the scenes, he has tried to cement his position of holder of supreme spiritual and political power in Tibetan society while at the same time, showing a public face of tolerance, peace and compassion to the Western media. This policy of having two faces has served the Dalai Lama very well up to this point, but what does the future hold?
What is the Dalai Lama's role now?
The Deification of the Dalai Lama
began with the political machinations
of the 'Great Fifth'
Although loved by the Tibetan people and held to be a Buddha by Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama's role as a spiritual leader is completely unnecessary because each tradition of Tibetan Buddhism has its own Head, so what is his role? It seems that, over the past nearly four hundred years, the Dalai Lama has made himself indispensable to the Tibetan people, where they cannot think to do anything without his guidance. He built the Potala palace and made himself into a God-King. It's shocking to realise that the Dalai Lama has played the role of the cloying mother for four hundred years who, out of fear of redundancy, has refused to let her children grow up and stand on their own two feet. He has dictated Tibetan religio-political policy, creating the 'Lama Policy' that has poisoned Buddhism and threatened the pure teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni in this world, and he has used them to build a fortress of respectibility to the point where he is considered one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
The future for Shugden practitioners
The Shugden ban - largely ignored by the world's media despite extensive protests worldwide
What does the Dalai Lama's retirement from front line politics mean to Shugden practitioners who have been persecuted by him and his followers for the past thirty years? At this point, it's hard to say. It's hard to imagine that the Tibetan Government in Exile will immediately change their policy, given that it is clearly one of the Dalai Lama's most treasured, but maybe over time a true democracy and non-sectarianism will emerge if the Dalai Lama's influence is allowed to fade. The draconian ban of Shugden practice is clearly not a democratic policy but the heart aim of just one person, so there is every hope that things will change. However, in the meantime, as a 'spiritual leader'. the Dalai Lama will have more time on his hands and this doesn't bode well for Shugden followers as he will have many opportunities to speak out and further poison the hearts of Tibetans and Western followers of Tibetan Buddhism towards the practice and its devotees. It's hard to believe that he will stop following his long treasured aim of destroying the practice and only time will tell what this all means for true democracy and religious freedom.
The Dalai Lama's sectarian "non-sectarian" approach
The Dalai Lama makes a great deal of being non-sectarian and claims that those who practise Dorje Shugden are sectarian. He quotes such 'sectarianism' as one of his main reasons for banning the practice of Shugden:
2. Obstacles to the emergence of genuine non-sectarianism: His Holiness has often stated that one of his most important commitments is the promotion of inter-religious understanding and harmony. As part of this endeavour, His Holiness is committed to encouraging non-sectarianism in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In this His Holiness is following the example set by his predecessors, especially the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Not only is a non-sectarian approach mutually enriching for all Tibetan Buddhist schools, but it is also the best safeguard against a rise of sectarianism that could have damaging consequences for the Tibetan tradition as a whole. Given the acknowledged link between Dolgyal* worship and sectarianism, this particular practice remains a fundamental obstacle to fostering a genuine non-sectarian spirit within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
(*Dolgyal is a derogatory term for Dorje Shugden)
Bigotry, discrimination, hatred
So how non-sectarian is the Dalai Lama? This is the definition of sectarianism from Wikipedia:
Sectarianism, according to one definition, is bigotry, discrimination or hatred arising from attaching importance to perceived differences between subdivisions within a group, such as between different denominations of a religion or factions of a political movement.
This definition contains many powerful words such as 'bigotry, discrimination and hatred', all of which apply to the Dalai Lama's public pronouncements about the practice of Dorje Shugden. An enforced signature campaign to stop the practice has led to Tibetans practising bigotry and hatred towards those who disagree with the Dalai Lama's political ban of the practice. Discrimination is exactly what Shugden practitioners are experiencing in Tibetan communities throughout the world (shockingly, even in democratic Western countries such as the USA, France and Switzerland) as they are branded as spirit worshippers by the Dalai Lama. Paradoxically, this makes the Dalai Lama's own Guru Trijang Rinpoche a spirit worshipper and invalidates the whole Gelugpa lineage; but this unwanted consequence doesn't seem to have dawned on the Dalai Lama.
Considering the evidence of ostracism and discrimination, and the Dalai Lama bringing the subject of Shugden up at every public meeting of Tibetans in an attempt to completely stamp out the practice, how can the Dalai Lama be said to be non-sectarian?
Another red herring is the Dalai Lama talking about 'Rime' or 'Rigme' (pronounced Reemay). Here is an example from a talk he gave on 14th January 2011 as reported by Voice of Tibet radio:
Since I, as an ordinary body of Amdo, got the name of fourteen Dalai LamaI ought to follow the steps of my predecessors. It is my responsibility to serve the Rigme teachings of Tibet.
Rime is a non-sectarian movement that began in Tibet, prompted by the political infighting between the different traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is claiming the Rime is non-sectarian and should be followed whereas the practice of Dorje Shugden is sectarian. By making such false claims, and encouraging discrimination against a religious tradition that was promoted by his own Teacher, the Dalai Lama shows himself to be sectarian. The approach of Rime is quite different to that of the Dalai Lama. Ringu Tulku says:
Ris or Phyog-ris in Tibetan means "one-sided", "partisan" or "sectarian". Med means "No". Ris-med (Wylie), or Rimé, therefore means "no sides", "non-partisan" or "non-sectarian". It does not mean "non-conformist" or "non-committal"; nor does it mean forming a new School or system that is different from the existing ones. A person who believes the Rimé way almost certainly follows one lineage as his or her main practice. He or she would not dissociate from the School in which he or she was raised.
Rime therefore doesn't mean practising all traditions. It also doesn't mean blurring the lines between traditions, as the Dalai Lama is wont to do:
Rimé is not a way of uniting different Schools and lineages by emphasising their similarities. It is basically an appreciation of their differences and an acknowledgement of the importance of having this variety for the benefit of practitioners with different needs. Therefore the Rimé teachers always take great care that the teachings and practices of the different Schools and lineages and their unique styles do not become confused with one another. To retain the original style and methods of each teaching lineage preserves the power of that lineage experience. Kongtrul and Khentse made great efforts to retain the original flavour of each teaching, while making them available to many.
Fourteenth Dalai Lama
This shows that the Dalai Lama is using Rime for his own political purposes of uniting all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism (and even the non-Buddhist Bon school) under his control. He has distorted the meaning of the teaching. This is clear from a talk he gave to a Russian audience on 27 November 2010 in response to a question about receiving empowerments from different traditions:
There is no problem. No differences are there at all. You should receive Gelug empowerment; you should receive Nyingma empowerment; you should receive Sakya empowerment; and you should receive Kagyu empowerment. As for me, I receive all of them. Well, all Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Geden are students of seventeen Mahasiddas and scholars. Shugden worshippers are saying that if a Gelugpa worship Shugden, it is incorrect to keep a text of Nyingma. That is wrong. In twenty century, because of Shugden, sectarian is developing in Tibet. This is wrong.
Notice that the Dalai Lama uses this occasion to unfairly brand Shugden practitioners as sectarian. He also uses wrong logic to justify eclecticism: 'Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Geden are students of the seventeen Mahasiddhas and scholars'. While this is undoubtedly true, there are important differences in their presentation of Buddha's teachings which are appreciated by those who follow Rime but not by the Dalai Lama. We can therefore see that true Rime celebrates diversity, whereas the Dalai Lama's idea of Rime is to amalgamate the schools by claiming there is no difference and everyone should practice all schools, expressly against the Rime edict that one should follow one lineage as one's main practice and no dissociate from that school. The Dalai Lama has dissociated himself from the Gelugpa school and from his root Guru through his criticism of Dorje Shugden practice and practitioners. His actions are therefore sectarian and non-Rime, even though he claims to have banned the practice because he's non-sectarian!
Ask yourself this question: How is someone non-sectarian by banning a religious practice and outlawing it? This is clearly contradictory. It's against the Rime teachings that the Dalai Lama claims to support.
Je Gendundrub, First Dalai Lama
There are further contradictions in the Dalai Lama's position. In his speech of 14th January, the Dalai Lama says he must follow his predecessors by protecting the Rime school, but the First Dalai Lama, Je Gendundrub wrote a beautiful praise to Je Tsongkhapa called Song of the Eastern Snow Mountain in which he says:
From now until enlightenment
I shall seek no refuge other than you.
O Venerable Father and Sons (Je Tsongkhapa and his two spiritual sons, Khedrubje and Gyaltsabje)
Please care for me with your compassion.
The Rime system didn't exist until the nineteenth century, five hundred years after the First Dalai Lama proclaimed his sole refuge to be Je Tsongkhapa. Rime is therefore a relatively recent development. The present Dalai Lama seems to have forsaken Je Tsongkhapa's tradition for the sake of following no tradition (he's not following Rime, as clearly explained) and he has also forsaken the kindness of his Gurus by having them branded as spirit worshippers.
Finally then: why doesn't the present Dalai Lama show the example of his ultimate predecessor, the First Dalai Lama and remain within the Gelugpa school of Buddhism while respecting all others, appreciating and celebrating their differences as a true Rime practitioner would? Instead, he has chosen the path of sectarian intolerance by banning one of the main practices of Je Tsongkhapa's tradition, which he seems intent on destroying, and merging all schools of Buddhism into one by claiming they are all the same. The only explanation can be that Je Gendundrub was a pure spiritual practitioner whereas the present Dalai Lama is, first and foremost, a politician with worldly concerns who is twisting the meaning of non-sectarian and Rime for his political ends: power and influence.
There is another book out about the previous Dalai Lamas, called
Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama: The Untold Story of the Holy Men Who Shaped Tibet, from Pre-history to the Present Day
Part of its write up says:
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is known to the world for his efforts to preserve Tibetan culture and for his inspiring spiritual teachings. Often unnoticed, however, is the long, colorful history from which this most beloved of holy men has emerged. In Secret Lives of the Dalai Lamar Norman tells this story in full for the first time, from Tibetan Buddhism’s foundational narratives to the present-day crisis faced by Tibet.
And what a story it is. Along with dedicated monks selflessly serving the Tibetan people, among His Holiness’s spiritual forebears there are a Dalai Lama who waged wars, a womanizing and inebriated poet, and several who wound up dead following disputes over temporal power. Also, while Western practitioners focus on Tibetan Buddhism’s liberating vision of enlightenment, it simultaneously contains ritual practices of prophecy and magic, as well as a vivid pantheon of deities and demons.
"Holy men"??! Upon reading the history of the previous Dalai Lamas, the only "holy men" amongst them would appear to be the first four and the Seventh, none of whom had political power or abused their position as spiritual teachers.
It is a stretch to call the rest "holy men". That is unless you call womanizing drunks (the Sixth), violent power-hungry people (the "Great Fifth" and the "Great Thirteenth") and political dictators (the current Fourteenth) "holy men". The Eighth handed over his political power to regents, and the Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth died too young for anyone to make their mind up about them.
During a rebellion of the Karmapas in Tsang, the Fifth Dalai Lama (the 14th Dalai Lama's favorite "spiritual forbear") issued orders:
[Of those in] the band of enemies, who have despoiled the duties entrusted to them:
Make the male lines like trees that have had their roots cut;
Make the female lines like brooks that have dried up in winter;
Make the children and grandchildren like eggs smashed against cliffs;
Make the servants and followers like heaps of grass consumed by fire;
Make their dominion like a lamp whose oil has been exhausted;
In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names.
The "Great Thirteenth" (1876-1933) (the current Dalai Lama's other favorite "spiritual forbear") was also a cruel leader. As chief judge he commanded severe punishments to be meted out to trouble-makers, including floggings, amputations and exile. His friend Sir Charles Bell gave the damning verdict:
He loved the work... and he liked the power which the work gave him.
Doesn't sound very holy to me. Nor does the current Dalai Lama's current ban of a beloved spiritual practice and the threatening language he uses to back it up, such as (to monks in India who questioned the ban on practicing Dorje Shugden):
"There will be no change in my stand. I will never revoke the ban. You are right. It will be like the Cultural Revolution. If those who do not accept the ban do not listen to my words, the situation will grow worse for them. You sit and watch. It will grow only worse for them."
As for the 14th Dalai Lama's "inspiring spiritual teachings", they come from the kindness of his precious Spiritual Guides. Yet he superseded and denigrated all of them as he assumed more and more temporal power.