Religious Apartheid in Tibetan Communities

Anti-Dorje Shugden sign at Loseling Clinic, Drepung Loseling Monastery

By: Mar Nee

The Loseling Altruistic Medical Association (LAMA) is a charitable medical association registered with the government of Karnataka, India. This medical association runs Loseling Clinic, at Drepung Loseling Monastery, which is supposed to provide healthcare to all Tibetans, both ordained and lay. It also conducts free medical camps in remote villages, and aims to offer more extensive medical social services in the near future.

For all the good work they are doing, it is therefore shocking that this sign is so prominently displayed at Loseling Clinic, which is supposed to be a charitable medical center, forbidding Dorje Shugden practitioners from visiting the premises. Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by the country’s constitution, so how can a clinic registered with the Indian government so blatantly contradict the constitution of India and be allowed to get away with it? Does this not send out the wrong message that both the Indian Government and the Central Tibetan Administration tolerate the withholding of medical aid on the grounds of religious discrimination?

Does this not also contradict the Hippocratic Oath that doctors and physicians take, swearing to practice medicine ethically and honestly?

Loseling Clinic, located within the very prominent
Drepung Loseling Monastery in South India

How can this kind of sign, which is clear evidence of religious apartheid, be tolerated anywhere, let alone in a deeply spiritual place such as a monastery? Dorje Shugden practitioners who are ill are denied medical treatment simply because they are loyal to their religious practice given to them by their Gurus. To deny someone the most basic welfare of medical aid definitely contravenes universally fundamental human rights laws, observed especially in democratic nations like India.

The ban on Dorje Shugden has had such far-reaching effects as to stop the sick from receiving treatment, the hungry from receiving food, and the young from receiving education. It has divided the monastic community, families and friends, separated students from their teachers, and even caused high lamas’ lives to be physically and violently threatened. Now, we have evidence that people’s lives are at risk because medical treatment is being withheld simply because of a person’s beliefs. How can this be at all Buddhist? It does not accord with the basic Buddhist tenets of kindness, care and equanimity.

What is interesting also is that this sign is in English as well as Tibetan. Given that all incumbent monks of the monastery and the lay Tibetan community speak Tibetan, why does it need to be in English too? Perhaps the monastery, under duress to maintain a publicly anti-Dorje Shugden stance, is subtly highlighting its distress – providing evidence of this discrimination in English could be their call for help, to request those outside of the Tibetan communities to speak on their behalf and highlight the oppression they are facing.

There are also many similar signs at shops in the surrounding village of Mundgod (where Drepung and Ganden Monasteries are both located) denying entry to Dorje Shugden practitioners, both lay and ordained. These have been displayed openly for several years. We have also been informed by friends within the monastic community at Mundgod that Shar Ganden monks have been refused service at local shops, including the Ganden Jangtse shop and Shartse bookshop, where Shugden monks have even been spat on instead of being served.

Signs like this and the apartheid-like behavior towards Dorje Shugden practitioners project a very negative image of Tibetan Buddhists. It also damages the larger Buddhist and monastic community by encouraging people to accept a disrespectful attitude towards the Sangha; what is happening with the Tibetan communities in India send a message to the world that Buddhists treat each other in such unkind and discriminatory ways, denying each other the most basic freedoms and rights just because of a religious practice.

Is a new generation of young monks being taught to discriminate
against other fellow Buddhists?

It is bad enough, after all, that there is even a ban on any practice within Buddhism, a religion that is known for its tolerance, kindness and moderate approaches. To exclude any practitioner from activities and their basic civil, social and human rights cannot, in any way, be an accurate reflection of the Middle Path that is so frequently advocated by Buddhists the world over. Buddhists extend their help and prayers to “all mother sentient beings” – to animals, supernatural beings and even evil spirits. But these same Buddhists now post up public signs to turn away not only a fellow human, but a fellow Buddhist of the same tradition, possibly someone they have may studied the same lessons with, under the same teachers. How is this tolerant, kind or moderate in any way? The sages of old, including Buddha Shakyamuni himself, were not wrong in saying that Buddhism would be destroyed from within, by its own practitioners.

This kind of discrimination cannot go on. It is harmful not just to Dorje Shugden practitioners, but also to the perpetrators of this violence and ostracism. Like the terrible apartheid system in South Africa, which was only dismantled after sufficient international pressure and popular protest, we seek your support to help remove the ban on Dorje Shugden’s practice.

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3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. yes..the most basic and simple precepts of Buddhism seem to be here totally forgotten. We should try and develop a lot of compassion in front of these things, but it’s not so easy

  2. This is most unfortunate and its yet another example of how the Tibetan government in exile harms its own image and diminish the support for the Tibetan cause. What would visitors and tourists think when they see this sign and such blatant discrimination? What message will they take home to their own country about what actually goes on within the Tibetan community at a time when the CTA is accusing China of persecution and discrimination?

    The CTA may deny that there is a ban but do we need any more proof than this?

  3. But certainly the monasteries discriminate against women as well, and women constitute over half the population. If they can discriminate against mothers, sisters and daughters, why not against others?

    Is the Bon culture hierarchy itself discriminatory?

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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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