Dear respected friends,
As a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and holder of multiple honorary doctorates for law and international relations, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has worked tirelessly for decades to promote peace and harmony in the world. Thus he is rightly celebrated as a proponent of human rights, and has become renowned for his compassion for all who suffer.
Unlike most other world leaders, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is unique in the way that, for millions of people, he is not just a secular leader but their spiritual guide too. United by their belief in his wisdom, the Dalai Lama’s devotees work together to promote their teacher’s message. It is therefore only reasonable and logical to expect His Holiness’s followers to represent his teachings well.
As a spiritual guide to millions, the Dalai Lama should be patient, wise, and practice loving-kindness and indeed, he is all of that. These students therefore may find that it benefits them to listen to His Holiness’ advice again, from a different perspective. Disturbingly however, there have been reports that some students have failed to reflect their teacher’s true teachings and compassionate motivation.
A certain video has come to our attention, which shows some nuns from a monastery in Dharamsala, North India, acting in the most unsightly ways. They are reported to have dragged a Buddha statue out from a monastery and then desecrated it with the utmost disrespect – by stepping, smashing, burning and spitting on the statue. This kind of action is terrible for anyone who calls themselves a spiritual practitioner, least of all a nun who has taken vows. This video can be viewed at:
This video is in relations to the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden, which the Dalai Lama has banned in recent years. So much suffering has arisen out of this ban. People who have continued this practice suffer this kind of terrible abuse – where their personal items of worship are forcibly removed and destroyed. Families are now separated; the sacred bond between Buddhist teachers and their students are severed. Shugden practitioners are even denied the most basic welfare of education and medical aid from the government. Is any of this reflective of the qualities of kindness and compassion that the Dalai Lama has promoted for so many decades? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be so.
It is one thing to think Dorje Shugden is negative and to destroy his statue, but we must remember what was inside the statue. Tibetans normally fill their statues with mantras, relics, Mani pills, tsatsas, scriptures, hair or nails of high lamas, pieces of robes belonging to high lamas, and many other holy items. When the nuns destroyed and pounced on the Dorje Shugden statue, they also stepped on all the holy items contained within the statue. How can fully ordained Buddhist nuns be so violent and also step on scriptures, mantras, relics, robes and precious items contained within this statue, which were given by high lamas and the Sangha.
These acts are desecration and very negative deeds. So much negative karma would have been accumulated. In their fanaticism to please the then Tibetan Government-in-exile, they went too far. What kind of Government would encourage and thank their people for desecrating objects of people’s religious faith and symbols of their divine? This is wrong. Freedom of worship should protect from desecration and such brutal displays of disrespect of another person’s symbol of the holy and divine.
This letter is not intended to provoke nor antagonise, but to prompt contemplation from a different point of view – as followers of the Dalai Lama, are these students showing patience when attacking the monastery of another school of thought? Is it showing wisdom to accuse Lamas from other traditions of sectarianism? Is it a practice of kindness to destroy the statue of a deity others revere?
These actions do not match His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s message of acceptance and harmony, nor serves to unite the Tibetan people towards other collective causes such as their fight for independence. Instead, such behavior drives the wedge of disharmony in the population, weakening an already diluted community which is struggling to survive in a foreign land. That is precisely what we do not wish to happen, because losing the ancient Tibetan traditions of respect, religion and acceptance would be a loss for the world.
As global citizens, we each have the right to choose our spiritual beliefs. Whether one chooses to engage in the practice of Shugden is the individual’s choice and dependent upon the individual relationship that one has with his Buddhist community and teachers. However, what we most strongly wish for people to consider is how they are treating others when they make their choices. Just because you decide not to pray to this Dharma Protector, it does not mean you need to act in such cruel, unkindly ways to people who do. In doing so, you reflect badly upon your own practice, your teachers and the religion as a whole. Do we really want the world to look upon us and wonder why Buddhists behave in such unkindly, intolerant ways, so opposite to what the Dalai Lama teaches?
We invite you to watch this video and read the many discussions on this issue on our websites listed below. Then make a difference to the lives of thousands by carrying a positive and beneficial image of Buddhism within your own actions. The wave of change can start with you.