By: Kay Beswick
On June 4, 1989, hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals marched into Tiananmen Square to protest the suppression, discrimination and humiliation that their leadership had subjected them to for many years. By the end of the day, thousands of people had lost their lives, after an order was issued by their own leaders to end the protest at all costs. 25 years later, and the world commemorates the courage of these people to stand up for the truth: that there is a universal set of basic human rights that should be granted to every individual, regardless of their station and background in life.
One such freedom these men and women were bravely protesting for was the freedom of worship. Their call for this freedom was in direct contradiction of Mao’s famous statement that religion is the opiate of the masses. Since they came into power, Communist leaders had worked feverishly to eliminate all forms and signs of religious practices throughout China. It was their unshakable belief that religion is poison, and thus no faith was spared. There was no room for discussion, debates and appeals. For religious leaders to explain the essence and nuances of their faith was tantamount to a death sentence and not only would they be sent away for ‘re-education’ (which was common) or executed, but their family, friends and followers would also be targeted for persecution. Their offspring and relatives would be blacklisted, and fired from their jobs or removed from their positions. As a result, many religious practitioners in China were driven underground to worship in secret, in an effort to protect their lives and those of their loved ones.
Fast-forward 25 years later and whilst China is opening up to spiritual practices once again, it would seem that Tibetans are going backwards with the implementation of the ban on Dorje Shugden. In the 1950s, the Chinese leadership fully believed that any religion was bad and enforced this view throughout their population; in the 2000s, the Tibetan leadership fully believes that Dorje Shugden is bad, and enforces this view throughout their population. The Chinese leadership did not engage in dialogue with their people, nor tolerated dissenting views about this ban on religion; today, the Tibetan leadership does not engage in dialogue with Dorje Shugden practitioners, nor tolerates dissenting views against the ban. There is much evidence to support this clearly beyond a doubt. The Dalai Lama has been video recorded many times speaking about the ban and encouraging the expulsion of monks (see video below).
The difference however, is that the Tibetan leadership’s actions are fully hypocritical because their enforcement of the ban on Shugden directly contradicts their claim that they are democratic and fair. It does not matter if Dorje Shugden is good or bad in the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA; the Tibetan leadership) estimation. Regardless of Dorje Shugden’s nature, policing a person’s personal and private practice is not the duty of a democratic government.In a true democracy, citizens are allowed to practice whatever they want and even if their practice is harmful (as the CTA claims of Dorje Shugden), that is for the practitioner to decide. It is not for the government to tell them it is wrong and to decide on their behalf, under the guise of protecting their people. It does not matter what the CTA believes Dorje Shugden to be, but they should not implement any bans against this or any forms of worship. Church and state should be clearly separated immediately. To ban Dorje Shugden within their people and then asking China to be democratic is pure hypocrisy. This parallel should be clearly noted. Again, be it Dorje Shugden is God or demon is not for the CTA, any government or the Tibetan leadership to decide. This is not their jurisdiction as well as the Dalai Lama, who is not the pope of the Buddhist religion.
The CTA has no rights regarding religious practice and should focus on getting autonomy for Tibet from China before it is too late, if that is still their intentions. Stop steering our attention away from their dismal failure for the last 55 years of no results negotiating with the Chinese. All the hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities, Western heads of state has resulted in nothing. All democratic heads of state agree Tibet is a part of China. That tells you something about the lack of influence the CTA has anywhere. The exiled elected Prime Minister Sikyong Lobsang Sangey is a farce. Prime Minister of a non-existent country? This shows clearly the CTA’s failure since coming into exile in 1959. Why did the Tibetan government lose their country to China in the first place? Mishandling, corruption, lack of foresight, pettiness, lack of exposure, feudalism and pure arrogance mixed with protected ignorance to name a few reasons? Do you want to blame Dorje Shugden for losing Tibet to China too? Why not? It sounds convenient. Why does the CTA continue to fail in the progress of autonomy or freedom for Tibet? Because they have failed in their work and now redirect the world’s attention to say it is Dorje Shugden’s fault so his worship must be banned? Scapegoating at the cost of religious freedom of worship.
This ban does not only adversely affect the CTA’s own Tibetan people but the tens of thousands of non-Tibetan who are Buddhists mushrooming around the world who are speaking up against this ban. These non-Tibetan Buddhists who are accustomed to freedom of worship in their respective countries are seeing through the CTA’s façade and diligently protest around the world now. The non-Tibetan Buddhists’ involvement against this ban arises from both compassionate and humanitarian grounds. Now think, what kind of leadership is the CTA? If the CTA are successful with this undemocratic ban, which they will not be, then who will they blame for their gross failures toward Tibetan people and culture? The mythical Tibetan snow lion perhaps?
Thus the Dalai Lama’s letter to the Chinese leadership is one that gives rise to much confusion, as the Tibetan leadership is hardly in the position to request “their Chinese brothers and sisters…to enter the mainstream of global democracy”. Every single day, the Tibetan leadership takes away the democratic rights of four million Dorje Shugden practitioners who continue to suffer under the ban. Not only do they lack the religious freedoms to worship in peace, but as a result of the ban Dorje Shugden practitioners are denied access to basic social and human rights. In a manner that recalls the painful racial segregation in the United States prior to the civil rights movement, Dorje Shugden practitioners cannot enter shops, eat in restaurants, stay in guest houses, travel freely, get ID cards, join monasteries, receive teachings from the Dalai Lama, vote, stand for office or hold positions within the Tibetan civil service, amongst many other restrictions.
It is therefore downright embarrassing for the Tibetan leadership to teach the Chinese leaders how to “gain the trust and respect of the rest of the world”. Where the Chinese have moved on economically and politically since the 1950s, the Tibetans have regressed. Today, the Chinese sit on the Security Council of the United Nations, while Tibetans have failed to initiate any kind of fruitful dialogue with their so-called occupiers. Where the Chinese produce thinkers, scientists, authors and artists of global renown, the Tibetans are still guests under the continuing kindness of the Indian government, fixated on their goal of freedom which seems more distant than ever before. Where the Chinese leaders stand proudly next to leaders of the free world, the Tibetan leaders are ushered out of the back doors of official residences.
It would seem that the Tibetan leadership is intent on remaining blind to the realities of the world today. As the old adage goes, ignorance is bliss and perhaps denial is the Tibetan leadership’s coping mechanism for dealing with their failure in gaining independence for their people. How else can one explain why the Tibetans cannot see that they are requesting the Chinese leadership to grant them the very things they are taking away from their own Tibetan people? This kind of blatant hypocrisy is not behavior that commands the respect of the world’s most influential people and it is therefore little wonder 55 years after losing their nation, the Tibetans continue to court the same celebrities, sponsors and donors with little actual progress towards their goal.
The suppression of the Chinese government of their people led to the tragic events that took place in Tiananmen Square. If the CTA continues to persecute Dorje Shugden practitioners in the way the Chinese leadership acted against their own people back in 1989, they should not be surprised if Shugden practitioners continue to protest against this unfair and illogical ban. Anyone would find it unbearable to be violently abused for their beliefs for nearly two decades. We at DorjeShugden.com hope that as time goes on, the Tibetan leadership will open up to the truth: that the protests that follow them around the world are a direct result of the 18 years of marginalization and ostracization that they themselves caused when they implemented the ban.
Video: Dalai Lama and Samdhong Rinpoche Encourage the Expulsion of Monks
[Year 2008, Drepung Monastery, India]
Dalai Lama: These monks must be expelled from all monasteries without any hesitation. I fully support their actions. I praise them. If monasteries find taking action hard, tell them the Dalai Lama is responsible for this.
France24 TV station, 2008: On the 7th of January, the Dalai Lama delivered a speech that brought no opposition in this Tibetan university in South India. In front of hundreds of monks, he condemned the Shugden movement and its practitioners.
Dalai Lama: These monks must be expelled from all monasteries without any hesitation. If they are not happy, you can tell them that the Dalai Lama himself asked that this be done and it’s very urgent.
Speeches on the Ban of Gelugpa Protector Dorje Shugden by Tibetan Leaders
This movie contains speeches of the Dalai Lama and the current minister of the Government of Tibet in Exile, Samdong. Their speeches show evidence regarding the ban on Dorje Shugden practice. This discloses their emphasis on segregation, as well as the division of the monasteries and the Tibetan community in exile. This also presents how the Dalai Lama is disturbing the harmony of the Tibetans in exile. The speeches show that the ban is created by the Dalai Lama, not by the monasteries. This proves that the Dalai Lama and his government enforce the ban, and control the actions taken by the monasteries in India which is also having a negative effect on communities in Tibet and around the world.
Dalai Lama: Today in the presence of the staff members of our government, and our people, my topic is on the Protector. But this is not a meeting about our freedom-struggle policy. Today we meet here for a very specific reason, I think only we are meeting regarding this subject, I think other people in the world are not meeting about this topic.
Dalai Lama: I mentioned before at the last Kalachakra festival when we gathered. We are all gathering here: Lamas, Geshes and Dharma friends. I tell you this issue is very important and you must enforce what I say. Otherwise if you think: “Something like this is the Dalai Lama’s responsibility, not mine, I don’t care as long as I receive offerings.” Then that way of thinking is wrong. Understood? And in the same way you can explain this issue to the people in Tibet if you have any relatives left over there. Such as Dakyap, Markham, Chamdo and Denma-Khampa…to all these regions, you must inform them very well, this is your responsibility to explain to those in Tibet. Understood? Otherwise here I am saying something and you show me a very respectful attitude, but in reality you don’t focus on explaining the ban to others, then it’s very disappointing for me. Understood?
Dalai Lama: Many of you understand the reason and stopped practicing. But a few of you seem to not have heard my advice, and pretend that you don’t know anything about it. And maybe you feel it is not serious and that it will be okay afterwards. Also you may think that the Dalai Lama in exile cannot do much about this, some of you think this way.
Dalai Lama: I began this ban to continue the Fifth Dalai Lama’s legacy. I started this by myself and I have to continue, and carry it to the end. Understood? Some of you are not serious, but this is wrong. You, staff members, pretend not to hear anything and you let time go by. You think it is better that we don’t take action against people. When we have met each other, you showed a pleasant attitude, and said to me, “I am clean and not practicing anymore,” but actually this is deceitful. This is likely to continue to happen. In Sera Je monastery, some students voluntarily took responsibility and are working on enforcing the ban. This is very good. You should take this as an example, and support each other. This is very important.
Dalai Lama: Once I mentioned at Drepung, while I was teaching on the Lamrim’s Great Scope, about the ban to practice. During that time there were many abbots from all monasteries attending the teachings. Kelsang Yeshi, you were there, do you remember? The abbots from the monasteries of Sera, Drepung, Ganden, as well as the tantric colleges of Gyuto and Gyume were there. Totally there were about fifteen representatives there. So they came to see me, crying, and promised me to strongly follow my request. But in reality, they did not do anything, so now the end result is not that good.
Samdhong Rinpoche: The situation of Dhogyal [Dorje Shugden] has become very particular in our Gelug sect, therefore the Gelugpas must pay attention to this. Even if His Holiness hadn’t been clear in his speech, he already mentioned this topic very clearly many times recently and in the past years — as a father gives advice to his son. On this topic, we have to take some clear action. Otherwise, if we don’t act because we think that this ban is going to create a lot of different problems in our society, and fearing segregation within our society — then I think this is wrong. But the important thing here is that if we do not implement this ban as advised, but rather we fall into doubts about our capacity ahd judgements, and if we fail to fulfil and support the wishes and advice of His Holiness, then I think this would be very sad for us. So I have no doubt that you are not going to forget this request but keep it in mind.
Samdhong Rinpoche: The abbots, disciplinary leaders, and administrators of the monasteries, are facing this problem. And they are patiently going through this ban enforcement. And I know each one of you who works hard for the ban, and I appreciate this very much. I am happy that you voluntarily support and take action. This is very good. Some of you are trying to be tactful about this enforcement, and you may think that any action will disturb the harmony of this society. Some of you may have a reason to stay calm and tactful, I can’t comment on this. But those who act clearly and seriously, we are always rejoicing on your actions. Whatever you need to have from our government in exile, we are ready to provide any kind of support. I wanted to explain these things.
Disclaimer: The views on China, its policy and its treatment against Tibet and Tibetans were that of the author, it does not necessarily represent the views of this website.