Dear Sir / Madam,
I am writing to you to draw your attention to a most important issue within the Tibetan Buddhist community. This is not about any Free Tibet issues. This is something even more important about the freedom of people within the Tibetan community and among each other.
- It is well known that His Holiness the Dalai Lamas throughout their incarnations over the centuries have been both secular and spiritual heads of the Tibetans. This may have worked in the past, in a country that was isolated from the rest of the world. However, many countries throughout the modern world understand that the mixing of secular and religious affairs cannot work.
This system has failed time and time again, throughout history, in all the largest nations in the world.But this is not so in the exiled Tibetan community living in India. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, up until very recently, held both secular and spiritual leadership of his people. Decisions and policies made for the country encompassed both secular and religious edicts at the same time. This has become very pronounced during the Dalai Lama’s ban on the religious worship of the Buddha Dorje Shugden.
- As a spiritual leader of his people, it may be the prerogative of the Dalai Lama to proclaim a ban on a particular religious practice. In fact, he has even banned all Dorje Shugden devotees from attending his sermons, rituals and special religious ceremonies. Within a spiritual sphere, perhaps this is still permissible, since he is their religious authority. Also, any Lama has the right to determine which students are permitted to attend their ceremonies.
However, as the secular leader of his people, the Dalai Lama should maintain an unbiased concern for all citizens of the nation under him, no matter what their religious choices are.He should NOT exclude people from coming to see him as their political, secular leader during his non-religious activities, talks or appearances.
Unfortunately however, this is what is happening: Dorje Shugden devotees are not permitted to have anything to do with the Dalai Lama or his people, solely because of his religious beliefs.At the same time, although this is a spiritual matter, the secular institution of the Central Tibetan Administration (formerly known as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile) has also become deeply involved.
They actively search for Dorje Shugden people to create obvious segregation and undemocratic bias.When they find them, the CTA ostracizes, attacks and ridicules Dorje Shugden practitioners. They deny them any of the welfare, voting rights or privileges that all citizens of a country should be equally entitled to.Through the ban, Tibetans are forced to make an exclusive decision – choose to follow the Dalai Lama or Dorje Shugden. However, if they choose to continue with Dorje Shugden, they do not only lose connections to the Dalai Lama.
They are also severed from all voting rights, education, social welfare, medical aid or even social interaction with their fellow Tibetan citizens. This is because the Dalai Lama has said clearly that Tibetans must completely sever all social, working and religious ties with Dorje Shugden practitioners.This is NOT RIGHT. The Dalai Lama may have supreme spiritual authority over his people, as their religious leader. However, as he is also their secular leader, he should still have equal care and concern for his people as citizens of his nation. This goes beyond one’s religious orientation, which is every individual’s freedom to choose.
Even if someone is not allowed to associate with the Dalai Lama for religious reasons, they should still have the right to associate with their secular, political leader. After all, they are still citizens of the community – shouldn’t all citizens be granted equal liberties and civil rights, regardless of their religious choices? Shouldn’t every secular leader have equal concern for the people under his leadership and take care of their welfare irregardless of their religious beliefs and orientation?
There are also Tibetans who are not Buddhists, but are Muslims, Bonpos and the likes. They are allowed to attend all the Dalai Lama’s religious ceremonies and secular gatherings. Basically, all citizens of Tibet are allowed to interact with the Dalai Lama, whether on a religious and/or secular level EXCEPT Dorje Shugden practitioners. How does the Tibetan leadership address this when every other democratic country in the 21st Century will not tolerate this kind of blatant discrimination.
- Lastly, in more recent times, the Dalai Lama has retired as the secular head of the Tibetan exiled community. In 2011, the respected Dr. Lobsang Sangye has stepped into the position as the Tibetans’ new prime minister, overseeing all secular affairs of the state. However, Dorje Shugden devotees are still not permitted to associate with him, only because of their religious orientation. Why is this so?There is now a clear distinction between the spiritual leader (Dalai Lama) and the secular leader (Lobsang Sangye). But it seems that religious edicts have also overlapped onto the secular affairs of the Tibetan community. The spiritual dictates from the spiritual leader are also being upheld by the secular leaders of the community. Why is this so? Why have spiritual affairs become a part of the political affairs of a country; and vice versa?
So, we would like to post the following important questions, which need to be asked and addressed:
- As a religious leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not allow people to come to his talks. We respect and understand that. It is his prerogative as their spiritual leader. However, on a secular level, as the leader of all six million Tibetans, why does he not allow these same Tibetans to join in his secular activities, talks, rallies and events? If not, why not? After all, His Holiness is still their leader.
- Now that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has passed his secular power to the first Prime minister of Tibetans, Dr. Lobsang Sangye, what do all the Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners do? Are they allowed to talk to and interact with their new secular leader? Or are they restricted from doing so purely because of their religious choices? What are they expected to do?
- Dr. Lobsang Sangye (Prime Minister) is a secular leader, a layman who was newly and democratically elected who is not a Spiritual Guru or Dharma teacher; only strictly a worldly leader for the benefit of all Tibetan citizens. How do Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners relate to him? How should they relate to him? How should Dr. Lobsang Sangye, as their Prime Minister, relate to them? Can they even consider him their leader although they are Tibetans who still practice Dorje Shugden? They certainly do not have any spiritual bond (samaya) with him and their religious practices would not have any bearing on their relationship with him, as it might with the Dalai Lama.
- In future, how do Dorje Shugden practitioners relate to the next prime minister after Dr. Lobsang Sangye? And the one after that? And after that? How should all these future prime ministers relate to the people?
We do not mean disrespect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or to Dr Lobsang Sangye, the CTA or any Tibetans. However, we need to ask these questions. They are logical and necessary at a time when the world does not operate solely by religious edicts. It is unfair, undemocratic and a travesty of human freedoms. We call for reconsideration of this ban and how it is being conducted and wish that all have the freedoms to make their own religious and worldly choices.