How Can There be Violence in Paradise?

Monks creating a disturbance at the gates of Rumtek Monastery

By: Proteus Quay

For a religion known for encouraging peace, tolerance and kindness, and for discouraging harm, it is especially sad to hear of violent disruptions in Buddhism. In recent decades especially, several unfortunate political controversies within the Tibetan refugee communities in India have arisen from and involved the religious schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Sadly, this has reflected poorly not just on the leaders of the Tibetan exiled community but also, more worryingly, on Buddhism itself.


Violence, in Action

An example of violence emerging from religion can be seen in the events of 1993 between two groups of practitioners within the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism. On 2nd August 1993, because of the controversy over the two different Karmapas, followers of the different candidates attacked and fought each other within the grounds of Rumtek Monastery in India. This monastery is famous for being the traditional and official seat of the Karmapa, the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyus.

Watch this video interview with H.H. Shamar Rinpoche (one of the four regents of the Karma Kagyu school and often considered to be second only to the Karmapa himself) concerning the Karmapa controversy. This video (also available on our server here) also includes clear footage of monks and Tibetan laypeople attacking Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, India.

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

Watching footage like this can only incite questions about how monks can be allowed to destroy Sangha property within a monastery and fight among each other like this. It does not reflect well either on Buddhism as a religion, nor on the exiled Tibetan community and its leaders within India.

Why does H.H. the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), not do or say anything about something as controversial and damaging as this? As the spiritual head of Tibetans, why did H.H. the Dalai Lama not put his foot down and speak directly against the violence that had been incited within a monastery by Buddhist practitioners, including monks?


Why the Violence?

Actually, what had happened prior to these attacks was that the Dalai Lama had become personally involved in these internal affairs of the Karma Kagyus, giving his official approval and acknowledgment of one Karmapa candidate over another.

The Dalai Lama is supposed to be an impartial spiritual head of all Tibetan Buddhism but has no jurisdiction or right to decide on the affairs of each individual sect. Instead of having officially ‘endorsed’ one Karmapa over another, may we respectfully suggest that the Dalai Lama should have just clearly advised the Karma Kagyu practitioners to decide this affair amicably among themselves. Then, to follow tradition, he could have emphasized to them that there should only be one Karmapa as head of their lineage. By encouraging the Karma Kagyus to decide this issue among themselves and not becoming a part of the decision-making process, the Dalai Lama could have clearly averted such strong conflicts from developing between the two Karmapa groups.

We understand that there would still have been a controversy even without the Dalai Lama’s ‘interference’. However, the violence would certainly not have escalated to that level if the Dalai Lama had not interceded. It reached this level of violence only because the Dalai Lama took sides in the controversy. His powerful endorsement of one Karmapa over the other aggravated the situation, giving one side more fuel to take matters into their own hands. It is clear that if the Dalai Lama had not given any endorsement, the situation would not have escalated to such critical levels.

Furthermore, while the violence in this instance was very clear and showed a tremendous disrespect to the seat of the Karmapa, the Dalai Lama and the CTA issued no reproach to the perpetrators of the attack. Suddenly, the Karma Kagyus were left to battle it out among themselves. Why were the Tibetan leaders interfering in a sect’s internal affairs when there was no need to, but remaining silent in a most urgent situation which involved physical violence?

Since the Dalai Lama did intercede and violence did eventually break out, then he should have also intercepted to pacify the situation when it got out of hand. How could he have approved of something but not assumed the responsibility to interject when his endorsement led to even stronger conflict, to such extreme violence and strife? Not stepping in at this most crucial stage of violence reflects very badly on his people and government. It gives the Dalai Lama and his supporters the unfortunate reputation of looking fickle, meek and not honoring their positions of authority and leadership.


Double Standards for Codes of Violence

In contrast, the CTA have also wrongly accused other sectors of their community of violence, without any real substantiated proof. To this day, practitioners of the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden are often accused of being violent. In the late 1990s, they were even implicated in a few murders, although the evidence never conclusively proved that the culprits were Dorje Shugden practitioners. The stigma still stuck and to this day, these murders are consistently cited as ‘proof’ of how ‘harmful’ Dorje Shugden practitioners are.

This started happening because the Dalai Lama had imposed a ban against this practice, stating that Dorje Shugden himself was harmful. There are many spiritual reasons for why this statement is illogical and unfair (visit this forum to read the various debates against this ban). However, even on a basic, secular level, we must realize that the act of suppressing anyone’s religious freedom is itself a kind of violence against the community’s human rights.

We wish to ask: Why are there such double standards in the way that the CTA responds to the same kinds of situations? The Karma Kagyus can incite and carry out such obvious acts of violence against a most sanctified and respected spiritual place (the seat of their own spiritual leader, the Karmapa) without any reproach. But Dorje Shugden practitioners, who maintain their personal practice quietly in peace, are constantly accused of violence. Worst of all, they are accused by the very same leaders who are supposed to defend and protect the justice of its people.

If the CTA wish to speak so strongly against violence and harm, then they should maintain this all the way and also target the real culprits who incite violence. It is clear that those who are not violent, like Dorje Shugden practitioners, are being targeted; and those who are violent have no corrective action taken against them. Repercussions and responses issued by the leaders of any society must be consistent and fair to all in order for people to build their trust in the government and leaders.


Encouraging Violence

“About 100 people attacked us” says this lady whose family were chased out of their residential area
for their Dorje Shugden practice.
(Dalai Lama / Dorje Shugden: documentary by Swiss Public TV)

If we explore the situation more deeply, we will see that not only is the CTA failing to curb violence, but they are actually encouraging acts of violence against Dorje Shugden practitioners. There have been many documented stories of suppression and media reports of violence on monks carried out by Dalai Lama’s supporters. Supporters of the Dalai Lama have been known to attack the homes and lives of Dorje Shugden practitioners and even publicly desecrate holy statues in the name of upholding the Dalai Lama’s instructions and preserving religious purity. None of them are reproached nor held accountable in any way. By this, it seems like the discrimination and violence are being sanctioned by the highest authority – the Dalai Lama himself and the community’s leaders.


A Call for Law and Order

How can all this violence and contradiction be happening within what is supposed to be a Shangri-La community, presided over by the Nobel Peace Laureate, H.H. the Dalai Lama? What would people think if they knew that monks were beating other monks, or that spiritual practitioners of the kind and tolerant Buddhist religion were being attacked simply because of their religious choices? How will the world look upon a religion that preaches the Middle Path but silently ‘endorses’ such extreme acts of violence against its own practitioners? Why do a spiritual leader and his secular government allow this?

To maintain the peace and harmony of his own people, Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay – head of the CTA – should ensure that law and order prevails for all in the Tibetan refugee communities. This must include fair treatment of the way of citizens under his governance, whatever their religious and personal beliefs. Conversely, bad behavior – no matter what a person’s religious affiliations – must also be dealt with in equal, fair ways. No religion or community of people will be taken seriously if there are such blatant practices of double standards and hypocrisy being upheld by the leaders, the very people who must protect their people against the evils of society.

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I’m really confused with all these politics created by spiritual practitioners and those who blindfolded following a leader. How can a leader who won Nobel Peace prize allows his secular people to create violence? How can politics has to do with religion?

    The violent attack happened in Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim has clearly indicate that the CTA has double standard of handling violence. The monks and Tibetan laypeople initiated the attack to their fellow Sangha and yet CTA did nothing to stop it. Whereas, CTA could send people to attack an innocent monk who devotedly served his great Guru, just for a turn down of an invitation to a talk? Ridiculous.

    Dorje Shugden practitioners’ life is at stake, this is undoubtedly true. Why? Because Nobel Peace Prize winner does not really promote peace and harmony, freedom in religion is prohibited, double standards, no consistency in principle, life is valued only when you abide their unreasonable law…What is PEACE? seriously?

    The shameful deeds by CTA will not be covered. We will not remain silent and watch tragedy happens again and again to those innocent Sanghas. We will make this ban down! You watch out!

  2. All the karma of recognising two lamas, like Panchen Lama, Denma Gonsar Rinpoche, Karmapa etc. are coming back to the CTA with the current Panchen Lama rising with fame and attracting many to attend his teachings and initiation. Sooner or later, the CTA will loose its influence with people choosing the Panchen Lama who accepts everyone without the slightest form of discrimination.

    Intereferring the Karma Kagyu matter is not a smart move at all especially when it cause such level of violence and disharmony in another lineage. The Karmapa’s reincarnation recognition has always been an affair of the Kagyu sect, never the Dalai Lama and CTA. Since the Dalai Lama and CTA has done so, they have created such disharmony harm which is definitely unncesarry.

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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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