Author Topic: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons  (Read 11629 times)

WisdomBeing

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This is the transcript of a BBC Radio 4 interview at 5:45AM on Sun, 22 May 2011, with the British journalist and author, Jake Wallis Simons, who describes how an ancient row within Tibetan Buddhism is causing a modern schism, and why it led him to give up Buddhism for good.

Personally I think that Jake Wallis Simons gave up Buddhism (and religion) rather too quickly. If he really objected to the DS controversy, he could have pursued Buddhism with another Dharma group. I guess that's why ignorance is one of the root delusions. That is the real tragedy of this situation. However, I thought it was good that the Shugden issue was raised so it may pique some people's curiosity and hopefully explore the issue further (and come to this website for example!).

Anyway, below is the transcript from the interview (from http://www.jakewallissimons.com/buddha-vs-buddha-four-thought-bbc-radio-4/):

Buddha vs Buddha

About a year ago, I was commissioned by the Times to interview the happiest man in the world. The happiest man in the world, a man by the name of Matthieu Ricard, is a French-born, middle-aged, Tibetan Buddhist monk. He lives in a Himalayan hermitage and is a close associate of the Dalai Lama.

The reason that Ricard became known as the happiest man in the world was that he took part in a series of neuro-scientific experiments which studied the effects of meditation on the human brain. The results were extraordinary. Through years of meditation, Ricard has developed a brain that has an abnormal propensity for happiness. The areas responsible for feelings of wellbeing and joy are massively overdeveloped and overactive, whereas the areas linked to negative emotions have all but wasted away. The conclusion of the research was clear: Matthieu Ricard experiences a level of happiness that is inaccessible to pretty much everyone else on the planet.

So we started the interview, and he was very nice, and we were speaking about his new book, the Art of Meditation, which attempts to share the Buddhist secrets of happiness with stressed-out Westerners like you and me, to enable us to develop brains like his. These secrets are more or less what you would expect from a Buddhist monk; meditate, be more compassionate and altruistic, be less materialistic and so on. But then I was prompted to ask a more challenging question. I said, your book contains all that is good about Buddhism. But what about the dark side? Is it really possible, to borrow from Richard Nixon, to have the highest mountaintops without the deepest valleys?

What I hadn’t told the happiest man in the world is that although I now live a secular life and don’t do anything spiritual from one day to the next, for nine or ten years I myself was a Tibetan Buddhist. I wasn’t a monk, but I took it pretty seriously; I meditated daily, went on regular retreats, and during the period when I was writing my first novel, I even lived in a Buddhist centre.

My journey into and out of Tibetan Buddhism went something like this. To begin with I had been greatly moved by the principles of compassion and wisdom, and the sublime peace of meditation. I really felt that I had found something special. But before long, I caught my first glimpse of the darker side. I discovered that a year or two before I became a Buddhist, in 1996, the organisation that I had stumbled into, the New Kadampa Tradition, had staged widespread protests against the Dalai Lama. That’s right — protests against the Dalai Lama. I saw photographs of the people that I knew and trusted as peaceful Buddhists waving placards that read, Dalai Lama, your smiles charm, your actions harm. This was the Dalai Lama they were talking about, the Nobel Prize Winning emblem of peace and reconciliation.

I was deeply shocked. Not because I had any particular affinity for the Dalai Lama, but because it seemed that despite the emphasis on tolerance, harmony and respect, at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism lay a great deal of acrimony. I almost left then and there. But a Buddhist nun who I greatly respected persuaded me to stay. She said, you must try to separate the pure parts of Buddhism from the negativity. Just focus on what resonates for you, your own meditation and forget about the politics.

For several years, I took her advice. I suppose, deep down, I didn’t want to accept the possibility that the high-minded principles of wisdom and compassion could be sullied. But as time went by, I found myself becoming disillusioned for different reasons. I noticed that the organisation I was involved with, the New Kadampa Tradition, was expanding exponentially around the world. And it seemed to me that they were more concerned with expansion than the welfare of their members, who they were relying on for their expansion.

And then, in 2008, another wave of protests were announced. This time, they were set to be more vociferous than ever before. The new slogan was “Dalai Lama, stop lying,” and it was going to be chanted with a raised fist, like the 1920?s communists. When I heard this, my disillusionment was complete. I gave away my Buddha statues and my Buddhist books, and I left — not just Tibetan Buddhism, and not just Buddhism, but the world of religion as a whole. I lost many friends, I lost a community, and I lost a sense of moral certainty. But what I gained was moral honesty, which is rather more complicated.

After I left, I wanted to find out exactly what I had been involved with. I began looking into the origins of the dispute, and what I found can only be described as a can of worms. The conflict between the New Kadampa Tradition and the Dalai Lama stretches back more than three and a half centuries to the mid sixteen hundreds, when Cromwell was Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and the pendulum clock was invented by a Dutch mathematician called Christiaan Heygens. That’s a long time, and like all ancient, intractable conflicts all the facts are contested by both sides. Nevertheless, I was able to piece together the bare bones of the story, and it went something like this.

In the mid sixteen hundreds, there were two rival Tibetan Lamas. One was the fifth Dalai Lama — our present Dalai Lama is the fourteenth — and the other was a chap by the name of Dragpa Gyaltsen. Their rivalry was resolved, after a fashion, when followers of the Dalai Lama stuffed a ceremonial scarf down Dragpa Gyaltsen’s throat, causing him to suffocate. After his death, according to Tibetan folklore, his disembodied spirit became a deity called Dorje Shugdan. This deity is depicted in a fearsome manner, holding a sword and a blood-soaked human heart, riding a lion trampling human corpses, in a sea of fire. This, however, does not necessarily indicate that he is evil; many Buddhas are portrayed in what for Westerners is a similarly offputting manner, but to Tibetans this represents good qualities, like the fierceness of their compassion

(You might have noticed by now that it is almost impossible to talk about Tibetan Buddhism in any depth without referring to deities as if they really existed. I can feel myself steadily falling into that trap.)

Tibetan opinion was split with regard to this new deity. Some factions thought he was an evil spirit, or a malevolent ghost, bent on troublemaking and mischief. Others believed he was a Buddha, the most benevolent and compassionate force in existence. Clearly these were two very incompatible views.

Dorje Shugdan became associated with a particular sect known as the Yellow Hats, and he became known for his dim view of followers who mixed with other sects. This, I suppose, was understandable considering that he had been murdered by a spiritual rival. So he became quite a controversial figure.

In the ’70s, the present Dalai Lama abandoned his worship of Dorje Shugdan and encouraged his followers to do the same. Over the next two decades, his condemnation of the deity became more and more severe until in 1996 it came to a head. Elements within the Tibetan Government in Exile threatened to withdraw their support unless Dorje Shugdan followers were expelled. Around that time, the Dalai Lama’s personal oracle, Nechung, went into a trance and prophesised that if Dorje Shugdan worship continued, his life would be in danger and the cause of Tibetan freedom would be compromised. Shortly afterwards, the Tibetan Government in Exile passed a resolution that banned Dorje Shugdan worship from all government institutions and monasteries. They started going house to house, demanding that people sign a document condemning Dorje Shugdan and inform on people who were still worshipping him.

You can probably predict what happened next. Among Tibetan citizens it became a demonstration of loyalty to the Dalai Lama to try to stamp out Dorje Shugdan worship among one’s peers. Discrimination soon followed. According to some reports, Dorje Shugdan followers lost their jobs and livelihoods, they were attacked and stoned in the streets, they had their property firebombed and received death threats. Above certain hospitals and shops signs appeared saying “no Dorje Shugdan followers.”

How much exaggeration is involved in these reports, and how much the Dalai Lama knew of them, is not known. Either way, it was this that prompted the New Kadampa Tradition and their supporters to take to the streets in protest. To date, the conflict remains unresolved.

So I said to the happiest man in the world, your book contains everything that is pure and wholesome about Tibetan Buddhism. But what about the darker side? What about the shamanistic practices, the superstition, the factional infighting, the oracles? The demonstrations? And he looked me in the eye and said, “you should separate what is good and pure in Buddhism from the negativity and politics. Trust the Dalai Lama, and focus on developing compassion.” This, of course, was almost exactly the same advice as I had received from that Buddhist nun thirteen or fourteen years before.

When the interview finished, I holed myself up in a cafe and ruminated. It may be, I thought, that Matthieu Ricard experiences a level of happiness that is beyond my imagination. But that cannot be the whole story. Tibetan Buddhism, like all other religions, contains beautiful mountain peaks and deep, gloomy valleys. The reason for that is simple: both are inside us. History has demonstrated again and again that — to borrow from Disraeli — man may be part angel, but also he is part ape. And it seems to me that the beauty — and tragedy — of being human is that the two can never be separated.
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

DharmaSpace

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2011, 04:00:36 PM »
@WB I think many so called ‘Buddhists’ fall into the intellectual trap, with no real practise or experiences, when they see something that does not fit their concept of what the faith should be. If they had real experiences based on the dharma no way they would give up on the faith.

Another thought would be their karma does not support further growth in the Buddhist faith, they have run the very energy that fuels their spiritual practise. Too bad if he knew truly about the nature of Dorje Shugden he would know how much he would have missed out. 

DharmaDefender

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2011, 09:11:39 PM »
@WB I think many so called ‘Buddhists’ fall into the intellectual trap, with no real practise or experiences, when they see something that does not fit their concept of what the faith should be. If they had real experiences based on the dharma no way they would give up on the faith.

Trouble with many practitioners - the Dharma and their minds are separate. Everythings intellectualised but nothings experiential. And they miss the point that the Dharma is about changing the world by changing themselves... and because they miss the point, they quit quickly because they fail to see its up to them how they react to the stimulus. Its your choice to react positively or negatively and well, quitting is negative because quitting changes and accomplishes nothing, except reinforcing the habit that its okay for you to quit on compassion and quit on the world.

Theyd do well to remember one of the most basic stories in Buddhism, about Shakyamuni and the leather shoe (sharp glass covers the world, what do you do, etc etc).

hope rainbow

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2011, 06:12:13 AM »
Trouble with many practitioners - the Dharma and their minds are separate.

Everything is intellectualised but nothings experiential.
And they miss the point that the Dharma is about changing the world by changing themselves... and because they miss the point, they quit quickly because they fail to see its up to them how they react to the stimulus.

Its your choice to react positively or negatively and well, quitting is negative because quitting changes and accomplishes nothing, except reinforcing the habit that its okay for you to quit on compassion and quit on the world.

They'd do well to remember one of the most basic stories in Buddhism, about Shakyamuni and the leather shoe (sharp glass covers the world, what do you do, etc etc).

I agree with you DD,
Could we say then that a high intellect is then an obstacle to spiritual practice?

vajrastorm

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2011, 07:06:07 AM »
I agree with WB that Jake Wallis could have continued to pursue Buddhism with another Dharma group and not give up something so precious so quickly.

At the same time, I can see why he is appalled by the vigorous organised protests against the Dalai Lama for his anti-Shugden stance and actions against Shugden practitioners. In the minds of people everywhere, Buddhism has always been perceived as a religion of peace, harmony and compassion. After all, the first principle of action taught by Lord Buddha was that of "non-harming". THe second great principle he taught was  to "benefit others". Violence or any hint of violence and aggression should be alien to Buddhist Dharma practitioners. We may not comprehend the actions and behavior of Holy Beings like the Dalai Lama, an emanation of Chenrezig of Great Compassion, who has always said "My religion is Compassion". But that does not give us the right and liberty to tarnish the name of Tibetan Buddhism by anti-Dalai Lama protests and rallies.

DSFriend

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2011, 08:26:23 AM »
I'm sure many felt the same as Jake Wallis... and this is one of the hottest debate topics here in this forum. I am so glad we have this space to look at and consider different views towards the actions of HHDL, previously known TGIE.

Buddha dharma is the key for us to set ourselves free from our own created prisons. Prisons which manifests and disguise itself in various forms. Anything and everything external, be it in the name of religion or not, can make us upset as long as we are still trapped in our internal prisons. It is sad for those who have abandoned the path because of this controversy. If we abandon the path, then do we have in us what it takes to free us from anguish, pain, unending sufferings. I doubt.

The irony is, due to this controversy, a few have fallen off the path, but many more have come onto the path!

Thanks WB for this post.

well wishes always

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2011, 03:08:43 AM »
Buddhist practice is about transforming one's mind. If our mind is pure, then everything will appear to us as pure. It is our karma that is making us see the DS vs DL as a conflict or negative event. As long as we have not purified our mind or gain the wisdom to see things as they are, we will continue to live in this relative world where we have to  take up a position in opposition to the other, hence generating conflict  within us and others. The middle way wisdom said that if we cling to a particular standpoint or position , it constitutes wrong view.
The challenge is to maintain a stable level of equanimity so that our mind is clearer and our heart is more open to alternative explanations/viewpoints.
Usually when that happens, we will have a more  satisfactory and balanced view ( not -my view is the only and best view ). When our mind is calm,  it will not lead us to do  negative things or give up on doing good things.
Jake Simons is the loser, because he adopted the egocentric position. Mathieu continues to be happy because he does not dwell on the negative side of things. Which do we want to be - an unhappy philosopher or a happy man who can continue to benefit others despite the world having so many issues ?

DharmaDefender

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2011, 08:08:02 AM »
I agree with you DD,
Could we say then that a high intellect is then an obstacle to spiritual practice?

No I wouldnt say high intellect is an obstacle to spiritual practice. Reason being Sakyamuni taught 84000 different dharmas or methods to enlightenment to suit as many minds... some minds will be very intelligent and others not so. (du pung, dri ma pung, anyone?) Id say the arrogance resulting from some peoples high intellects are an obstacle to peoples practice.

A high intellect can be a benefit if youre objective about what you perceive. Its a benefit if you use your intellect to come to logical conclusions, instead of influencing your conclusions with your preconceptions. I think Mr Simons here already came to Buddhism with an expectation of what he wanted to get out of it and when he didnt, dropped it like a hot spud.

Why drop it when its clearly got a positive effect? Just look at Mathieu Ricard. One issue in Buddhism tars the entire philosophy? Forgive me but if Mr Simons is so easily swayed, he was never going to commit anyway.

dsiluvu

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2011, 09:00:22 AM »
Quote

I can see why he is appalled by the vigorous organised protests against the Dalai Lama for his anti-Shugden stance and actions against Shugden practitioners. In the minds of people everywhere, Buddhism has always been perceived as a religion of peace, harmony and compassion. After all, the first principle of action taught by Lord Buddha was that of "non-harming". THe second great principle he taught was  to "benefit others". Violence or any hint of violence and aggression should be alien to Buddhist Dharma practitioners. We may not comprehend the actions and behavior of Holy Beings like the Dalai Lama, an emanation of Chenrezig of Great Compassion, who has always said "My religion is Compassion". But that does not give us the right and liberty to tarnish the name of Tibetan Buddhism by anti-Dalai Lama protests and rallies.


Precisely... if we continue to react negatively towards the ban/controversy, how many more would change their perspective of Buddhism in general. Most people really do not care about the internal politics and agenda, they do not seek or see that. They seek peace in their spiritual path.

If the fighting continues, for sure Buddhism will go down in general and everyone loses out. Instead of reacting to the ban negatively... we should spend time creating positive actions through the ban. Like promoting/educating people more about who is Dorje Shugden :)  e.g. passing out brochures on DS... the admin have created this FREE for us to download here... no one needs to lift a fist,
just some good prayers for imprints to be planted.

WisdomBeing

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2011, 06:03:14 PM »
dsiluvu, I agree with you. I've personally never been comfortable with confrontation on spiritual matters. It was especially gratifying for me to learn that HH Trijang Rinpoche had predicted that although in the future it would look like the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden were at loggerheads, they are not and that we should never lose faith in Dorje Shugden or the Dalai Lama. Personally, aside from the odd flash mob, I'm not one to go picketing in Trafalgar Square. I'd much rather see what i can do - which is so far writing to the various email addresses which have been so kindly compiled on this forum. I also tried printing out the brochures to distribute but my crappy printer wasn't so successful. I do think that if we help get the truth about Dorje Shugden to more people, without putting the Dalai Lama down, it would make a difference.
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

Big Uncle

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2011, 06:35:41 PM »
This article reveals the amounts of risk that Dalai Lama is taking in order to promote Dorje Shugden. His actions are constantly being monitored by both his students and by Dorje Shugden practitioners. This ban has brought on incredible criticism and doubt in the Dalai Lama and Buddhism. It's amazing that the Western media didn't all come down upon the Dalai Lama like a flock of vultures and persecute him.

Even when the media has not, many practitioners have, especially Western and some eastern practitioners who cannot see past the dichotomy of this predicament, have chose to give up and perceive his actions as a megalomaniac. Although Tibetan and Indian histories are rife with great masters who have acted contrary to conventional mode of behavior that brought on great benefit but people still don't see the parallels. Nevertheless, what will come to pass will come to pass. We just have to sit tight and observe the true aspirations of the Dalai Lama will eventually come to pass.

Lineageholder

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2011, 09:54:55 PM »
We just have to sit tight and observe the true aspirations of the Dalai Lama will eventually come to pass.

The true aspirations of the Dalai Lama are clear for all to see - to destroy Dorje Shugden practice.  You don't have to wait to realize why so many of us chose to demonstrate against the Dalai Lama on this issue.

For those who are critical of the demonstrations, I'd like to ask you what you have done to protect the lineage of Dorje Shugden in this world and fight against the injustice of the monks being expelled from Ganden Shartse and the other monasteries.  Did you give your time and energy to stand up for their rights and try to protect them?

Below is a translation of a talk by the Dalai Lama in Mongolia recently.  He hasn't stopped trying to destroy the lineage.  All I can say is I think your faith in him is misplaced and you need to face the truth of this situation, no matter how unpalatable that may be.


Quote
(Translated from Tibetan transcripts)
Broadcaster: Since the Dalai Lama is giving Avalokiteshvara initiation tomorrow, he has announced that Dholgyal devotees (Shugden) should not attend the initiation. He also said the propitiation of Dholgyal has caused detrimental to the harmony among Buddhists.

Dalai Lama:
Today it is like I am giving a lecture. It is not necessary that you listen by recognizing me as Guru. It is alright if you come to listen, saying what Dalai Bashi is saying. Tomorrow you will take a teaching. I am giving an initiation. I am giving vow. Therefore there will be Guru and disciple relationship. Pure commitment is necessary. During the course of initiation, the pure commitment is necessary. In time, I worshiped the so-called King Shugden. I didn't know and I make a mistake. Then, having paid attention, it was wrong. Also, during the course of through analysis, king Shugden emerged during the time of the fifth Dalai Lama. If I say about the way the fifth Dalai Lama recognize king Shugden, according to his text, the nature of king Shugden is evil spirit; its cause was the wrong prayer; and its function is to harm Buddhism and living beings. So if you say this is a protector of Buddhism, or a protector of Gelug Tradition, it is disgrace and shame. Je Rinpoche has empowered and entrusted Six hands Mahakala and Dharmaraj. Je Rinpoche has seen capability in them. Simply speaking, he didn't empower them on guesses. (laugh) If you worship king Shugden, you have broken commitment with the fifth Dalai Lama, and so to the thirteen Dalai Lama. If you receive an initiation from me, you will break commitment with me. If there is anyone who worship king Shugden – actually it is your choice whether or not you worship - , please don’t come to receive teaching from me. If you are a monk or a lay, please don’t come tomorrow. If you are deceived by saying that business and luck would flourish, you should stop from now. You don’t need to be afraid at all. In case a case is necessary to be filed, I would file the case. You don’t need to be afraid. It is a freedom if you contempt
although you know it is wrong. It doesn’t matter if you walk upside down.

The lies continue....

WisdomBeing

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2011, 04:11:54 PM »
Thanks for the translation on the Dalai Lama's words in Mongolia recently. Do you have a link of the source to this? I'm glad the Dalai Lama is still talking about Dorje Shugden. It's so easy to see how contradictory the Dalai Lama's advice is if one was to look deeper into it.

1. HH says that the Great 5th Dalai Lama said Dorje Shugden was an evil spirit. Yes he did. Then the Great 5th realised that Dorje Shugden was an enlightened being and built the first chapel to Dorje Shugden, Trode Khangsar, which is still standing today in Tibet.

2. HH says that Dorje Shugden being a "protector of Buddhism, or a protector of Gelug Tradition, it is disgrace and shame." Then the 14th Dalai Lama says that the 101st Gaden Tripa - now Gaden Trisur, who was the head of the Gelugpa tradition is wrong because he practises Dorje Shugden. Also that HH the Dalai Lama's own teacher, HH Trijang Rinpoche was wrong.

3. HH says "actually it is your choice whether or not you worship". If it really is each person's individual choice, then there should be no discrimination towards any Shugden practitioners in the monasteries or Tibetan communities. They should be allowed to have travel papers, to stay in their monasteries etc.

4. Of course there's the eternal - how did the Dalai Lama not know Dorje Shugden was a spirit before? Isn't he clairvoyant as a highly attained being?

By the Dalai Lama continuing to raise the Dorje Shugden issue, it will bring these inconsistencies to light clearer and soon more and more people will realise the truth of the matter.

As I have said in the past, I think the demonstrations have played a part in raising the profile of Dorje Shugden to the international spotlight. I personally would not demonstrate against the Dalai Lama, especially after learning about what HH Trijang Rinpoche said about not losing faith in the Dalai Lama.
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

Lineageholder

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2011, 03:18:46 PM »
Thanks for the translation on the Dalai Lama's words in Mongolia recently. Do you have a link of the source to this? I'm glad the Dalai Lama is still talking about Dorje Shugden. It's so easy to see how contradictory the Dalai Lama's advice is if one was to look deeper into it.

Hi Kate,

I don't have a link to the source, as the translation was provided in an email by the Dorje Shugden Society but I have attached the file I received, including the original Tibetan script.

With love

WisdomBeing

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Re: Buddha vs Buddha - a BBC Radio 4 interview with Jake Wallis Simons
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2011, 03:37:01 PM »
Cheers, Lineageholder... you're a brick!
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being