Does the Dalai Lama believe in karma? – a perspective on ‘Unwinking Gaze’

The Dalai Lama highly praises the  ‘Nalanda Tradition’, the rich tradition of Buddhism taught in ancient India.  On his website it says:

Tibetan Buddhism originally evolved from the authentic and ancient tradition upheld at the great Indian monastic university of Nalanda, a tradition that His Holiness often describes as a complete form of Buddhism. It embodies the original teaching of the Buddha as developed through the rich philosophical, psychological and spiritual insights of such great Buddhist masters as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga and Dharamakirti.

However, I wonder if he accepts the idea of karma that is fundamental to Buddha’s teachings and to the ‘Nalanda’ tradition?  In his own actions towards Shugden practitioners there seems to be ample evidence that he does not.

Recently I saw the documentary ‘Unwinking Gaze’, a large part of which was concerned with the dialogue between the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Peoples’ Republic of China.  The Dalai Lama is trying to establish contact and mentioned that he would like to go back to China/Tibet as a religious leader on pilgrimage.  He asked the PRC through representatives if he could do this and was refused.  It seems that the Chinese Leadership don’t trust him.

The Dalai Lama wants to establish dialogue with the PRC, yet he ignores the requests for dialogue from Dorje Shugden practitioners who are devastated by his banning of their traditional practice, a practice that he himself used to do and that he received from his own holy Teachers such as Trijang Rinpoche.  In his failure to establish a dialogue with the PRC and be trusted by them, he’s experiencing the results of his past karma.  In the past he must have refused to talk to others and he refused to trust them.  However, now he is doing the same thing with Dorje Shugden practitioners.  He doesn’t trust his own Teachers such as Trijang Rinpoche about the practice of Dorje Shugden, prefering to rely on oracles for advice about the practice.  If he doesn’t trust his own Teacher and the lineage from which he received his own Buddhist education, how can he expect others to trust him?  Not trusting your own Guru is certainly one of the most negative actions you can perform.  It would definitely lead to others mistrusting you.

The Dalai Lama refuses to talk to the Western Shugden Society about his ban of the practice of Dorje Shugden.  Similarly, the PRC is reluctant to engage the Dalai Lama in constructive dialogue about his return to Tibet.  From ‘Unwinking Gaze, progress seems very slow and very hard fought.  Similarly, for WSS, progress is very slow and hard fought because even though they are engaging in protests against his ban, he refuses to listen and discuss the issue.  Maybe there is a connection between the problems that the Dalai Lama is experiencing and the problems he is imposing on others?  This is fundamental Buddhist view!

The Dalai Lama wants freedom for his people in Tibet – at least autonomy within the PRC.  However, he is denying basic human rights to Dorje Shugden practitioners by denying them food, travel and contact with their families because they refuse to accept the ban that he has imposed on them for political reasons.  He want to stop oppression but is engaging in oppression. Does that sound like someone who has wisdom and who accepts the teaching on karma?

In Unwinking Gaze, the Dalai Lama is shown receiving the honor of the Congressional Gold Medal. Senator Feinstein said:

“The Dalai Lama is a worthy recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. He is one of the world’s greatest religious leaders and has used human compassion, courage and conviction as his tools in carving a path for peace. For half a century, he has struggled to better the lives of the Tibetan people. In doing so, he has been a shining light to all those fighting for freedom around the world,”

How ironic that the shining light to all those fighting for freedom around the world should turn out to be the oppressor of Dorje Shugden practitioners throughout the world!

In his speech, President George W Bush says

“…..America raises its voice in the call for religious liberty and basic human rights.  Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away.”

It is to be hoped that President Bush’s words are true – may the Western media see the oppression that is happening in India, such as the segregation wall at Ganden Monastery and the banning of Shugden practitioners from shops and hospitals and do something about it.  Would the Americans have bestowed this honor on the Dalai Lama had they known what had been happening in the Tibetan community in India since 1996?  It’s certainly not freedom and justice for all!

The Dalai Lama wants a peaceful resolution so that Tibetans and Chinese can live side by side, yet he is denying Dorje Shugden practitioners the opportunity to live peacefully in their own community by branding their pure spiritual practices as ‘cult like’.  From his own website:

The problem with Dolgyal practice is that it presents the spirit Dolgyal (Shugden) as a Dharma protector and what’s more tends to promote the spirit as more important than the Buddha himself. If this trend goes unchecked, and innocent people become seduced by cult-like practices of this kind, the danger is that the rich tradition of Tibetan Buddhism may degenerate into the mere propitiation of spirits

By also emotively linking the practice of Shugden with harming his own health and harming the cause of Tibetan independence the Dalai Lama is inciting hatred against Shugden practitioners.  How can they live in harmony?  In fact, they are ostracised by their own communities.  He has caused a schism in the spiritual community by demanding that Shugden monks be expelled from their monasteries without support, in direct contravention of the Vinaya code that monasteries follow.

Is it any wonder that the Dalai Lama is having problems convincing the PRC that Tibetans and Chinese can live together harmoniously, side by side?

At the end of Unwinking Gaze, the Dalai Lama is shown in meditation and he talks about how important it is for him to be a Buddhist monk.  Surely a Buddhist monk accepts and tries to live in accordance with the Buddhist teaching on karma?  It seems that what the Dalai Lama is striving for – freedom for his own people – is impossible if he continues to deny freedom to Dorje Shugden practitioners in the way that he is.  His oppression and persecution of those who still engage in the practice, despite his ban, and his denial of their basic human rights does not bode well for the results that he wants to achieve for Tibet and Tibetans.

It’s just as the great Buddhist Master Shantideva said:

Although they wish to be free from suffering, they run straight towards the causes of suffering.

Having received the rich teachings of the Nalanda tradition from his own Gurus, why is the Dalai Lama deliberately creating actions that will obstruct the attainment of the goals he most deeply cherishes?


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