Kundeling Rinpoche’s Answers

Kundeling Rinpoche’s Answers to Questions Posed Recently by Interested Agencies

General Background to the Answers

There is a need to comprehend a fundamental factor here in relation to the centuries-old practice and belief of the Protectors (or Dharmapalas) and the place that Dorje Shugden holds as one amongst the many such venerated. Every Lineage of practice within Tibet’s Buddhist Tradition, has its own unique Dharmapala and the worship of each requires the essential practice of living exemplary life-styles of purity and altruism and strict adherence to the designated Lineage. As each of the Lineages of Teachings has its own chartered Path towards the goal of Enlightenment, it is unwarranted to engage in mixing them (as some so-called eclectics do). In Buddhism in general, a genuine practice of pure Dharma must not be tainted with mundane goals, particularly with politics!

People who rely on Dorje Shugden – like followers of any particular lineage of Dharmapala – cherish these goals and ideals. In the Indian spiritual tradition, from the Vedic era up to the present, myriads of spiritual visionaries have been ardent followers of their respective lineages. And this orthodoxy did not result in making them narrow minded sectarians who despised the practice of others. Adi Shankaracharya, the Advaitya ideologist, Mirabhai and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the two strongest proponents of the Vaishnava, and Basavanna the Shaiviate, are characteristic examples. With regards to ecumenism in India, the early 16th century Guru Nanak developed an eclectic trend of incorporating the sacred Teachings of various scriptures, taking the essential good points with the objective of strengthening the base of monotheistic ideology. The following nine Gurus of the Sikhs reinforced the path revealed by Nanak within the ‘Granth-Sahib’, considering it their only guideline. Their objectives were not pervaded by any political or nationalistic motives. In fact, the Sikh Gurus had waged war against the Islamic intolerance of that age in order to protect the freedom of all other believers. This did not necessitate their mixing other faiths with their own established doctrine envisaged by Guru Nanak.

A further trend, espoused by the late 18th century poet and mystic saint Kabir and the 19th century Shirdi Sai Baba, uniquely infused Islamic and Hindu beliefs, engraining in their followers a sense of spiritual ecumenism. This reflected the needs of their times, when prevailing conditions were occasionally disturbed by communal riots and sectarian violence. To encourage greater harmony and well being, they created these ecumenical movements that had also been proposed earlier by the late 15th century Mughal Emperor Akbur in a movement named ‘Din-Ilahi. Mahatma Gandhi’s ecumenism was motivated by the goal of uniting all Indians, irrespective of creed or religion. His slogan was based on maintaining that ‘Ishvar’ and ‘Allah’ were one and the same Creator. His focus was on the Hindu and Muslim populace who were occasionally at loggerheads, but, regardless of the nationalist intention, Gandhi could by no means be referred to as a politician, a religious head or as enemy of the British. He did not propose a path of animosity, nor did he aspire to be a king or a god of Indians. So he is lovingly called ‘The Father of the Nation’.

The beauty of this land called India lies ultimately in its history and its capacity to incorporate all diversities, whether cultural, religious, philosophical or ideological. The fact that all diversities and extremes find their convergence here, has created the characteristic amongst influential Indian society, referred to by the Nobel Laureate Amritya Sen as ‘the Argumentative Indian’! Secularism, an orientation much cherished today, was born and fostered in India, which has been a multi-cultural society for centuries, including spirituality, hedonism and eroticism.

The practice of Dharmapalas currently existing in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, has its roots also in the practices of Dharmapalas maintained within the Indian Monastic seats of Nalanda and Vikramshila as far back as the 9th century AD. Dorje Shugden as a Dharmapala divinity is simply a continuation of the sacred heritage that is essentially Indian. The institution of the Dalai Lamas, for instance, finds its foundation in the Indian Buddhist concept of Nirmanakaya (ie. ‘Emanation Body’ – the reincarnated entity of a Paramapurusha or Supreme Being). The Tibetan adaptation of Nirmanakaya is paradoxical with the original Indian context – explicitly a corruption and departure from the pure intent! Whereas Buddha Shakyamuni as the original ParamaNirmanakaya abandoned his kingdom to embrace the life of a wandering beggar, the Tibetan prototype has become a ‘God-King’ and a shrewd politician! However, the propitiatory practices to, and the veneration of, Dorje Shugden have remained unchanged for 340 years or more.

The Dalai Lama’s predecessors, from the First to the Fourth, were humble monks and Gelugpa savants. Because of the sacred history of these sages and the volatile political scenario in Tibet, the Fifth incarnate was placed on a pedestal of fame and glory by anxious Gelugpa personalities who threw their weight around in the newly formed Governmental Institution. Tibetan apocryphal formulations further elevated the position of the Dalai Lamas in order to justify the supremacy of his rule, thereby consolidating the Gelugpa hegemony and its predominance over others such as the Nyingmapas, Sakyapas and Kagyupas. Nevertheless, until the time of the current candidate the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lamas (and he himself) were never supreme Heads of all the Buddhist traditions and not even referred to as ‘Head’ of the Gelugpa. They were considered the highest Gelugpa incarnates, on par with the Panchen Lamas.

Traditionally, the Panchens as Paranirmanakaya were known as the highest spiritual authorities and emanations of Buddha Amitabha. The Dalais were known as the highest temporal authorities and emanations of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshwara (disciple of Amitabha). The very sanctity of the temporal powers vested in the Dalai Lamas after the Fifth originate from the Imperial bestowal granted to the Dalai Lama on his visit to Beijing – this, too, confined to the jurisdiction of the areas of land in and surrounding Lhasa.

The metamorphosis of the 14th Dalai Lama since his coming into exile, and his volte face from his avowed agenda and from the sacred charter of the First Dalai Lama Gyalwa Gendup, illustrates the degeneration not only of the integrity of an individual but also, unfortunately, of the Institution itself. Those familiar with Tibetan chronicles know well that the temporal authority or the domination of Tibetan Regions by religious hierarchy such as the Dalais and Panchens, including their selection and investiture, emanated from the Imperial Authorisation of successive Chinese Sovereigns.

One may ask how the various Buddhist hegemonies, engaged in sectarian violence since the 11th century A.D., established their dominion in areas of a divided Tibet, when the advent of Buddhism in the early 9th century saw the beginnings of a gradual disintegration of the military might it was once known to possess. Fundamentalism has been very much a characteristic of each of the ruling hegemonies, championing the causes of their respective Schools. Intolerance has been a trend since then, long before the ‘Talibanisation’ of Islam! To refer to Shugden adherents as ‘Talibans’ amongst Tibetan Buddhists is inappropriate and in very bad taste!

The dizzy heights of celebrity attained today by the 14th Dalai Lama have raised him to the status of a cult figure. But his brand of Buddhism is not a revitalisation stemming from revolutionary concepts of moving with the times. Rather it is the painstaking reconstruction using universal ideals and profound insights on human development found in the Teachings of the Buddha to reinvent a political ideology to serve a Tibetan nationalistic purpose.

A movement called Chol.sum Chigdil (meaning ‘Union of the Three Provinces’) which would essentially make all Tibetans unite under one Nationality without regional chauvinism, with one political ideology, one spiritual practice, and a singular leadership, was already in the making since 1960, not long after the arrival in India of the Dalai Lama and his followers. During meetings that took place behind closed doors, headed by the Dalai Lama, plans were afoot to make the Gelugpa tradition the only spiritual practice for Tibetans, with the Dalai Lama, of course, the only Leader. But this was vehemently opposed by the followers of the other major traditions. A splinter group coalition of thirteen factions of the various traditions and regions, known as Tshog.pa Chu.sum (tib.), came into existence in the northern Indian town of Dheradhur, with the late Sixteenth Karmapa as the spiritual Head.

This was the first ever move of opposition against the Dalai Lama in exile. It ended in tragic consequences, being dismantled by the Dalai Lama and his assistants, with the Indian Intelligence Agencies aiding in deporting those persons who spearheaded the opposition. The lay leader of the coalition, Gungthong Tsultrim – a Tibetan veteran who had adopted Indian citizenship and who had ties with Taiwan’s KTMC – was assassinated in 1975. On his death-bed, he named Gyalo Thondup (the elder brother of the Dalai Lama) and Juchen Thupten Namgyal (an ex-Minister of the Dalai Lama), currently living and active in dismantling the old guerrilla warriors faction known as ‘The Four Rivers and Six Ranges’ (Chu.shi Gang Thug, tib.). There has never been – and seemingly will never be – a close investigation to bring these criminals to justice. Perhaps it would open a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of many more murders or perhaps it suited the Indian Authorities of those times to believe the half-baked information coming from Gyalo Thondup and simply blame all ills on Chinese instigation.

In summary, the Dalai Lama was faced with a situation of emergency. There was a need for him to consolidate his position as the undisputed Leader of all Tibetans. Plan A., to bring all Tibetans under Gelugpa domination, did not work. So Plan B. – an extreme U-turn from the first strategy – would have to be put in motion. The Dalai Lama would consort with the Heads of all the Traditions, particularly the Nyingmapas. Ecumenism would be the watchword of the God-King’s initiatives, to win the allegiance of the Sakyapas, the Kagyupas and the Nyingmapas. To curry favour with the Heads of the various traditions, he underwent their religious transmissions, the spiritual practices of their lineages, thereby motivating a spiritual obligation on their part to become his disciples – in other words, to become subservient to his temporal and spiritual authority. Overnight, the God-King became an ardent admirer of ‘Rimay’, the non-sectarian initiative of some well-known figures from the Kham area of Tibet. The move was hence motivated by political reasons rather than by altruistic concerns for Tibet and the Tibetans.

Historically speaking, the institution of the Dalai Lamas was essentially Gelugpa. Regardless of the Dalai Lama’s brief flirtation with the Nyingmapas, he was, in the end, a hard-line Gelugpa. The politically suave Fifth and Thirteenth Dalai Lamas were shrewd strategists and had taken recourse in policies of ‘appeasement’ and ‘divide and rule’ tactics. Their mandate coming from the vastly pervasive and powerful Gelugpa lobby, they hardly bothered about the welfare of the non-Gelugpas or the need to accommodate them!

An incumbent Incarnate Being, by virtue of being reborn to continue the noble deeds and projects of their predecessor, has a moral duty as a Buddhist sage, to uphold Pure Dharma. This being the case, the current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso hardly emulates his predecessors, irrespective of his invoking the names of the Great Fifth and the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas at all public venues. His supporters may argue that the times have changed, that dual responsibilities rest on his shoulders, that there is a need for dynamism, change and the unity of Tibetans. On all accounts, it sounds very noble indeed! But the orchestrated policies of the Tibetan Leader and his mesmerised followers, point towards one objective – the undisputed supremacy of the Dalai Lama in both political and religious spheres, regardless of whether Tibet becomes Free or remains under Chinese authority. This consolidation of the authority of the Dalai Lama is a policy developed in exile. The evolution of the Chosum Chigdil was modelled to unite all Tibetans in exile – with attention given also to those remaining in Tibet – under one ideology and the singular leadership of the Dalai Lama, in order to stand up against the might of the Chinese. Scarcely a much higher moral ground than that of the Chinese!

Moreover, the enormous popularity and hypnotic fascination for Tibet – seen as an ageless Utopia with the ‘Compassionate Presidency’ of the Dalai Lama over the blissfully feudal masses of Tibetans prior to the advent of the demonic Chinese is – as growing numbers of Western scholars of Tibet confirm – a romantic fantasy for those starved of heroic sagas, fed by the Dalai Lama’s initiatives to immortalise ‘The Tibetan Cause’. This slow but steady awakening to the painful reality of what Tibet is not, has created the possibility of making other more shocking, discoveries.

The lure of the Dalai Lama which has kept audiences hypnotised both in the West and the East, is essentially the result of the high-powered propaganda engaged in by the Tibetan Head and his Administration during the last two decades. This brainwashing has partially or completely paralysed his audiences.

To illustrate the point, one can consider the manner in which the Dalai Lama and his Government in Exile has functioned in the four decades since the Diaspora. The Tibet support groups, along with followers in the West, have presumed that the communities of Tibetan Refugees in India and elsewhere, are enlightened colonies of liberty and peace. The fantasising reaches the extent of gullibly supposing that, outside hellish Tibet, the Dalai Lama has, from his heavenly headquarters in Dharamsala, recreated a just and democratic society, one that functions on the basis of egalitarian and altruistic values. Never the less, unknown to those beguiled by this make-believe, the legislative powers, the supposed judiciary, and the ‘parliament’, are run at the political will and dictates of the Dalai Lama. With all powers resting safely in the hands of the Leader, all administrative Heads are handpicked personally by him. Critical observation of the Leader is inconceivable, democratic ‘opposition’ impossible, need for transparency and accountability to the Tibetans beside the point. After all, he is God incarnate himself!

Political and religious ideologies – for example, the ‘Tibetan Cause’ – undertaken by the Leadership, have displayed chameleon hues. The vacillating flip-flop in policies – first demanding ‘Tibetan Independence’, abandoning it at the drop of a hat, swaying from ‘Genuine Autonomy’ to ‘Self-Determination’ – calling himself a ‘Chinese citizen’ while swearing that his reincarnation would never be born within that country; claiming that China has made progress and is rapidly changing, that its economic ‘boom’ means a promising future for all Tibetans, and then suddenly accusing the Chinese of carrying out atrocities and ruling with an iron hand; all this displays neurotic tendencies, not equilibrium. The unscrupulousness and confidence with which the Dalai Lama supports violent acts, is appalling – not only those related to anti-Chinese operations engaged in by his agents, but also the incitement contained in his brazen provocative speeches, to stir up mass contempt towards his political and religious adversaries. Instigated mob violence and man-handling of the God-King’s perceived ‘enemies’ have only recently come to attention of a section of the Indian Media and investigating agencies.

The enduring image of immaculacy in all his political and religious dealings, regardless of the façade, and his nefarious destruction of all opposition, goes to prove his political clout. And this effective utility as a bargaining chip was first noticed by Washington – particularly the C.I.A. – while continuing its ‘cold war’ against Communism. The significance of his presence had dawned on Delhi only after the 1962 border conflict with China. It is no secret that the C.I.A. had first relayed the Dalai Lama’s request for asylum to Delhi, as part of Washington’s covert operations.

A reluctant Nehru, who had earlier advocated stronger ties with China – openly supporting its legitimate ownership of Tibet and its membership of the United Nations – retracted to provide clandestine support for the C.I.A. Now the Washington policy makers appear to be washing their hands of the Tibetan Leader, since they have a better policy of containment of China – new found concerns regarding Delhi’s nuclear requirements! They are aware of the two Asian giants vying to become superpowers with many upcoming issues to contend with, apart from the unresolved Sino-Indian border dispute, while the United States’ role as the sole super-power remains secure, at least for some time.

The question, then, is not so much about the political games being played by the super-powers, but rather about the serious claim of moral superiority that both the Indian and American bureaucracies claim vis-à-vis China. Whereas Delhi would probably differ from the U.S. in its dealings, it does need to do some soul-searching about sheltering a guest who abuses the very fabric of his host country’s Constitution! By all accounts, the Headquarters and Administration of the 14th Dalai Lama is not merely ‘a humble Tibetan Settlement’. If it is a ‘mini Lhasa’, cosily tucked away on a foothill overlooking the Kangra Valley, the original was a feudal theocracy. This resembles a totalitarian regime. Nevertheless, the Indian bureaucracy seems to have no qualms about a second constitution running parallel to its own. This cannot be the desired example for ‘Rising India’, nor can it be the ideal model for the world’s largest secular democracy!

The Tibetan God-King’s obsessive commitment since 1996 has been his infamous ban on the spiritual practice and worship of Dorje Shugden. The magnitude of false incrimination and resulting mass attacks on the hapless followers of the deity was such as to leave no alternative to them but to join together in a coalition, to demonstrate their protests. Since then, as a consequence, the Leader has prompted the Tibetan masses, inciting attacks and even motivating Indian agencies by citing Shugden adherents as Chinese agents and promoting a worldwide propaganda against them. This is unprecedented in history. But when the Dalai Lama is given unobstructed freedom to hold mass gatherings to provoke animosity – during his grandiloquent presentations – raising a false picture of China and an utterly concocted diabolical picture of Shugden followers, speculations as to his growing utility as a political pawn for use to either the political establishment or the Intelligence, may not be wholly unjustified!

It is a fact that the Sino-Indian hostilities culminating in the military confrontation, had much to do with the Chinese perception of the Indian support for the Dalai Lama’s ‘Cause’ – and not merely because of India granting asylum to the latter and his followers. The truth is that the arrival of the Dalai Lama has increased mistrust between the two neighbours, despite his high standing as a leader of international repute and the claims of his promoting World Peace. The reality shows that, far from a global contribution, a closer rapport between India and China is not in his interest. Even though considered a temporal or political head (let alone undisputed religious head), this Venerable politician has no promises to fulfil to his Constituency. Neither does he have to face his only political adversary – the Chinese – even in a neutral venue, on the contentious issue of the ongoing Sino-Tibetan negotiations, although he is not adverse to meeting a host of politicians, dubious characters and Hollywood stars anywhere. It would be ludicrous if the Indians were to mouth the words of the Dalai Lama’s fans, in referring to the Chinese part in negotiations as ‘insincere and conniving’.

If India is a thriving democracy and a rising power, it is because of the strength of its people and of the free Press and not because of any particular Government or ruling Party. The Media’s opinions could also be accused of being biased and people’s expressions are sometimes motivated by sentimental and emotional outbursts. But the beauty of the people’s aspirations is nevertheless manifested, everywhere in the world, whether it is the antagonism of the American masses to their country’s policy on Iraq, or the strong resentment shown by the Turkish people towards the formation of a non-secular Government in Turkey. If the recent polls conducted by the Indian Media amongst urban populations in India and Pakistan are to be taken into consideration, there are some serious concerns and noble yearnings that Governments on both sides need to comprehend. The polls have not only revealed support for democratic rule rather than dictatorship, but have shown that both sides do not perceive their respective Governments as capable of creating the right atmosphere for peace. What is more, both sides express the wish for more ‘people-to-people’ contact.

An interesting perception currently circulating amongst the intelligentsia in Pakistan, putting the onus on the Indian Leadership, states that many people felt that the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh, sincerely desires peace with their country, but that the Indian Intelligence Agencies, R.A.W. and P.O.W. probably obstruct this.

Thus, it took sixty years for Indians and Pakistanis to come to these wise conclusions and even more for India to realise that bon hommie with the distant countries of Russia and America meant little when its relationship with its nearest neighbour, Pakistan, was appalling. Shouldn’t the same rationale apply to mending its ties with China, and isn’t it plausible for India and its Leadership to learn more about its northern neighbour and its Leadership, just as Pakistanis have exhorted them to educate themselves on Ali Jinnah, the founding father of the Pakistani Nation? How much do Indians know about Mao Tse Tung and his legacy of the Communist Party, the ruling politburo in Beijing?

To begin with, the Indian Press reporting on the ‘Dragon’ – despite displaying deftness and professionalism – echoes largely the rhetoric of Western reporting, their objectivity obstructed by their preconceptions about anything Communist at large. This is added to their naiveté in believing that reporting every bit of news from Tibet Support Groups makes them into champions of a ‘just cause’ against the brutal Chinese oppression of the peace-loving Tibetans! And this myth of the peace-loving Tibetans, we all now know, stems from the Dalai Lama’s propaganda.

Indians cannot join the litany of demonising the Chinese, even though an opinion poll during the visit of the Chinese President Jin Tao in 2006 reported that seventy five per cent of Indians do not trust the Chinese. An erratic outburst by the ex-Minister of Defence, George Fernandez, that China was now India’s Number One Enemy, followed the sentimental outburst of the ex-Prime Minister, Atal Bihara Vajpayee, a seasoned politician, about India’s reasons for nuclear testing in Pokharan. China’s reaction to these voices and the subsequent volte face from the Indian Leadership, was to consider them ridiculously comical. Nevertheless, the nuanced and pragmatic diplomacy of the current Indian Prime Minister, as displayed in his reconciliatory moves towards Pakistan, are indeed commendable. If more cultural exchanges were to be initiated and ‘people to people’ contacts encouraged, there would be more scope for relationships to develop – especially as there doesn’t seem to be much interest in cricket in China!

China may be shy of the Media, but that doesn’t mean that an opinion poll could not be conceivable between prominent citizens of India and China, even if the Chinese candidates are going to be Government-approved mouthpieces. It would be better than having policy experts or so-called political analysts (who have never been to China or interacted with the Chinese) nurturing animosity towards the Chinese and pouring out venom and mistrust.

If the eminent Chief Editor of ‘Frontline’ and ‘Hindu’, N. Ram, (known for his leftist leanings) and Brahma Chellany (for being anti-Chinese), both intellectuals, should be put on the dais to debate Sino-Indian affairs vis-à-vis Tibet, as a precedent, and if a public poll be conducted and the ideas proposed formulated into action, there will be more of a friendship movement to impact the swift solution to disputes, rather than remaining in the current status quo.

In the event of such daring initiatives, it would not take long to discover Chinese perceptions and aspirations. The Indian population at large is not well conversed with the fact that the Chinese perceive the Dalai Lama as a reactionary and a threat to China. Unfortunately, this is too often treated by some Indian politicians as Chinese rhetoric. The Dalai Lama had insisted that the United States support the Tibetan resistance force on Nepali soil, in their bloody war against the Chinese P.L.A. in 1961. He had encouraged and blessed those volunteering to fight with the guerrillas from his Headquarters in India. There were other outbreaks of violence in Lhasa and elsewhere within Tibet. Indians fume at the idea of any Indian separatist groups or insurgents attempting to form a Government, but speak of the Tibetan Government in Exile in India as ‘harmless’. India, too, had fomented the separation of Pakistan, the insurgency in Sri Lanka, by covertly supporting the LT – resulting in the tragic assassination of the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It would be naïve to conclude that the political agencies in India have no traffic with the Dalai Lama, or ‘games’ to play.

Even so, no other country on this globe comes off as clean and unpolluted, with back door politics and intrigues and proxies being a part of so-called ‘ground political realities’. As an aspirant member of the Global Village and a proud citizen of a great nation such as India, besides being a Shugden adherent and an ethnic Tibetan, I do not wish to look through this prism of political obligations or vendettas. If Indians – like Pakistanis – feel that the Pakistani President Musharaff should give up his military uniform to give credibility to civilian rule, we ask, then, why is a theocratic rule possible on Indian soil if it is not advisable for our neighbours? In the case of the Tibetan Leader, we suggest that he abandons either his political or his religious garb, to give sanctity and meaning to either one or the other.

If the Dalai Lama aspires to being a Tibetan ‘Gandhi’, then, like the great Mahatma, he should be at the forefront in front of his people’s struggles. If Tibetan Independence is his ‘agenda’, then, just as the Mahatma visited Great Britain, placing himself squarely before Colonialist might, he should face the Chinese on a neutral venue and address and win the hearts and minds of his mortal enemies (instead of those of Wall Street millionaires and Hollywood stars!). A good Buddhist leader shuns politics, violence and power games and does not discriminate between believers and non-believers. A good politician is one who nourishes those who brought him to power and fulfils the promises made to his constituency. Shugden followers saved him from the jaws of Death, educated him and brought him to the position in which he has become a celebrity.

Indian politicians need to use their counselling skills to ask their V.V.I.P. guest to behave like one! The hosts should first save him from his self-destructive and self-defeating policies and then worry about security threats to his divine presence. Avatars are born into this world to protect others, and not to be protected. If the God incarnate cannot redeem himself, what can the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, or any other agency, do for him? How can a Tibetan God become the target for ‘terrorists’ and ‘fundamentalists’? How has a Tibetan theocrat’s security become an issue for democratic India? How does a Nobel Peace Laureate and Buddhist Leader become an instigator of hostilities amongst his own followers?

A Tibetan ‘Inquisition’ and apartheid against followers of the deity Dorje Shugden is in full swing on Indian soil. The God-King desires to exterminate these followers by clamping down on the resources of aspiring recruits wishing to join the monasteries of Shugden practitioners. These recruits apply for Indian visas with valid Chinese passports, but once in India, in the Tibetan Settlements, the Officers of the Dalai Lama sustain that their documents are invalid if they are Shugden worshippers! They have to declare themselves opposed to the practice of Shugden, as Tibetan refugees in India – only then will their travel documents be facilitated.

From such and many more examples, it is obvious that the high sounding values of India’s Democratic constitutional rights are only reserved for foreigners or refugees of celebrity standing (such as the Bangladeshi writer Jasleem Nasreen). And if you are a V.V.I.P. celebrity in India, your criminal antecedents will be well protected. You need only not question India’s legitimate rights over Kashmir or Sikkim and all else will be well and permissible!

Question 1: According to information received, the Dalai Lama faces a threat to his life, in or around Dharamsala, from the Al Qaeda (or its affiliations?), the L.E.T. and Dorje Shugden, possibly with the support of the P.R.C. What is your opinion about this?

Answer: (Are you referring to the P.R.O.C., because the above suggests the participation of Taiwan). Judging by the tone of such incredible insinuations, the source of this fantastic theory must surely be located back to the associates of the Dalai Lama, with his own propaganda and phobias spurring them on. Even after his unwarranted remarks about Islam, the current Pope, Benedict XVI, does not figure on the hit list of any of the Islamic extremist organisations. Why, and on what grounds, should the Dalai Lama suddenly become a target for Islamic fundamentalists? A marriage of interests could exist between the Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, to unite in destroying what they may perceive as a common enemy. But on what grounds would anyone have the nerve to make such claims about Dorje Shugden followers and their alliance with such criminal elements?

It appears to me that – even amongst hawks and ‘China-bashers’ in Indian Ministries – the oft-repeated claims about a ‘China threat’ have yet to be formulated into such an imagined threat consisting of he most sensational combining of the lousiest elements of all evil-doers known, to appease their ‘Divine Guest’! To my simple logistics, the rationale is drawn from statements by the Dalai Lama himself during his December 2004 visit to the Hunsur Gurupura Settlement of Mysore District, South Karnataka. The Tibetan Head publicly declared that highly placed Indian Officials had forewarned him of a threat to his life, not from assumed quarters but from Shugden followers!

In the month of December 2006, Delhi’s India T.V. Exclusive, watched by millions of Indians, broadcast an outrageous claim that eight Tibetan Shugden followers were being sent across the border by Chinese authorities to assassinate the Dalai Lama during the latter’s Kalachakra engagements in Amravati, Andra Pradesh. In May of this year itself, reports circulated in Indian and International Media, that the Indian Police in Delhi had requested the help of Interpol to pursue two supposedly Shugden assassins of the late Rev. Lobsang Gyatso, the murdered Principal of the Buddhist School of Dialectics in Dharamsala and a close confidante of the Dalai Lama. The claim was that the Chinese had sent across these assassins and provided them with a safe haven within the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Let me therefore begin by answering these ‘cock and bull stories’ – to give them a label befitting their contents. In my previous interactions with members within Indian Intelligence Agencies, when I had put forward the Dalai Lama’s claims that the Indians cautioned him on the Shugden threat, all I received were lukewarm denials of any Indian show of ‘camaraderie’ with the Tibetan God King. There has always been, and still is, a tendency on the part of Government Agencies, to portray an image of neutrality and a concern simply for maintaining Law and Order in the land; the Dalai Lama is a celebrity and an honoured guest, besides a V.V.I.P. in this country; any threat to a holy V.V.I.P. would be exceedingly embarrassing to the host Indian nation. It could be useful, as regards the ‘sanctity’ of guests, to remind ourselves that Indian tradition makes no special ‘proviso’ for V.V.I.P. guests as all guests are considered ‘divine’!

Some people in the higher echelons need a crash course on the lifestyle and exploits of the Tibetan Avatar in India. Recounting them here would be a waste of time but, to mention one point, the hue and cry about the murder of the Dalai Lama’s confidante Ven. Lobsang Gyatso is making out as if this is the first criminal event to take place within the Tibetan diaspora. On the contrary, it is only one amongst many killings, some reported to have been engineered by important members of the Dalai Lama’s family and Ministers. After the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict, the policy of various ruling parties in Delhi was to turn a blind eye to Tibetan refugee activities, not interfering in the ‘internal’ activities of Tibetans and their leaders. On this premise, the Dalai Lama was able to establish a fully-fledged Government and a Constitution within Indian territory – a feudal theocracy within a democracy! – with all dissident voices stifled.

Conspiracies, intrigues, activities; both covert and overt – all necessarily anti-Chinese – have since then been engineered from upon Indian soil. Recently, there have been deaths and damage to the lives and property of Shugden adherents in Tibet itself. Thousands of Tibetan patriots had sacrificed their lives in confrontation with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army until the 1970s, in the belief that the Dalai Lama stood for a ‘Free Tibet’. He mesmerised them into believing that there was no better goal than this. In India and all over the world, the Dalai Lama incites hatred against Shugden adherents for no fault of theirs. As a result, Shugden followers have been made the pariahs amongst mainstream Tibetan society. There is an apartheid against them, besides sanctions and preposterous accusations – without any credible evidence whatsoever to substantiate the claims.

The point is this: if the Chinese had suddenly decided to have the Tibetan Head assassinated, they would have to involve enormous Chinese expertise. But what benefit would an ‘Operation Assassination Dalai Lama’ have and to whom would it bring profit? Such an adventurous initiative would only play into the hands of the Dalai Lama’s Camp. His Hollywood friends would immediately capitalise on the action-thriller theme, portraying him as prospective martyr and showing the Chinese up as demons once again. It is ludicrous to imagine that the Chinese would like to see him dead. That the Chinese are waiting patiently for his natural death would sound more feasible.

For reasons as simple as these, the elite amongst Shugden followers would not waste their time daydreaming about plots to assassinate him. Shugden followers have always strongly opposed all signs of intolerance towards diversities and all extremist actions. They opposed the Taliban for their reckless destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001. They opposed the war on Iraq. There are fanatical elements in both the Dalai Lama and the Shugden Camps, but it is not the Shugden followers who are in charge of the Tibetan scenario or who are in any position of strength. On the contrary, they constitute a minority and have been made the scapegoats for everything that goes wrong within Tibetan society. Those people who believe that Beijing authorities are arming and funding Shugden stalwarts so that they create pandemonium on Indian soil should cease their fantasising and instead try to come up with some undisputed credible evidence. This doesn’t happen.

A final query about these death threats: when all the false alarms raised by the God King’s fraternity have only revealed the hollowness of the claims (this being the umpteenth time that he cries foul) why haven’t the ruling factions in Delhi faced the Chinese with these claims, to gain facts from the assumed sources. High level military meetings take place between Delhi and Beijing and the Indians can use their skills to alleviate an atmosphere of mistrust, by putting on the agenda their concerns and responsibilities for the Dalai Lama’s security. These concerns could also be expressed in meetings with other visiting Chinese dignitaries.

Eventually, this excessive concern for the welfare of a man driven to paranoia about threats to his life from invisible sources, while he is given leeway to damage the very heart of its democratic constitution, show the country’s policies in a poor vein.

Question 2: A report indicates that the Chinese recognised Panchen Lama has adopted the Dorje Shugden sect, in September 2006, on the instance of Lama Gangchen.

Answer: Under current Chinese policies involving high dignitaries amongst ethnic minorities (such as Governing Heads or religious personalities), directives on initiatives must be considered to be in harmony with the Communist Politburo’s guidelines. These include the provisions for the highest incarnate religious persons such as the tulku (Nirmanakaya, skrt.) figures.

Apart from a few additional clauses to the criteria of procedures and obligations that are required of such persons, the decrees at large are those that had been formulated by the Emperor Kangxi (1661-1722) in the 17th century. Nevertheless, policies towards religious engagements have been considerably relaxed and huge masses of Tibetans within Tibet have been allowed to visit and hear the Dalai Lama’s discourses in India. Some eminent religious personalities too, have been given the freedom to travel to India to visit the holy places, Tibetan Settlements and the Dalai Lama, from 1979 until recent times.

An assessment of the authentic chronicles – most of which have been orally transmitted – of those who have been considered the most outstanding figures (in terms of their significance and contributions for Tibetans, judged by their spiritual achievements) would actually indicate the Panchens and not the Dalais as the superior. Political compulsions and apocryphal inventions have only recently elevated the Dalai Lama and his Institution into first place. This does not accord with the real developments in Tibet proper, which supported a theocracy that was politically defunct.

The relationship that began with the Imperial rulers and comes to the current Communist Party in Beijing is a long drawn out and historical one. For this and many more reasons – that need not be detailed here – the Party gives great significance to the person of the Panchen. In this state of affairs, Beijing would not appreciate its precious ward going astray. Concisely speaking, it would be advisable for the teenage Panchen to display allegiance to the Chinese Nation and to the Party, for it is preferable that there be no outside influence from other Nations. There cannot be any outsider – such as Gangchen Lama, as suggested – coming to China to give religious directives to the young Panchen with regards to undertaking the practice of Shugden.

Besides, the Panchen has a team of eminent monk scholars and august tutors to guide him in his religious development. The Chinese are known to be tight-lipped and least bothered to tell the world that they are nurturing a ‘lame duck’ in the person of the Panchen, as the statement seems to suggest. It has yet to be seen whether this Panchen is going to be a mere mouthpiece and puppet of the Chinese Government or if he will grow to be a worthy spiritual Head, just as his great predecessor was. This is just one reason why Gangchen Lama cannot influence the religious choices of the Panchen.

Terming the spiritual practice of Shugden as a ‘sect’ – as if it were a practice that is separate from mainstream Tibetan Buddhism – is flawed and ludicrous. According to current connotations, the word ‘cult’ or ‘sect’ in western societies is taken to be negative, implying a group of persons who are brain-washed, fundamentalist, perhaps diabolical and willing to assign themselves to acts of insanity and criminality. The word ‘sect’ (when applied to Shugden) is obviously the invention of the 14th Dalai Lama, and its mischievous intent is clear. The word ‘sect’ makes a mystification of the largesse of Shugden adherents and is therefore meaningless when referring to the spiritual practice of Dorje Shugden.

Coming to the second assessment of why the incumbent Panchen cannot be religiously influenced by those outside China, we need to know something about the history of the Panchens and their involvement with the practice of Shugden. The 8th Panchen, Tenpay Wangchug (1855-1882), by virtue of his own inclinations and not as part of the legacy of his predecessors, involved himself in the esoteric practices of the Nyingmapa, contrary to his assigned responsibility of representing the pure Gelugpa lineage of practices. Ecumenism was in vogue then amongst some Gelugpa celebrities but it was not a requirement for enhancing spiritual practices. It was generally understood that the deity Dorje Shugden protects all those who sincerely practice their respective lineages purely. In simple terms, a Nyingma, Gelugpa, Kagyupa and Sakyapa can live more harmoniously if each completes the training of his or her respective lineage, rather than dabbling in each other’s practices. Because of an unsophisticated understanding and the false view that this deity is anti-Nyingma and anti-Kagyu, it seems that this Panchen came under this influence and hence opposed Shugden.

The 9th Panchen, Chokyi Nyima Geleg Namgyal (1883-1937), however, rescinded the trend adopted by his predecessor. To undo the mistaken perception of Dorje Shugden, while attempting to redeem himself, he adopted the practice personally. One of his tutors had burned the religious painting of the Deity within the collection of this Panchen. As an act of atonement and in order to reinstate the Deity, this Panchen invited the celebrated savant Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo (1878-1941) to perform the instalment rite and consecration of the Deity at his seat in Tashilhunpo in South Tibet.

The 10th Panchen, Chokyi Gyaltsen (1937-1989) was marooned for thirteen years in his hometown in northern Tibet, unable to return to his Seat due to the hostilities displayed towards him by the Administration of the Dalai Lama. Through political support and the security provided by the Communist Party, he not only returned to his rightful throne but also proved to be a credible spiritual Master and great Tibetan Leader of integrity. Today, the 14th Dalai Lama and his Administration sing praises to this Panchen. One has merely to peek back one decade into history to discover the heights of animosity and vilification that the same people had engaged in!

Once back in Tashilhunpo from 1951 onwards, the Panchen, emulating his predecessor, picked up a reconciliatory approach. He reaffirmed his faith in the practice of Dorje Shugden and further composed a liturgical text, known as the ‘Restoration and Fulfilment Rite of Dorje Shugden’ (Kang.so, tib.), a text that is still within the practice or devotional curriculum of this great Monastic Seat in South Tibet.

Thus, the spiritual practice of Dorje Shugden is embedded in the chronicles of the sacred devotional engagements of the Panchen Lama’s Seat. The Panchens are themselves practitioners of this Deity. No celebrity – including Gangchen Lama – need go all the way to China to convince the incumbent 11th Panchen Lama to take up the practice of Dorje Shugden. It does not require a Government to bribe their citizens to become Dorje Shugden fans! The term ‘sect’ or ‘cult’ is not viewed favourably in China. After what occurred with the Falun Gong sect itself, it is preposterous to suggest that the Chinese may be delirious with joy at the prospect of having a ‘Shugden sect’ amongst themselves.

Credible reports on this side indicate that the Dalai Lama and his cronies, in their desperation to undo prominent Shugden followers, are using every possible weapon to exterminate them. It has been indicated that the acclaimed Tibetan Guru Dema Gonsar Rimpoche (?-2005) of Tibet and the Venerable Dagom Rimpoche (1953-2007) were poisoned at the behest of Dharamsala! This may seem the malicious gossip issuing from the diabolical minds of Shugdenites, but how should one rationalise, then, the utterly foolish report placed above as a question to me?

Question 3: A report indicates that the Government of the P.R.O.C. has ceased to give any importance to the Karmapa and his official Seat at the Thurphu Monastery.

Answer: If this is indicative of the current State policy towards the previously approved incumbent Karmapa, Urgyen Thinlay, then one can say that, as the politics of ‘Lama dramas’ go, this is no new spectacular development. It must be understood initially that in bygone feudal Tibet, theocracies were created by means of the establishment of celebrated reincarnations. The institution of the recognition of reincarnations (tulkus, tib.) began with the Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) in the year 1288 A.D., and it was to become a trend setter for the Gelugpas, Sakyapas and Nyingmapas – and even the non-Buddhist indigenous followers of Bon followed suit! Through the institution of tulkus, driven by rivalry, both sectarian and factionalistic, the ruling elite discovered a powerful means of sustaining and keeping the constituencies, besides the religious masses, under their monopolies. Besides, the tulku tradition has been a thriving ‘industry’ within Nepal and India, in particular today. If we are to discuss the matter of the Karmapa, it is advisable to be well-informed about the tulku institution itself. It would be rather naïve to assume that Urgen Thinlay’s saga is that of a Karmapa first imposed and then deposed!

The stipulations formulated by the Emperor Kangxi during the 17th century were created to keep at bay fraudulent practices during the process of discovery of tulkus. Politically motivated Tibetan followers of the 3rd Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588) had wanted to impose the offspring of the Mongolian Chief Althan Khan as the genuine reincarnation of the Third. Later, the Mongolian Chief Lhazang Khan, at the behest of powerful factions in Lhasa, deposed the 6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso on the grounds of his unconventional character and his womanising! Some contemporary elitist Tibetans, including the 14th Dalai Lama, tend to indicate that the 7th Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso (1708-1757) was a protégé of the Chinese and the man who offered Tibet’s sovereignty on a golden plate to the Chinese by accepting suzerainty. There is a tendency, however, to overlook the state of Tibetan political incapacity since the 11th century itself, when Tibetans switched allegiance from the Mongols to the Chinese, as and when it served their purpose for patronage or military support. Even if one were to point to the Chinese backed 7th Dalai Lama as the historical paradigm of Chinese meddling, this particular Dalai Lama is never the less hailed by the Buddhist world as an exemplary Buddhist Master.

Tibet’s legendary past as a military might to be reckoned with – whatever its imagined acclaim as a nation – was continuously enveloped by waves of Buddhist development. Unlike other Asian countries that had adopted Buddhism as a state religion but had placed their rulers and national interests above all, the Tibetan obsession with Buddhism did not replicate its Indian progenitors. Rather, their zeal transformed the country into a bastion of monasteries and temples. At the head of each tradition that was engaged in creating its basis of power, presided their respective incarnate Tulku, as a kind of sovereign. Thus, the issues of concern, since those days, that saw Tibet as a fractious society up until today, were the never ending stories of imbroglio concerning sectarian matters, monastic estates, water sharing issues and claims for or against choices of incarnate candidates. These politics surrounding incarnations and their murky dealings, are not only alive and kicking today in India, but also have their buyers and pretenders in the West, the rich Asian countries and even in Hollywood!

To summarise the trysts and ordeals of the young Urgyen Thinlay as contender for the throne, we are aware of the fact that luminous Kagyu Heads and their supporters have been at loggerheads about their candidates of preference. Urgyen Thinlay represented by the Tai Situpa and Thaye Dorje presented by the Sharmapa are the two contenders. Both of them, backed by eminent Regents of the Kagyu tradition, have been smuggled out of Tibet with or without the knowledge of the Chinese. But all the apprehensions, jubilation and hypothetical assessments by the Press, Government Agencies and Dalai Lama fans regarding Urgen Thinlay have proved to be spurious and hollow.

We can roughly speculate on Urgyen Thinlay as follows: it can be said with certainty that speculations of him having been sent by the Chinese to claim Sikkim by via of his Seat in Rumtek, have proved unwarranted. His lack of freedom to move and of possibilities of a Buddhist education, seem untrue. Other facts and versions of the story of his surprise ‘escape’ into India, are mystifyingly suppressed, as if it has been made a taboo to speculate on other revelations, or it ‘upsets the apple-carts’ of the powerful conspirators involved in throwing their weight around this supposed Karmapa.

Historically speaking, the Fifth Dalai Lama’s Government was hostile to the Karma Kagyu tradition and hence to the Karmapas. The Karmapas and the Sharmapas were the bete noir of the succeeding Governments of the Dalai Lamas. The loss of domain and powers to the Chinese and the established popularity of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpay Dorje (1924-1981) in the Himalayan areas meant that he became a celebrated refugee and Tibetan Spiritual Head in his own right. His pronounced distance from the Dalai Lama was evident. It was also well known that he and a sizeable number of his Tibetan Kagyupa followers, did not accede to the political programmes and undertakings of the Dalai Lama. Although this distance from the ‘Supreme Spiritual and Temporal Head’ of the Tibetans was conspicuous, on the other hand the Karmapa was known to have affectionate affinity with Trijang Rimpoche (1901-1981), Tutor to the Dalai Lama.

With the demise of the charismatic and mystical 16th Karmapa, the possibility of bringing the incarnation of the 17th under his wing looked promising to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama’s credibility as Supreme Head of all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions could only become a reality once the patriarch of the Karma Kagyupas became his protégé. His attempts to inspire the 17th Karmapa’s cooperation met with little success due to the four Kagyu Regents and other Kagyu Incarnates involved in ‘in-fighting’ and clearly avoiding the development of any proximity to the Dalai Lama. The change of trend forged subsequently by the Tai Situpa and his camp, is not only diametrically opposed to the original expressed intention of the 16th Karmapa, but also a bizarre development of two unlikely bed-partners!

Not even in old Tibet, under the sovereign jurisdiction of the Dalai Lamas and hostile Gelugpas, did any of the Karmapas require an attestation from the Dalai Lamas of their authenticity. The Tai Situpa, like his celebrated colleagues, is not pledged to reconciliation with Gelugpas or unity of Tibetans. They have rather been zealously involved in fortifying their kingdoms in Nepal and India. In the West, most Kagyupas happen to be fans of Tibet Support Groups and the Dalai Lama. Situ’s alliance with the Dalai Lama has, therefore, been motivated by factors other than spiritual.

Whatever the involvement that Tai Situpa may have had with Chinese Officials, the choice of Urgyen Thinlay was based on an alleged document discovered by himself. It is certain that he forebade forensic examination of this document, claiming such to be ‘blasphemous’.

With regards to Urgyen Thinlay’s escape, there are other versions. In a documentary report following his route, and in a lengthy article in Singapore’s Sunday ‘Straits Times’ (dated April 23rd, 2000), their findings revealed the hands of other important players in the drama, one being the Dalai Lama’s ‘lieutenant’, another a C.I.A. Agent and the third Tai Situpa (and his followers).

Now, from all accounts, it seems like the Chinese had been given the slip – perhaps caught off guard? Or perhaps, as some say, they orchestrated it all! But then Situpa would have to be somehow part of all this and that does not make much sense. Some would say ‘Given the ways of the Chinese, the young incumbent was probably sent initially as a spy but once in India he underwent a change of heart’. Could this be L.K. Advani’s (ex-Home Minister of India) exemplification of the great Indian tradition of hospitality, or the Maha Avatar Dalai Lamaji’s compassionate meddlings? In either case it serves as a good theme for Bollywood. Much publicity has been given to Urgyen Thinlay becoming the next generation Leader of the Tibetans – in other words the successor to the Dalai Lama. Then the Dalai Lama himself joined the Chorus for the young Head to be allowed to enter Sikkim to visit his Rumtek Seat. The young Karmapa has displayed sufficient camaraderie to boost the Dalai Lama’s image. It also looks like he has distanced himself from the Chinese. It seems unlikely, then, that he is a candidate for espionage.

With Urgyen Thinlay and his Karma Kagyu followers aligning with the Dalai Lama (fortifying their strength to take on the Sharmapa and his Karmapa), it is clear that the Dalai Lama’s image has been magnified and the Buddhist population in Sikkim automatically become his avowed followers. Whether this strength of the Sikkim masses will be used for helping his ward to regain his Rumtek Seat, or for him to use them for the ‘Free Tibet’ anti-China campaigns, we do not know. It remains to be seen whether they secure Sikkim’s position as inalienable part of India, especially when the Chinese have discreetly given their recognition. But then, these could be the undoing of this young Urgyen Thinlay, for his actions do not accord with the legacy of the Karmapas. He has a debt to pay to his Chinese benefactors and in all probability they perceive a betrayal!

If the Chinese are now giving less significance to this Karmapa, they do have a good reason for changing their policy. The best course of action for this young man would be to spend more time in the practice and meditation of the Kagyu Masters of yore, rather than to flirt with the Dalai Lama. Whether one is or is not a genuine reincarnation of a Great Being (Mahapurush, skrt.) can only be established by following in the footsteps of the virtuous and holy deeds of the predecessor; not otherwise. This is the saying of Tibetan Saints. All pretenders to the Karmapa’s throne need to know this at heart.

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thank you for this clear and incisive page. It provvides valuable insight for a western Shugden practitioner.

  2. Kundeling Rinpoche’ answers and questions posed is very good. He answers his questions with a sense of fairness and logic. He stated that in everyone of the four lineages. whether they be Kargyu, Sakya, Nyingma or Gelupa each have their own Dharmapalas to venerate. And Dorje Shugden is the Dharmapala of the Gelupa Lineage. as Kundeling Rinpoche has said practicing of Dharma Protectors in anyone of the 4 Lineages of Tibetan Buddhism must be done with purity. In pure Buddhism you don’t despise the practice of other Lineage but respect them. Thus in this way you do not create sectarism. Then there will be no conflict of whether one Lineage is doing right or wrong.

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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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