The Dalai Lama has declared the practice of Dorje Shugden as ‘non-Buddhist’ and has taken unusually strong action to ostracise Dorje Shugden practitioners from the Tibetan community. This has included denying them basic human rights such as medical treatment, access to shops, and denial of paperwork so that they can travel. He has been responsible for expelling 900 Shugden worshipping monks from Gelugpa monasteries in South India. No-one who worships Shugden can study there now.
The Central Tibetan Admininstration, at his behest, has changed the law so that no Shugden practitioner can hold public office and Shugden families have also been discriminated against, their children denied education, and other extreme forms of human rights abuse.
The question is – “why?”. Why all this strong action?
Okay, so in the Dalai Lama’s (wrong) view, Shugden worship is not Buddhism; but then again neither is Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and every other religion that is not Buddhism. Why doesn’t the Dalai Lama react strongly against those? On the contrary, the Dalai Lama has good words for other religions. On a visit to Harvard in May 2009, the Dalai Lama made positive comments about Islam:
In his opening remarks, the Dalai Lama not only paid tribute to the importance of educating students about religions other than their own, but he also made a more specific point, that Islam, like Buddhism and other religions, emphasizes compassion. The Dalai Lama made his point visually, as well as verbally, pulling off his wrist his Buddhist prayer beads – called a “mala” – while referring to Muslim rosaries and talking about how Islam fits into the family of faiths
Dorje Shugden practitioners, too, have compassion because they are Buddhists, and pray for the happiness of all living beings – but the Dalai Lama persecutes them. Why? He praises Muslims for their compassion but he does not have a positive word to say about Dorje Shugden practitioners:
“Shugden followers have resorted to killing and beating people. They start fires. And tell endless lies. This is how the Shugden believe. It is not good.”
These are lies. There is no evidence for the Dalai Lama’s words.
The Dalai Lama is also tolerant towards another religion which is closer to home – the Bon religion that also existed in Tibet alongside Buddhism. If the Dalai Lama hates Shugden practitioners for being ‘non-religious’ and ‘ non-Buddhist’, why does he also not hate the Bonpos? (practitioners of Bon). His attitudes are most odd and inconsistent. Before the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Bon was discriminated against and marginalized. As it says in the Wikipedia article on the subject:
Lozang Gyatso, the fifth Dalai Lama, was the first to declare Bön to be a fifth school of spirituality in Tibet. However, the Bönpo remained stigmatised and marginalised until 1977, when they sent representatives to Dharamsala and Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, who advised the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, to accept Bön members.
Since then, Bön has had official recognition of its status as a religious group, with the same rights as the Buddhist schools. This was re-stated in 1987 by the Dalai Lama, who also forbade discrimination against the Bönpo, stating that it was both undemocratic and self-defeating. He even donned Bön ritual paraphernalia, emphasizing “the religious equality of the Bön faith.”
However, Tibetans still differentiate between Bön and Buddhism, referring to members of the Nyingma, Shakya, Kagyu and Gelug schools as “nangpa,” meaning “insiders,” but to practitioners of Bön as “Bönpo,” or even “chipa” (“outsiders”).
So, rather than rejecting Bon, which is viewed as an ‘outer’ religion whereas the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism are viewed as ‘inner religion’, he actively promotes it! As you can see from the picture, the Dalai Lama is not adverse to donning Bon regalia and taking part in their rituals. This is most strange in itself. Why is the Dalai Lama playing at being a Bonpo? It’s like the Pope deciding, on a whim, to don the robes of a Muslim Imam or even the robes of a Buddhist monk!
The Dalai Lama dons these robes to emphasise ‘the religious equality of Bon’, yet it is not Buddhism. He fights for equal rights for Bon but he harms Shugden practitioners who are Buddhists and students of his own root Spiritual Guide! Does this not seem strange?
Why doesn’t the Dalai Lama act consistently and forbid discrimination against Shugden practitioners, declaring it undemocratic and self-defeating as he did with the Bonpos? rather, he promotes discrimination and ostracism with hate speech, enforced signature campaigns and government legislation. Why? The Dalai Lama fears Shugden practitioners because they are an obstacle to his plan to merge all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism together so that he can be head of his own ‘Buddhist’ tradition. This is his best chance of maintaining his power and prestige as a leader if he should go back to a Chinese ruled Tibet at any point in the future. The Bonpos are no threat to his plan so he ingratiates himself with them and promotes their equal rights because he knows he can control them without difficulty. Being kind to them is good for business.
It’s clear that the Dalai Lama doesn’t have equanimity towards groups that he views as non-Buddhist. The only explanation of his un-Buddhist actions towards Shugden practitioners is that you harm what you fear will stop you from achieving your worldly goals. The Dalai Lama is deliberately trying to destroy the power and reputation of Shugden practitioners so that he can control the Gelugpa tradition for his own political purposes – otherwise, his lack of equanimity is irrational. If he really felt the same towards all traditions that he views as non-Buddhist, he’d be donning a round yellow hat to show the equality of Shugden practice instead of trying to destroy those practitioners as if they were his enemies.
The Dalai Lama in a round yellow hat and tiger boots……now that I’d like to see!