A FREE TIBET – Is it possible with internal UNREST?

Finding a space for Dorje Shugden in a land called home

The world has witnessed and maybe even sympathized with the 133 charred Tibetans who sacrificed their lives through the act of self-immolation in order to free Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama from exile. Tibetan refugees living in America and Europe shed tears of blood when speaking of their 133 brothers and sisters who stood in protest against Chinese rule and shouted vehemently for the recovery of Tibet. But do Tibet and these Tibetans refugees, who have benefited from the democratic system of the West, have compassion for a segregated group of Buddhist practitioners in Dharamsala? Or do they outcast and label them as spirit worshipers?

The recent series of protests against the Dalai Lama, which started in February 2014, shook the Tibetan community in exile and awakened them to the negative consequences of the Dorje Shugden ban – not because of the abuse and discrimination that Shugden followers have endured in the Tibetan settlements of India for the past 18 years, but because of the hugely damaging impact on the Dalai Lama’s reputation as a peace-loving man of compassion.

The Tibetan communities in exile found it unprecedented that a large group of Westerners came together to rally against their beloved spiritual leader. But isn’t it strange that it has to take a congregation of outsiders to speak up for the oppressed minority in Tibet? The CTA and pro-Dalai Lama followers have boldly opinionated that the Dalai Lama did not issue a ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden, and that there had been no discrimination nor violation of human rights.

In a recent interview in Norway, the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying,

A spiritual bond is formed between a teacher and disciple and I have asked that if people want to worship this spirit they don’t take teachings from me. This is what they are calling a ban.

In short the Dalai Lama denied that he had banned the practice of Dorje Shugden. However, if we were to look at the definition of the word “ban”, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it to mean “to forbid (someone) from doing or being part of something”.

One would think that by living or by being educated in the West, the more privileged Tibetans would be open-minded enough to investigate and clarify matters relating to Dorje Shugden in an unbiased manner. To the contrary however, Tibetans holding key positions within Tibetan society both in the East and West, some of whom who are highly educated, and speak and write fluent English responded to the demonstrations by Western Dorje Shugden practitioners through the issuing of statements that are unsubstantiated, blinkered and biased. Posted below are a few such announcements that condemned and chastised the Shugden practitioners:

From the Tibetan Association of Northern and Southern California. Click on image to enlarge

Source: http://www.tanc.org/tibetan-feelings-hurt-by-shugden-protests/

From the Tibetan Youth Congress, page 1. Click on image to enlarge

From the Tibetan Youth Congress, page 2. Click on image to enlarge

From the Tibetan National Congress, page 1. Click on image to enlarge

From the Tibetan National Congress, page 2. Click on image to enlarge

It is not the purview of this article to reply to each statement and get into an unnecessary battle of words. However, it is crucial to collectively address whether the building of a free Tibet is conceivable or not, particularly when a certain faction of Tibetan society is left out.

 


 

The Unification of Tibetan Buddhism?

Tibetologist Thiery Dodin was interviewed on the concern of discrimination against Tibetan Shugden followers in India, particularly monks who have been loyal practitioners for decades. He candidly replied that the separation of the monasteries between Shugden lamas and non-Shugden lamas was purposeful with the aim of removing a “cult” that did not support the cause of the Dalai Lama to unify the separate Buddhist lineages in Tibet, and this was deemed by the Dalai Lama to be the modern approach for his country.

However, let’s look at the logic of unifying a religion as a stance of modernity. Dodin claims that when the issue is one of socio-politics, casualties and a little bit of damage are unavoidable. It certainly seems to be the case for Dodin as he is merely theorizing the situation. However, one does wonder would he say the same if his life and that of his family were at stake?

Click on image to view full article

Source: http://info-buddhism.com/
Dorje_Shugden_Conflict_Dalai_Lama_protests_Thierry_Dodin.html

People commonly band together to go against a villain or to back a hero who fights for their cause. In Tibet we have both these characters. The Dalai Lama is seen as the knight in shining amour who saves the distressed Tibetans from the despotic clutches of China. But at the same time, an internal bad guy was needed to bring the heads of the four main Tibetan Buddhist sects (Gelug, Kagyu, Nyingma and Sakya) together, as their faith lies not in the Dalai Lama, but in their respective lineages and teachers.

Dodin himself clarifies that the Dalai Lama cannot simply instruct the leaders of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism to drop their lineage and unite under a single tradition, as it goes against hundreds of years of Vajarana Buddhist practice. So, the Dalai Lama relied instead on false sectarianism and accused Dorje Shugden’s practice of being a cult whose goal was to assert its superiority over the other schools, thus wiping out the other Tibetan Buddhist traditions and replacing them with the Shugden cult.

But Tibetan communities should take a step back and ask themselves one simple honest question: Isn’t the Dalai Lama doing the same as the allegations he levels against Dorje Shugden?

The Dalai Lama is thus attempting to reform Tibetan Buddhism into a single religions sect, using cosmetic words like religious harmony, perhaps bringing about a Dalai Lama “cult”. He made Dorje Shugden Tibet’s enemy within, by openly declaring Dorje Shugden to be an angry spirit, and expounding the dangers of his practice. The Dalai Lama has even banned Dorje Shugden’s practice not only amongst Tibetans but all around the world, and anyone who has the slightest connection with Shugden can no longer attend his teachings or receive empowerments from him.

These actions have stirred unwanted animosity and created divisions within Tibetans in exile. The Dalai Lama will always be remembered as the “hero” who united the broken pieces without Tibetans realizing that the new Tibet will play by the cultish rules of H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. Their internal enemy is Dorje Shugden until a more suitable candidate comes along. In the meantime, sincere and dedicated practitioners of Dorje Shugden suffer alienation, discrimination and humiliation.

 


 

Who is really being sectarian?

It doesn’t really take a genius to conclude that firstly, the words uttered by the Dalai Lama are accepted as the golden truth and taken as the Rule of Law surpassing even the constitutional rights of the people. Secondly, when the hero, God and spiritual leader of a country in exile enunciates and affirms that a particular practice is bad, adherents and fanatics would undeniably follow and execute their master’s instructions. This is without a doubt.

And if the disciples and students resort to discriminatory actions like forcing all practitioners of this deity to sign letters declaring their disassociation with the practice and denying those who refuse to sign basic rights like school, medication and even to enter a sundry shop to buy some sugar, this is a very insidious emotional and mental torture that those on the receiving end (i.e. Dorje Shugden practitioners) have to experience until today. Where is the spiritual leader who tours the world to preach about peace, compassion, love and being happy at work? His silence towards the reactions of his followers is tantamount to aiding and abetting these pre-meditated acts of separation and abuse.

But if we could just for one moment look at the bigger picture, there are probably hundreds of Christian groups, different schools of Chinese Mahayanese Buddhists and a plethora of Hindu temples in India that observe different religious descents. If the Dalai Lama wishes to implement pluralism and non-sectarianism as he often says is the way forward, is there a need to invoke a ban on an ancient protector practice?

Everyone has the right to religious freedom and to choose a practice he wishes to adopt. Should a monk or a lay person decide to not practice Shugden, it is his choice – just like a person is attracted to the Christian faith and not Buddhism for example. But if an authority through its power and influence forces a person to give up his original faith to embrace another on pain of dire consequences, the situation has then morphed into religious blackmail and oppression.

In conclusion, can the Dalai Lama stop practicing Shugden? Yes. Can he advise that those who wish to continue propitiating the protector to stop attending his teachings? Yes he can, but why not extend this ruling to practitioners of other religions who do not see eye to eye with His Holiness?

Moreover, His Holiness must be vigilant and aware that such requests for Shugden practitioners to stop attending his teachings will not be taken lightly and viewed as an instantly forgettable Facebook status that we read daily. It carries deep spiritual weight for many Tibetans and its nature is one of an immutable instruction. Yes, it is a ban. This ban is clearly animated with much aggression and unfair treatment on the ostracized Shugden practitioners.

 

Some of the anti-Shugden discriminatory signage that is still enforced today in monasteries and public areas of India

The Loseling Altruistic Medical Association (LAMA) is a charitable medical association registered with the government of Karnataka, India. This medical association runs Loseling Clinic, at Drepung Loseling Monastery, which is supposed to provide healthcare to all Tibetans, both ordained and lay, without discrimination

A sign outside Drepung Loseling clinic prohibiting the entry of Shugden followers

Organizers have no qualms in stopping Shugden practitioners from attending the Dalai Lama’s talks

The ban has also infringed the religious freedom of non-Tibetan practitioners. (Click on image to enlarge)

“I hereby swear in the name of His Holiness and glorious Maxor Gyalmo (Protectress Palden Lhamo) to never propitiate and worship Dolgyal and to never have any relation and connection in any way with those who worship Dolgyal” Anti-Shugden Oath from the Institute of Buddhist Mahayana Sutra and Tantra, Karnataka, South India

Don’t buy from this shop because the owner is a Dorje Shugden practitioner!

 

Religions Tolerance or Intolerance?

The Dalai Lama still claims that there is no ban despite clear evidence that there is one, and that it is being enforced by the CTA. And the Dalai Lama still claims that the Shugden followers have a choice to continue practicing, although one wonders how that is possible with the stringent implementation and crackdown by the CTA. The Tibetan communities and associations in exile have said that they respect the principle of religious tolerance as they live in a multi-cultured and multi-religious society. But is this religious tolerance?

How can one say that there is respect for differences in religion when the governing body of the country issues such one sided statements? The Shugden practitioners are completely left out of all social, economic, legal, parliamentary and constitutional proceedings. In 1996, 1997, 2008 and recently in February 2014, the Tibetan Parliament in Exile UNANIMOUSLY passed and iterated the same resolutions against the Shugden followers. They also denied the allegations of any breach of human rights. This is extremely ironic because NO SHUGDEN REPRESENTATIVES are ever allowed in parliament and have a right to be heard. They are totally silenced and pushed aside.

If there is really NO BAN, lamas and practitioners who want to continue with propitiating Dorje Shugden can do so out of free will. They would not have been asked to leave their monasteries. The authorities would have stopped these inhumane acts. So, to those who want freedom for Tibet, is freedom really possible when there are so many uncertainties and violations of basic human rights within the country? When the Dalai Lama issues a ban or a prohibition on a certain practice, should the followers take this instruction to the extreme of harming another person, causing disruptions to their lives, endangering their family and discriminating against them? Where is the Buddha- Dharma? Definitely, NO!

 

What would China say?

When China invaded Tibet, many in the west took up the cause of saving Tibet on the basis of protecting the human rights of Tibetans. The “International Campaign for Tibet” (ICT) is lobbying for China to observe the rights of the ethnic minorities of Tibet and Xinjiang, including the right to practice a religion, based on China’s human rights development as per the White Paper: Progress in China’s human rights in 2013.

What is farcical is that while third party supporters of Tibet are seeking for religious freedom for their country, the Tibetan themselves are oppressing and curtailing the rights of the minority group of Dorje Shugden practitioners within the Tibetan community in exile. The international media is watching and they are discerning and objective. What would the international media and similar groups like ICT think about this hypocrisy?

 

Some of the salient features of the White Paper: Progress in China’s human rights in 2013 as highlighted in ICT’s website

China has established the principle that all ethnic groups are equal and jointly participate in the management of state affairs on the constitutional, legal and systemic levels.

The political rights of ethnic minorities are fully guaranteed.

The socioeconomic rights of ethnic minorities are fully protected.

The cultural legacies of Tibet are effectively protected, and the local religion and traditional customs and social mores are respected.

Sources:

 


 

Moving forward

For 18 years, the Shugden practitioners have suffered under the harsh rule of the CTA and today, people from the west and third parties who have nothing to gain stood up and gave a voice to this voiceless group. The Tibetan Community in exile claimed that the latest protests against the Dalai Lama by western practitioners to be embarrassing and hurtful. But it is more shameful when unrelated strangers who care enough have to interfere with our family affairs in order to set things right. Only when the ban is lifted and the persecutions stopped, will there be real freedom in Tibet.

But there is hope. On June 4th 2014, the CTA held a question-and-answer session with a group of Tibetan students from the Tibetan’s Children Village School. Sikyong (Prime Minister) Lobsang Sangay was shocked when the observant and intelligent youths questioned him on Dorje Shugden and how they realized that the ban and treatment of Shugden practitioners to be undemocratic and unfair. This new generation of youth in Tibet has spoken for the oppressed. Student no. 6 [time code 11:34 onwards] summed it up very well.

Shugden people are Tibetan people and we are all struggling together.

 

A video of the Q&A session between the students of TCV and Sikyong Lobsang Sangay on the issue of Dorje Shugden


Or watch on server | download video (right click & save file)

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3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Free Tibet? It is impossible with the internal turmoil the Dalai Lama has created. As I see it the Dalai Lama is not concern of of a Free Tibet but more of going all the way out to segregate and disunite his community so they are scattered the world over like ants to further promote Buddhism. The Dalai Lama does not need to fight to regain entry into Tibet. He can reincarnate in Tibet in his next incarnation. The Chinese is waiting for the time to pick the 15th Dalai Lama. With the Dalai Lama reincarnating in China, Tibetans who are now in exile may just wish to rejoin him in China and the only requisite from the Chinese Government for their re-entry is to practise Dorje Shugden.

    Dorje Shugden will be practised widely and freely in Tibet and the world. The Chinese government is currently supporting and encouraging Shugden practice in China. China is also financing Shugden lamas to travel overseas to spread the teaching. The practice will spread further and cross all borders regardless of nationality. Dorje Shugden is the protector of our time.

  2. People who are anti-shugden are really very deluded to think nothing is happening or happened that we are just being plain mad to do all that we do,
    if there is no fire there won’t be any smoke.

    People are not so deluded that they do demonstrations, write profusely on social media if there is not even an iota of truth about the presence of a ban and false comments made on Dorje Shugden being a spirit and everything else negative said about Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden.

    I wish the Anti Dorje Shugden people will start to think, why so much effort is put in to demonstrate, fight against the ban, do you think all of us do not need to do our dharma practices? That we have nothing else better to do ? Think deeper please Tibetan people and all anti Shugden.

  3. The evidence is vey clear that the CTA is manipulating their power they have use the ban to abuse innocent who just want to pratice, very unfair to this Tibetan who live in the exile camp because freedom if religious is very basic right that pratices in democracy countries, this ban is really not supposed to happen .

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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