An Open Letter to Robert Thurman

Robert Thurman is promoted globally as a learned scholar and author of Tibetan Buddhism. He is also famous for being “personal friends” with the Dalai Lama. Which is more important then? The fact that he could be a strong authority of Buddhism in the West, bringing the many sacred, ancient teachings to millions in “the new world” or just getting on the good side of the Dalai Lama?

Since the ban on the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden, Thurman has maintained a deliberately offensive stance towards Shugden practitioners, comparing them to the Taliban, and accusing them of being Chinese spies against the Tibetans.

In 2008, the Western Shugden Society wrote a letter to Robert Thurman urging him to produce proof to support his statement that Shugden people are sectarian, like the Buddhist Taliban and “working for the Chinese.” The full letter is reproduced below:

10th September 2008

An Open Letter
To Robert Thurman,

We the Western Shugden Society are writing this letter regarding your previous public statement that Shugden people are sectarian, naming them “the Buddhist Taliban”; and your recent public statement that the Western Shugden Society protestors are “working for the Chinese”.

As you know, Shugden people want to practice the Gelug tradition purely, without mixing with the Nyingma tradition. Because of this the Dalai Lama has said to Shugden people that they are sectarian. In truth, the Nyingmapa also want to practice their Nyingma tradition purely without mixing with the Gelug tradition; and it is the same for the Sakyapa and Kagyupa. So according to the Dalai Lama’s view, the Nyingmapa, Sakyapa and Kagyupa are also sectarian, but he only says that Shugden people are sectarian. In reality he is lying.

If you, Robert Thurman, are not yourself lying, then you must show your evidence to prove your public statements: that Shugden people are sectarian, “the Buddhist Taliban” as you named them; and that the Western Shugden Society is working for the Chinese. You should show your evidence publicly through the internet before 25th October 2008. If your evidence does not appear by this date then we will conclude that you have lied publicly and are misleading people.

Western Shugden Society

By 25 October 2008, Thurman had not responded to the letter in any way. It wouldn’t be unfair therefore, to consider that he has indeed lied publicly and misled people by what he is saying.

Thurman is in an especially precarious situation as someone who has already garnered a reputation as a kind of authority in Buddhism. To make statements like this is not something to be taken lightly, especially when he has nothing to substantiate what he says.

Surely, as an academic, he should understand better than anybody else that when one conveys any statements as fact, the ability to produce supporting evidence is an indivisible part of the academic process. Above all else, as a respected academic, he can (and should) be held responsible for the accuracy and truth of whatever he communicates.

Thousands of people read his books, most likely with the view that it might help their understanding and practice of Buddhism. If he is reacting in such irresponsible and hurtful ways in relations to one of the most crucial issues of Tibetan Buddhism today, a shadow of doubt would surely be cast over the rest of his writings, talks and teachings too.

Further, as a Buddhist, he has a double responsibility to upholding the truth. He should be abiding by the most basic refuge vows of not lying and not using harsh speech by launching false accusations and defamatory comments at fellow practitioners. That is the least that can be expected of someone who was even a monk for two years and is considered a close friend of the Dalai Lama.

For all the unpleasant words he has issued against Shugden practitioners however, it is his silence in response to this open letter that has been most deafening. It proves, above all, the falsities of what he has been saying and a great disappointment that someone who is so highly respected in Buddhism could have such little empathy towards fellow Buddhists.


The information in the following article is extracted from the blogs, and For more interesting reads on the subject, please visit the blogs directly.


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5 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. So much nonsense. how he can be a big writer for Buddhism but he does not speak up for Buddhists. Shame shame Mr Thurman. He does not show a good face for Buddhists or for the Dalai Lama. I feel so sad. But more power to Shugdenpas and I wish peace to all.

  2. I have always thought this Robert Thurman is more like a politician, opportunist than a Buddhist practitioner. He likes to take photos with high lamas and famous people, he is very close to rich but scandalous lamas. He commercialises Dharma by selling meditation program and encourages people to kill. He has not set up one center to spread Dharma to benefit people.

    The Karmapa issue is none of Robert Thurman’s business, why did he want to meddle in their internal affair? He was not even asked for his opinion. A real Buddhist practitioner will focus on the teachings of their own lineage, they will study and share the Dharma with people, they will not get involved in the affair of another tradition.

    What Robert Thurman does is always aligned with what the CTA is doing. The CTA must have paid him a lot to create troubles like how they paid Tenzin Peljor to spead hate speech. Power, money, and fame are what Robert Thurman wants, that is why he will listen and follow what the CTA says. We shall wait and see, when the CTA is no longer in existence, Robert Thurman will lose everything.

  3. If Robert Thurman is a real Buddhist practitioner, with his year of practice and his relationship with the Dalai Lama, he will be able to open many Dharma center to benefit people. Looking for sponsorships to do that will not be a problem to him as he has many rich and famous friends. He has also written a lot of books endorsed by the Dalai Lama, he has everything he needs to run a Dharma center but he has not even opened one.

    He is very much engaged in commercial activity. He writes Dharma books for sale, he has the Menla center selling meditation program, he uses Dharma to make money for himself. Selling Dharma for personal interest creates a lot of bad karmas, he should know it but he is still doing it. His hunger for power, money, and fame is way too much, helping others is never his intention.

    It is not hard to see he is working for the CTA. Everything he does is very aligned with the CTA. He issued a letter to support the Karmpa who is ‘recognised’ by the CTA even though nobody asked for his permission. The CTA imposed the ban and segregated Dorje Shugden followers, he also did the same. For the money, power, and fame, he will do everything.

  4. Doesn’t Robert Thurman have anything to say with regards to the Karmapa’s scandal? He always likes to criticise and thinks he is the authority, why is he keeping quiet like the CTA now? Very clearly, Robert Thurman is paid by the CTA to help them execute their evil plan, Robert Thurman will not do anything until the CTA asks him to.

    It is so sad that someone has to use the name of Dharma and high lama to gain fame, power and wealth. He has the connection to so many high lamas, if he really studies and practices, he could have been someone very beneficial to people. He could have been like Lama Ole Nydahl who is not an ordained monk but has opened so many Dharma centers and given so many Dharma teachings to change people’s life.

    It does not matter if we are a Sangha or a layperson. If we practice Dharma sincerely and transform into a better person, people will gain their faith in Dharma too. We must have the correct motivation when we deal with people. Never be selfish but always think what benefit can we give to someone.

  5. After reading so much about Robert Thurman, we can conclude that he is not a real Buddhist practitioner, he is just a businessman who is selling Dharma for money. His retreat center is promoting killing, he wants to hire hackers to attack Dorje Shugden followers. How Buddhist can he be?

    Not only that, he is seen hanging out with some sex abusers, why does he want to associate with these lamas knowing they have done something so badly to the students? On top of that, his own daughter is also a sexual abuse victim! Did he do that because he wants to be in the Dalai Lama’s good book? I bet this must be the motivation.

    If the Dalai Lama did not endorse Robert Thurman, no one will think he is an expert in Tibetan Buddhism. Without the Dalai Lama’s name, Robert Thurman will just be another writer on Buddhism subject. It is good that people know how Robert Thurman is like so they know who not to go to if they want to be a real Buddhist practitioner.

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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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