No Democracy: When Snow Lions Become Lambs

By: Mar Nee

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The transcript:

A question from the audience in brief summary:

Tashi Delek, regarding the understanding of Tibet issue more elaborately, I would like to know what you are thinking when one of the Parliament members (not mentioning his name for various reasons) said His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s working on the middle way for autonomy but in actually working on full independence. Is there a huge error/dissension within the Tibetan Parliament?

Reply from His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

I am made into a liar.
I am made into a liar do you understand? By saying my mouth says autonomy but in my heart is full independence for Tibet is making me a liar. If I am made into a liar is there any benefits? Whomever I meet in the world I tell the truth and directly.
From 1959 we have tried to obtain independence. But we have to follow the time and changing conditions. Since we couldn’t obtain independence from 1974 onwards I made a choice to benefit Tibet in other ways. The name you find difficult to say is Parliament member Karma Chophel. Karma Chophel may have good intentions, but the way he says it and his actions makes me into a liar. Because of this from the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, clarifications were given.



On a particular day in May 2013, in a conference room in Dharamsala, a Tibetan student steadies himself as he approaches the microphone to ask his question to the speaker of the day, whom in this case happened to be the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness The Dalai Lama. The question was innocent enough as the student sought clarification on a statement made by a parliamentarian of the Tibetan government in exile during the 5th session of the 15th Tibetan Parliament, Chithue Karma Choephel. Karma Choepel’s intervention of the proceedings towards the end of the session was essentially his declaration of the withdrawal of his support for the Dalai Lama’s Middle way policy towards China. Choephel’s remarks upset the Dalai Lama tremendously not only because it meant that the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way policy was losing support from within his own government, but equally so as it represented dissension towards the Dalai Lama’s will, which has thus far been unobstructed and this is an unwelcome development.

Karma Choephel has been a quiet supporter of the Dalai Lama’s approach which was implemented in 1974 but after the Middle Way failed to produce any tangible results over the decades, the member of parliament began to question the wisdom of the Dalai Lama’s strategy, especially in light of increasing desperation felt by the Tibetan people, over a hundred of whom expressed it in the form of self immolations. Their despairing demand was for Tibetan independence, an increasingly loud voice of the people that neither the Dalai Lama nor his government have been prepared to acknowledge or engage in discussions on.

The Tibetan Parliament in Exile, where T.T. Karma Choephel made known to all his views on the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach

On the face of it, there is nothing peculiar about such questions. After all the Tibetan government in exile is supposed to be a maturing democratic system of government that the Dalai Lama himself had declared for his people after their escape from Chinese aggression and annexation of their homeland. What is surprising is the reaction of the Dalai Lama and the manner in which His Holiness responded to a political question when he is supposed to have already resigned from all political and secular affair and therefore, should not even interfere and influence government policies either directly or indirectly.

Immediately after the question was asked, the demeanor of the Dalai Lama became something very different to what the world has become accustomed to. In an instant he was no longer the smiling, jovial and benign “simple monk” who was recognized as a peacemaker of the world. And in that same instant the Dalai Lama’s reaction betrayed the spirit of democracy and openness that His Holiness and his government in exile have portrayed to the world.

The Dalai Lama took the question to be an attack on his own person and his integrity and if it escaped detection by the Tibetan audience, it was obvious to more astute watchers that instead of answering a question borne out of a person’s democratic entitlement to have his own opinion on important issues, the spiritual leader turned it into a personal attack. In that way, any disagreement with the Dalai Lama’s opinion and decision is tantamount to an attack on the Dalai Lama himself, and as the Dalai Lama also a spiritual leader, an attack on the religious values he is supposed to embody.

From thence, it was no longer a question of merits of the Middle Way and its effectiveness, nor a matter of members of parliament having differing opinions to the Dalai Lama’s which should invite dialogue and debate common with all liberal democratic systems, but a matter of whether anyone would dare to commit sacrilege against the god-king of the Tibetan people. Given a choice, who would dare to go against and infuriate the Dalai Lama whom the Tibetans regard as a living Bodhisattva.

Sure enough, rather than a fair question being answered, dialogue on the future of Tibet was muffled yet again and with it the voice of freedom of speech and thought. But this is not a unique occurrence for intimidation has for a long time sat on the seat where democratic process should be and it is not uncommon for all who oppose the Dalai Lama and his political enforcers to find themselves socially out-casted and even outlawed in so far as the law is what the Dalai Lama says it to be.

His Holiness addressing a large crowd

We see this not only in the question of Tibet’s future with China, where the Dalai Lama, in 1988 unilaterally gave away the fight for Tibetan freedom in Strasbourg, opting instead for the Middle Way – a decision which was then duly forced down the throats of the Tibetan people without dialogue or discussion. We also witnessed the same sinister result when a long time Director of Radio Free Asia, Ngapo Jigme was fired without cause for refusing to toe the government line, and instead stood for providing a genuine platform for freedom of speech to thrive. As much as the Dalai Lama travels the world preaching peace, tolerance and freedom of speech and religion and along the way winning himself a Noble Peace Prize, we see instead social and moral devastations back home, the result of erratic intolerance coupled by systematic illiberalism perpetuated by His Holiness’s style of despotic coercion. To put it bluntly, fear of the consequence of opposing the Dalai Lama keeps all Tibetan people in check and both the Dalai Lama and his exiled government know this and use this fact to full effect.

But nowhere is this intimidation tactic more blatantly deployed than in the Dorje Shugden ban where a personal opinion of the Dalai Lama on a Buddhist deity Dorje Shugden (for reasons that has not found any logical support to date), worshiped by many as an emanation of the Buddha Of Wisdom, transformed into a menacing religious ban that rocked the Tibetan community and split the people to an extent that even Mao Zedong’s Red Army failed to accomplish. The Dalai Lama had overnight proclaimed the 360 year old Dharma Protector to be a demon without providing any truthful justification and even though the rickety excuses put forth to justify an illegal infringement on the basic human rights of his own people have long since been debunked, fear keeps the ban in force and Dorje Shugden practitioners in hiding still.

The question that needs to be asked is fear of what? Simply, it is the fear that the Dalai Lama will use his position of reverence bestowed upon him by the deep spirituality of the Tibetan people, to unleash terror upon all those who oppose him. In the case of the Tibetan people’s call for independence, we see how simply by not agreeing with the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way (which was never democratically decided on) they have been labeled traitors of the Tibetan people which itself is enough to unleash the unquestioning public on their own brothers. We see a similar situation with Chithue Karma Choepel’s withdrawal of support for the Middle Way morphed malignantly into him accusing ‘Avalokiteshvara’ as the Dalai Lama is regarded, a liar and with that all Dharma abiding Tibetans and Dalai Lama loving people were roped into play against Choepel.

Similarly, we see in the Dorje Shugden ban, the fear that was brought to bear upon all Tibetan people, monks and laypeople alike to support the ban was the propaganda that to oppose the Dalai Lama’s ban was to wish for his early death, to betray the Tibetan cause and to sell out on the Buddhist traditions that the Tibetan people have been known for, and indeed to go against the Dharma. All these are far too heavy for the simple Tibetan to bear on his own especially as he witnesses how Shugden practitioners are marginalized, persecuted and made to be social pariahs and denied basic welfare such as medical care and schooling for the children. To even discuss this subject was deemed taboo and with that the ban and its impact on the people were simply brushed aside. Years later, renowned Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu would discover to his shock that even to be seen with a Shugden practitioner is forbidden and by virtue of the fact that it goes against the Dalai Lama’s wishes, outlawed.

For certain, a culture of fear and intimidation has no place in a democracy and if indeed the Tibetan people are serious about securing their freedom and if indeed Tibetan independence is a genuine national goal, then the Tibetan people must first fight for their right to have independent thought and opinions and for this right to be protected by their leaders and not opposed by same. The right to want Tibetan independence, the right to practice one’s own faith including the practice of Dorje Shugden and the right to speak without fear; all have a common adversary which is the fear that has long been instilled in the Tibetan people by their very leaders. Before the fight for Tibet’s freedom can be considered, a fight against a policy of fear and intimidation by the Tibetan leadership against it’s own people, must be waged and won.


Karma Choephel’s background

  • Tibetan deputy (U-Tsang)
  • Former co-chairman / Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile – he had to share it with Do-Mey provincial representative Mr. Penpa Tsering as they kept getting identical votes during the polling for the 14th TPiE. Each maintained the post for 2.5 years (2006 to halfway through 2009)
  • Former President and vice-President of the Tibetan Youth Congress (1985-1989)
  • Former President and co-founder of the National Democratic Party of Tibet (1994, 2004-2006)
  • Standing Committee of the 15th Tibetan Parliament in Exile
  • Member of Tibetan Parliament in Exile (2011 – 2016) representing the Kagyus
  • An alumni of Central School for Tibetans Mussoorie
  • B.A. from Delhi University and B.Ed. from Bangalore
  • Taught at CST Bylakuppe till 1981 when he was appointed Rector of CST Shimla and later at Mussoorie
  • Father’s Name: Dakpa Legdup
  • Mother’s Name: Jangchup
  • Date of Birth: 01/07/1949
  • Place of Birth: Tradun, Tibet
  • Marital Status: Married (Tenzin Dickyi)
  • Educational Qualifications: B.A. (Hons), B.Ed.
  • Profession: Teacher
  • Permanent Address: C/O Tibetan Parliament in Exile, CTA, Dharamsala, HP-176215, India
  • Positions Held: Teacher; School Rector; President, Tibetan Youth Congress (Centrex); President, National Democratic Party of Tibet, Dharamsala, India; Speaker, Tibetan Parliament in Exile; Member of 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, & 15th Tibetan Parliamentary in Exile
  • Special Interests: Tibetan affairs; International relations; Education; Arts; Poetry; Performing arts
  • Countries Visited: Belgium, Bhutan, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxemberg, Nepal, Netherland, Portugal, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, and USA



Karma Choephel’s opinions of the Middle Way Approach:

Click the images below to enlarge them to their full size.








(Editor’s Note: This link appears to have been removed from the mentioned website)



(Editor’s Note: This link appears to have been removed from the mentioned website)

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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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