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« on: May 01, 2008, 04:26:14 AM »
A hypothesis about what triggered the Ban on Dorje Shugden in 1996

Since he went into exile in 1959, the Dalai Lama tried to convince the world to help him gain back Tibet's independence. During the eighties, his increasingly frequent visits to the United States and Europe had a double flavour, the Buddhist teachings and the political talking about Tibet.

His actions became overtly political toward the late eighties during the worldwide FREE TIBET campaign. The Dalai Lama became a mediatic icon. He won the minds and dreams of the rich and famous and was able to put in the streets, demonstrating for a free Tibet, hosts of American young people that in those years of the "yuppie" culture were lacking a cause, some means of transcendence. Someone said that Tibet had been for those youngsters what the fight against the Vietnam war had been for a previous generation.

The Dalai Lama became thus the champion of Tibetan independence. For most people, that's what he is, still today.

Less publicized were his repeated attempts to reach an agreement with the Chinese.

Practically nobody noticed that, without consulting the Tibetans, all on his own, he had handed Tibet to China. During the 1988 session of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, in the course of a press conference, for the first time he told the Chinese that Tibet could be part of China and retain only autonomy instead of independence.

The elder brother of the Dalai Lama, Thupten Norbu –that had handed for him the relations between the CIA and the Tibetan guerrillas of the sixties and always had been a fierce defender of Tibetan  independence– never approved of the Dalai Lama's reversal about independence. His was not an opposition that the general public knew much about. Pretty soon the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Dalai Lama in 1989 aroused such enthousiasm that his utterances in Strasbourg got lost for the larger Tibetan audiences. The Nobel award gave to Tibetans an immoderate and renewed hope for independence and incapacitated whatever serious opposition could have arisen for several years.

It really did take years before a significant number of Tibetans realized that independence was not going to be any more a possibility. Even those who somehow understood, they thought the Dalai Lama had merely posponed independence. Many Tibetans still don't have a clear idea that their dream of an independent Tibet is gone forever, because that is the Dalai Lama's decision.

When the initial fervour for the Nobel Prize started fading and the passing years didn't bring any good news, the Dalai Lama's reversal about independence became a weakness, and the grumblings from the elder brother's quarters started acquiring shape and meaning. In 1995 Thupten Norbu broke away from his brother the Dalai Lama in this matter (as stated by Thupten Norbu's son to journalist Mike Leonard). He co-founded the Tibet Independence Movement and started a series of Independence Walks. This was an open defiance of the decision of his brother about autonomy.

There is no doubt that this opposition, although of small scope at the beginning, would have won wider and wider Tibetan audiences and would have made Tibetans understand the new reality very quickly, instead of allowing it to silently become a fait accompli ... which is what it's becoming in the end. This would have been a very big headache for the Dalai Lama.

So even though it does not appear in any document --how would it?-- a simple inference is legitimate. This "breaking away from the Dalai Lama" by his brother in the matter of independence vs. autonomy in 1995 may very well have been the trigger of the Dorje Shugden ban in the early months of 1996.


Because otherwise the Dalai Lama was going to be forced sooner or later to face his fellow Tibetans nakedly, telling them: "Yes, I spoke of democracy, but in this most important of matters I didn't ask your opinion, I just decided myself that Tibet was not going to be independent. I myself alone decided that the hope for independence had to be abandoned. I myself alone decided that we had to satisfy ourselves merely with autonomy. I myself alone decided that Tibet is part of China."

Now, knowing the tremendous emotional ties of Tibetans with the Motherland, it was impossible for the Dalai Lama to talk to them directly in any way about this matter. He had to come up with something. And it was then and there that his worldly oracles gave him very good political advice: "The worshipping of Dorje Shugden is hurting the Tibetan cause. The worshipping of Dorje Shugden is threatening the health of the Dalai Lama".

The sayings of the oracles have to be translated to political language: "Go ahead and find yourself a scapegoat. Start a campaign against the Protector Deity Dorje Shugden. Stir the innermost fears and frustrations of your people to your advantage. Do anything to distract their minds from the truth --that you, their Dalai Lama, gave up Tibet's independence. Take the heat out of your own person. Find a culprit to blame."

And so he did.

The issue of the Protector was an inner matter of the Gelugpas. It was a matter of dispute between the Dalai Lama and his then fellow Lamas and monks since at least 1975. It took him twenty one years to bring it all of a sudden to the lay Tibetans, to the general public. The ban against the Protector only came –out of the blue– in 1996.

But it was not out of the blue.

Do you want to know why? Go back to top.