On 28 April 1997, Newsweek magazine published an article by Tony Clifton called “Cult Mystery – did an obscure Tibetan sect murder three monks close to the Dalai Lama”. The article was the start of the propaganda against Shugden practitioners in general and the New Kadampa Tradition in particular by the Dalai Lama and his followers. It was in this article that the Dalai Lama unfairly and unjustifiably used the word ‘cult’ in relation to the NKT, mud that has stuck for ten years.
The article contained personal attacks and unjustified accusations from the Dalai Lama, supported by Robert Thurman. Robert Thurman has always supported the Dalai Lamas views. In the article Thurman claimed that Shugden practitioners were responsible for the murder of Lobsang Gyatso and his two assistants. He also made other unjustified attacks. Here’s a selection of Thurman’s quotes from the article:
"I think there's no doubt that Shugden was behind the killings," says Robert Thurman, America's foremost Buddhist scholar and an old friend of the Dalai Lama's. "The three were stabbed repeatedly and cut up in a way that was like an exorcism."
Dorje Shugden has had an underground following among Tibetans obsessed with doctrinal purity for centuries. "It would not be unfair to call Shugdens the Taliban of Tibetan Buddhism," says Thurman, referring to the Muslim extremists of Afghanistan, who believe in swift and brutal justice.
"Shugden appeals to crazies by offering instant gratification," says Thurman. "Once you get involved, you're told you have to devote your lives to the cult, because the god gets very angry if you don't attend to him every day. It's really bad stuff, the way they're draining money out of people."
Now the Western Shugden Society has issued an open letter to Robert Thurman asking him to justify his claims.
If Robert Thurman uses his academic qualifications and his fame in the Buddhist community to lend weight to an attack on the reputation of Shugden practitioners you’d expect him to have some research and some data to back it up his claims as any good academic would, so let’s see if it’s there.