Angry White Buddhists and the Dalai Lama: Appropriation and Politics in the Globalization of Tibetan Buddhism

[Savage Minds is pleased to publish this essay by Ben Joffe. Ben is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado. He holds a MA from the University of Capetown, and a Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research dissertation grant for the project “White Robes, Matted Hair: Tibetan Renouncers, Institutional Authority, and the Mediation of Charisma in Exile.”]

You know that guy. He talks about ‘Tantric yoga’ in casual conversation. Maybe he has dreadlocks. Maybe he’s shaved his head. He’s definitely not had a beverage with regular milk in it for years. He’s probably white and affluent. He’s probably been to India. And he probably wears Buddhist prayer beads as jewelry.

It’s easy enough to compare this stereotype to the ‘serious’ convert to Buddhism, who though they too may talk about Tantra, sport distinctive hairstyles or be white and affluent, seem at least to wear their prayer beads as more than just a fashion statement. Yet, how easy is it to identify where religious conversion begins and cultural appropriation ends?

For ‘world’ religions like Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam the distinction is perhaps obvious. These religions operate according to an evangelical logic: everyone can (and often must) enjoy access to the means of salvation. Accusations of cultural appropriation, suggesting group-specific rights and restricted entry, might seem incompatible with an ethos of universalistic salvation. Tibetan Buddhism, like Islam and Christianity, is an enthusiastically evangelical religion. Buddhist theology widens the possibilities of evangelizing enormously: beyond spreading the Dharma to their fellow human beings, Tibetan Buddhists say prayers for everything from ants to vampiric spirits so that these beings might be swiftly reborn in human form and achieve salvation through Buddhist practice. Like Islam and Christianity too, Tibetan Buddhism is today an increasingly global religion. Unlike Christian and Muslim missionaries, however, today’s cosmopolitan Tibetan lamas have been motivated by both a universalist theology and by a sense of urgency to preserve their religion in the face of persecution by Chinese authorities in Tibet. As such, Tibetan Buddhism’s significant spread westwards in recent decades cannot be separated from Tibet’s colonial history: from Tibet’s occupation by the People’s Republic of China in 1950 and the exodus of thousands of Tibetans from their homeland following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. The political context of Tibetan Buddhism’s globalization then has made the Western convert an ambiguous figure.

A newcomer to Buddhism, the convert is on the one hand culturally and spiritually impoverished: dependent on Tibetan experts, she is a beneficiary of Tibetan lamas’ spiritual charity. Compared to most Tibetans, who are stateless refugees or occupied people, however, she is distinctly advantaged. Her material and political privilege means she is often positioned by Tibetans in the traditional role of patron (jindak), yet while Tibetans may expect or hope that converts will serve as allies and advocates for Tibetans’ interests, commitment to Buddhism doesn’t guarantee any particular political subjectivity. These dynamics can make the lines between conversion and cultural appropriation blurry in the Tibetan Buddhist context.

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ISC protesters in Upper West Side New York in November 2014

In November of last year, the fourteenth Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso completed an extensive lecture tour of the USA. Of the thousands who showed up for the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s talks, one group arrived without fail to each of his events: crowds of mostly white protestors in Tibetan robes who came to boycott the religious leader. Brandishing placards and shouting slogans, they accused the Dalai Lama of being a hypocrite, a liar and a denier of religious freedom. Calling the leader ‘the worst dictator in this modern day’ and a ‘false Dalai Lama’, the demonstrators seemed to be channelling the most zealous of Chinese Communist Party ideologues. Yet these were no party cadres. Rather, they were converts to the Dalai Lama’s own school of Tibetan Buddhism. As representatives of the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC), the protesters came to highlight their grievances over the Dalai Lama’s opposition to a Tibetan deity known as Dorje Shugden, and the discrimination and human rights violations they claim the religious leader’s rejection of this being and its followers has engendered.

The ISC is a major mouth-piece for the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), a sect of almost exclusively non-Tibetan converts to Tibetan Buddhism that currently spearheads the global pro-Shugden, anti-Dalai Lama agenda. On the surface, the NKT’s almost two decades-long global campaign against the Dalai Lama and his supporters – that is, the overwhelming majority of the ethnic Tibetan and Tibetan Buddhist global population – appears to be primarily about a dispute hinging on opposing theological positions within a single tradition. The Dalai Lama believes that Dorje Shugden is a dangerous demon masquerading as a benign deity, the NKT believes that the being is a bona fide Buddha. What I want to argue here is that the controversy, and specifically NKT’s involvement in it, points as well to the politics of race, appropriation, and privilege involved in conversion and new religious movements, and highlights ongoing tensions between ethno-nationalist and universalist impulses in the globalization of Tibetan Buddhism and culture.

The Dalai Lama and NKT converts are all members of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism, in which at least since the 19th century, Dorje Shugden has been seen by some practitioners as a particularly potent worldly ‘protector’ (in Tibetan Buddhism such protectors are powerful, yet ferocious, egotistical spirits that have been ritually converted into defenders Buddhism). Although the Dalai Lama is technically not the highest spiritual authority in the Geluk school (this is the Ganden Tripa), his line’s historical political leadership of Tibet has made him one of the school’s most prominent figures. His dual role as a national leader and sectarian authority, however, has generated some tension, and historically the Dalai Lamas’ more inclusive, nationally orientated policies have clashed with the narrower sectarian priorities of some Gelukpa elites. Himself once a Shugden propitiator in accordance with his Geluk education in Tibet, the current Dalai Lama began to voice reservations about the spirit in the 1970s. Shugden’s reputation for ruthlessly punishing (and assassinating) prominent Gelukpa practitioners who engage with teachings from other schools has made the spirit iconic of a certain brand of Geluk supremacism. Such bias is in fundamental conflict with the Dalai Lama’s particularly non-sectarian vision of Tibetan Buddhism and a Tibetan nation in exile. Thus, to protect himself and the Tibetan people from what he sees as a dangerous demon, the Dalai Lama has prohibited those with ritual commitments to the spirit from attending any of his teachings, and some officials have set about purging exile monastic and government posts of anyone associated with the being.

Different actors and institutions in exile have interpreted and responded to the Dalai Lama’s statements about the spirit in their own diverse, haphazard, and inconsistent ways, with different community prohibitions being indepedently implemented on-the-ground.  Ultimately though, given Shugden’s current status, ties with the spirit automatically preclude involvement with any exile administrative institutions. While some pro-Shugden lamas continue to hold posts in exile monasteries, their continuing relationship with the spirit ensures their isolation from mainstream religious life.

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Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who studied with one of the Dalai Lama’s teachers in Tibet, refused to accept the spirit’s demotion. In 1977, under the auspices of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) – a Geluk organization in exile that has over time come to cater increasingly to non-Tibetan converts – Kelsang Gyatso relocated to England and quickly amassed a number of inji (non-Tibetan, typically white) students. By the time the FPMT formally went along with the Dalai Lama’s rejection of the spirit, Kelsang Gyatso had already moved away from the organization and its leadership. In 1991, he founded the NKT, and set himself up as its sole spiritual director. From this moment, Shugden reliance, opposition to the Dalai Lama and a strict focus on Geluk exclusivism became pivotal parts of Gyatso’s disciples’ identity. Unyielding in his conviction that Shugden was an enlightened protector and increasingly disturbed by what he saw as the laissez-faire, ecumenical approach of his Gelukpa peers in exile, Kelsang Gyatso came to believe that he alone could preserve the authentic and unadulterated Geluk tradition for posterity. Importantly, despite becoming one of the largest, fastest-growing Buddhist group in Britain, when Gyatso cut ties with the FPMT and the Dalai Lama, the NKT became effectively isolated from the wider Tibetan world. Not just cut off from but actively hostile to virtually all other Tibetan Buddhists, NKT members became the Death Eaters to the broader Hogwarts of global Tibetan Buddhism.

 

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NKT members have made their quarantine into something of a virtue. NKT converts claim Tibetans have become too worldly and politically-focused to be worthy of functioning as custodians of pure Buddhist teachings. Though inji monks and nuns entering the NKT rely on a Tibetan guru, adopt Tibetan names, wear traditional robes and preserve lineage practices hailing from Tibet, any direct engagement with Tibetan politics or culture is denounced as retrogressive and unnecessary. The NKT’s philosophy is one of ‘one lama, one yidam (meditational deity), one protector’ in reference to their sole reliance on Kelsang Gyatso and his particular teachings, a stance distinctly odds with how Tibetan Buddhism has historically been practiced. Today, the NKT curriculum is based exclusively on Kelsang Gyatso’s texts, and ritual activity and teaching in NKT centres worldwide happens pretty much entirely in languages other than Tibetan.

How legitimate are NKT members’ claims of human rights violations? The Shugden controversy has had serious consequences in Tibetan communities. Tibetans thought to be associated with Shugden have suffered discrimination. Evidence remains patchy, but it appears that individuals and families have been denied services, harassed and attacked. A mood of paranoia prevails, with Shugden ‘scares’ and witch-hunts periodically erupting in Tibetan communities. Monastic communities have been split. In 1997, Lobsang Gyatso, a Gelukpa geshe and close friend of the Dalai Lama was murdered in Dharamsala, India, along with two of his students in a ‘revenge killing’ by assailants who were identified through a letter at the scene as Shugden advocates (the NKT denied any involvement and the perpetrators were never apprehended). The Tibetan administration in exile continues to publish lists of Tibetans who have taken part in Shugden protests around the world, replete with specific, personal information.

As the Shugden controversy has evolved, a policy change internal to the Tibetan societies has come to implicate not only Tibetans but non-Tibetan converts across the world. On one level, inji NKT converts want to expunge themselves of Tibetanness. On another, to make themselves heard and intelligible, they have appropriated the suffering of Tibetans affected by the Shugden controversy as their own. While NKT members claim to speak for Tibetan Shugden practitioners, and amass cases of Tibetan-on-Tibetan discrimination in exile to bolster their cause, they fail to explain how their subjectivities and politics diverge from those of Tibetans so affected. For most Tibetans raised in Shugden propitiation, especially newcomers arriving from Tibet, family or monastic histories of Shugden practice do not equal a wholesale rejection of the Dalai Lama or of Tibetans and their politics. This inconsistent solidarity from typically anti-Tibetan injis is both curious and perversely ironic. The ISC/NKT’s tireless, well-coordinated and well-funded attacks on the Dalai Lama – which ultimately have very little to do with the merits or demerits of Shugden reliance – have helped cement for Tibetans an image of Shugden practitioners as a unified and organized group, unambiguously and unanimously opposed to the Dalai Lama (not to mention have helped fuel popular theories that the NKT are Chinese agents on a CCP payroll). An insidious circularity is at work here: protestors’ agitating against the Dalai Lama helps persuade exile Tibetans of the real threat of Shugden supporters in their midst, a witch hunt mentality ensues, and then the NKT uses this as legitimation for its claims and efforts. Tibetan activist Tenzin Dorjee has underscored NKT converts’ privilege in no uncertain terms:

“The Ultimate Insult: After 300 years of colonizing, plundering and devastating the East, the White man in the West now claims they’re the victims of a homeless refugee monk who has no army nor police nor an inch of territory on which to set up a tent? If these people feel oppressed by the Dalai Lama, all they have to do is take off their robes and walk away, back to their edifice of European privilege built largely from the bricks of former colonies.”

Ultimately, the Shugden controversy underscores the challenges involved for Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhist converts in negotiating the links between religion and politics and in deciding how ethnic identity is mobilized in response to these. To what extent and in what ways does conversion oblige political commitment? Where does religion end and culture begin?

The Dalai Lama has often stated that Tibetan Buddhism in the West need not import Tibetan culture wholesale, nor follow any particular politics. He has admonished Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike to disaggregate core Buddhist teachings from ‘folk’ (Tibetan) practice. By engineering a (Tibetan) Buddhism where Tibetans are expendable, the NKT might seem to exemplify just this kind of independent Western Buddhism. Yet the NKT presents a more complex picture. In his zeal to perfectly preserve the teachings of his own lineage, Geshe Kelsang has prioritized non-Tibetan disciples and interests over Tibetan ones. His is an extreme and peculiar case, one he has rationalized in terms of a plan by Shugden himself to relocate the teachings to the West for posterity. Here Buddhist evangelical and sectarian imperatives overpower any loyalty to ethnicity and nation. Yet considering that one of Tibetans’ key strategies in appealing to the world for political support against China over the last half century has been to emphasize the distinctiveness of Tibetans’ culture and civilization as enshrined in Buddhism in particular, this is troubling. By arguing that the flame of pure Dharma has passed to the West and to the NKT specifically, NKT members reprise a stubborn Orientalist trope. Namely, that the erasure of Tibet as a distinct nation is what will allow for the universal teachings of the Buddha, once sequestered and ‘frozen’ in timeless Tibet, to at last become ‘open-access’, to be enjoyed by their truest, most deserving heirs: modern (typically white) Westerners.

 

Carole McGranahan

I am an anthropologist and historian of Tibet, and a professor at the University of Colorado. I conduct research, write, lecture, and teach. At any given time, I am probably working on one of the following projects: Tibet, British empire, and the Pangdatsang family; the CIA as an ethnographic subject; contemporary US empire; the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet; the Chushi Gangdrug resistance army; refugee citizenship in the Tibetan diaspora (Canada, India, Nepal, USA); and, anthropology as theoretical storytelling.

59 thoughts on “Angry White Buddhists and the Dalai Lama: Appropriation and Politics in the Globalization of Tibetan Buddhism

  1. Ben, this is a fascinating introduction to a movement and set of issues of which I, for one, was totally unaware before reading this piece. The hook in the story is that guy with whom you begin, white, affluent, male, who claims to be speaking on behalf of an oppressed minority — which could be taken to be a caricature of a familiar, if now despised, type of anthropologist. This anthropologist, however, is more interested in how this case might relate to comparable cases from other moments in history and other parts of the world. Heresies and sects are familiar phenomena to those who study the history of religion, and how this particular movement fits into that history is something I’d like to know more about. Did you happen to see, for example,the recent Rachel Maddow Show about how a delegation from the Republican National Committee is visiting Israel, with the trip paid for by the American Family Association and led by a fellow who refused to vote for Romney because, as a Mormon, Romney could not possibly be a Christian?

  2. This is quite one sided and jumps the shark with the Harry Potter reference. There exists a fundamental philosophical tension between Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings and other traditions that goes both ways (see Gorampa). Students should be free to decide who and what they want to practice (as a fundamental human right). The Dalai Lama accuses Shugden practitioners of devil worshipping and degenerating Buddhism, yet has recognised authentic reincarnations of Shugden practising Lamas, this is contradictory according to Buddhist teachings yet people accept what he says and does without thinking. Furthermore, the “two decades-long global campaign” did not start with shouting, it started with respectful requests, quiet prayer and requests for dialogue, the Dalai Lama could sit down with the practitioners who have been told they must abandon their Spiritual Guide’s advice (to a devout Tibetan Buddhist, this is like abandoning your own father or mother) but the most they’ve gotten out of him is throat sweets.

  3. First of all, mind yourself to comprehend the contexts, meaning and implication of Shugden. Shugden can not be and will not be a religion. To make a strong argument as above, a clear distinction must be made “what is and what is not”. such work as above is nothing but “looking for an apple on banyan tree”

  4. New Kedampa Tradition is a keen worshipper of Shugden. NKT teacher kelsang gyatsos Guru wrote about how Shugden killed people of other religions traditions. Kelsang Gyatsos teacher, Pabongkhapa, also taught that other religious traditions were wrong. He said that Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, have no positive effect and their followers end up in the lower realms. He also says other Buddhist schools views of all Sakyas, kagyus, Nyingmas and so on are erroneous They are not even Svatantra or Cittamatra, let alone the view of Prasanga Madhyamaka – meditating only the nihilist view like tirthikas and Hashang. If one upholds the nihilist view, the result is nothing other than going to Avichi hell.” (leads to hell).
    He said that Shugden killed members of his own sect, the Gelugpa, for taking the ‘false’ teachings from other traditions.

    Thats why New Kedampa Tradition do not allow their followers to read text and books from other teachers. If you visit their center. All you find is kelsang Gyatso sectarian books only.

    Is it really any wonder that the Dalai Lama opposes the worship of a blood thirsty protector that its own followers praise for killing people of other religious traditions and orientations? The real news story would be if the Dalai Lama followed in the footsteps of some of his sectarian teachers.

  5. This is a great essay with a fresh perspective, one that exposes the elephant in the room. I have asked myself more than once why the protesters are mostly all white, why the leaders of the protests take off their robes and don executive suits, why there aren’t protests happening in India. It’s a very well-endowed enterprise, a well oiled machine.

  6. John Mccreery – the connections between sectarianism and international politics are certainly fascinating in whatever context. Interesting, despite the sectarian nature of the controversy, NKT members never label themselves as ‘Tibetan’ Buddhists or even as Gelukpas in any of their published material. Instead they describe themselves as just ‘Buddhists’, ‘Western/modern Buddhists’ or as ‘upholders of Je Tsongkhapa’s pure lineage’ (Tsongkhapa is the founder of the Geluk).In doing so, NKT members claim for themselves an ‘a-political’ stance, in opposition to the Dalai Lama and other TIbetans’ allegedly compromised ‘politicism’. It should go without saying that claiming an a-political stance is itself a political and implicated position.

    Za Thinley – Thank you for your comments, your Banyan tree quote is excellent! As discussed on Facebook, there is definitely a strong belief, expressed in part by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that the NKT’s reliance on Shugden is not ‘Buddhism’ at all, but dangerous ‘spirit worship’. Practitioners of Buddhism can and should discuss carefully what constitutes authentic Buddhism. In this piece, writing as an anthropologist of religion, though, I didn’t feel that it was my job to say which practices are ‘true’ religion or not. Instead, I wanted to introduce readers (very briefly!) to the controversy, and to ongoing debates about what Buddhism should look like in the contemporary Tibetan context.

    Proud Bhopa – Thank you very much for your summary and link! I had not seen the Newsweek piece until now.

    Joanne. There are in fact pro-Shugden supporters in India who have protested the Dalai Lama’s policies, but for this small introduction I wanted to focus on the question of white converts and appropriation specifically. As such, there wasn’t room in this piece to discuss non-‘Western’ Shugdenpas, whether ones affiliated with the NKT or not. The picture is certainly complex, including as it does the NKT’s aggressive evangelizing in parts of Asia, Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, pro-Shugden lamas who run their own centers globally , separate from the NKT proper, and less elite Tibetan Shugden adherents I alluded to briefly above. What was crucial for me here, and what I thought anthropologically included readers would find interesting more generally, is the question of political subjectivities when it comes to religious practice. I think it’s very important to understand how white converts’ positions and commitments diverge from those of native Tibetan Buddhists. Thanks for reading!

  7. Kindly accept a few clarifications. First Buddhists are not evangelical. We do not believe in proselytizing. It is very clear in the Diamond Sutra – there is no one path (no right religion). We do wish for all beings to have happiness and be free of suffering and so on, but this is independent of how. The only reason to follow cultural rituals is to use demonstrated successful tools to cut attachment and ego. In the end ritual is just a tool and will need to be abandon. I am only aware that HHDL disagrees with NKT strongly due to the fundamental mistake of diety worship as the ultimate (which is not Buddhism if you really understand it). Buddhism is Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bohdi Svaha.

  8. Good article, thank you. Couple more things. NKT people wearing robes are not monks and nuns–there is no authentic vinaya lineage there. Kelsang Gyatso is not a geshe. The late Lobsang Gyatso was not a geshe either. No need to capitalize tantra. And I don’t think Buddhism is at all evangelical as I understand the word.

  9. This was a good analysis, and hits many of the right marks. I take exception to your characterization of Tibetan Buddhism as “enthusiastically evangelical,” however. Although Buddhists in general make prayers and aspirations for all sentient beings, there is no “drive” to convert non-Buddhists to Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, in my experience. In fact, HHDL has gone on record as encouraging those of us who grew up in different religious traditions to embrace and practice our own traditions, and NOT to convert.

    I’d also like to point out some of the irony in the stances and attitudes of the NKT. They are quick to claim “their” lineage is not Tibetan, that it is somehow “Western,” yet they take Tibetan names. They wear Tibetan robes–though their “ordination” is not the Vinaya of the Buddha and they are not truly monks or nuns. And most ironically, they claim to support a “pure” version of a Geluk orthodoxy, based on Tsong Khapa’s teachings, but their “Protector” figures nowhere in Tsong Khapa’s followers, really, until the 19th Century Lama Phabongkhapa, who was a Gelukpa staunchly opposed to the “Rimay” movement of nonsectarian appreciation embraced by many of the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya Lamas of the time. Tsong Khapa’s vision of Tantric practice centered on Guhyasmaja, Cakrasamvara, and Vajrabhairava tantras, incorporating elements of these teachings and practices into a new synthesis at the time, (ironic, as he was perhaps the most famous synthesist in Tibetan history!), and also relied on the Protectors of the Three Scopes–Mahakala, Vaishravana, and Kalarupa. These methods have been abandoned by the NKT, in favor of only Cakrasamvara and also Naropa’s Vajrayogini, a practice not normally associated with Tsong Khapa and the Gelukpas prior to Phabongkhapa. In addition, their “protector” practice has replaced all other protector practices, and has been elevated to central importance.

    Finally, the most supremely ironic position of the NKT is their assertion that their “Buddhism” is free from politics. In asserting this, they seek to imply that other Tibetan groups or centers, and specifically those associated with HHDL, are polluted by the centuries-old reality of the Tibetan religiopolitical state government. Yet they, through their front of the ISC, are actively and visibly involved in Politics–after all, what else would their loud, aggressive protest events be called, if not political actions? Or are they claiming that those are their “non-Tibetan Buddhist rituals?” If so, they don’t seem to promote peace and compassion.

  10. ohhhh. That’s why those people are white! This isn’t really your area, but have you considered a similar question re: white people in the Vipassana (SN Goenka via SG Uba Khin. Spelling may be off) tradition? I wonder if it inspires any particular position re: Myanmar. There’s something anthropologically interesting about this group but I can’t put my finger on what.
    Thanks for the article!

  11. Very good article. During my relatively brief time with the NKT I was surprised by their insularity and the deliberate distance they kept from other Buddhist groups. I recall an FWBO centre donated a nice set of offering bowls to a new NKT centre that was opening in the same town. The NKT teacher threw the bowls away as they were not correct for some reason. I thought this was really mean-spirited.
    I was shocked to be told that the Dharma had “died out” in Tibet and India as it had become corrupted and polluted with politics. The NKT alone had the ‘pure’ Dharma and Tibetans were actually coming to England because they didn’t have ‘pure’ Dharma in the Tibetan exile community. I never met any of these Tibetans.
    This was before the first protests, before the internet and before the ‘protector’ issue became so open. I was horrified when I found out what I had been reciting prayers to in the weekly classes. Luckily, I left the NKT before being drawn in too much. I attended the classes whilst studying Religion at university and in my Psychology of Religion module, studying cult induction techniques, I recognised that some of these techniques were possibly being used on me.
    I found that many people ‘join’ the NKT because they want to belong to something. It gives an enormous sense of community and belonging as long as you do what is expected of you. I met some totally decent people there and it is with great sadness that I see what these people have become and how they have been used to further the agenda of Kelsang Gyatso.

  12. Claiming these Buddhists are ‘death eaters’, essentially minions of an incarnate of evil, while then saying they are discriminated against, are denied services, are the subjects of witch hunts, and have lists of their pictures posted on the Tibetan Government in Exile website, seems to be contradictory. Seems more like those who are hunting them down are the bad guys in this situation. Odd that there is open support for persecution like this in this day and age and its a bit embarrassing for the Dalai Lama if hes allowing this sort of stuff to go down.

  13. Just to quickly add, many have commented here that Buddhism is not evangelical, and it is true, there is a tradition that the Buddha and all teachers after him only teach in response to a request for teaching. The Dharma spread to other countries, apparently, when rulers of those countries requested Buddhist teachers to teach (to bring a bit of civilisation to their country, as the Tibetan story goes.)
    This is even true in the NKT, but they get around this tradition by having one of their members request teachings in a new town or area. It’s quite contrived. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that when I was involved in the NKT developing residential centres and branch centres in as many places as possible was a very high priority. It was even hinted at that I should teach in one of these rented room ‘branch centres’. Again, I was horrified.

  14. I am a Buddhist nun and I am white. I am not a “death eater”. This article is not a serious investigation of the issue, one of the main premises seems to be that a white Buddhist is a fake Buddhist and has no right to stand up to human rights violations. The issue is religious discrimination, not whose religious views are correct. If you look into the issue without prejudice, you will see that the Dalai Lama has created an unnecessary schism in the Buddhist community and many innocent people are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdTnEnBsneM

  15. It feels like one of them has just come into the room and all the anthropologists are taking notes, watching her closely to see what she’s going to say or do next. It seems her Core Processing Unit is having a hard time comprehending the subtle points that the above article is making, and thus feels the urgent need to reject it as “not a serious investigation of the issues”. For her a “serious investigation” is one which addresses the issue from the same old hackneyed perspective that all the Kelsangs display – one that examines the issue solely along the black and white delineations of fabricated issues that they determine as being “serious”. Really, they are such poor adverts for themselves – it’s getting quite embarrassing to watch, even for me.

  16. But… but… the writer didn’t claim to write “a serious investigation of the issues.” It’s an intro to an issue. So, Straw Man?

  17. This article overlooks one very glaring point, that most Tibetans are simply too scared to take part in the protests. The NKT in particular got involved in the protests back in 1996 at the request of Tibetans, who felt they had no voice and repeatedly asked someone to speak out on their behalf. At that time, some Tibetans did actually try to protest, but several monks were expelled from their monasteries for taking part in peaceful protests in India, because the Tibetan exile authorities do not tolerate any kind of dissent (people are even fined for not attending their “Free Tibet” protests). Even nowadays when we’re starting to see increasing numbers of Tibetans taking part in the protests (also overlooked in the article), there are still many more who do not participate due to fear, because of those witch hunts you mentioned. I spend a lot of time in one of the larger Tibetan exile communities and I can say with confidence that there is plenty of Tibetan support for the protests. By and large, those Tibetans who disagree with the segregation and all the horrible things that it entails are relieved that others are championing their cause.

    Going back to the point about Free Tibet demonstrations, I notice that these have been very popular in the West and are also attended by a high proportion of privileged white people. If your argument were to carry any weight, it ought to apply equally to that cause, which I think we all agree is ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that people with a certain degree of privilege also have the leisure to consider moral issues beyond their own immediate lives, and this often leads them to speak out when they see a moral wrong. Many white people joined the civil rights movement in the USA and I’m sure there were lots of people writing articles similar to this, saying it’s none of their business, at the time.

  18. This should have been the first sentence. ” What I want to argue here is that the controversy, and specifically NKT’s involvement in it, points as well to the politics of race, appropriation, and privilege involved in conversion and new religious movements, and highlights ongoing tensions between ethno-nationalist and universalist impulses in the globalization of Tibetan Buddhism and culture.”

  19. I quite like this quote about cultural confusion from John Makransky, Associate Professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College.

    “A stunning recent example of this: some Tibetan monks who now introduce Westerners to practices centred on a native Tibetan deity, without informing them that one of its primary functions has been to assert hegemony over rival sects! The current Dalai Lama, seeking to combat the ancient, virulent sectarianisms operative in such quarters, has strongly discouraged the worship of the “protector” deity known as Dorje Shugden, because one of its functions has been to force conformity to the dGe lugs pa sect (with which the Dalai Lama himself is most closely associated) and to assert power over competing sects. Western followers of a few dGe lugs pa monks who worship that deity, lacking any critical awareness of its sectarian functions in Tibet, have recently followed the Dalai Lama to his speaking engagements to protest his strong stance (for non-sectarianism) in the name of their “religious freedom” to promulgate, now in the West, an embodiment of Tibetan sectarianism. If it were not so harmful to persons and traditions, this would surely be one of the funniest examples of the cross-cultural confusion that lack of critical reflection continues to create.” -Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars.

    It kind of sums up the NKT’s position nicely.

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  21. H H Dalai Lama has only said that Dholgyal practioners should not receive the teachings from him because in Tibetan Buddhism, it is utmost important to have trust and faith in your teacher. when I see these Dholgyal supporters I feel very sorry,sad and think they are not practicing the teachings of Buddha, they never learnt meanings of tollerence, patience, compassion and good conduct.

  22. Columbia University Tibetologist, Robert Barnett summarizes one big problem I have with the protests and the claims of discrimination. His perspective also fits in nicely with this article:

    “However, the most serious slogans raised by the protestors are not related to questions of discrimination or human rights, or to the status of the Shugden spirit. They consist of attacks on the standing and legitimacy of the current Dalai Lama. These are expressed through such slogans as “false Dalai Lama” and “the Dalai Lama is the worst dictator of the modern world”. The bulk of the campaign literature produced by the Shugden protestors, consisting of at least two hundred pages, presents a lengthy, complex claim that the current Dalai Lama was selected as a result of fraud seventy-five years ago, and is not the correct holder of his position. So the slogans of this type seem to be part of an effort to undermine the standing of the Dalai Lama and to strip him of his authority. These slogans have only a vague relation, if any, to concern about resolving possible cases of discrimination in the contemporary Tibetan community.”

    http://info-buddhism.com/Dalai_Lama_protests_Shugden_Robbie_Barnett.html

    My impression overall is that the protest leaders are not really concerned with human rights violations– they have other agendas.

  23. And I should mention that one of the accusations being made by the protesters is that the Dalai Lama is secretly a Muslim and deceiving the world. Here’s a quote from their 200 page (extremist) book: “Therefore, from a spiritual point of view there is no one who is more evil than this false Dalai Lama. We sincerely wish for the doctrine of Je Tsongkhapa to be free from being harmed by this enemy.”

    They hold up banners with him in a Muslim cap (which he donned during an interfaith event). It makes people wonder if they are trying to incite Islamaphobia?

  24. @Thomas jones,

    You people demonstrating don’t realise that you are making the situation much worse for the very people they claim to be demonstrating on behalf of. Seeing pictures and videos of white people in robes carrying those signs and screaming and shouting at the DL naturally upsets Tibetans and himalayan people who are very devoted to HHDL – especially groups like the TYC and TWA. Some of the more hot headed amongst them are bound to feel they need to do something to get back. Of course their anger will only fall on the Shugden stalwarts in India/Tibet/Nepal who are close at hand. Now they have hived off their own monasteries, the whole thing probably would have started to cool down if it weren’t for this new round of well organised and well funded demos which simply add fuel to the fire of animosity.

    Look at the bad publicity it is bringing to Shugden/buddhism/Trijiang Rinpcohe/Pabongka/NKT & KG/other shugden lamas in the main media.
    http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/06/relentless-dalai-lama-heart-steel-302768.html
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tenzin-dorjee/6-things-to-know-about-th_b_6104716.html

    The Indian Govt now barring shugden lamas from Indian soil and these cult followers pallying with Chinese communist could make matters only worst for them.

    If they really cared about them, they could have used all the money they are spending to support poorer people, lay or sangha, amongst their fellow “Shugden Buddhists” (a name they have started calling themselves) in India and Nepal instead – or donate it to the already apparently well funded Shugden monasteries to support their Dolgyel rituals.

  25. Regarding the term ‘evangelical’. The word, with its sense of ‘a messenger of the Good News’ has a strongly Christian feel, and some readers might find its use jarring. Absolutely, the Dalai Lama has often encouraged foreigners to stick with the religious/ethical systems they were born into rather than convert unnecessarily. The idea that all people should practice whatever religious or ethical system works for them without any feeling of outside ‘pressure’ too is a hallmark of His Holiness’ powerful message of global inter-faith tolerance and cooperation. He has emphasized that ‘21st century Buddhism’ is uniquely compatible with discriminating reason and careful investigation: thus, if one does ‘convert’ at all, it should only be once one has assessed the validity and benefit of the teachings through personal study and investigation, and not because someone told you you had to.

    Concepts of conversion and missionizing in Tibetan Buddhism tend to be associated with ideas of ‘taming’ or ‘civilizing’ (dul wa). This idea of subduing and cultivating the hearts-and-minds of sentient beings does not necessarily have the individual or anthropocentric thrust of Protestant Christian conversion – historically, ‘converting’ a population or region may have been as much if not more about subjugating local land spirits, building religious structures, and securing patrons as about collecting outright, individual professions of commitment to Buddhist principles. Still, though Tibetan Buddhist ideas about conversion might be premised on different philosophical, cosmological foundations to Christianity, Tibetan lamas are nonetheless motivated by a desire to ‘spread the Good Tidings’ (i.e. to spread the Dharma and make it as accessible as possible). Practices like dedicating merit to the future enlightenment of all beings or disseminating mantras throughout the landscape or erecting reliquaries may seem like very indirect and non-invasive forms of missionizing to some readers. Still, indirect or not, praying that all beings will ultimately have the benefit of practicing Buddhism in future lifetimes is arguably a strongly evangelical sentiment. As per the anthropological motto of ‘making the familiar strange, and the strange familiar’ then, I suggest that terms like ‘evangelical’ and ‘missionary’, when properly contextualized can be useful for understanding the globalization of Buddhism. (Anthropologist Lionel Obadia provides a thorough argument for Tibetan Buddhism as a ‘missionary religion’ here: http://www.globalbuddhism.org/2/obadia012.html).

    One area where the distinctly missionary, expansionist aspects of Tibetan Buddhism come out is in scholarship on processes of ‘Tibetanization’ and Tibetan expansion into geographical border areas. Tibetanization – which often combines geo-political incorporation with the ‘(re)Buddhicization’ of ‘culturally’ Buddhist border groups (with visiting Tibetan lamas duelling with local shamans or campaigning against cultural practices of animal sacrifice for example) – has a long history, continuing into the present. One fascinating example of Tibetan lamas’ as missionaries comes from Anya Bernstein’s excellent research (http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo16552160.html), in which she has shown how some Buryat Buddhists in post-Soviet Buryatia perceive visiting exile Tibetan lamas as invasive proselytizers that compete with local Buryat lamas for patronage and are seen as a challenge to Buryat sovereignty.

    Anyway, thanks everyone for bringing up this great point!

  26. Also: many people have responded to my Harry Potter analogy. It is most definitely not my intention to suggest that all NKT members are murdering black-hearted fanatics. I have met and talked with many current NKT and ex-NKT members around the world, and it’s fair to say that most are regular people sucked into an extremist group who, though they derive from their membership a powerful sense of community, identity and belonging, often come out feeling extremely exploited, misled, and damaged.

    In making the analogy I wanted to point to how much secrecy, fear, and even dreadful awe surrounds the disputed protector and his adherents for many Tibetans. The intention is not to dehumanize NKT members – after all, in the Harry Potter series, the death eaters themselves are three dimensional, complex individuals who make their own choices. The main idea was to impress on readers just how shunned and quarantined NKT members tend to be because of their affiliations.

  27. Ben, I can only assume you believe what you’re saying, but please, we’re just sincere practitioners saying this sort of thing is wrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZuNNNHC2E0 . Once these damaging actions are stopped we will stop calling for them to be stopped, you can all think what you like about us and we’ll just get on living happy fulfilled lives.

  28. Ben, I find it interesting that the question “why are the protesters white?” seems more important to you than “why is the Dalai Lama, a nobel peace prize winner instigating and perpetuating a “witch hunt” within his own community? It is silence and blind support of a popular figure that is allowing the discrimination to continue. That is why I have decided to be a part of the demonstrations. And of course, as always, people take shots at the messenger. For me as a white American, the only risk I take is public humiliation, for Tibetans the risk is far greater. That is why most of the demonstrators are non-Tibetan.

  29. Kechog, I believe that you are sincere– and that many NKT students are sincere. However, if you research many of the claims being made by the ISC, many of them are simply not true, many are outright lies. For example, they are still claiming that monks were made homeless and destitute due to the restrictions placed on Shugden practice. This is despite the fact that this claim has been shown to be false. Shugden monks and nuns were given their fair share of buildings and land and they are thriving now.

    There is another ISC video clip you’ve probably seen of a Tibetan woman from Switzerland weeping because her sister in Dharamsala, India allegedly can’t get food to eat due to Tibetans not selling to her. As Indians sell most of the food in Dharamsala, this was simply false. When this error was shown to the ISC, what did they do? They placed it front and center in their latest press release in Italy last year.

    In another ISC video, Len Foley claimed that Shugden Buddhists were persecuted because they aren’t given Indian citizenship– whereas NO Tibetan refugee is given Indian citizenship. Again, when the mistake was shown, it remained on the video clip.

    And so it goes. I have counted over 30 serious and not-serious errors in just a cursory look last year at the ISC propaganda machine. If I were you, a sincere practitioner of Buddhism, preparing to go out and ridicule, defame and insult a teacher of Dharma, I would want to make sure I had my facts right. I would want to ask about the claims that the Dalai Lama is secretly Muslim and that he has ties to the serin gas attacks in Japan, ties to Naziism. At least, ask your conscience.

  30. Hi Joanne, Thank you for your investigation into this issue. And you feel that some victims claims are insubstantial, fair enough. But, I am sure you wouldn’t go as far as to say that there is no discrimination against Shugden Buddhists. Do you really believe that “separate but equal” is a good idea? Building a wall down the middle of a monastery and then needing to make it taller so that no one has to see the Shugden monks, does that really sound like the essence of Buddha’s teachings? And because they can go to another store, does that make it ok for people to put signs up in their windows- No Shugdens allowed? Do you think it is ok for people in Kansas to put up signs saying no gays allowed because of their religious beliefs? I think we should expect more from a nobel peace prize winner.

  31. also, if you feel you are unbiased, you may want to mention the false claims and exaggerations on the part of the Dalai Lama in his campaign against Shugden Buddhists (which includes his own teachers- Buddhist Masters such as Trijang Rinpoche known for their wisdom and compassion). Recently Newsweek quoted him: “The practice is very sectarian – it’s like Sunni Muslims versus Shia, those who believe in it are fundamentalists.” And Robert Thurman saying we are the “Taliban of Buddhism”. Really? What crimes have been committed in the name of Dorje Shugden? There was a murder 20 years ago that couldn’t be proved in court. Is that it? Does that warrant labeling us terrorists? No, it is just hate talk, and it works. Innocent Shugden Buddhists are now hated within the Tibetan society and even in the Buddhist community at large.

  32. Go to India, Nepal, Tibet and all over the world and you will find out Shugden followers are not only free to practice their faith but they are also enjoying to destroy the image of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the cause of Tibet.

  33. @Kelsang Lhadron, if you want to talk about hate talk, re-read the ISC publication entitled “False Dalai Lama: Worst Dictator in Modern History.” If you wonder why people are comparing Shugden worshippers to Taliban and other extremist groups, such as in Shia and Sunni communities, read “False Dalai Lama: Worst Dictator in Modern History.”

    And you are telling me that it doesn’t matter if they lie?

    If the ISC and others were really interested in addressing cases of misbehavior within Tibetan communities– and there are cases on both sides– then why are they clouding the issue with all this hate speech? Why do they viciously malign a revered teacher and spiritual leader?

    Kelsang Lhabron, I suggest you google “dalai Lama.” The first thing that will come up is an ad labelled “Dalai Lama Scandal: Find out what’s happening now. Read our free e-book.” And what is that ebook? “False Dalai Lama: Worst Dictator in Modern History,” 200 pages of vitriol against the Dalai Lama, making claims such as this one:

    “Although Lhamo Dondrub [the Dalai Lama] is a Muslim, throughout his life he has maintained the pretence of being a Buddhist holy being, giving Buddhist teachings that he stole from his root Guru Trijang Rinpoche. In this way he has cheated people throughout the world.”

    Doesn’t this sound like fundamentalist talk? I can’t believe that the ISC doesn’t hold its head in shame to be associated with such trash– instead they advertise it! And so please don’t talk to me about why the ISC don’t have to tell the truth and why their lies don’t matter.

  34. Kelsang Lhadron, the way this practice was taught by Pabongkha Rinpoche and followed by his students including Trijang Rinpoche was very sectarian. In his supplementary teachings to the deity’s life entrustment, Pabongkha clearly described other Buddhist traditions as faulty dangerous and misleading paths. He explained, as Trijang Rinpoche also repeated, that this protector kills people (high lamas, government officials and ordinary people) who “claim to follow Tsongkhapa’s tradition” but choose to take teachings from other “mistaken traditions.”
    Trijang Rinpoche went on to explain how this deity also attached and killed people of other religious traditions including Nyingmapas and Bonpos.
    To claim this is not sectarian is either mistaken or dishonest.

    It was not that the murder could not be proven in court but that the prime suspects wanted by the Indian police and subject to International Arrest Warrants issued by Interpol escaped to China. China did not extradite these suspects. Maybe the Chinese attitudes to extradition will change if they are ever keen to extradite people from Indua that have committed crimes in China. The case could be reopened.

  35. The Dalai Lama has no standing army. He has rescinded all political standing in a refugee government in exile. Are there armed storm-troopers breaking down NKT doors in Britain? I didn’t realize… you’re free to appropriate whatever esoteric deity you wish. Certainly the Dalai Lama has the “fundamental human right” to free speech, to express his opinion on his own cultural and religious heritage?

    The position of Shugdenpas is basically that privileged white people have the right to identify themselves with whatever minority culture they wish, a post-colonial manifest destiny to appropriate cultural and spiritual, rather than physical, goods… and then demand the right to do so as a “voice” of the very culture they are appropriating.

    Asking an NDK practitioner about their views on Tibetan religion and culture is like asking a drunk college girl who’s wearing an Indian head-dress at Cochella about American Indian spiritual practices…

  36. White people demonstrated against the Apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s and racial segregation in the South of the USA in the 1960s. They are not now criticised for doing this. Similarly I also have the right to peacefully and legally campaign against the Dalai Lama’s religious discrimination against Tibetans who are Shugden Buddhists without being told my actions are incorrect.

  37. An interview with two Tibetan teens who’ve lived through the effects of the Dalai Lama’s campaign of religious persecution. From – https://dalailamanews.com/different-childhood-compliments-dalai-lama/
    Choeden recalled a pivotal moment in her young life: “I remember the day when the village leader called a meeting for all the families and we all went to the meeting. The leader said ‘who is with Dalai Lama, hands up!’ After that, the leader said: ‘who is not with Dalai Lama, hands up!’ and at that moment there was only one person who put her hand up and that was my mom. She is very, very smart!”

    According to Choeden, their family was not the only family in the village to practice Dorje Shugden, but as Semkar told her daughter, “there a lot of people but they are afraid.”…

    The family started experiencing problems after the meeting in which Semkar bravely raised her hand to show that she had not abandoned the faith she’d been raised with.

    “They [the other villagers] were throwing stones at our house and saying that we should get out because we support the ‘ghost’ Dorje Shugden,” Kalsang said. “My mom had no idea what to do because​ we were small and we were now having problems in school. They [other children] treated us like we were ‘topoc wala’ [“cap men” referring to Dorje Shugden’s round hat]​ who were ​eating China money and also when we were in the bus on ​the way to school, they said that our monastery was full of China groups who ‘ate’ China money. Because of supporting Dorje Shugden, my friends didn’t like to talk to me.”

    Choeden also told me that before that meeting​ “All the people acted normal but after that meeting, all the people stop talking with us and they were all talking behind our backs. I also got afraid because in our village there are a lot of teenagers who were in our school and sometimes, in my class, my friends used to talk about our Dorje Shugden. I hated them when they said something about Dorje Shugden, things like he was a ghost.”…

    I asked Choeden if they were asked to sign a paper supporting the Dalai Lama, she said, “Yes, they said we had to sign a paper to say that we practice Dalai Lama [stopped practicing Dorje Shugden] but my mom didn’t do that.”…

    Kalsang said: “I do like demonstration for truth. Yeah, it’s helpful for us to be all together and maybe problem can be solved if we demonstrate against false Dalai Lama and yeah, I think it’s future for our tradition and I think its good. I am going to say that Dalai Lama will slowly destroy our Tibetan tradition.”

  38. Patrick, first I want to say that of course you have the right to protest. However, I also have the right to object to your protests! There seems to be a very sensitive skin amongst Shugdenpas– a double standard. They can shout out insults to the Dalai Lama, hold up huge banners showing offensive caricatures of the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, but as soon as someone objects to their behaviors, they are crying, claiming that we are taking away their rights! Please, isn’t that a bit silly?

    Meanwhile, I have a few questions for you:

    Given the Shugden community’s proven disregard for the truth, how can you believe any UTube video interview? (If they won’t remove the video with the weeping Tibetan woman from Switzerland, with her false story, if they continue to claim that monks were made homeless and destitute, how can you believe the story from the teen?)
    If there is “overwhelming evidence” of discrimination, as is often claimed, why does the ISC continue to lie– why don’t they simply put forward police reports, hospital reports, media coverage etc….?
    Even if the stories by the teens are true and Shugden worshippers are feeling ostracized, isn’t there some justification for Tibetans to feel like they just don’t want to have anything to do with people who are ridiculing and maligning their precious leader (e.g. calling him the most evil being on earth and an enemy of Tsongkhapa’s tradition)?
    And did you know that both the US and Indian governments consider that the risk to His Holiness’s life has increased because of the hate campaign being waged by the Shugden community? Perhaps Tibetans are feeling a little frightened as well, given that horrid murder, with the key suspects being Shugden worshippers?

    Sometimes the ISC and co remind me of little children. They goad and they goad and then when someone reacts, they pounce on the reaction and use that as the reason they were goading in the first place!

    Get rid of the dangerous extremism and insidious lies and then maybe you can start equating yourself with movements such as those against apartheid– then maybe we can start having a sensible conversation.

  39. Neither side gives ground here do they? There are a lot of ISC people who aren’t completely comfortable with the tone of the associated publications, but they still feel that the protests are necessary. It must be acknowledged that every other method or approach to resolve this situation has been tried and met with indifference by the the DL. Why can’t they sit down and talk? What’s left for Shugden practitioners to do? Shut up about whats going on? Not everything about the campaign is perfect but to say “I don’t like the way you are going about this” does not invalidate the intention nor aim. If you don’t care that people are being coerced into abandoning their beliefs and practices without having the opportunity to debate and discuss it that’s one thing. But If we can agree that people shouldn’t be coerced like this and that people should be able to sit down and talk about it, then we’re on the same page.

    Would the Buddha have refused anyone access to his teachings?

  40. @Patrick, The refugee settlements were sanctioned by the Govt. of India upon the request of HHDL and CTA to then PM Jawaharlal Nehru and his administration. I must also add that if HHDL or CTA desires to ostracize the Shugdenites we can ask the Govt. of India to take back the land the Shugdenites are living, learning, praying, and worshiping Shugden peacefully.
    Come to India and see for yourself. In Sera and Gaden in south it was us(non-shugden) who were being constantly abused, disturbed by the Shugdenites when they enter our monastery to perform prayers with us. Its against our conscience to pray and live happily and harmoniously with people who so unashamedly and notoriously would criticize HHDL in the open, criticize masters of other tradition in the open, who would occasionally beat up, burn rice barns, murder, arson (maybe you weren’t told that they would beat us up) those who spoke against Shugden. Its nonsensically impossible for us to live together and majority of monks decided to part our ways, that too after giving their fair share….. there is so much more to write an talk.

  41. NKT and ISC doesn’t have any other work then to attack HH the Dalai Lama. They are hurting Tibetan and true Buddhist practioner’s sentiments.

  42. Great article Carole. It’s kind of unfortunate to see NKT followers feeling the need to defend themselves here. It reminds me of the tactics followed by Scientologists any time an article is written discrediting their branch of NRM. I am intrigued by your ethnography on the CIA: wow, it sounds very, very cool. Anyway, I have written an article on the NKT myself and shall link your article to it. In it I make the argument that Tibetan Buddhist converts in the West are generally very poorly informed on the history of Tibetan Buddhism, not only the NKT. In case you’re interested, I’ll provide the link here: http://posttraditionalbuddhism.com/2014/12/27/buddhist-bullshit/

  43. Just an fyi, Fadeout– twice, dialogue was offered to leaders of the Shugden community. Twice, it was the Shugden community who backed out. That is fact. My impression always is that they are not interested in dialogue.

    Also, another FYI, the “demands” given over and over by protest leaders include a demand that Shugden monks and nuns be “allowed back into their monasteries.” What on earth is that supposed to mean? Will statues of Shugden be placed on the shrines of those who believe he is an evil spirit? Will pictures of His Holiness be bowed to by those who claim he is an evil dictator?

    The Shugden monasteries are currently thriving, well endowed, modern and beautiful. It seems to me that the demands of the protests are simply for the sake of show, simply part of the agenda to malign His Holiness.

    So I would add to the article above the following observation. Naive, white, privileged Buddhists, who have no knowledge of the situation on the ground in India– and no knowledge of the dynamics of Tibetan culture and heart, are being used as pawns in a vicious strategy to undermine Tibetans at their heart source. Haven’t they suffered enough?

  44. And fadeout, are you really suggesting that the Dalai Lama should engage in dialogue with people who have denied that he is a legitimate Buddhist teacher, who believe he is connected to the sarin gas attacks in Japan and claim that “there is no one more evil than this false Dalai Lama” and who wish that “the doctrine of Tsongkhapa be freed from this enemy?”

    Does that sound reasonable?

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