The ‘Unthinkable’ Spiritual Leader

In a recent interview, the 14th Dalai Lama referred to the ongoing but recently escalated Gaza crisis as “unthinkable” on the basis that he did not expect “such violence from people who claim to hold religious principles”. Commenting on the failure of others to abide by their respective religious tenets, the Dalai Lama went on to say that:

All major religious traditions – Islam, Christianity, Hindu, of course, Jainism and Buddhism – all major religious traditions teach us the practice of compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance. So then a person who believes in certain faith, why do you involve in such violence? It is really very, very sad.

The words of the Dalai Lama carry significant truth and indeed it is unfortunate when those who claim to practice a religion do not uphold the principles of their own religious teachings. No doubt such duplicity would lead onlookers to conclude that the religion in question is ineffective and its principles, hollow.

While the Dalai Lama’s lamentation cannot be disputed as a generic statement, it completely loses its value when it is said by the Dalai Lama, who himself has been proven to be culpable of the exact same accusations he levied at the warring parties in the Gaza catastrophe. Many of the Dalai Lama’s actions in the past and present disqualifies him from taking the moral high ground, none more so than his ban of Dorje Shugden, an ancient Tibetan Buddhist deity whose followers seem to have fallen out of favour with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama rightly or not, is seen as the ultimate Buddhist icon and all Buddhists practitioners pay special attention to a set of Buddhist principles known as the ‘Noble Eightfold Path’, which is the most basic of the Buddhist codes of practice. But does the Dalai Lama obey even the most basic of the Buddha’s teachings?

Amongst the eight principles is ‘Right Intention’ which includes a firm intention not to inflict harm unto others. But instead of upholding this, we see the Dalai Lama, often acting in concert with his government – the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), inciting violence to be inflicted upon those who opposes his will. Upon examining the Dalai Lama’s religious ban and his government-sponsored activities taken to enforce the ban, the intentional harm to the religion and the people is easy to see.

Another of the Eightfold Path principles is ‘Right Speech’ which involves abstaining from lies, deceitful speech, slanderous and malicious speech, and harsh words that offend and hurt others. The Dalai Lama imposed the ban on Dorje Shugden in 1996 and in the 18 years since, he has been unable to produce any evidence to justify his breach of the Shugden people’s right to practice their religion. Instead of meaningful dialogue, the Dalai Lama embarked on a character assassination campaign, labeling Shugden worshippers as Chinese agents out to destroy the Tibetan cause, notwithstanding the fact that the practice began hundreds of years before China became the Tibetan people’s enemy.

Senior monks who practice Dorje Shugden were denounced and blamed for all sorts of crime including murder. Religious platforms such as teaching events were used by the Dalai Lama as opportunities to vilify Dorje Shugden. No one was spared, not even the Dalai Lama’s own Guru, which is unheard of, especially when we consider that the person the Dalai Lama defamed was the great and indisputable Buddhist saint, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche himself. It is ironic that instead of being the sterling example of this principle of Right Speech, the Dalai Lama in recent years has been associated with protest slogans that demands for him to ‘Stop Lying’.

Tibetan monks and lay Buddhists were forced to protest the Dalai Lama’s illegal ban and harmful lies as a last resort to stop more damage from being done

And then, there’s the principle of “Right Action” that the Buddha taught, which forbids practitioners from harming sentient beings, especially the taking of a life including one’s own life and taking what is not given. Contrary to this principle, we see the Dalai Lama refusing to intervene and even subtly encouraging self-immolations by Tibetans which rose to over 120 in a few short years, martyring those who set themselves on fire. By his actions, the Dalai Lama clearly chose to gain political capital from those needless deaths instead of taking actions to preserve the lives of his own people.

The Dalai Lama refused to stop Tibetans from self-immolating until it was much too late

The Dalai Lama speaks of Compassion which lies at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings. Compassion in Buddhism is the readiness to take on pain if it means alleviating the suffering of others. It is not the creation of suffering for others as the ransom to fulfilling one’s own political agendas, which is really the only way to describe the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden. Where was the Dalai Lama’s compassion when he knowingly took actions that caused families to split, turned friends into foes and caused monks to be expelled from their only homes within the temple walls?

The Dalai Lama also mentions ‘tolerance’ in his comments but we see intolerance is his actions, evidenced by the way he condemns the Shugden practice and has even vowed to see to its destruction. Surely ‘tolerance’ would mean respecting the people’s right to their own religious practices even if the Dalai Lama personally does not subscribe to the sanctity of Dorje Shugden (which itself would be strange because the Dalai Lama himself wrote prayers that held Dorje Shugden in the highest praise). In public, the Dalai Lama has also callously referred to an ordained nun’s practice as “spirit worship”. Is it thinkable that the head of a religion would denounce a high deity worshipped by some as a god to be merely a spirit at times, and a demon at others? Is that tolerance of other’s religious practice?

Ironically the Gaza conflict that the Dalai Lama was commenting on began as a split within the same family. It was a man-made quarrel that arose out of schismatic minds, which metastasized into a full-scale and out-of-control war that has dominated the landscape of two religious groups that once shared the same faith. And that is why the Buddha warned against inciting schism.

All Buddhist traditions – Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana – are strict in their cognizance of the Five Heinous Crimes, and teach that they must be avoided at all costs. Of the five (patricide, matricide, killing an Arhat, wounding a Buddha, and creating a schism in the community of Buddhist monks and nuns), it is generally agreed that the most serious is the instigation of schism, no doubt because this is the one crime that directly challenges the monastic institution that the Buddha himself established to preserve the Dharma. And it is precisely this which the Dalai Lama has committed many times over, with devastating effects which continue to spread like cancer even today.

The Dalai Lama has split the second largest Tibetan Buddhist sect (the Karma Kagyu) when acting ultra vires, he interfered in the recognition and enthronement of the 17th Karmapa instead of being an arbiter for a peaceful resolution of the conflict that arose as the result of two rival candidates vying for the seat. The Dalai Lama’s actions augmented the rift irreparably and it is widely believed that the Dalai Lama acted in retribution to the 16th Karmapa’s resistance to the Dalai Lama’s plans to dissolve all four major Tibetan Buddhist schools into a single entity under the Dalai Lama’s sole control.

Then, by inflicting an illegal religious ban, the Dalai Lama split the Gelugpa Buddhist community and in the process destroyed the harmony of the monastic community founded by Je Tsongkapa. And because the Gelugpas made up the majority of the Tibetan population, the disunity caused by the ban permeated into all layers of Tibetan society and pervaded the Gelugpa spiritual community worldwide. It is chilling to consider that one individual has inflicted so much damage on the Tibetan and Buddhist communities spread all over the world and what is truly unthinkable is that the same individual has the temerity to criticize others for not being examples of their religious principles.

There is no justification for the Dalai Lama’s hypocrisy. News of the Dalai Lama’s breaches of human rights and the tales of his deceit are all over the Internet these days and are easily verifiable. Therefore, such hypocritical statements by the Dalai Lama can only discredit the reputation of Buddhism and also weaken the Tibetan cause. As the world public cottons on to the Dalai Lama’s faux-piety, many are beginning to question who the real Dalai Lama is. And if the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of the Tibetan people’s cause and the righteousness of their fight, then when this embodiment is found to be dishonest, isn’t the integrity of the Tibetan cause also called into question?

If there is one remotely useful thing that came out of the Dalai Lama’s comments on the Gaza conflict, then it must be to draw all Tibetan people’s attention to how a conflict based on religion can become entrenched in the culture and become intractable to such an extent that it dominates their lives for generations to come.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict started as a quarrel between brothers, much like the Dorje Shugden ban that the Dalai Lama infected the Tibetan people with. The quarrel which has evolved into full scale and unadulterated hatred is between two factions, each rejecting the other’s concept of divinity and instead regarding the other’s god as the opposite of divinity. This is also the poison that the Dalai Lama spawned. No one has the right to force a god, any god, into or out of the lives of others. It is really as simple as that. To do that and then to condemn others for it is just shameless.

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4 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. The Gaza war is indeed sad and inhumane. Inviting the Dalai Lama to speak about it is a journalistic gimmick to create headlines. I would like to take a step away from undoing the Dalai Lama for imposing the Dorje Shugden ban and look at how desperate the world is in clinging on to an epitome of Peace. Would they kill the image of the Dalai Lama? I repeat, it is an image of the Dalai Lama that has been projected by the media and the western world that was initially used by the US to attack China. About 50 years had passed since the deployment of the Tibet movement to tarnish China’s reputation. Well, it is a fact and an accepted fact that China does not give a sh*t about world pressure and continues its unwanted stay in Tibet. The Tibetans-in-exile are probably more Indian than the natives of mother India. So, today as it stands, what does independence mean for Tibet?

    What role then does the Dalai Lama have to play but one that becomes an iconic Buddhist monk for Hollywood stars?

  2. Religious conflicts or disputes often do not lead to good endings. The Jews and Arabs were cousins yet now they are at each other’s throats for the past 50 years. Though the rivalry between the Jews and Arabs simmered throughout the ages, now it is clear and distinct and direct confrontation.

    It is wrong and unjust to ban, stop, harass others to give up their life’s practice, under any kind of law. The ban must come down.

  3. This is just so sad. The Dalai Lama always make such compassionate statements but none of that carry water due to the Dorje Shugden ban and his failure to issue statements to condemn self immolation. Its just too sad because he is such a powerful Buddhist figure and if only he would abolish the Dorje Shugden ban. This is all we ask of His Holiness. It is time for reconciliation between Shugden and non-Shugden practitioners.

  4. It is very true that Dalai lama’s comment on the Gaza war as “unthinkable” as it has created a lot of suffering for the people of both factions. History has shown the amongst many things that any disagreement can bring are quarrel & fighting for ones believe that can lead to disharmony & eventually suffering for both sides.

    What is happening in the Gaza war although no in the same intensity or scale had also happened or is happening in the Tibetan community among the Pro & Anti DS practitioners. Causing family members to choose side & separated, turn friends into foes, monks & nuns to be expelled from their monasteries, violence & even death to some who propitiate the protector practices. If this is unchecked, it will only bring more disharmony among the Tibetan people & it is totally unproductive to both sides as the 2 factions would become more separated instead of unity which will not do any good to the Tibetan cause.

    I sincerely hope that the pro Dalai Lama people would consider this eventuality & stop all theses nuisance by urging Dalai Lama to lifted the ban and hence restoring the conditions & causes for the real Tibetan cause.

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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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