Would the real Dalai Lama please stand up


By Indy Hack @IndyHack

July 6th will mark the 79th birthday of the most iconic religious figure
in current popular culture, a figure most often associated with peace,
tolerance, non-violence and religious harmony, none other than Tenzin
Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Behind the carefully crafted and stage
managed image of the world’s most popular Buddhist monk lies a story of
religious persecution and political oppression inflicted on the Tibetan
people, not by the Chinese, but by the Dalai Lama himself.

For over 20 years the Dalai Lama has been trying to stop Tibetans from
practising a traditional Buddhist Deity called Dorje Shugden, a practice
he himself used to engage in. He has so far instituted an official ban
on the practice, has forced monks out of their monasteries for refusing
to give up the practice and most recently the Tibetan government has
gone as far as to criminalise the practice.

Dorje Shugden is a traditional Buddhist protector Deity which was
popularly practised within the largest school of Tibetan Buddhism, the
Gelug school, as well as amongst approximately 30% of the Tibetan
population in general, according to Thupten Wangchen of the Tibetan
government. Prior to 1996 just under 2 million Tibetans practised Dorje
Shugden in accordance with instructions they had received from their
teachers, yet for reasons the Dalai Lama has failed to properly explain
he officially banned it.

In 1996 the Tibetan government unanimously passed a resolution stating
that, “the departments, their branches and subsidiaries, monasteries and
their branches that are functioning under the administrative control of
the Tibetan Government-in-Exile should be strictly instructed, in
accordance with the rules and regulations, not to indulge in the
propitiation of Shugden.” And so began the Tibetan government’s drive to
abolish the practice of Dorje Shugden and exclude people from jobs and
monasteries if they refused to give up their practice. As Tenzin Peljor
of the German Buddhist Monastic Association said of this situation. “To
enable a fair and democratic government in exile government members had to
stop Shugden practice or to leave.”

A further Tibetan government resolution passed in 1997 stated,
“Particularly in the Three Great Monastic Universities of Sera, Gaden
and Drepung, the restriction on Shugden practice should be kept up” It
went on to state that, “Efforts should be made to ensure that Shugden
practitioners do not receive tantric teachings.”

This was more than just advice that the Dalai Lama was offering about
which practices people should engage in, it was now a government
campaign to cleanse its monasteries and departments of anyone who
practised Dorje Shugden. Letters were sent to the various departments
such as the Health Department making it clear that Dorje Shugden
practitioners were to either stop their practice or they would have to
leave their jobs – this was the Dalai Lama’s view and it was ruthlessly
enforced by his government. Throughout the monasteries monks were forced
to swear an oath never to engage in the practice or they had to leave.

The resulting backlash from these draconian measures was a public appeal
to try and force the Dalai Lama to reverse his ban, protesters gathered
outside the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Europe and the US trying to draw
attention to the growing problems the ban was causing. However the Dalai
Lama refused to back down and so the conflict grew as did the reports of
people being persecuted, denied medical care and refused service in
shops on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Rebecca Novick, an author of 6 books on Tibetan Buddhism and culture,
referred to the large scale effects of the ban in a recent Huffington
Post article saying, “Shugden practitioners gradually became social
pariahs. Shopkeepers refused to sell to them, and landlords refused to
rent to them. In 2008 the Tibetan leadership ordered the monasteries in
South India to purge their populations of Shugden devotees. Monks who
had formerly lived like brothers were now forbidden to talk to one
another.” At the same time the Dalai Lama continued to travel the world
and preach to people about the benefits of religious tolerance and
harmony, clearly words that he failed to follow in his own actions
towards Dorje Shugden practitioners.

In March of this year the Tibetan Parliament in Exile unanimously passed
a resolution recognising that Dorje Shugden practitioners are,
“criminals in history”. Whereas previously there had been an official
ban of the practice it had now been criminalised, making it illegal to
practice in the legislative eyes of the Tibetan government.

In May of this year the Dalai Lama visited Oslo, Norway to celebrate the
25th Anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize and he was once again greeted
by hundreds of protesters from Europe and the US which included western
and Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners. During an interview at the
Nobel Institute the Dalai Lama said, “I never made a decision banning…no
question of banning”, and several prominent scholars such as Robert
Thurman have supported this position.

In an article for the Huffington Post professor Thurman stated that,
“their chosen deity was not “banned” by the Dalai Lama, since he has no
authority to “ban” what Tibetan Buddhists practice.” However professor
Thurman chooses to overlook the fact that at the time of the of the
first official ban of the practice in 1996 the Dalai Lama was the head
of state of the Tibetan Government in Exile. He had political
jurisdiction over the exile Tibetan population and therefore had the
means and the authority not only to ban the practice but to also ensure
that the ban was enforced throughout the various departments and
monasteries of the government.

Other supporters of the Dalai Lama have claimed that a ban could not
have been enacted since the Tibetan exile population resides mostly in
India and is therefore subject to the laws of India, they believe that
the Tibetan government doesn’t have the ability or authority to pass
laws. This view however is not supported by the Tibetan government who
state on their website that, “From 1991 onwards TPiE [the Tibetan
Parliament in Exile] became the Legislative Organ of CTA [the Tibetan
government], while Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is the Judiciary
Organ and the Kashag, Executive Organ said to be Three Pillars of
Democracy.  TPiE began to pass laws for the Tibetans in exile and the
Charter for Tibetans in Exile is one of the first important legal
document passed by the Parliament and approved by His Holiness on May
16th 1991”.

Whereas the Dalai Lama states that there is no ban the facts aren’t
there to support this claim. According to the Oxford English Dictionary
a ban is to, “officially or legally prohibit something”. In 1996 when
the Tibetan government passed a resolution instructing people not to
engage in the practice of Dorje Shugden and then told people to stop or
leave their jobs they had officially prohibited the practice. This was
when the Dalai Lama was the head of the Tibetan government and was in
charge of the Parliament – by all definitions he banned the practice
officially in 1996. So when he said in 2014 that there was no ban he was
either mistaken or purposefully being untrue, the latter of which is
most likely.

In an effort to avoid discussing the issue it is often mired in
religious doctrinal arguments, however if you leave those to one side
and focus instead on the political activities of the Dalai Lama and the
Tibetan government a situation of religious discrimination and
government persecution comes sharply into focus. Not only are Tibetan
Dorje Shugden practitioners banned from working for the government and
studying in its monasteries they are also subject to state surveillance.

During the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Oslo, Norway on May 8th of this
year a member of the Dalai Lama’s entourage was pictured photographing
Tibetan protesters. Later in Frankfurt, Germany Tenzin Peljor of the
German Buddhist Monastic Association was likewise pictured photographing
Tibetan protesters outside the Dalai Lama’s teachings at St Peters
Church. Less than a week later the Tibetan government issued a list of
Tibetans who had participated in the protests. The list contains 34
people, alongside their photographs are their names, a brief summary of
their activities and in one case they included the home address of a
woman who had been protesting.

It is truly extraordinary for a democratic government to issue a public
list of people who are peacefully protesting against its policy of
religious discrimination. Peaceful protest is a right enshrined in the
very heart of democracy, the idea that the government is there to
represent the people. It is also a perceived human right arising out of
the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of speech. For
a government to take such a hardline approach as to conduct a ‘name and
shame’ campaign to try and suppress its citizens right to peaceful
protest speaks volumes.

So on his 79th birthday the Dalai Lama will no doubt be lauded in the
popular press for his contributions to world peace and religious
harmony, however behind the smoke and mirrors of his public persona is
the reality of a ruthless politician who is prepared to publicly lie,
suppress religious freedom and violate human rights in order to compel
his people to follow his demands. Not what you would expect from a Nobel

Peace Prize winning Buddhist Monk.

14 Responses

  1. So called Tibetan Government in exile is actually a Dalai Lama’s government. Please do not fool by Dalai Lama and the voting system. The prime minister is just a puppet.

  2. Jaros Nathalie

    Thank you for such a clear description of the situation. My friend went to India and he was astonished to see the hate of Dalai lama’s monks towards other monks that lived in the Shar Gaden institute, a shugden monastery.
    Hopefully the world will finally see the truth of this dicatatorship !

  3. S.H. Stocking

    One of the best articles I’ve seen on this sad, complex topic. I especially appreciated the author’s setting aside of the doctrinal issues to focus on the policies that have made pariahs of Dorje Shugden practitioners among their own people. I can’t imagine this article will sway those who revere the Dalai Lama. The truth will likely “out” only after he passes away and a new, leader with closer ties to ordinary people takes his place (someone like the new Pope who is sweeping away old, long ignored evils in the Catholic church).

  4. Khedrup

    Another anonymous and misinformed article, which is not unsurprising. Those of the Shugden group often submit misinformation and half-truths anyonymously under the guise of “safety”. It is disappointing this website publishes this article by an anyonymous author, which is not balanced and does not give the whole story. Indeed, it seems to help only China.
    Those interested in the group behind the protests, the New Kadampa Tradition, and the sectarian and violent history of Dorje Shugden should visit this website:


    If this site is interested in a balanced story and a point-by-point rebuttal of many of the falsehoods above, there are many who could contribute.

  5. Kelsang Pagchen

    Gracias por esta clara y equilibrada revelación sobre el historial de persecución y ostracismo de su propia gente llevada a cabo por el Dalai Lama actual. Pronto la verdad prevalecerá por el bien de todos.

  6. Chelvi

    Thank you so much for bringing this issue the public domain. The world needs to wake up to the blatant religious discrimination and human rights abuse inflicted by the Dalai Lama on his fellow Tibetan Shugden practitioners.

  7. Christopher Penny

    A very good article on the topic. Difficult to argue against, especially as most of the evidence is actually on the TIbetan Central Administration’s own website – lists of ‘public enemies’ etc. No democratic government would do this to their own people for simply protesting for their right to religious freedom.

  8. Bhill

    Khedrup you attack the followers of Dorje Shugden with rhetoric. The article are anonymous because many are concerned about their safety.

    Very simple- follow the lineage Gurus they will validate the reliance of The Protector not the paranoia of one Lama.

    Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has requested to meet with the Dali Lama a number of times and he refuses. He is harming the purity of Dharma by ignoring and reacting with violence to the Sangha.

    I feel sorry for you and all who remain in this cloud of ignorance.

  9. Steve Rogers

    As usual, the negative comment doesn’t refute the facts but just goes for ad hominem slurs against those who communicate them. There is a complete lack of proper debate about this topic, probably because the Dalai Lama’s position is indefensible.

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