Robert Thurman meets Kelsang Pema

Robert Thurman meets Kelsang Pema at the Lehigh University protests. Photo from here.

The shocking way a world-renowned Buddhist scholar speaks towards an ordained nun and Shugden practitioners.

Robert Thurman, world famous Buddhist scholar and professor, author on many Buddhist subjects and close “personal friend” of the Dalai Lama, might be expected to act in more courteous ways towards the Sangha.

Imagine everyone’s surprise then, when he retorted to nun Kelsang Pema of the Western Shugden Society, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” as she first approached him. This encounter was at a peaceful WSS protest outside the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, while they were demonstrating against the ban on Dorje Shugden.

Kelsang Pema went on to say to him that she had heard him making comments about the WSS being sponsored by the Chinese. He replied curtly, “Of course you’re funded by the Chinese.”

The Lehigh University protests against the Dalai Lama’s ban of Dorje Shugden. Photo from

Kelsang Pema asked him what proof he had to make statements like these to which he answered, “You use the same terminology as the Chinese like ‘fuedalism’ and ‘theocracy’.” Is this how a respected writer, scholar and academic of Buddhism, and a former monk, speaks to a nun or to any fellow Buddhist practitioner?

We must remember that Robert Thurman was himself a monk but gave his vows back after only 2 years. Generally, speaking in such dismissive and disrespectful ways towards a Sangha is a direct contradiction and breaking of a Buddhist’s most basic Refuge commitments.

The Western Shugden Society had also written an open letter to Robert Thurman regarding the Dorje Shugden ban, to which he never replied. You can read about this here.

This protest at Lehigh University in July 2008 saw the participation of over 400 Tibetan and Western Buddhist monks, nuns and practitioners from 16 countries. More information about this protest can be read here.

There is also a video account of the protest at Lehigh University.

The information in this article was extracted from the blog For more interesting reads on the subject, please visit the blog directly.

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  1. Please white folks don’t use Tibetan name in this nasty issue, I don’t care who you are? what you do? who funded you? but, Please Tibetans alone. We got enough with these kind of things.

  2. Dear Abdul,
    This is not about Tibetans, Americans, Chinese, Jews, Africans, Mongolians, Russians, Kalmyks, etc. This is about the Dharma as taught by the historical Buddha and handed down to the “lucky” Tibetans, some of whom now seem to have forgotten about the Dharma.

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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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