A Commentary on The Times of India’s Article, “Rift among Tibetans riddles security agencies’ task”

S Gopal Puri (left), the Dalai Lama, and an unidentified man

By: Shashi Kei

On 26 June 1975, an interesting item appeared on the obituary column of the Times of India. It read, “D.E.M O’Cracy, beloved husband of T.Ruth, father of L.I.Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on 26 June“. The newspaper was referring to a state of emergency declared by the then President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who many at the time believed to be a mere rubber-stamp for the powerful Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A state of emergency would in effect confer on the Prime Minister the power of a dictator, suspending elections and individual freedom that a democratic government, of which India was known as the oldest, accords. That period has been called the darkest hours in the history of modern India.

And so having been a witness to how the spirit of democracy lay etherized at the altar of political expediency for almost 2 years, the Times of India should quite easily recognize what the death ring of democracy sounds like. But it appears things have changed and memory now fails a newspaper that a few decades ago decried the loss of the people’s civil liberties. The Times of India appears to have become an (perhaps) unsuspecting agent of the machinations that have been robbing the Tibetan people of their freedom and keeping them forcibly suspended within the bleak hours and days that the newspaper itself bemoaned in 1975.

Recently, the Times of India published a news piece, “Rift among Tibetans riddles security agencies’ task” (July 10th 2013) [1], which reported that the Spiritual Head of the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s life is under threat, and the manner and tone by which the news was conveyed gave the false impression that the threat was possibly coming from worshippers of controversial Tibetan Buddhist deity, Dorje Shugden.

A sign at Loseling clinic, Drepung Loseling Monastery, states that Shugden worshippers are not permitted to enter the clinic

The news piece was written by Times of India reporter, S Gopal Puri, who seems to suffer from a chronic case of failure to uncover the truth behind the subject of Shugden even though it is a topic that he has covered on a few occasions. Previously, the same journalist had reported that China might use Shugden devotees to poison the Dalai Lama. [2] Instead of approaching the subject as a journalist, Mr. Puri’s writing, whether inadvertent or not, shows him to be a rather willing functionary of those in the Tibetan corridors of power, who show many similar characteristics as those of Minitrue officers ala’ the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s political satire Nineteen Eighty Four. [3]

As a summary, S Gopal Puri reported that “Shugden” practitioners are a segment of the Tibetan community who have been excommunicated by the Dalai Lama for their worship of Dorje Shugden, a Tibetan deity banned by the Dalai Lama. This group is under the scanner of the Tibetan security agencies as being a perceivable threat to the Dalai Lama’s life. Mr. Puri quoted a Tibetan government official who painted a picture of Shugden practitioners being an organized gang, who have been destroying [government] websites and might possibly be agents of the Communist Chinese government or other anti-Tibetan elements. In short, Mr. Puri’s news unfortunately insinuates that worshippers of Dorje Shugden should be viewed upon as enemies of the state of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. For good measure, the journalist draws into the fray the suggestion that supporters of the 17th Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje, recognized and enthroned by the senior regent of the Karma Kagyus, Shamar Rinpoche, might also be involved in plots to disrupt peace and harmony within the Tibetan exiled community.

Given the unbridled persecutions that Shugden monks and laypeople have had to endure since the illegal ban was decreed, this makes Mr. Puri’s news piece highly irresponsible, inflammatory and dangerous.

Mr. Puri’s style is to quote a direct source and by that method, get the necessary message across whilst appearing to be reporting news with some impartiality. But it is not enough for a journalist to see himself merely as messenger to transmit a story without understanding what might be a hidden agenda behind the lies told by the news source. And in this case, the source of the news is the Tibetan government in exile, now known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), who surely must be the most self-contradictory “government” in the modern world. The CTA has built a reputation of inconsistencies, the latest of which was aptly demonstrated by its own leader the Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay publicly giving up the pursuit of democracy in lieu of being granted a puppet government status, ready to toe the Chinese Communist line. And all this in between making speeches about the critical importance of democracy and calling upon the world powers to support his mission to pursue the same. [4]

The public needs to know that if Shugden worshippers are to be seen as “perceivable” enemies of the Tibetan people and Dalai Lama, then it is the CTA who planted that perception after it created an “enemy” quite out of thin air by leveling a hostile order against a community of Buddhist practitioners, telling them suddenly that their faith had been outlawed. The illogical creation of this new “enemy” in fact did not require any participation on the part of Shugden worshippers at all.

Monks face expulsion if they refuse to swear against their faith

Mr. Puri’s report stated that the Shugden practice was deemed not in line with Buddhism. What it did not say was that Dorje Shugden worship is not a new phenomena nor is Dorje Shugden a minor deity or spirit as he has been tagged, but a highly praised and worshipped enlightened emanation of the Buddha of Wisdom, Manjushri. And it is only by the authentication of the highest Tibetan Buddhist masters of the Gelug order including the Fifth Dalai Lama whom the present Dalai Lama often refers to as his model, that Dorje Shugden came to be worshipped for over 350 years and eventually propitiated by virtually all within the Gelug lineage. In fact the Dalai Lama himself worshipped Dorje Shugden for most of His Holiness’s life and even took advice from the oracle of Dorje Shugden on the proper escape route when the Dalai Lama had to take flight out of Tibet at a critical time before the Chinese troops moved in on His Holiness. [5]

For the Dalai Lama to declare that the Shugden practice is not in compliance with Buddhism after having worshipped the deity himself for decades begs the question – what changed? Who changed? To accuse a Buddhist deity of changing its nature is to rock the sanctity of Buddhism to its core. However, regardless of how Mr. Puri views Dorje Shugden, the pivotal question is whether in a liberal democracy, can any one individual unilaterally determine the fate and lives of a large population of people, and trespass on something as sacred as their religion? I am quite certain that Mr. Puri would agree that the answer has to be a resounding ‘No’, even if that individual is the Dalai Lama. And yet this is a point that the journalist seems to have overlooked much to the discredit of his own writing and the newspaper he represents.

Mr. Puri himself acknowledged, “Dorje Shugden practitioners have also been stripped of voting rights, which other Tibetans enjoy”. This is probably the only accurate statement in the entire news piece; however, in the very next line, he erred again stating “They [Shugden practitioners] have also severed all connections with the Dalai lama and the Central Tibetan Administration.” Shugden worshippers did not sever any relationship with anyone; on the contrary, it was decreed by the Dalai Lama himself that Dorje Shugden practitioners are not permitted to attend the Dalai Lama’s teachings, and that Dorje Shugden monks and nuns have to leave their monasteries. It was also mandated that the Tibetan community at large ostracize Dorje Shugden practitioners. Dorje Shugden practitioners simply went into hiding for fear of their lives after the CTA decreed that it was the duty of every Tibetan to prevail upon Shugden worshippers to stop their practice.

And with that, monks and high lamas who worshipped Shugden were immediately expelled from monasteries, Shugden lay-practitioners were sacked from government positions and Shugden families denied basic welfare such as access to schools, basic necessities, medical care and hospitalization. [6]

Large posters such as this referring to “Dholgyal” an extremely derogatory term given to Dorje Shugden, are placed all over Dharamsala, turning Shugden worshippers into pariahs to be shunned by the public

Those who refused to betray their own faith were denied entry into public venues and service in shops and commercial centers. Jamyang Norbu, a well known Tibetan writer living in America, who is not a Shugden worshipper recently discovered to his utter shock how destructive the Shugden ban has been in tearing apart the already small Tibetan-in-exile community from within. Jamyang Norbu wrote:

Since then I have not been paying much attention to the Shugden issue, but this business with the photograph troubled me. Is it now a criminal act in our society or a mortal sin in the eyes of the official church to have your photograph taken with a member of the Shu[g]den organization? I asked around and it seems that the answer is yes. I was told that Dharamshala officials were now going around Tibetan communities making people sign pledges that they would completely ostracize Shugden devotees, not share a meal with them or have anything to do with them in any way. I was told to watch an Al Jazeera documentary on the issue, which was very troubling. I was also told that notices had been issued stating that it was okay to inflict violence on Shugden devotees. I was shocked. I had not known that matters had gotten so out of hand. All concerned Tibetans need to come together to deal with this issue through rational inquiry and calm discussion before, one fine day, we start murdering each other, like the Sunnis and Shias in Iraq or Pakistan, or Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.” [7]

[Note: does it strike anyone as strange that a Tibetan living away from the community can get his hands on information and facts about the ban and its effects, whereas a seasoned journalist with the largest English newspaper in India with its vast resources, cannot?]

The “deep divisions” amongst Buddhist devotees that Mr. Puri alluded to in his writing were essentially caused by the same instigator – this one act of aggression by the CTA against its own people. Yet it is the innocent victims of this aggression, Dorje Shugden practitioners, whom Mr. Puri by his report portrays to be the enemy of the Dalai Lama and the nation of Tibetan people.

But there is more. The news article quoted Ngodup Dorjee, security chief of the CTA, saying “we cannot ignore the [Shugden] community’s recent activities against Dalai Lama…” By this, Ngodup Dorjee was referring to a parcel of literature and DVDs sent to local Indian police stations by “Shugden”. Reading that, this writer began importuning contacts in India for a copy of the said parcel’s contents. One would expect the parcel to contain something quite menacing to have caused the Tibetan security agencies to mobilize into action but instead the contents of the parcel were nothing more than a compendium of publicly available documents and videos showing foreign news reports about the ban and the resulting fallouts. Here is a sampling of the videos produced independently by Swiss Television:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEcArgUkc3w
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeU9Zdz1fY4
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz9N2BpMpuw

And yet another video showing a France 24 Television program, covering the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn_XsBPUYDI

Having watched the videos, it is clear that if there were any danger at all to the Dalai Lama posed by the parcel, it would have to be the danger of the Dalai Lama incriminating himself by a wrongful, baseless, albeit damaging religious ban imposed on a people who ironically, still venerate the Dalai Lama as a god-king.

As to the intimation that “Shugden” is funded by the Chinese government, there has been not a single piece of evidence put forward by the CTA to support their accusation. Far from being sponsored by an extremely wealthy and powerful country, Shugden worshippers remain oppressed and in hiding. A few high lamas like Gangchen Rinpoche, who has been accused of being a Chinese spy, have left the dirty politics of Dharamsala to its own devices and taken up residence in the West where they continue to teach the Dharma and at the same time, maintain their worship of Shugden. Others like Kundeling Rinpoche have had to rebuild a new monastery from scratch after their Ladrangs were confiscated unlawfully by the CTA. It’s a pity that none of these facts have been given attention by The Times of India.

According to the Tibetan government, both Gangchen Rinpoche and Kundeling Rinpoche received financial support from China and yet the only thing that even at a stretch remotely resembles evidence are old photographs of Gangchen Rinpoche. But then again, as France 24 Television has reported, ALL Shugden worshippers are political traitors on the Chinese payroll according to anyone close to the Dalai Lama and CTA. The following video by France 24 clearly shows how Tibetan intelligence arrives at that assumption. First they accuse and then they look for proof. For Gangchen Rinpoche to be accused as a political traitor, he only needed to have a photo taken with his back to the camera, together with some Chinese people. As for Kundeling Rinpoche, he had visited China “twice or thrice” according to Tsering Phuntsok, the Deputy Secretary of the CTA’s Security Department. Both these observations by Tsering Phuntsok are sufficient to qualify these two high lamas as Chinese spies [see the following video from 8 minutes 33 seconds onwards]:


Or watch on server | download video (right click & save file)

The France 24 video report was produced in 2008 and as anyone can see, the ‘proof’ is completely baseless. Since then, there have been no other forms of proof offered, and in the absence of evidence to back the CTA’s accusations, they turn to Machiavellianism – to keep repeating the same false accusations and have the likes of Mr. Puri lend credence to their lies.

A point to note is how the CTA favors the guilty-by-association approach. Merely having one’s photograph taken with the ‘enemy’ is all it takes for one to be culpable. However, the exception is when it comes to the Dalai Lama who, if judged by the same measure would have a lot to explain. For instance, the Dalai Lama counted Shoko Asahara, the mastermind behind the Tokyo sarin gas attack, [8] as a friend.

The Dalai Lama with Jorg Haider, the Austrian Neo-Nazi who denied that the Holocaust ever existed

No one of sound mind would suggest that the Dalai Lama approves of Shoko Asahara’s murderous activities or anyone culpable of Nazi war crimes. That would be lunacy at its most ridiculous. Similarly no one should conclude that having their photographs taken with some Chinese people make Gangchen Rinpoche, Kundeling Rinpoche or indeed any Shugden practitioner a traitor of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.

However, if there is one Tibetan lama who has been proven to have very close ties with the Chinese Communist Government, it is Tai Situ Rinpoche who recognized, enthroned and mentored the Chinese-sponsored Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley. Strangely, even with clear indication that Tai Situ Rinpoche was being investigated by Indian intelligence for his clandestine activities done on behalf of the Chinese; [9] and in spite of the fact that there was reason to suspect Ogyen Trinley to be an agent of the Chinese sent into Dharamsala to divide the Tibetan community, the Dalai Lama endorsed Ogyen Trinley as the 17th Karmapa. This endorsement provided validation for Tai Situ Rinpoche’s coup d’etat on the highest seat of the Karma Kagyu, and precipitated violence and unrest amongst the Kagyus. [10]

The Dalai Lama’s intervention into the Karmapa issue divided the nation of Tibetan people yet again after inflicting a cruel blow on them via the Shugden ban. Ironically, the Dalai Lama had no locus standii to be involved in the affairs of another sect let alone the recognition and enthronement of its head. The journalist G. Chhetri of the Sunday Magazine New Delhi correctly observed that the Dalai Lama abused his political power to force the selection process of the 17th Karmapa in favour of the Chinese sponsored candidate. [11]

S Gopal Puri with Ogyen Trinley, the Chinese-enthroned 17th Karmapa whom the Dalai Lama endorsed

The Times of India news report served the CTA very well. It propagandized the CTA’s stance on Shugden worshippers and it reinforced the Dalai Lama’s endorsement of Ogyen Trinley as the rightful Karmapa (despite the Supreme High Court finding in favour of Thaye Dorje as the rightful occupant of the Rumtek seat which bestows on him the title of the 17th Karmapa). [12] In that way, the journalist Mr. Puri internalized all the assumptions that the CTA wants the public to believe and spoke for the Tibetan establishment instead of the institution of truth.

If there is one thing that is clear, it is that both the Dorje Shugden story and the 17th Karmapa narrative are evidence that despite the Tibetans having lost their country to an authoritarian power that the Dalai Lama has condemned, His Holiness with the CTA behind him has ruled the Tibetan people in a manner more characteristic of a dictator than the democratic leader His Holiness has professed to be.

The real story of Dorje Shugden remains to be written by The Times of India or indeed any journalist more interested in the truth than to be on the “right” side of the Tibetan establishment and articulate its indoctrination. But in exchange for crumbs of spurious and regurgitated lies about the religious ban, a real scoop has been sacrificed thus far.

Most Dorje Shugden lamas and laypeople are merely Tibetans who love their spiritual leader enough to leave their country and homes and follow the Dalai Lama into an uncertain future in exile. What they consider crucial is the freedom to keep practicing Buddhism in accordance with their lineage, and to remain close to the Dalai Lama in whom they have placed their trust and hopes. Instead, it is at the hands of the very person whom they venerate as their god-king and his government who had promised them freedom for decades, and not the Chinese oppressors, that they lost the two things they held most precious – their religious practice and the Dalai Lama.

The reasons for the religious ban are easily dismissed – the religious, by any ordinary monk and the political, [13] by any first year student of constitutional law. It behooves anyone seeking to understand the Dalai Lama’s religious justification for the ban to ask why the highest scholar and absolute head of the Gelug lineage at the time, the 101st Ganden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche, left a high position and favor with the establishment and chose instead to maintain his Shugden practice. [14] It is also beneficial to read this open letter written by the Abbot of the highly distinguished Gyurmed Tantric College, H.H. Kensur Sonam Gyaltsen, as to why he finds the ban to be wrong. [15]

And yet it is deception that has been allowed to prevail and for any newspaper to reinforce these caricatures as Shugden worshippers’ lives continue to be destroyed is both a tragedy and a travesty. To write a true account of the Shugden ban, one must by necessity ask hard questions such as how the Dalai Lama and CTA have managed to get away with such a major travesty of justice and still be regarded as a democracy.

How is it that The Times of India has condoned such an erosion of the people’s rights and liberties (which incidentally is also protected by the Indian Constitution) after having experienced a similar situation? And when will the Tibetan people assert themselves in order to preserve whatever is left of their hopes of democracy and undo the wrongs that have been inflicted on their own countrymen by a corrupt government?

And for any journalist of a respected newspaper, with access to vast resources, not to write the truth is irresponsible and negligent at best.

References:

  1. Rift among Tibetans riddles security agencies’ task (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-10/india/40491361_1_tibetan-community-central-tibetan-dorje-shugden)
  2. China spying on Dalai Lama’s health (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-21/india/31800072_1_tibetan-government-in-exile-dalai-lama-dharamshala)
  3. Ministry of Truth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Truth)
  4. Tashi Delek Comrade? The Sikyong Accepts Communist Rule in Tibet (https://sites.google.com/site/tibetanpoliticalreview/editorials/tashidelekcomrade)
  5. THE TRUTH behind who saved the Dalai Lama’s life
  6. Religious Apartheid in Tibetan Communities
  7. Highest Peaks, Lowest Gutters
  8. Chapter 13 of The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part II – 13. The doomsday guru Shoko Asahara and the XIV. Dalai Lama (http://www.trimondi.de/SDLE/Part-2-13.htm)
  9. A Conspiracy is Being Hatched to Dis-member Sikkim (http://lamashree.org/dalailama_10_aconspiracy.htm)
  10. Rumtek monastery continues to remain in the eye of a storm (http://www.rediff.com/news/1998/oct/22rumtek.htm)
  11. A Great Deception (PDF format)
  12. Group Loses Legal Bid to Retain Control over Disputed Monastic Seat of the Karmapas (http://www.karmapa-issue.org/arguments/indian_supreme_court.htm)
  13. The CTA Violates Its Own Constitution
  14. A Tribute to His Holiness the 101st Ganden Tripa
  15. An Open Letter to Gelug Monasteries and Sangha Regarding Dorje Shugden
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6 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Sounds very similar to the shocking documentary that the BBC did on the NKT some years ago, which dorjeshugden.com chooses to promote on their Youtube channel for some bizarre reason.
    Criticizing Mr Puri’s article seems like double standards.

  2. I disagree. Its alright to publish dissenting information and videos as long as theres a purpose for it…you know, as evidence for the hypocrisy of Western media, or keeping a record of it somewhere before its removed. You know how rampant censorship is, should we fall into the same trap? Just think its a bit odd that instead of examining the article, you choose to attack the fact it is published. If you have an opposing view that refutes Shashis article, why not leave a comment about that? Id like to read it, honest.

  3. Today 29th so there is Kangso :)

    Nice article

  4. The historical Buddha sits in meditation. Demons have been trying to unseat him, because their king, Mara, claims Buddha’s spot under the Bodhi tree. Mara demands that Buddha produce a witness to confirm his spiritual awakening but Buddha simply touches the earth with his right hand, and the Earth itself immediately responds: “I am your witness.” Mara and his minions vanish.

  5. Why would anyone meet H.H. Dalai Lama wearing a sweatshirt that says FUKKED UP on it? Sheesh!

  6. I have read so many articles regarding the blogger lovers
    however this article is in fact a pleasant piece of writing, keep it up.

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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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