Protests by the International Shugden Community (ISC) Against the Dalai Lama—Is There Any Truth in Them?

Here are some facts:

  1. The International Shugden Community (ISC) protesters claim that there is “overwhelming evidence” that Shugden worshippers are being persecuted by the Dalai Lama and his followers and that human rights violations abound. However:
  • In 1998, Amnesty International investigated their claims of religious persecution and found “insufficient evidence.” (AI Doc)
  • In 2010, the Delhi High Court also dismissed the Shugden community’s claims of religious persecution (see PDF)
  1. Further, on Shugden community websites, many deceptions and unsubstantiated claims are made. Investigation of those reveals that things have not changed since Amnesty International and the Indian High Courts made their determinations. There is NOT “overwhelming evidence” of religious persecution.
  2. In fact, there is a compelling lack of credible, substantial evidence backing any of the protesters’ claims of serious persecution, no Indian media reports, police reports or impartial reports of any kind.
  3. The International Shugden Community (ISC) produce videos on Youtube and their website to look like BBC news releases, with a red, circling globe, urgent music and Breaking News or NEWS inscribed across the screen. On these videos, various ploys are used to deceive and mislead viewers, as will be demonstrated below. (see ICS)
  4. An investigation of the ISC website has so far revealed 32 deceptive statements and 16 unsubstantiated claims. There are definitely more because the investigation is not complete. Some of the deceptions are quite glaring. Some are simply little pieces that accumulate and add up to much bigger and more alarming accusations. In some cases the ISC will go out of their way to deceive.
  5. Many of the claims of persecution are in reference to events that took place ten or twenty years ago and that allegedly occurred in hard to reach, restricted areas of India. These claims are extremely difficult to substantiate or verify. Despite that fact, clear deceptions can nonetheless be found, due to simple carelessness in their reporting.
  6. When statements from the Dalai Lama appear in their video reports, these are short, misleading snippets taken totally out of context.
  7. Many of the protesters’ claims are hearsay and personal interviews. Several of those have been shown to be deceitful. Others cannot be verified.
  8. Here are just a few examples of the many deceptions from the ISC website:
  • In order to “show” that Shugden monks were made homeless and destitute in one “News” video, footage of young Theravada monks going on their traditional begging rounds was inserted—not Tibetan monks at all! This was an intentional deception. Exiles in Exile: Tibetan Monks outcast by the Dalai Lama (see YouTube),
  • In another video, a Tibetan woman from Switzerland wept as she told the story of her sister being unable to obtain food to eat in Dharamsala, India because Tibetans would not sell food to Shugden worshippers. However, even if it was true that Tibetans wouldn’t sell to her, Indians own most of the food stalls in Dharamsala and they don’t care about Tibetan controversies. Her sister could clearly find food! This video is clearly deceptive. (see YouTube)
  • In several videos, they tell the story of many Shugden monks being made “homeless” because of being expelled from their monasteries. The claim is made that they had to live in “slums” and “safe houses.” However, the truth is that these monks were provided with land and buildings in order to resume their choice of religious practice. Pictures of these buildings show that they were given their fair share, if not more and they are currently thriving. Those claims are simply false, more lies. (see YouTube and YouTube)
    See here for further investigation of this false allegation: “In February 2008 900 Buddhist Shugden monks were made homeless by the Dalai Lama?
  • This false claim about homelessness has been a favorite of the Shugden community. It is also made in the ISC publication entitled False Dalai Lama: Worst Dictator in Modern History, where they state on page 24:

As a direct result of this so-called referendum 900 innocent monks were then summarily expelled from their monasteries. Most of these 900 monks were very poor and had no other place to live; many were fearful of the future and actually wept as they were forced to leave.

  • In another video, they deceptively refer to a murder, which occurred 30 years ago, in the context of it being the outcome of a “wanted list” of Shugden worshippers made by the Tibetan exile government ten years after it occurred! (YouTube)
  • In another video, reference is made to Shugden worshippers being mistreated in various ways some twenty years ago, such as having their house firebombed or being ransacked—but again, none of these claims can be substantiated by a media report, hospital report or police report. The reports are substantiated only by internal documents from the Shugden Community itself. (YouTube),
  • In another video, they claim that Shugden worshippers are persecuted because they are not granted Indian citizenship when they arrive from Tibet. In fact, no Tibetan is granted Indian citizenship upon arrival from Tibet—in fact, all Tibetans arriving from Tibet generally find life difficult overall. This is an outright lie. (YouTube),
  • In other videos, they show obscure pictures of wounds on the faces and hands of monks, all to indicate some sort of attack, presumably by non-Shugden Buddhists, but there are no media or police reports to substantiate any of the claims. No stories are told providing details of these attacks. They cannot be verified. (YouTube, Youtube)
FalseDalaiLamaMuslim-ScreenShot2014-08-23at11.04.09AM

Screenshot from the International Shugden Community’s (ICS) YouTube Channel (08/23/14) run by Gen Kelsang Rabten, the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) National Spiritual Director for New Zealand and Australia, currently residing in Hong Kong as the Resident Teacher of the NKT’s “Kadampa Meditation Centre Hong Kong”. ICS is a front group of the NKT.

Is the Dalai Lama False?

  1. Recently the Shugden community has published the second of its anonymously authored diatribes against the Dalai Lama, entitled False Dalai Lama: Worst Dictator in Modern History. In this, they claim that the Dalai Lama is secretly a Muslim, born to Muslim parents in a Muslim village—and he therefore is a “false Dalai Lama,” falsely recognized through a mysterious conspiracy by his Regent. They call him the “Saffron-Robed Muslim.” (see ICS)
  2. What sources do these anonymous authors cite for these claims? Another anonymous author! (of an obscure text cited by no other writers but themselves and very hard—impossible?—to find!)
  3. The truth from mainstream historical evidence is that the Dalai Lama was born into a village that had been taken over by a Chinese (Muslim) warlord. There were a few Muslim families in this village, but the majority was Buddhist. The Dalai Lama’s family was clearly Buddhist. In fact, his older brother had been recognized as a high incarnate Buddhist lama years before the Dalai Lama’s birth.
  4. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being Muslim—unless one is claiming to be a Buddhist monk! The Shugden community claims that the Dalai Lama is deceiving the world by not revealing his secret Muslim identity. They hold up banners in their protests showing the Dalai Lama in a Muslim taqiyah (which he donned during one of his many interfaith events). This has caused some to wonder if they are trying to incite Islamaphobia?
  5. This is also the reason protesters hold up placards calling the Dalai Lama false, why they chant over and over, “False Dalai Lama, stop lying…” This is entirely based on a wild report from a group of anonymous authors citing another anonymous author!

Is the Dalai Lama Lying?

  1. The Shugden community changes its mind frequently about why they believe he is lying. There are four full videos purporting to explain why the Dalai Lama is lying on the ISC website. All of those videos contain deceptions themselves.
  2. In one video, entitled The Dalai Lama Lies About Advice From His Teacher, they post a statement from the Dalai Lama’s website and then while the viewer is struggling to read that statement, the narrator reads it falsely, stating a key word “encourage” instead of “support”! The rest of the video is then a claim that the Dalai Lama was lying because he said “encourage”! In fact, they are lying about what the Dalai Lama actually stated, as quoted on his website! (see YouTube)
  3. In another Youtube video, entitled A Question for the Dalai Lama at His Hamburg Talk, Aug. 24, 2014, they show a brief clip from a teaching the Dalai Lama gave in Hamburg last summer. In this, a protester asked the Dalai Lama a question and as he was answering the question, the protester interrupted him by shouting “stop lying!”
    The Dalai Lama then paused and proceeded to address the accusation of lying, whereupon the protester continued to shout “stop lying, stop lying Dalai Lama…” until he was led out by security.
    First, it is surprising that the Shugden community should have been proud enough of this childish display of heckling to publish it on Youtube. However, their caption was even more surprising and yet another example of their habit of deception. They stated,
    “The False Dalai Lama … evades the question by saying that Buddhist monks don’t lie!

But we know that you ARE lying, False Dalai Lama: lying about your Gurus, lying about the nature of Dorje Shugden, lying about the ban you have imposed, and so much more.”So this is the level of honesty and balance the protesters support. (see YouTube)
  4. In other videos, the ISC claim that that Dalai Lama is lying because he says that he has never “banned” Shugden practice—because he claims that Shugden practice is harmful to the Tibetan cause and his own life…. Because he has disagreed with his teacher over his decision. Certainly the accusation of lying looks good on a placard and can rally the troops to protest, but in fact, the claims can be better described as disagreements over a complex issue, disagreements that are beyond the scope of this pamphlet, or any secular discussion, to address.
  5. It is clear in the ISC publication entitled False Dalai Lama: Worst Dictator in Modern History that essentially most of the claims of the Shugden community protesters rely on their belief in a Dalai Lama that no one can see, a “shadow Dalai Lama” complete with evil agendas and purposes totally contrary to how he spends his already very full days. Here is an example from that ISC publication, anonymously authored, anonymously cited, which demonstrates the extremist views these protesters hold:

… 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. (p. 3)

And:

“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.” (p. 13) (see ICS)

Statements such as these, which abound in ISC publications and video releases, make one wonder about the purpose and validity of the protests. They wish to portray a sane, reasonable face to the world, a calm complaint of religious persecution and human rights violations—but in fact, carry out an agenda themselves that is dishonest, inflammatory and extremist.

For further information, see

Joanne Clark, October 1, 2014

The Virtues of Humility – by Matthieu Ricard

Part 1

Humility is sometimes scorned, regarded as a weakness. The writer Ayn Rand proclaims, “Discard the protective rags of that vice which you called a virtue: humility.”* Pride, however, the narcissistic exaggeration of the self, closes the door to all personal progress, since in order to learn, you must first think that you don’t know. Humility is a forgotten quality of the contemporary world, the theater of seeming. Magazines are constantly giving advice about how to “affirm” yourself, “make an impression,” “be beautiful” — to seem instead of be. This obsession with the favorable image one wants to present is such that we no longer even ask ourselves anymore the question of the groundlessness of seeming, but only how we can appear most positively. However, as La Rochefoucauld wrote, “We should gain more by letting the world see what we are than by trying to seem what we are not.”

Most people associate humility with a lack of self-esteem and a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities, when they don’t associate it with an inferiority complex. They don’t recognize the benefits of humility, since if “self-importance is the privilege of the fool,” humility is the virtue of one who has taken the measure of all that’s left for him to learn and the path he still has to travel. Humble people are not beautiful, intelligent people who take pride in convincing themselves they’re ugly and stupid; they are people who don’t make much of their ego. Not thinking of themselves as the center of the universe, they open up more easily to others and are especially aware of the interconnection between all beings.

* Rand, A. (1992). Atlas Shrugged. Penguin, p. 970.

Part 2

A humble person has nothing to lose or to gain. If he is praised, he thinks it’s for what he has been able to accomplish, not for himself as an individual. If he is criticized, he thinks that bringing his faults out into the open is the best service anyone could do him. “Few are sufficiently wise to prefer censure, which is useful, to praise, which is treacherous,” wrote La Rochefoucauld, as if echoing Tibetan sages who remind us that “the best teaching is one that reveals our hidden faults.” Free from hope and fear, the humble person remains carefree and without affectation. Paradoxically, humility also favors strength of character: the humble person makes decisions according to what he thinks is fair and holds to them, without worrying either about his image or about what people will say about him.

Humility is a quality that is invariably found in the wise person who has acquired many qualities, for, they say, it’s when the tree is loaded with fruit that the branches bend to the ground, whereas the proud person is like the tree whose bare branches point up to the sky. While traveling with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I often noted the great humility laden with kindness of such a venerable man. He is always attentive to people of modest means and never poses as an important person. One day, after greeting François Mitterand, who had just accompanied him to the front steps of the Élysée palace, the Dalai Lama, before getting into his car, went over to shake the hand of one of the guards standing at the side, beneath the stunned gaze of the President of the Republic.

Humility is a component of altruism, since the humble person is naturally concerned about others and attentive to their well-being. Social psychology studies, on the other hand, have shown that those who overestimate themselves show a tendency to aggression that is greater than average.* A link has also been highlighted between humility and the ability to forgive, whereas people who think they’re superior judge the faults of others more harshly and regard them as less forgivable.**

* Bushman, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence?? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 219–229.

** Exline J. J. & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Case Western Reserve University. Unpublished data cited by J. P. Tangney, Humility, in Handbook of Positive Psychology (2002).

Source

Sri Lanka: Radical Buddhist groups join forces

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A hard-line Buddhist monk from Myanmar known for his anti-Muslim stance said his movement will join hands with a like-minded Sri Lankan group to “protect” Buddhists, whom he called an endangered world minority.

Ashin Wirathu, leader of 969, a fundamentalist movement, was a special invitee Sunday at a rally of Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, a Sri Lankan group accused of instigating deadly violence against the country’s minority Muslims in June.

Joining 969 could further boost an already soaring support base for Bodu Bala Sena, an ultranationalist group that has enlisted thousands of youth and Buddhist monks in just two years of existence. This, in turn, could exacerbate mistrust and tensions between Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese-Buddhists and its Muslims.

Politically, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s credibility among Muslims stands to erode further after his government allowed Mr Wirathu to visit Sri Lanka despite opposition from Muslim groups, including his own allies. Mr Rajapaksa is already under criticism for not taking action against Buddhist monks whose inflammatory speeches are blamed for anti-Muslim violence in June that killed two people and wounded dozens, and saw many shops and homes set on fire in three western towns.

Read the full article from the Bangkok Post here.

See alao: Violence by Buddhists against Muslims

In February 2008 900 Buddhist Shugden monks were made homeless by the Dalai Lama?

There are so many wrong and misleading claims and allegations by the International Shugden Community (ICS) / New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) that it is almost impossible to address and to correct them all. Joanne Clark’s blog and this blog made some efforts to correct some. There were also efforts by others (including the CTA, Buddhist (Head) Organizations etc.) but the ICS / NKT / Shugden groups still flood the media, interview partners of the Dalai Lama, journalists, Buddhist centres, the internet, news comment sections, YouTube (and also this blog) with false information.

Recently, a senior NKT teacher, Kadampa Ryan, repeated in the discussion thread of the “Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness“, the claims of the ICS/NKT, that the CTA/Dalai Lama had made Shugden followers “homeless”. To make it more easy for Ryan and others, here some of the facts.

The NKT / ICS Campaign claims wrongly for many years now:

In February 2008, as a direct result of the Dalai Lama’s demands, 900 Buddhist monks were made homeless.

But the facts, are, that after the Vinaya ‘Stick Referendum’ that is part of the monastic training for Buddhist monks and nuns, laid down by the Buddha and one of seven ways to settle conflicts (and which is deeply democratic), the majority of the monks in the three main Gelug monsteries (Ganden, Sera, Drepung) in India decided to separate from Shugden monks if they wish to continue their worship. Those who wanted to stay had to give up that practice. This is how things are done, if there is trouble, either your find a compromise or you have to separate if that is not possible. It is also common and part of democratic processes that a majority vote has to be accepted and respected. If a community decides based on majority vote that you cannot smoke on the group’s assets, then those who want to smoke have either to go or to abandon smoking (or you find another way that concords with the majority decision). This is really not an unusual or even criminal or oppressive behavior as the Anti Dalai Lama Campaigning Group wants to make the world believe.

All the monks who had to leave, got a fair share of the houses and property of the whole community. There is no doubt about it that this was the case, and even the deceptive Pro Shugden Site www . dorjeshugden . com acknowledges this fact. Here some excerpts, screenshots and commentaries to their own statements.

line-gothic

Below you find two images about the “desperate state” of the poor, made homeless by the Dalai Lama, Shugden monks in India.

Serpom Monastery

Serpom Monastery

Shar Gaden Monastery

Shar Gaden Monastery

The Shugden Site states:

… the existence of Shar Gaden and Serpom monasteries, established for the sole purpose of preserving and upholding Dorje Shugden’s lineage and ractices. Both monasteries are open and thriving, and their activities encompass the full range of monastic programs including Geshe degrees, initiations and oral transmissions, international tours, Buddhist festivals and celebrations.

These two eminent monasteries are and will continue to be an educational base for high Lamas such as Domo Geshe Rinpoche and other future lamas to come. They are learning centers, hubs from which Dorje Shugden’s lineage is practiced and transmitted, and where Guru Devotion is strong and powerful.

With approximately 600 monks in Serpom Monastery, 800 monks in Shar Gaden Monastery and with these numbers increasing over the years …

However, the anonymous Pro Shugden people behind the Shugden site deceive the readers about the fact, that the Shugden monks got the ground on which they built their new monasteries from the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)* – the CTA which they accuse of oppressing them and of violating their human rights. Not telling the full facts they twist the facts instead:

… the very existence of these monasteries is a thorn in the side of Ganden, Sera and Drepung monasteries because they are right next door! More importantly, they are out of the CTA’s reach. The CTA cannot touch them, cannot close them down, cannot harass them, cannot do anything to them because they are legal entities licensed and protected by the Indian government.

Getting the land by their claimed “evil oppressors” and accusing the CTA to only aim to “close them down” and “harass them” is totally deceptive and wrong.

The story about the lack of water is a lie as explained on the Talk about Shugden site:

Nicolas Tessier Saying they had no proper source water is false as, up until last year, many of their water pipes where still connected to the main feeding source of Sera Mey. Those who were in residence in 2013 will remember well the drought that affected us leaving the Sera Mey kitchen, main building complex and various housing group with NO water. Hence, Sera Mey requested Serpom to find an alternative source for their water for which they complied and the matter was settled peacefully and without a hint of conflict. From 2008 to 2013 give us a gap of 5 years for which they were provide with water.

Siling Tongkhor I concur with what Nicholas has written above. Especially the case with water pipes. We were sharing the same water (coming from the Sera Mey water tanks) for the last 5 years from 2008-2013 after the separation.

The following excerpt by the Pro Shugden Site is a mix of truth and untruths (lies) – first they said Serpom was left without a prayer hall, now it has been changed to “without a properly sized” prayer hall. The Pomra monks fit comfortably in their old kangtsen prayer hall before the new elaborate one was built.

As you can see from the following quotes, not even the (deceptive and anonymous) Pro Shugden Site makes claims of “homelessness”.

When Ganden Shartse Monastery split, then Abbot H.E. Khensur Rinpoche Dakpa Tenzin braved the wrath of the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) by insisting that monastic property be divided equally between Shar Ganden’s monks (formerly Dokhang Khamtsen) and the remaining monks of Ganden Shartse according to headcount. Through his compassion and unbiased care for the monks of Ganden regardless of their practice, the monks of Shar Ganden had sufficient assets and did not have to experience severe poverty after the separation, although Khensur Rinpoche suffered for his bravery.

Serpom’s troubles did not end after separation
*In the case of Serpom Monastery however, things were quite different. Instead of dividing the properties equally based on the headcounts of the monks, the then Abbot of Sera Mey, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Rabga, who presided over the separation and segregation of monastic assets allowed Serpom Monastery (formally Pomra Khamtsen) to keep only the buildings on Pomra Khamtsen land. This decision, although seemingly fair, left monks from both sides struggling to rebuild some essential structures of their separated monastery. The Serpom monks were without a properly- sized prayer hall, without a school and with insufficient accommodation and in the early days, Serpom did not even have a proper source of water (the monastic water pump house was built elsewhere) .

In case they change it, here the screenshot …

Screenshot DS Site

Screenshot DS Site

Here another description by the Pro DS Site:

The 450 monks of Dokhang Khangtsen has officially seperated from Gaden Shartse Monastery. Gaden Shartse had meetings and the property of the Shartse had to be divided. Dokhang Khangtsen was given their share of the collective monastic property. From Gaden Shartse Monastery, Dokhang khangtsen has recieved:

1. 400 crore Indian Lakhs (1 lakh is Indian rupees 100,000)( 1 crore is 1 lakh x 100)
2. 15 Female buffaloes that produce milk
3. Shartse has a guest house in Delhi, that has been handed over to Dokhang.
4. Shartse has a newly built guest house in Gaden, that has been handed over.
5. Much ritual silverware and ritual objects of the monastery.
6. Hospital Car
7. Carpets and Many thangkas
8. One lorry and two tractors
9. 20 acres of agricultural land

They have remained where they are in the Monastery but seperated from the main Gaden Shartse Monastery completely. They have no involvement with any activities with eachother. They have kept their khangtsen prayer hall and monk rooms. With this, they have formed their own Monastery and now it is offically called: SHAR DOKHANG DRATSTANG

The newly elected Abbot is: Geshe Lobsang Pende

In case they change it, here the screenshot …

Screenshot DS Site

Screenshot DS Site

* The Sikyong told to one of my reliable sources, that the CTA gave the land to the Shugden monasteries.

This claim makes sense, because the Indian government gave land for the Tibetan settlements to the CTA (formerly TGIE), the exile government of the Tibetans. According to my knowledge, the CTA is in charge to use those settlements / land according to the needs of the Tibetans.

Siling Tongkhor, a Gelug Tulku, states on the Talk about Shugden site:

… The land where Pobhor Khamtsen of Sera Mey Monastery has built their living quarters and now the monastic building, was given by CTA not the Government of India. Of course every inch of Tibetan refugee land belong to the government of India and not an iota of Indian land belong to Tibetans. The land was under CTA’s undertaking and after the split, was allotted to the remaining monks of Sermey Pomra Khamtsen, which has earlier, housed the largest number of Shugden worshippers prior to the separation in 2008.

Since the original Pomra Khamtsen monks had lost everything because at the time of separation the Shugden followers of the Pomra Khamtsen asked for all the property : monastic temple, monetary funds, living quarters et al, CTA gave the abovementioned land to the original Sermey Pomra Khamtsen monks where they have already built living quarters now and is halfway through building the monastic temple. The Shugden followers of Sermey Pomra Khamtsen went on to found a new monastery named Serpom – a derivative of Sera Mey and Pomra, and got all the lands, money and living quarters, monetary funds and as well as a newly built temple readymade! (all belonging to the erstwhile Pomra Khamtsen of Sera Mey monastery)

However, according to the 2014 speech by the Desung Kalon, the land was provided by the Indian Government at the request of H.H. the Dalai Lama:

In keeping with the principles of the Dharma and the Vinaya, ‘the mouth was distinguished from the moustache’ during the proceeding of Tsulshing ['Stick throwing'- a monastic form of democratic referendum] in Gelugpa monasteries in 2008. Nobody was asked to leave the monastery; it was in fact left for the monks to decide where they wished to live. As was said earlier, it is true that a small number of people continue to live [in Gelug monasteries] with numerous rights. At present, there are the so-called Shar Gaden Nampar Gyalwayling and Serpom Khangtsen monasteries in Mundgod and Bylakupee respectively, [populated by Shugden devotee monks] who are living on the lands provided by the Indian Government at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan Administration has never asked them to leave the land. If they voluntarily decide to leave, they are free to do so. There is no prohibition from the Tibetan Administration but rather there are words of appreciation. During the meeting of Tibetan Settlement Officers last year, a clear directive was issued that everyone is equally entitled to the rights enshrined and this directive still remains valid. There is no discrimination regarding this issue.

To reconcile both information … maybe after a request from the Dalai Lama, the CTA gave the land, originally donated and  designated by the Indian Government for refugee usage, to the Shugden monks.

See also

 

Last edited by tenpel on September 27, 2014 at 06:36 pm

Revised Declaration from New Kadampa Survivors concerning the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The following is a revised and abbreviated version of the Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness.

line-gothicWe, the undersigned, as former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and ex-practitioners of Dolgyal Shugden, are appalled and saddened that those who were once our NKT sangha demonstrate against and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The NKT, led by their teacher Kelsang Gyatso, operates as the ‘Western Shugden Society’ (WSS) and more recently as the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC). These groups attack His Holiness with unwarranted allegations and distortions of what we know to be the truth. We now believe it is time to speak out!

1) The NKT call His Holiness the Dalai Lama a ‘liar’. His Holiness holds a different view from Kelsang Gyatso concerning the nature and history of Dolgyal Shugden and the effects of this practice upon the well-being of His Holiness, the Tibetan people and their cause. A difference of opinion is not lying.

2) The NKT claim that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has broken samaya with all his teachers by rejecting the practice of Dolgyal Shugden. This practice was viewed as problematic by His Holiness’ Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche. After extensive historical investigation His Holiness saw that Dolgyal Shugden worship was often associated with sectarian views and ‘distorted aspiration’. He explained to his Junior Tutor Trijang Rinpoche why it was his duty to avoid this practice and advise others to do so. Masters of other traditions have also dismissed this practice after investigation. According to Buddhist scriptures and past masters, these are correct and appropriate actions.

3) Kelsang Gyatso claims that by rejecting Dolgyal Shugden, His Holiness is rejecting all the lineage teachings of the Gelug tradition of Je Tsongkhapa. Shugden was not taught by Je Tsongkhapa and His Holiness still holds his lineage gurus and all Gelug teachings in the highest esteem. Kelsang Gyatso, however, is never seen in public with teachers connected to the lineage he claims to represent. He is alone, with no influence from either peers or superiors. He created his NKT in 1992 after a schism with another Tibetan Buddhist group whose property he kept as his own. In 1996 he was unanimously expelled from Sera Je Tibetan Buddhist monastery for being a ‘holder of broken commitments and wrong view’. Kelsang Gyatso has made his own tradition of ‘Modern Buddhism’ and his own ordination system without the traditional monastic code of conduct. He has isolated his students from the wider Buddhist world.

4) The allegation that the Dalai Lama is repressing Freedom of Religion is more relevant to the way the NKT operates. NKT centres are dedicated to the exclusive devotion of Kelsang Gyatso and Dolgyal Shugden. No other Tibetan teachers are allowed. NKT centres only sell Kelsang Gyatso’s books. Students only study Kelsang Gyatso’s books with teachers trained in the NKT and appointed by Kelsang Gyatso. Teachers at all critical of the NKT are removed from their posts. Ordained NKT people and others are told they may never get enlightened if they leave the NKT.

5) The Tibetan people number little more than 6 million. An unknown number of Tibetans, often quoted as being more than one million, have been slaughtered due to the Chinese occupation and colonisation. Claims made by the ISC such as ‘4 million Dorje Shugden practitioners are suffering’ from His Holiness’ abuse of their Human Rights are obviously untrue.

No established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT, WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Dolgyal Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’.

6) There are many documented cases where the NKT has threatened to sue using libel law to silence other Buddhist organisations, umbrella groups, internet discussion forums and academics, authors and publishers. People inside the group can realistically fear social exclusion, illegal eviction or police arrest if they criticise policies. In our experience, the NKT generally prioritises the expansion of the group over the welfare of individuals. The NKT Survivors internet group numbers over 1,200 subscribers. There is no Dalai Lama Survivor’s group.

7) In 2008 Kelsang Gyatso stated that he was personally organising the NKT’s participation in the protests led by the Western Shugden Society (WSS). All the Directors of the WSS were and are members of the New Kadampa Tradition. However, the NKT has denied that they have any connection to the WSS. The latest NKT front group, the International Shugden Community (ISC) actively recruits protestors and fundraises for demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama inside NKT centres.

8) Misleading and deceitful media techniques are used in NKT campaigns. In his YouTube “News Broadcasts” for the ISC, senior NKT monk Kelsang Rabten hides his bias and status as a monk by not wearing his robes. An ISC video uses footage of young Burmese monks to fraudulently misrepresent the situation in India regarding the supposed ‘ostracism’ of Dolgyal Shugden followers. The mainstream press has published NKT accounts without confirming their accuracy.

9) Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the NKT organised demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama that coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT. His Holiness has not changed his view or his actions since 1996. Therefore we question what has caused NKT followers to start their demonstrations and defamations again in 2014.

We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture. We question the intentions of those who use their culture but do not support this struggle, not even acknowledging the kindness given in training their own teacher.

We feel that Kelsang Gyatso and his students have no basis in fact for making any attempts to discredit and disparage His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We request them to stop misleading and disturbing others with this false campaign.

26th September 2014

Carol McQuire
Jamie Kostek
Lynne Cracknell
Ani Tsultrim
Graham Smetham
Linda Ciardiello
Ian Thomas
David Cutshaw
Robert Helms
Steve Maxwell
Michael Brown
Charles Wesley
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Tenzin Peljor
James Tregaskis
Tim Ford
Karma Yonten
Amanda Zinski
Stuart Everard
Andrea Ballance
Yeshe Tsomo
Richard Litchfield
Anne Maxwell
Andrea Clarkson
David Silver
Steve Cody
Peter Dornan
Ben Grimwood
Adrian Benson
Charles Miller
Chris Cliff
Michele White

Supporters

Lyn G Farrell
Charlie Worthington
Tony Allen
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Ashoka von Hendricks
Dan Ballance
Joanne Clark
Carol Brearley
Jon Underwood
Erika Adler

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See also

Dear Kelsang Rabten

GUEST POST

Dear Kelsang Rabten,

This is addressed to you because of the contrast I feel between the mild mannered man in the suit at the talk at SOAS on August 15th this year and the loud speaker wielding ‘Tibetan Buddhist robed monk’ who appears shouting ‘False Dalai Lama’ and other such defamations at the demon-strations you organise against His Holiness.

Just as the Shugden statues the NKT now use appear to have lost the ‘suppression of the ego’ in the form of a human being ‘pressed down’ by the Snow Lion’s feet, and Shugden’s wrath has disappeared into the bland and smoothened face of a fabricated ‘Wisdom’ being, then so too, I feel you have changed. Something is missing or ‘covered up’. I will call it ‘love’. I know you will still profess to possess this. So, let’s change it to ‘respect’. I feel you have lost ‘respect’ for the roots of your passion, which I knew to be Tibetan Buddhism in its many forms. You were one of the most learned and widely read teachers I met in the NKT. So, what happened?

I more or less left the NKT in 2006. I must have seen you at Manjushri, at the Summer Festival that year, probably in the distance, as you were always above and beyond me in the status game. But you were the kindest teacher I had in the NKT – you tried to answer questions properly (did we ever tell you that?) and you were visibly upset and asked me what the problem was when I cried during your teachings. No one else ever did that. You seemed moved when I told you that my self and my daughter were so poor that we had to eat the rice from my mandala kit one evening – the rents at the centre were too high. You told me to ‘sleep less’ when I said that I couldn’t keep up both the centre and the practice commitments. I replied that I was already only sleeping 4 hours a night and you didn’t know what to say. There was no answer, was there? It wasn’t a life that we could sustain.

Unfortunately, you gave me as an example to other mothers – “If Shraddha can do that, why can’t you?” which provoked resentment against me. I don’t think that was your intention. And you accepted my apology for ‘writing to the NKT about a problem at the centre’ which wasn’t yours, but your teacher’s. You tried to make the peace – you told me I ‘had a good heart’ so, it was considered that I deserved to be forgiven. And here we are again.

The concept of having love and respect for those who are ‘mistaken’, even towards your own teachers if necessary (they may not ‘be’ perfect), is essential to the Buddhist path. But as a Shugden follower you do not seem to show any respect for those who could be ‘mistaken’, like you view His Holiness to be, let alone accept any possibility of ‘being mistaken’ yourself. Isn’t ‘being mistaken’ what we are until we are enlightened? If we can’t accept any ‘mistaken minds’, then we can’t get enlightened, can we?

I heard your voice in one of the videos of His Holiness’s teachings this year – you ‘asked him a question’ from the audience but it was just another shouted out slogan. You might be able to explain something to His Holiness he knows nothing about, but not by shouting. I have suggested to the Tibetans that I thought that you would be one of the few protestors who might be open enough to talk with His Holiness rather than shout at him, but now I am not so sure. Aren’t you closing off the spiritual path with your lack of respect as well as any possibility of dialogue?

His Holiness insisted on having an ‘open mic’ question and answer session in Hamburg. Of course, your group was able to use that opportunity well. But if you ask a question, don’t you wait for an answer? Twice, your representative spoke ‘over’ His Holiness. And, of course, accused him of lying… Again. His Holiness is a monk. He follows his vows because he believes in them. Thousands of people have seen him keep his vows. There is private and public evidence of this. He is a very highly trained, intelligent and thoughtful man who keeps his vows. Now, in the NKT I don’t think there is any guarantee of that; of people keeping vows. I know that the ‘vows’ you kept and seem to be keeping were ‘loyalty to your close teacher’, ‘loyalty to Kelsang Gyatso’, ‘loyalty to the NKT’ and ‘loyalty to the Shugden cause’.

I think you changed your clothes at the SOAS event because you decided to ‘not be’ a monk so that you could ‘be’ a representative of the International Shugden Community – is that right? I mentioned that I thought it strange to see you in a suit. You could have mentioned that it was also strange to see me in lay clothes as the last time you saw me I was an NKT nun, but you didn’t. You just looked down at your clothes and sighed and said that you weren’t used to it either. So, why? I forgot to ask. It was as if we shared a moment in which our roles were frozen, both of us paused in a game that others were designing.

Are you a monk if you behave differently with and without robes? You will probably say that the vows aren’t in the robes. For you they appear to rest in the loyalties you profess. But isn’t that the contradiction? Are you ordained? Or are you a ‘loyal servant of your master’?

What stops you ‘being a monk’ all the time if you are telling the truth? Why do you wear robes to shout at His Holiness outside teachings – you ‘represent’ the ISC then, don’t you? – and not wear them inside a university classroom or when filming a video? When you are singing and chanting and shouting and drumming in your robes are you ‘beyond samsara’ because it doesn’t matter to you that, in the Vinaya that you profess your ten vows cover just as efficiently as two hundred or more, it says that this is not behaviour suitable for ordained people?

His Holiness calls himself a ‘Bodhisattva trainee’! He is trying to be a Bodhisattva. I think you may agree on that, whether he ‘is’ the ‘right’ Dalai Lama or not. Yes? No. You can’t agree to that and also hold that he is a ‘liar’. So you are saying that he has broken his Pratimoksha vows at the most basic level? That he is lying? You really think the Dalai Lama has never tried to generate Bodhichitta? You think he does not have your well being at heart? You must think this because if you did not you would know that whatever your views as to his decisions, you should still treat His Holiness with respect or your own suffering in the future will be great. But lack of respect is the essence of your ‘demon-strations’.

I was disappointed that you had no more evidence at your SOAS presentation than you present online. You haul out old data. Rehash. Find a small problem in the Himalayas and make it front page crisis. Add footage from other times and places in a way that deceives the viewer into ‘seeing’ more than a sensible report would show. Teenagers in the UK suffer far more prejudice than your ‘persecuted’ Shugden followers. And when there is prejudice it often comes from fear. At some level, I think you know that. But you are tied. ‘Interrupting’ the Dalai Lama is seen as a hero’s task, a guerrilla romance of great import, an achievement. Any murmur of doubt is hidden behind the celebration. I remember the expression on the face of the young man that security took out of the Hamburg venue. He was in shock…a kind of sheepish shock. The ‘moral muddle’ you and he are in is precisely what His Holiness is trying to warn you against, although his words are culturally more distant than mine. He’s Tibetan. We aren’t.

Your ‘demon-strations’ are precisely the ‘evidence’ of what you are being warned against – you lack respect. You lack respect for your robes and for other practitioners. That same lack of respect blocks your spiritual path, for if you cannot admit to being at all ‘mistaken’, how can you expose the deeper levels of your own mind? And how can you have a dialogue with anyone, let known with His Holiness? There has been no change in policy or in action by His Holiness or of the Central Tibetan Administration in the last few years since you stopped your last demon-strations in 2008. So why start again, why now? It’s as if you want to create a campaign where there is none. Of course, if we are terrified of making mistakes then that same terror will blind us from our mistakes any way! Do you know that, in tradition, (something you claim to be protecting), you can stop engaging in a practice without breaking samaya with a teacher if that teacher understands why. Or if you know that he is completely mistaken about a particular view. You can keep love and respect for them even if you see a particular view as mistaken. But you are trapped, aren’t you? Following instructions, like putting on a suit. And interrupting an answer to your questions.

I didn’t think it ‘was’ Shugden either, the cause of my problems with the NKT ‘view’. I only prayed to him intensely once, with a whole bag of rice Kuten Lama had blessed. Five minutes later my daughter experienced the worst accident the school playground supervisor had ever seen. I had prayed for ‘obstacles’ to my fast path to enlightenment to be removed!

Four months before I was asked to leave Bodhisattva Centre ‘immediately’ , for complaining about my teachers’ conduct, I had prayed to a more ‘generic’ idea of ‘Buddhas’ to sort out a good path for me. It didn’t take them long! There’s a weight I am free of out of the NKT, whatever other things I am also aware of missing, such as the buildings, the space to meditate and the study on a plate, people to talk to and a ‘purpose’ to fulfil in promoting it all. I am free of that weight of obligation to a ‘lineage’ which isn’t anything other than a system – a ‘Shugden’ system based on ‘obedience’ and problems with ‘samaya’. It’s completely different ‘out here’. I’m not judged or rewarded as you are – by your political feats of producing disturbing video news. Or for interrupting His Holiness… I am not forced to have any particular views as proof of my samaya.

Of course, I could be making a mistake. Another one. But, there is something real about vows outside the NKT. People respect them, as a practice. It’s nothing to do with ‘obedience’ and everything to do with ‘respect’. ‘Reality’ has a way of shifting itself into view in the long term so, some day, the reasons behind your actions will become clearer. I blame the views. And the ‘muddled vows’. For Pabongkha and for your teacher, Shugden was a family deity. You discredit him if you think that was by force, but even the Kuten Lama ended up agreeing with His Holiness. You’d be in good company!

May all mistaken views be clarified. May this mess speed us all on our respective paths. Somehow.

Carol

Trijang Rinpoche’s view about Shugden / Dolgyal: A trouble maker and killing spirit +++ The protesters never asked for a dialogue

Trijang Rinpoche’s view about Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal and why Shugden harms sentient beings

The Shugden protesters from the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and their ICS spokes persons (usually a NKT teacher or a NKT representative of a country) run a Anti Dalai Lama campaign in which they totally ignore history and facts. The protesters suffer from one-sided information and from being largely misinformed. In a way the protesters protest against their own ignorance they project onto the Dalai Lama …

For instance the NKT/ICS protesters ignore the violent, controversial and sectarian background of Shugden worship and they are not aware that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of NKT, presents them a white washed version of Shugden that makes Shugden more acceptable for Westerners and that is very much different than what the ‘root guru’ of Kelsang Gyatso, Trijang Rinpoche, himself taught about Shugden (see a bit about this in Carol McQuire’s SOAS talk).*

ICS spokes person and NKT’s Germany representative Gen Kelsang Ananda (Markus Rehnert) for instance answered to the leftist newspaper TAZ  when confronted with the Yellow Book that mentions 23 government officials and lamas who have been assassinated using the deities power: “I don’t know that book.” Being confronted by the TAZ that this book was a key factor in the controversy Kelsang Ananda tried to escape the facts by answering “There are other texts that say the very opposite.” Also this answer ignored history and fact. Similarly, in 2008 Kelsang Pema, personal assistant of Kelsang Gyatso and spokes person of the Western Shugden Society claimed wrongly to the BBC: “It is a simple prayer that encourages people to develop pure minds of love, peace and compassion.” This ignorance regarding history and facts is a tool in the NKT introduced by Kelsang Gyatso and this tool makes the protesters the uninformed but willing army in Kelsang Gyatso’s unilateral battle against the Dalai Lama.

The NKT protesters ignore the Yellow Book since Kelsang Gyasto said, “I knew Zemey Tulku. However, I do not believe the information contained in The Yellow Book.[...] I would like to suggest to everybody to forget The Yellow Book. The Yellow Book was not written by Buddha, so why should we believe this?” He also says “I don’t know the real reason for his writing this book. Maybe this was his view and he was trying to prevent Gelugpa Lamas from engaging in Nyingma practices.” (see ‘Interview’ with Yvonne Nilles, a disciple of Kelsang Gyatso). This rejection of history and facts aims to deny or to suppress any negative inferences that can be drawn about the Shugden/Dolgyal cult from the “Yellow Book.” The Yellow Book contains the oral stories by Trijang Rinpoche about the violent nature of Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal.

Ok, if the NKT don’t accept the oral stories of Trijang Rinpoche, maybe they can get aware of his own writings?

Trijang Rinpoche’s view**

In Trijang Rinpoche’s text about Shugden, Music Delightning an Ocean of Protectors (PDF), Trijang Rinpoche clearly explains Shugden’s nature and way it arose. He says that Shugden / Dogyal is a mundane (ie. worldly) protector (p. 11), a damsi (vow breaking) spirit (p. 107) and a gyalpo spirit called Dolgyal (p. 109) that harms and kills sentient beings (p. 111–122 and more). About the violence Shugden brings to other sentient beings Trijang Rinpoche states (p. 121–122:

Furthermore, whether they were lords of Tibet, great lamas who held the political power of the throne, lamas and tulkus, great or small, with illustrious lines of incarnation, holy beings rich in scriptural and realized qualities, high lords of vast lands and works, those haughty with pride of family lineage, dominion and wealth, any who hypocritically claimed to be followers of Protector Manjusri Tsongkhapa’s Teachings while remaining unsatisfied with Je Lama’s precious Teachings of Sutra and Tantra which, in terms of view, meditation, and action, need not crave more from any other tradition, and, instead, mixed, polluted, or confused them with other modes of view and practice, whether lay or ordained, regardless of status, there have been many who have met with unpleasant wrathful punishments, such as being punished by authorities, litigation and legal disputes, untimely death, and so forth. Such swift, decisive signs appear to direct perception. Here praise is offered to that manifestation as a great wrathful protector who raises the Yellow Hat Teachings to the heights of the heavens.

This mundane harmful spirit is, according to Trijang Rinpoche, an emanation of Manjushri who emanated for the special purpose (p. 9) of protecting the purity of Tsongkhapa’s tradition and stopping Gelugpa’s taking teachings from other traditions.

HH Dalai Lama (and most Buddhists) doesn’t believe that Manjushri would emanate a mundane spirit to kill and harm sentient beings, but some lamas of his lineage teach exactly that. Kelsang Gyatso plays to a Western audience and says that these stories are just stories but they are told to stop Gelugpas taking teachings from other traditions. Therefore, the raison d’etre for the entire Shugden / Dogyal cult, coming from Dagpo Rinpoche, Pabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche, was to restrict the religious freedom of Gelugpas by threatening that if they didn’t stay away from other, particularly Nyingma, teachings, or in NKT speak, remain ‘pure and faithful practitioners’, Shugden / Dogyal would kill them. Trijang Rinpoche tells stories both of ‘hypocritical’ Gelugpas and people of other religions, like Bonpos, being killed by Shugden / Dogyal***.

If the NKT can easily disregard what Zemey Tulku wrote in the Yellow Book, can they also disregard what Kelsang Gyatso’s own ‘root guru’ wrote himself because it “was not written by Buddha, so why should we believe this?”

See also

* Carol McQuire said
What ‘Shugden’ practice in the NKT isn’t…

  1. I my experience, it’s not used as a spirit practice in which you tell Dolgyal Shugden what to do ‘ordering it about like a servant’.
  2. It’s not used as an ‘oracle’ practice since 1995 when Kuten Lama, the Shugden oracle, last visited the NKT.
  3. It’s not used as a ‘self-generation’ where you become that Buddha or Yidam yourself.
  4. It’s not used as ‘wrathful’ practice as in the Nyingma, where as ‘Deva’, the practice allows you to see and work with your own negativities.

** Thanks to Dorje for pointing out these information and for putting it together in the comment section of this blog!
*** The term Dolgyal was also used by Pabongkha Rinpoche for Shugden (see Dreyfus). Consequently, if the claims by the NKT and Shugden followers that the usage of the name Dolgyal for Shugden would be slanderous were true, it follows the strongest propagators of Shugden, Trijang Rinpoche and Pabongkha Rinpoche, slandered Shugden too.

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The protesters never asked for a dialogue

The NKT/ICS spokes persons repeatedly complained that the Dalai Lama would have refused to pick up a dialogue with them. The problem is that the protesters (NKT via their front groups Dorje Shugden International Coalition, SSC, WSS and ICS) never asked for a dialogue but issued unreasonable demands and ultimatums. Here is a brief overview of the ‘History of Dialogue’ the NKT was looking for.

The following petition was delivered to the Dalai Lama in New York on May 1st 1998 together with 12,000 signatures*, requesting him to sign the attached declaration:

OPEN LETTER TO HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA FROM THE DORJE SHUGDEN INTERNATIONAL COALITION

Your Holiness,

Out of your great compassion for us, please accept our following request.

As you know, many people both in the East and in the West, are openly saying that the worship of Dorje Shugden is harmful to your health, to the Tibetan cause, and to the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This false information is destroying peace and harmony within the Tibetan and Buddhist communities worldwide. Because of this, many people are losing their religious freedom and are consequently experiencing great suffering.

It is completely untrue that the worship of Dorje Shugden harms Tibetan independence, your health, and the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This is very clear; no one can give valid reasons to prove these statements.

To release many people from this suffering and to restore peace and harmony within the Buddhist community, from the depths of our hearts we request Your Holiness, please please accept our petition and sign the attached Declaration for the happiness and benefit of all. Our sole wish is that the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions flourish in harmony, free from sectarianism, and that all Tibetans and all other living beings may live in
freedom.

With respect and offerings,

Signed on behalf of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition
Morten Clausen
New York Representative of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition

DECLARATION

Many people are now believing and saying openly that the worship of Dorje Shugden is harmful to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s health, the Tibetan cause, and the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This is completely untrue.

This false information is a cause of serious disharmony within the Tibetan and Buddhist communities, both in the East and in the West, and because of this many people are losing their religious freedom and are experiencing great suffering.

Therefore, I declare that from now on everyone has the complete freedom to worship Dorje Shugden, and that no one should interfere in any way with their worship.

Signed by
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet

The following two letters were received in response to these demands:

1. May 4, 1998

Dear Morten Clausen,
Thank you for your letter of May 1, 1998. There is no possibility for an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As for your wanting him to issue a declaration drafted by you, please find here a response from the Secretary of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Mr. Tenzin Geyche Tethong.

With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Dawa Tsering
Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama

2. May 4, 1998

Dear Morten Clausen,

This is with reference to your petition to His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with a copy of a declaration that you want him to sign saying “everyone has the complete freedom to worship Dorje Shugden.”  His Holiness cannot accede to your request to sign the declaration as it is in total contradiction to his carefully considered position on this practice.

Let me say at the onset that this is not an issue of religious freedom, as you portray.  You are free to worship or practice what you wish.  His
Holiness has said many times that it is his responsibility to provide correct spiritual guidance to his followers, but it is upto individuals whether they want to follow or not.

I would like to reiterate here briefly the three main reasons why His Holiness is advising Tibetan Buddhists against following this practice:

a)  the nature of this practice is leading to the degeneration of the profound teachings of the Buddha into little more than spirit worship;

b)  it is encouraging sectarianism, which is totally against His Holiness’ basic approach towards religious harmony, particularly within the Tibetan Buddhist traditions; and,

c)  the Great Fifth, and the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas, as well as many other prominent Tibetan lamas, who are revered by the majority of Tibetans, have categorically stated the harmful effects of this practice.

Therefore, there is no way His Holiness can sign your declaration.  You will recall that on an earlier occasion, too, Mrs. Chungdak Koren, His Holiness’s Representative stationed in Geneva, and myself met with some of your representatives at Caux, Switzerland, in 1996 and conveyed a similar message.

With warm wishes,
Yours sincerely,

Tenzin Geyche Tethong
Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama

see: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.religion.buddhism.nkt/dsg9o6YBgX0%5B126-150-false%5D

The NKT tried to force the Dalai Lama to sign a declaration that goes against his own investigation, research and opinion and is in favor of the opinion of Kelsang Gyatso / NKT. Is this a call for a dialogue?

In 2008, when the NKT started their second world wide media “against the Dalai Lama”**, via Western Shugden Society (WSS) the official website of the WSS stated:

“Dalai Lama, stop your lies, give religious freedom”

The purpose of this website is to expose the hypocrisy of the Dalai Lama who presents himself as a champion of human rights and defender of religious freedom while inflicting terrible human rights abuses on his own people and interfering with the religious freedom of thousands and thousands of people around the world.

The site is presented by the Western Shugden Society (WSS), an ad hoc coalition of Dorje Shugden practitioners from many different countries. The immediate aims of the WSS are expressed in a recent letter we sent to the Dalai Lama.

Because the Dalai Lama refuses even to acknowledge our correspondence, let alone enter into meaningful dialog, we are left with no alternative but to organize protest demonstrations wherever the Dalai Lama teaches. We will continue to organize demonstrations to coincide with the Dalai Lama’s schedule until he agrees to our requests.

We hope that through our actions, international scrutiny will be brought to bear on the Dalai Lama’s lies and actions of religious persecution so that the Tibetans he is oppressing will receive justice and Dorje Shugden practitioners around the world will receive religious freedom.

What was the ‘correspondence’ and ‘meaningful dialogue’ the NKT claimed to seek? It were against unreasonable demands (see Tibetan Situation Today, PDF):

12th April 2008
To the Dalai Lama of Tibet,

We the Western Shugden Society ask you to accomplish four things:

  1. To give freedom to practice Dorje Shugden to whoever wishes to rely upon this Deity.
  2. To stop completely the discrimination between Shugden people and non-Shugden practitioners.
  3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled from their monasteries and nunneries to return to their monasteries and nunneries where they should receive the same material and spiritual rights as the non-Shugden practitioners.
  4. That you tell in writing to the Tibetan community throughout the world that they should practically apply the above three points.

Do you accept these four points? We require your answer by the 22 April 2008, signed and delivered by registered post to:

Western Shugden Society
c/o Dorje Shugden Devotees Society,
House No 105, Old Tibetan Camp, Majnu Ka Tilla, Delhi-54

With a copy of your letter sent to the following email address:
western_shugden_society@live.com

These demands are unreasonable because Dorje Shugden practitioners have freedoms. They can practice privately and at their own monasteries and places. It is the freedom of others to restrict a practice that they regard as harmful and oppressing religious freedom, similar how nowadays smokers are banned from public places but can smoke at their own places. The majority of the monasteries have the right to ban a practice at the institutional level that is not in accordance with their understanding of Buddhist practice and that brings disharmony. The rights of the majority have to be considered too. Banning Shugden practice from the monastery grounds was based on a majority vote that is according to the Vinaya as laid down by the Buddha (see ‘Stick Referendum). Going against this majority vote would make the Dalai Lama indeed a dictator. The Vinaya Stick Referendum and its outcome has to be accepted by both, the Dalai Lama and the Shugden protesters.

What we experience now with the ICS in 2014 is just a repetition of the past. The NKT’s/ICS’s unreasonable demands for ‘dialogue’ – which they do not actually seek – are addressed in this post:

* This number can be doubted because the NKT and their front groups were witnessed for creating signatures by invented names and persons.
** Letter by Kelsang Gyatso to his students: “[…] To stop this evil action, as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly. I requested Kelsang Pema and Kelsang Thubchen to do this job for me and they have accepted. Please help Pema and Thubchen with whatever they need. With much love and prayers, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso”

The Benefits of the Anti-Dalai Lama protests by the Shugden group (NKT/ICS)

DALAI LAMA GIVE PATIENCE!

DALAI LAMA STOP ANGER!

I think it is important to reflect from different angles about the NKT/ICS protests. On a mundane and spiritual level you can establish many good reasons why the protests bring more harm than benefit. Such a situation might lead easily to a rejection or to ignoring the protests and the protesters. Especially this blog focuses strongly on the negative sides of the NKT/ICS and the protests – an approach that can easily lead to aversion, anger or hate. However, this is not the aim of the blog. The aim of this blog is to correct the misinformation being spread by the Western Shugden group (NKT) since 1996.

When I was just in Hamburg attending the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama – which were very inspiring and moving – I realized that my strategy just to ignore the protesters might be good for my own mind only from a short term perspective. This strategy helps me to prevent to think negatively about the protesters / NKT (or the few Tibetans who joined the protests) and to get upset or disturbed. Though this is a functioning strategy (like Shantideva suggests in his Patience Chapter of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara: “be like a piece of wood”), in the long run ignoring others is not a very powerful training for the mind.

Many reported that they feel that the protesters are very aggressive and that this in turn disturbs their own mind. I made a test in Hamburg by walking through the protesters without ignoring them and I have to agree, not ignoring them but opening up for the noise and what they shout disturbed also my mind.

However, these protests are a very rare and useful opportunity to practice patience and different Dharma methods to increase the positive mental energy by being mindful of the content of the mind (aversion, anger) and just observing it or by actively cultivating an antidote of non-hatred or an understanding of dependent arising etc.

If the protesters were just Christian fundamentalists, I would generously accept them, so why do I take them so seriously? From a dharmic perspective they are my best friends. They offer the rare chance to practice patience, they help me to learn to be at peace and calm, not getting disturbed. The protesters are my sponsors, donors and friends; no!, they are better than my sponsors, donors and friends because they serve as a basis to cultivate the quality of patience and love, precious gems not even my sponsors, donors and friends can offer me. So they are the best thing I can meet or encounter in order to train my mind! Instead of ignoring them I should appreciate their presence and make the best use out of this opportunity which soon may cease.

The protests remind me also of the Four Trainings of a Trainee in Virtue (of a Buddhist monk) that are included in the Bodhisattva vows*:

  1. not to respond to being chided by chiding
  2. not to respond to anger by expressing anger**
  3. not to respond to being struck by striking back
  4. not to respond to insult by insulting

So, I would like to commit myself to use the protests in a more powerful way for training my mind and I would like to encourage others to do so too. Actual it is a very precious opportunity which should not be left unused. Thank you, dear protesters!

Geshe Langri Tangpa

Geshe Langri Tangpa

When I see ill-natured people,
Overwhelmed by wrongdoing and pain,
May I cherish them as something rare,
As though I had found a treasure-trove.

Geshe Langri Tangpa

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* “Buddhist Ethics” by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, Snow Lion, 1998, p. 189. The training is not only meant with respect to the own person but also to those close and dear to yourself.

** I understand this also as an advice not to allow even the slightest anger in my mind if someone is attacking me or someone dear to me angrily.

Kelsang Rabten Calls for Dialogue at the SOAS Conference: Is Dialogue Possible?

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

At the SOAS conference, Rabten began his talk by stating:

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.

 

“I’d like to make quite clear that we’re not here to argue. We very much want to move towards a resolution to this issue.

“We have tried to have dialogue on this with the Dalai Lama and his representatives for nearly twenty years … So even though they’re not here, maybe this is a step in that direction, who knows?”

Indeed, his stance was calm and reasonable. However, beside him on the table was a book entitled The False Dalai Lama: The Worst Dictator in the Modern World. How could the Dalai Lama ever have dialogue with people who write such things? In my mind, much of this dispute rests on the fact that many within the organized (rather fanatic) Shugden community have now demoted His Holiness from any position of religious or spiritual authority at all.

Given that the Dalai Lama’s stance regarding Shugden worship is based on him fulfilling his responsibility and duty as a religious leader, dialogue seems pointless. He made his points about Shugden, but insists that people should not follow him without investigating this issue and its 400 years of history thoroughly. He also states that its up to the individual to accept or to reject his advice. Shugden people can practice Shugden, Rabten can practice it. They have their own monasteries, their own places, but there are restrictions on the institutional level. So their rights to practice are met. However they cannot practice at places where the majority of the community decided against it– by a procedure laid down in the Vinaya (monastic code of discipline) by the  Buddha. This is comparable to prohibiting smoking in public places because it harms the non smoker. So, the real point of difference is not about the rights of Shugden worshippers, but about the Dalai Lama’s right advice and the right of people to follow his advice and to decide against smoking (Shugden worship) at public places —and that’s a different topic entirely!

Further, if Shugden worshippers see hidden agendas behind everything the Dalai Lama’s says and won’t take his words on face value, what is the point of speaking with him? They will come to their own conclusions regardless of what he says! Further, to call the person whom you claim to seek dialogue with a liar, evil and cruel, ruthless dictator, worst dictator of the modern world—is this a basis for a dialogue? Are Kelsang Rabten and NKT, or the organised Shugden fanatics, really willing to listen to anyone’s point of view but their own in dialogue?

In addition, how can there be dialogue while there is still so much deceit? I have found evidence of fifteen incidents of deception just in a few videos on the International Shugden Community (ISC) website—fifteen and I’m still counting. (see here) Some of these are unsubstantiated claims and some can only be called outright lies. This was the problem Tibetans encountered with the Chinese, where finally dialogue was proven to be fruitless.

In my view, the only dialogue that would be worth having in this situation would be regarding living conditions of Shugden worshippers in India. These would include the claims that Shugden worshippers aren’t given basic services, community membership or proper housing and are subjected to violence. The Indian legal system and the Tibetan Government in Exile could be part of these dialogues—and the Dalai Lama’s presence wouldn’t be needed at all. However, in view of the impossible demands Rabten makes at the end of his SOAS talk, such a constructive approach is clearly not what he is advocating.

Sometimes it even seems as if the ISC is more interested in harming the Dalai Lama than in helping Shugden worshippers in India.

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

As to Rabten’s claim that concerned Shugden worshippers have been trying to have this dialogue for nearly twenty years, it is clear that the slanderous ideas in the past and in the book beside him on the table are not new. Claims that the Dalai Lama is a horrible “dictator” and a conniving conspirator have been slung at him for nearly twenty years now from Shugden worshippers. The following quote from Rabten’s own teacher, Kelsang Gyatso, was written in 1997:

In reality [the Dalai Lama] is misleading people in order to
 fulfill his wishes. His main wish is to destroy the practice of Dorje Shugden 
and then to change the entire Gelug tradition. He wants to integrate all the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism into one so that the leaders of the other 
traditions will no longer have a role and he will become the only leader of
 Tibetan Buddhism. In this way he can easily control the spiritual life of 
all practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. I know this is his wish; he has been 
working towards this for many years.

Once again, how can there be dialogue if this is Kelsang Gyatso’s impression of who the Dalai Lama is? And how can there be dialogue if protesters are willing to go so far in their smear campaign as to hold insulting placards, depicting a revered teacher of Dharma, a fully ordained monk in robes in mocking caricature?

How can there be dialogue until the weapons are withdrawn?

Rabten then closes his talk at the SOAS conference by listing Shugden worshippers’ “requests” (which sound very much like demands). He states,

So to resolve this issue, we would request that everyone, especially those of you who care about the Dalai Lama’s image and reputation, to ask the Dalai Lama to accept the following four points:

  1. To allow anyone who wishes to practice Dorje Shugden the freedom to do so.
  2. To stop completely the discrimination against Shugden practitioners.
  3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled to return to their monasteries and nunneries. And to receive the same spiritual and material rights as non-shugden practitioners.
  4. To write to Tibetan communities throughout the world telling them that they should apply practically the above three points.

The moment this happens, all our demonstrations will finish. I don’t think any of those requests are unreasonable. We simply want these people to have genuine and complete religious freedom. If that happens, all of our protesting will finish.

This is not a statement for dialogue; it is an ultimatum. Rabten repeats several times that if the demands are met, “protests will finish.” Rabten needs to understand first that the Dalai Lama cannot over rule the majority vote of the monks in the monasteries, who decided democratically, and based on the Buddha’s Vinaya, to separate from Shugden monks. If the Dalai Lama were to force the monasteries to go against their majority vote this would be an act of a dictator. On the other hand, His Holiness was clear: whatever the outcome of the vote is, also if it is pro Shudgen, he would definitely accept it. Now the NKT/ICS/Shugdenists should accept the rights of the majority and practice at their own places—which they can do freely.

Rabten also demonstrates his complete lack of understanding as to what followers of the Dalai Lama “care about.” This is not about “the Dalai Lama’s image and reputation.” Rabten’s is a jaded viewpoint regarding sincere students and followers of the Dalai Lama—who see his message as a world treasure.

Let me say to Rabten clearly: The Dalai Lama can take care of himself. His image and reputation are only important as tools towards fulfilling his life’s work. Beyond that, they have no role or importance.

And I would also remind Rabten that everywhere the Dalai Lama goes, people gather in the thousands and continue to be inspired to become more caring, decent human beings. Many people are so deeply moved by his words and presence that they start to weep – no matter what background, be they criminal, atheist, Christian or Muslim, scientist or old lady.  A few small bands of protesters have barely scratched the surface of his popularity or his work to make the world a better place. Recently, when he was in Ladakh, 140,00- 200,000 attendees came to hear him teach and give an empowerment. The countryside was a sea of attendees.

Rabten’s last words sounded to me like a threat from a man who imagines he has more power than he possesses. He imagines that the protests and the smears will force the Dalai Lama to change his mind. At the same time, he calls for dialogue! I fear he has little understanding of the situation. He fails to understand that the Dalai Lama spent years of investigation, reflection and contemplation regarding the issue of Shugden worship before he came to the difficult decision to restrict this practice. He is not going to change that because of a few people shouting themselves hoarse outside his events! He has said on different occasions that he has done his research expressed the results and now it is up to others to do their own unbiased, open research into the 400 years of Shugden worship.

From my own point of view, watching the aggressive faces or the dancing, hypnotic hilarity, or the robotic repetitions of protesters—or listening to accounts from X-NKT students—I have only gained a greater conviction that the Dalai Lama’s decision was the right and wise one. By its results, particularly within the NKT, Shugden worship appears like a dangerous, cult practice to me. The Dalai Lama is clearly protecting the Buddha Dharma by restricting it. How can there be dialogue while Shugden worshippers behave in these ways?

UPDATE

This morning, (August 25), during the question-and-answer at HH Dalai Lama’s teaching on the Bodhicharyavatara in Hamburg, a questioner asked something to this effect:

“If Trijang Rinpoche saw Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being, then why have you gone against your guru’s advice and banned the practice?”

His Holiness replied, “Good question.” and proceeded to answer.

However, the questioner immediately interrupted him and shouted loudly, “Stop lying!”

His Holiness then attempted to explain that as a Buddhist monk, he was committed to telling the truth.

Whereupon the questioner continued to shout loudly, “Stop lying, stop lying, stop lying.” He had a microphone, so it was quite loud!

This man was ultimately asked to leave by security and we could hear him shouting his slogan off in the distance as he was escorted out of the venue.

Is this what Rabten and the ISC/NKT mean by dialogue?

See also

See also by Joanne Clark

Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness

We, the undersigned, as former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and ex-practitioners of Dorje Shugden, are appalled and saddened that those who were once our NKT sangha demonstrate against and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Inaccuracies and distortions of what we know to be the truth have been published as fact. The New Kadampa Tradition currently operates as the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC). Many allegations and insults are made against His Holiness which are completely unwarranted.

At demonstrations and on numerous web sites and Facebook pages, the NKT/ISC viciously attacks the reputation of His Holiness. We have tried to address inaccuracies with the group, but without success. We believe it is time to speak out with one voice. Here we highlight a few of the issues created by the New Kadampa Tradition, their leader Kelsang Gyatso, and his followers:

1) The NKT/WSS/ISC say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a ‘liar’. A difference of opinion does not equate to lying. His Holiness holds a different opinion from Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT about the nature and history of Dolgyal Shugden and the effects of this practice upon the well-being of His Holiness, the Tibetan people and their cause. To call His Holiness a ‘liar’ because of this difference of opinion makes no sense.

2) The NKT/WSS/ISC claim that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has gone against all his teachers, broken his samaya and destroyed the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa by rejecting the practice of Dolgyal Shugden. His Holiness states that after conducting extensive research into the history and problems of Shugden practice, he consulted with his Junior Tutor Trijang Rinpoche and explained the reasons why it was his duty to reject this practice. The historical record shows that Shugden practice is often contentiously associated with sectarian views and ‘distorted aspiration’ and was viewed as problematic by His Holiness’ Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche. In fact, in this action His Holiness was actually following a course which, according to Buddhist scriptures and past masters, as Kelsang Gyatso himself states, is absolutely correct and appropriate.

In his book Clear Light of Bliss Kelsang Gyatso states: “When deciding which doctrine to rely upon, we should not be satisfied with the fame or reputation of a particular teacher, but instead should examine what he or she teaches. If, upon investigation, we find the teachings reasonable and faultless, we should accept them, but if they lack these qualities we should reject them, no matter how famous or charismatic their expounder might be.”

Kelsang Gyatso therefore contradicts his own advice when he asserts that His Holiness has broken his samaya with Trijang Rinpoche.

3) Kelsang Gyatso also claims that by rejecting one particular protector practice, this means that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is rejecting all Gelug teachings, the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa. His Holiness has not rejected all Gelug teachings and still holds his lineage gurus in the highest esteem. Kelsang Gyatso, however, is never seen in public with any teachers connected to the lineage he claims to represent. He is alone, without the influence of either peers or superiors. He created the NKT in 1992 after a schism with another Tibetan Buddhist group which invited him to the UK to teach in 1977 and whose property he then kept as the ‘mother centre’ of the NKT. In 1996 he was unanimously expelled from Sera Je Tibetan Buddhist monastery, where he trained, for being a ‘holder of broken commitments and wrong view’. As he is the only Tibetan teacher in his own tradition of ‘Modern Buddhism’, with his own ‘new’ ordination and no study of the traditional Vinaya teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, he also effectively isolates his own students from the wider Buddhist world.

4) In 1998 Kelsang Gyatso stated that the NKT would no longer be involved in any further demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He admitted that the Shugden issue was, in reality, an issue of Tibetan politics and promised that the NKT would not take part in any further inappropriate actions. Since then Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT have organised two further rounds of protests, one beginning in 2008, and the latest round currently being staged.

5) In 2008 Kelsang Gyatso wrote to all his dharma centres stating that he was personally organising the NKT’s participation in the protests. He also said the protests were being organised by a group called the Western Shugden Society (WSS). A simple check reveals that all the Directors of WSS were and are members of the New Kadampa Tradition. Yet the NKT often denies that they have any connection to the WSS. Kelsang Pema, Gyatso’s former assistant, informed journalists that the WSS had no leader.

6) Even if the NKT say that it is only an ‘individual decision’ for a student to support the protests, we know that at present the ISC directly and actively recruits protestors and fundraises for demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama inside NKT centres.

7) The 2014 NKT campaign is delivered by its latest front group, the International Shugden Community. Currently, the ISC has two registered groups. In Norway ISC records show the Executive Director and Chairman to be NKT teachers. The ISC US based non-profit company in California shares an address with a large health food company of which Len Foley, an ex NKT teacher, is CEO. His wife, Rebecca Gauthier, an NKT Resident Teacher, is also spokesperson for the ISC in the US.

The ISC front-man is a senior NKT monk named Kelsang Rabten. In his YouTube “News Broadcasts” Kelsang Rabten does not wear his monk’s robes and appears to be a professional journalist. He hides his status and biased position. One ISC video uses footage of young Burmese monks conducting traditional alms-rounds to fraudulently misrepresent the situation in India regarding the supposed ‘ostracism’ of Shugden followers. Techniques such as these are deceitful, designed only to exaggerate their claims against His Holiness.

8) The allegation that the Dalai Lama is engaging in repression of Freedom of Religion is, in fact, more relevant to the way the NKT itself operates. NKT Centres are dedicated to the exclusive devotion of Kelsang Gyatso. NKT centres and teachers are only permitted to teach from books written by Kelsang Gyatso. Teachers other than those trained by the NKT and appointed by Kelsang Gyatso are not allowed. Ordained NKT people and others are told they will be reborn in the hell realms and may not get enlightened if they leave the NKT.

9) With the backdrop of continued Human Rights abuses against the Tibetan people, who number little more than 6 million in total, and the mass slaughter of an unknown number of Tibetans due to the Chinese occupation and colonisation often quoted as being more than one million, claims made by the ISC such as that ‘4 million Dorje Shugden practitioners are suffering’ are obviously lies.

No established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT/WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’.

We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture and question the intentions of those who use this culture but appear not to support this struggle.

Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT.

10) There are many documented cases where the NKT threatened to sue using libel law and thus silenced other Buddhist organisations, umbrella groups, internet discussion forums and academics, authors and publishers. People inside the group can realistically fear social exclusion, illegal eviction or police arrest if they criticise policies. In our experience, the NKT generally prioritises the expansion of the group over the welfare of individuals. The NKT Survivors internet group numbers over 1,200 subscribers. There is no Dalai Lama Survivor’s group.

In view of the consistently unkind behaviour of his own organisation, we feel that Kelsang Gyatso and his students can have no moral right for making such attempts to discredit and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Those of us who once belonged to the New Kadampa Tradition are resolved to bring these inaccuracies, disinformation, and outright lies to light. Who better to reveal the truth than we who were once inside the organisation?

19th August 2014

Carol McQuire
Jamie Kostek
Lynne Cracknell
Ani Tsultrim
Graham Smetham
Linda Ciardiello
Ian Thomas
David Cutshaw
Robert Helms
Steve Maxwell
Michael Brown
Charles Wesley
Andrew Durling
Andrew Cheadle
Kevan Webb
Tenzin Peljor
James Tregaskis
Tim Ford
Karma Yonten
Amanda Zinski
Stuart Everard
Andrea Ballance
Carol Dawson (Yeshe Tsomo)
Richard Litchfield
Steve Cody

Supporters

Lyn G Farrell
Charlie Worthington
Tony Allen
Cynthia von Hendricks
Ashoka von Hendricks
Dan Ballance
Joanne Clark

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Upadate

Full video: Panel Discussion at SOAS: “The Shugden Controversy & the 14th Dalai Lama”

Description by London Ney (Tibetans in London):

Panel Discussion: “The Shugden Controversy & the 14th Dalai Lama”

Organised by Dr Nathan W. Hill of the School of Oriental and African Studies with LondonNey

Friday, 15th Aug 2014, from 6pm to 8pm at SOAS, University of LONDON, UK

This panel discussion will address the on-going ‘Shugden controversy’ in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, which is surrounded by confusion, misinformation, and disagreement. While the Dalai Lama and many Tibetans have ceased to honour ‘Shugden’ and regard the propitiation of Shugden as problematic, a vocal minority, especially the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) established in the West, believe the Shugden deity to be an essential component or Dharma protector of the Gelug School, and claim to be a minority discriminated against on religious grounds.

The community of Tibetan Buddhists has been agitated and are puzzled by the intensity of this dispute concerning the practice of the controversial deity – Shugden. Tibetans are generally bewildered by the actions of Western Buddhist organisations such as the NKT and their protests wherever the Dalai Lama travels, leading many Tibetans to become suspicious of Western Buddhist practitioners in general.

Then, many Tibetans accuse the Shugden protesters as “devil worshippers”, “Chinese agents” and “Taliban Buddhists” while the pro-Shugden protestors question the very authenticity of the 14th Dalai Lama, using slogans such as “fake Dalai Lama”, “Muslin Dalai Lama”, “lying Dalai Lama”, and so on.

The purpose of this unprecedented, moderated discussion among experts and representatives from different sides of the dispute is to openly address this issue. The event is open to the general public with the aim of providing a better understanding of this issue.

The event will be live-streamed in order to provide the opportunity for far greater audiences. Here is the link http://www.livestream.com/Tibetan

This discussion will be moderated by Dr Nathan W. Hill, Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at SOAS and the speakers include:

Dr Martin A. Mills (University of Aberdeen), ‘Human rights and the Shugden ban amongst Himalayan communities’

Thierry Dodin (Tibetologist) ‘From Lhasa to Shigatse: History and function of Shugden worship”

Kelsang Rabten (Shugden Community), ‘Refuting the claim of Tenzin Gyatso as an authentic Dalai Lama’

Geshe Tashi Tsering (Jamyang Buddhist Centre), ‘Refuting the claim of Dolgyal (Shugden) as a protector in the Tsongkhapa tradition’

Carol McQuire (former member of New Kadampa Tradition) ‘Shugden practitioners or Shugden followers’

John McBretney (Shugden Community), ‘The suffering of Shugden Buddhists within the Tibetan exile community, and the Dalai Lama’s role in this’

Venue: Vernon Square Room V211
The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
University of London, WC1X 9EW

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More Academic Material

See also

Statements by Western Buddhists

Thoughts & Observations: The SOAS Panel Discussion “The Shugden Controversy and the 14th Dalai Lama” – Part 1

Yesterday there was the SOAS Panel Discussion about “The Shugden Controversy and the 14th Dalai Lama”. This blog discussed it a bit here (see comment section). I would like to write a review and add some thoughts, comments and observations highlighting some points that seem to be important to me. I will do this in two parts. This part will contain mainly some basic observations about the set up and changes made from the initial announced topics and how this influenced the conference and its results.

First of all it worked and it was not as bad as I feared when it became clear that there are two International Shugden Community people speaking at the panel and that the audience might be filled mainly with New Kadampa Tradition devotees who tend to disguise themselves as “concerned Buddhist”, “impartial observer”, “not from NKT” etc in order to manipulate the discussions and to deceive others. The reason why it worked was because Prof. Dr Nathan Hill changed the format of the panel discussion in a way that gave space for a rather constructive atmosphere and prevented that too many distortions of the facts can circle around this panel discussion. My gratitude and thanks go to him and his team for this. (For how the format finally was set up and what has been said see please the upcoming video at the London Ney YouTube Channel. The London Ney sponsored this event and they are a group of Tibetans in London.)

How the ICS/NKT won the Human Rights & Religious Discrimination topic for their propaganda

The scientists were not really prepared or fit for the points being addressed by the International Shugden Community (ICS) / New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) representatives, Gen Kelsang Rabten and Kadam John McBretney. The scientists (Prof Dr Nathan Hill, Prof Dr Martin Mills, Thierry Dodin) were not really well prepared to address the claims the ICS/NKT men made with respect to human rights violations, religious persecution or even the claims that Shugden people would have been “tortured” and “killed” (McBretney). The scientists were rarely to the point. In that sense, my hope that the ridiculous fringe theories of the ICS – that lack academic or juridical support and are rather a type of conspiracy theory or propaganda – would collapse in front of knowledgeable scientists or are revealed as what they are, nonsense or propaganda (that is a mixture of untruths, semi-truths and some truths), was not fulfilled.

This lack of clarity in that respect (human rights violation claims, religious persecution claims) might be also owed to the fact that there was obviously not a well thought out concept what this panel discussion aims to achieve. Was it just meant that everybody can talk as he pleases?*

There were two other contributing factors for the lack of clarity with respect to addressing the ICS/NKT human rights violation & religious persecution claims I wished for as a service for neutral observers of the discussion and people who want to get a better insight into this controversy as it is presented in the West. Gen Kelsang Rabten was supposed to speak about ‘Refuting the claim of Tenzin Gyatso as an authentic Dalai Lama’ but he didn’t; instead he chose as his new topic Human Rights Violations and Religious Persecution and why the Dalai Lama would lie. This was a clever move. Additionally, in the internet either he himself (IndyHack?) or the ICS team (where he seems to be the front man) attacked all three scientists (Nathan Hill, Martin Mills, Thierry Dodin) that they wouldn’t have the authority to state any thing about Human Rights (see Are Buddhists Racist – Human Rights):

So far we have been advised to consult Dr Hill, Mr Dodin, and Dr Martin Mills, all of whom we have been assured are qualified to address the issue of human rights, yet on closer inspection none of them have any formal qualifications in human rights or international law.

Based on the remarks by Dr Nathan Hill & Dr Martin Mills during the discussion at SOAS it became clear that Dr. Hill and Dr. Mills got aware of the attacks against their academic authority by the ICS (see Are Buddhists Racist – The SOAS University).

As a background: It is a common tactic of the New Kadampa Tradition to discredit or better to bully any perceived opponent and to denounce them in the internet. The Dalai Lama is the main target of the NKT/ICS/SSC/WSS (slander) campaign but on the way almost everybody who is a threat to the NKT Agit Prop will be denounced or bullied online, in that case even prior to an event. Also the work of researcher David N. Kay (PDF of his 2004 research published by Routledge Curzon) was denounced by the NKT as a “heavily biased ‘academic’ book by David Kay (who had his own disgruntled history with the NKT when he briefly attended meditation classes in Lancaster)”.

Dr. Mills didn’t give the planned talk he wanted to give and which was announced by SOAS ‘Human rights and the Shugden ban amongst Himalayan communities’. As a result of this Rabten and McBretney dominated that topic totally one-sided – the latter even with a propaganda film …)

In that way, Kelsang Rabten and his ICS team – who do not have any academic credits or even an academic approach – won the topic about claimed Human Rights Violations and claimed Religious Discrimination as if THEY were THE EXPERTS and not someone like Martin Mills.

To show you the discrepancy have a look at both of their publications and credits:

ICS’ main book “False Dalai Lama”

FalseDalaiLama-coverEditors: Anonymous

Author: Anonymous

Publisher: Self published

Title: The False Dalai Lama – The Worst Dictator in the Modern World

Description: Exposing the dark side of the Dalai Lama
The False Dalai Lama – a new book exploring the hidden, dark side of everyone’s favourite “celebrity monk”. This explosive book overturns the myth of the Dalai Lama, revealing the scheming political mind behind the media-friendly smiles and soundbites. Admired by many as one of the world’s leading advocates of peace and harmony, this thorough investigation exposes how the Dalai Lama is, in fact, lying. Prepare to meet the worst dictator in the modern world.

Dr Martin Mills’ 2003 Shugden paper about Shugden and Religious Rights

41CYH755GYLEditors: Richard A. Wilson is Reader in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. He has written and edited numerous works on political violence and human rights, including Human Rights, Culture and Context (1997), Culture and Rights (2001) and The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa (2001). Jon P. Mitchell is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. His books include Ambivalent Europeans (Routledge, 2001).

Author: Dr. Martin Mills

Publisher: Routledge Curzon

Title: This Turbulent Priest: Contesting Religious Rights and the State in the Tibetan Shugden Controversy, in Richard Wilson, Jon P. Mitchell (eds. 2003) Human Rights in Global Perspective: Anthropological Studies of Rights, Claims and Entitlements, Routledge, pp. 54-70:

Description: In the West we frequently pay lip service to universal notions of human rights. But do we ever consider how these work in local contexts and across diverse cultural and ethical structures? Do human rights agendas address the problems many people face, or are they more often the imposition of Western values onto largely non-Western communities?

Human Rights in a Global Perspective develops a social critique of rights agendas. It provides an understanding of how rights discussions and institutions can construct certain types of subjects such as victims and perpetrators, and certain types of act, such as common crimes and crimes against humanity. Using examples from the United States, Europe, India and South Africa, the authors restore the social dimension to rights processes and suggest some ethical alternatives to current practice.

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As a summery: The conference was well intended and well set up. The SOAS team seems to have worked hard and made the SOAS conference possible besides all attacks and criticism prior to the conference. However, it would have been better if the panelists (Rabten, Dr. Mills) hadn’t been allowed to change their topic from what has been announced because this led to a situation where the ICS/NKT representatives were able to dominate the topic of human rights and religious persecution and to misinform in a one-sided manner the audience. There was not too much of a relation between what the ICS/NKT representatives said and what the scientists said in their talks. As a result the scientist weren’t really able to balance and to correct the human rights and religious persecution claims of the ICS/NKT. Rather they gave a forum to propound such claims. This doesn’t mean that the scientists didn’t say any thing to these claims. There were some corrections. e.g. from Thierry Dodin who addressed briefly the “torture” and “Shugden people have been killed” claims as “I have not seen much evidence for this.” But in the light of the self-assertive and massive claims by Rabten and McBretney, I found the corrections rather very weak. That’s why the use of the SOAS conference for a less informed general public has been undermined to a certain extent. That the corrections by the scientists were rather weak is also due to the fact that claims are easily set into public domain but their correction and refutation needs a lot of expertise and study, like in the case of the so-called “Nazi-Tibet-Connection”.

My understanding is, that the claims and assertions of the ICS/NKT have to be investigated and corrected with respect to their lack of substance before such a conference or separately. If a scientist or any knowledgeable, diligent person had put together neatly the crude accusations and allegations of the ISC/NKT and had made them known together with a factual correct analysis, then some scientists would certainly think twice before they run blindly into such a panel discussion rather unprepared and with ill educated people / propagandists.

In an upcoming second part, I will review, comment and add thoughts and some judgments about the speakers and what they said at the SOAS panel conference.

See also

* The description of the conference said:

This event will address the controversy surrounding the propitiation of Dorje Shugden in the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Although many members of the school have ceased to honor Shugden and regard his propitiation as problematic, a vocal minority sees him as an essential component of Geluk orthodoxy. The latter now understand themselves as minority discriminated against on religious grounds. This workshop will include presentations by traditional exponents of both sides of the controversy and by academic authorities. The discussion is moderated by Dr Nathan W. Hill, Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at SOAS.

Last edited by tenpel on September 2, 2014, 03:06 pm

The Dorje Shugden Ban

There is no ban.
There should be.

There is no ban. There should be.

originally posted by Kelsangs Worldwide

Human Rights and the Dorje Shugden Controversy

In summary, the Shugden dispute represents a battleground of views on what is meant by religious and cultural freedom. – Martin A. Mills

The Western Shugden groups brought into the discussion the issue of Human Rights and alleged the Dalai Lama of human rights violations and that he had infringed the right to religious freedom amongst Tibetans by restricting the worship of the controversial protector-deity Dorje Shugden. These allegations became widespread on the international level via the aggressive campaigning of the Western Shugden Groups and were repeatedly reported in the news worldwide (rather often without any deeper investigation about their truthfulness and validity – especially from 2008 onwards.)

The following paper by Martin A. Mills, a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom), and co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research, examines “some of the causes for the signal failure of those claims, despite relatively strong evidence for the widespread persecution of Shugden worshippers within the Tibetan diaspora context. More broadly, it will examine the degree to which the notion of human rights assumes the context of a particular kind of state ideology – centered around the modern nation-state – and the difficulties that attend articulating the notion of human rights (and their abuse) in the context of transnational theocratic rule.”

Getty Image Capture: “The Dalai Lama, Amidst Protests, Visits Frankfurt” – FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY – MAY 14: Supporters of the International Shugden Community (ISC) protest outside a press conference during the current visit of the Dalai Lama on May 14, 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany. The ISC claims the Dalai Lama discriminates against them and denies them religious freedom, while critics charge the ISC is actually a front for the New Kadampa Tradition and brand it as a rigid cult run by fanatics who demand blind obedience from its followers. The Dalai Lama is visiting Frankfurt from May 13-16. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

More academic papers about the Dorje Shugden Controversy and the
New Kadampa Tradition (the organizers of the Anti Dalai Lama protests in the West)

Kalon Trisur Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche – Talk on the clarification of the current issue of Dolgyal at TCV Suja on 26th July, 2014

Here a summery of the video in English: The reason for the discussion is related to the questions that were put to the officials during the last discussion on Shugden in the Dharamsala TCV school. He mentioned that there were seeds of doubt regarding this issue that he wished to clarify the issues to clarify these doubts.

  • He also mentioned that he was happy that the students of the TCV school raised those doubts rather than hiding them, as this allows for an open discussion and gives people like himself to clarify the situation and provide further information. It is important to have questions in the context of a proper discussion, and without that the opportunity to explain and clarify is not available.
  • Therefore it is excellent that the students asked questions. He liked that the students asked questions and asked them to take advantage in the future of opportunities to ask them rather than remaining silent about doubts. He realized that only 6 students asked the questions in Dharamsala, but understands other students may share their questions and not be so confident to stand up in a crowd and share them. So some of what he shares in the talk will be based on these questions.
  • The allegations from the Shugden side that HH Dalai Lama is harming their religious freedom and their human rights are incorrect. An example of the incorrect allegations is the explanation of HHDL’s advice regarding this matter as a “ban”, this English word “ban” features in their materials. If we were to render this English word into Tibetan it would mean something like “not allowed, not permitted”. The Dalai Lama gave advice regarding this issue, critiqued it , but never said that Shugden practice was “not allowed”. (Tibetan for not allowed: mi chog). Therefore we can clearly state there is not a “ban”.
  • It is on this incorrect basis of HHDL issuing a “ban”, that the Shugden groups are loudly protesting, organizing against HHDL whenever they have the opportunity.
  • But we can clearly state that HHDL has never said Shugden practice is “not allowed”. He has said that it is good if one does not rely (on Shugden). It is clear, if one continues to rely (on Shugden), this becomes a case of disharmony with the advice of the Lama, and for this reason the Dalai Lama asked these people not to attend his religious discourses. It is stated clearly though that whether people listen to the advice or not, is their choice. Since there is extensive written evidence of this, there is no need for further clarification.
  • The policy of HHDL remains the same, for example during the Kalachakra initiation he requested those who rely (upon Shugden) to not come to the initiation, but whether one relies on Shugden or not is in one’s own hands (one’s own choice).
  • Therefore we see HHDL did not say “you are absolutely not allowed to rely on Shugden”. He said that it is “good if you do not rely on it, but whether you listen to this advice or not is up to you.” Therefore we understand that within the Tibetan community HHDL has not and cannot issue a “ban”, this is clear.
  • So we can see this is not an issue of freedom as people were clearly told it was up to them whether they acted according to the Dalai Lama’s advice or not. However, the Shugden side is explaining that due to the advice of the Dalai Lama, the result has been that this harms their religious freedom or their human rights. So some people may have a doubt that even to advise against the practice may have a result of harming the (Shugden side’s) religious freedom. To really understand this situation properly, one needs to do one’s own research.
  • If we examine the way of working of these (Shugden) organizations in the West, we can see that they fit in with the word “cult”. It would be difficult to come up with reasons to refute that they are a cult. For example, in the dharma centres of Geshe Kelsang, there were questions brought forth in the British government about their cult-like aspects. They managed somehow to prevent those questions from ripening into bigger problems. Bob Thurman has said that if the New Kadampa organization is not a cult, it is very clearly going in the direction of a cult.
  • In terms of the Refugee Welcome Centres and Schools, every Tibetan has been provided with the same facilities and conditions, including those who have said they rely on Dolgyal-the administration has not discriminated in this regard. They have been given the same access to health facilities and schools.
  • The previous Ganden Throneholder, Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche (now resident in France) deceived HH Dalai Lama and promised to avoid Shugden in order to secure enough supporters to take the Ganden throneholder position. There should be a something in writing to this effect. As soon as this ended his tenure as Ganden Throneholder, he revealed he was still practicing Shugden.
    The CTA has requested documentation of specific incidents, individuals and evidence of Shugden believers being turned away from essential services such as medical help and education, and has received none.
  • Samdhong Rinpoche urged the students not to believe what he said because of which “side” he was on. He also urged them not to believe Shugden claims simply because they identified with that “side”, but to do the reading and checking necessary to form their own opinions.
    He mentioned that prominent Shugden people, of whom the CTA is well aware, were recently issued travel documents through the assistance of the CTA and the Indian government just like any other Tibetan. He noted the significant number of known Shugden people travelling on these documents. Therefore there are no human rights violation on freedom to movement, Shugden people are regularly leaving for foreign countries and returning to  India.
  • Mentioned that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and Gangchen Rinpoche have an incorrect understanding (extreme?) with regards to the teachings on “How to Rely on the Virtuous Friend (Teacher)”.
  • Even though the above people have caused problems, still according to Buddhism actually we should have compassion for them. Especially compassion considering the future karmic consequences of their actions.
  • Has reiterated that in the case of Kelsang Gyatso and Gangchen, they have been safe for many years. That the CTA NEVER issued orders to kill or harm these people. At the same time, compassion does not mean that their incorrect views, and mistakes, should not be pointed out and corrected.
  • He mentioned that Shugden people being refused from certain shops was not a campaign of the government.  This was a decision of the individual shopholders-that they had a right to privacy. This is a boycott, rather than human rights abuse, that began due to negative actions of Shugden party. That this is a personal decision. Explained it as an individual grassroots political action, like boycotting Chinese products as a way of effecting change in policy. It could be looked at as the shop or restaurant owners following a policy of what Gandhiji calls “non co-operation” with the Shugden side as a way of boycotting to affect change. So it is not social discrimination, but a social boycott. This manifests as a choice not to engage in material exchanges with the Shugden side.
  • Such a boycott is not necessarily negative. If the students harm others, this is negative. We can understand the current boycott as being a temporary and direct response to the lies and protest actions currently being done against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We understand that whether one relies on Dolgyal or not is a decision within one’s mind. The current boycott that we see in some cases is a response to the misleading protests of the Shugden group, as this harms Tibetan society. Therefore we cannot say the decision to remain at a distance from  those participating in such Dolgyal organizations is a bad thing.
  • At the school for example, if the students are criticizing or harming them, this is not proper. But it should not be required to maintain close relationships with those of Dolgyal organizations. Choosing not to do so is not necessarily harmful for either party, from the point of view  of damtsik (samaya) it could be beneficial, in my personal opinion.
  • Mentioned that Shugdens took their case to both Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Campaign, and neither organization felt what was presented to them required a mandate to action.
  • Sees this issue through the lens of democracy like this: Democracy is open society that takes decisions for the well being of the people. Hence, considering harm of Shugden practice, for the well being of the people it should be spoken out against.

Update: Full Speech

The last Upholder of the Gelug Mahamudra Tradition: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

In the past it was the designated successor of Kelsang Gyatso, Kadam Neil Elliot, who claimed that the (whole) Vajrayana Mahamudra tradition is only existent in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and not outside of NKT. (There is still the recording of his voice).

Elliot claimed:

From 1991 to 1995 Gelong Thubten Gyatso (a.k.a. Neil Elliot) was 'the chosen one' to succeed former Geshe Kelsang. He was known as the 'heart-disciple' of GKG, who wrote a long life prayer for him recited regularly at NKT centres. Thubten was later disrobed because of a 'breach of his monastic vows', a polite way of saying sexual abuse. Neil Elliot (Thubten) organized and attended the WSS demonstrations–the old man himself reassigned Elliot to 'special ops'.

From 1991 to 1995 Gelong Thubten Gyatso (a.k.a. Neil Elliot) was the officially appointed successor and the ‘heart-disciple’ of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Kelsang Gyatso wrote a long life prayer for him recited regularly at NKT centres. Neil Elliot, who is very charismatic, played a key role in attracting Westerners to the NKT and he was the driving force that removed eclectic practitioners, who were not keen to exclusively rely on NKT/Kelsang Gyatso, from NKT. Such practitioners were seen as a threat for the “purity” of NKT. Later, Kelsang Gyatso had to strip Elliot officially from power after it became public via internet that Elliot was involved in sexual misconduct. (The NKT tried by all means to hide the reasons for this power change and the same story – even worse – repeated itself with the second officially appointed successor of Kelsang Gyatso, Samden Gyatso, a.k.a. Steve Wass.) Currently Neil Elliot is the resident teacher of NKT’s London Centre “Kadam Meditation Centre”. People aware of the NKT history find it very hypocritical that Elliot partakes in the protests against the Dalai Lama, calling the fully ordained monk and the holder of the monastic discipline the 14th Dalai Lama a hypocrite and liar, while Elliot turns a blind eye on his own inglorious past.

And we can say these days, previously you could find the practice of the Mahamudra outside this Tradition; other Traditions held this practice. But these days we can say definitely it doesn’t exist outside of our Tradition. Only this Tradition holds the lineage, the pure lineage, of the Vajrayana Mahamudra. So this is what we need to preserve, this is what we need to protect.

As some (controversial) Buddhist leaders get older, they or their Western students seem to be concerned about their legacy (see also Propaganda: The making of the holy Lama Ole Nydahl). There seems to be a need to establish their uniqueness and special contributions even before they die. For that purposes myths are created which single out those persons as unique and extraordinary. Tharpa publications produced a new book where NKT is publicly announcing such a myth in order to raise awareness within the Tibetan community about the uniqueness of the NKT founder Kelsang Gyatso. After NKT – based on the diligence of Kelsang Gyatso – has denounced the Dalai Lama (who Tibetans regard in the majority as their supreme leader) worldwide as a liar, hypocrite, saffron-robed Muslim, evil, cruel, worst dictator etc., it seems now is the time to teach Tibetans about the supremacy of Kelsang Gyatso by publishing a book in Tibetan, The Oral Instruction of Mahamudra. Via the NKT publishing arm, Tharpa publications, Kelsang Gyatso himself is keen to insinuate that he might be the last person on the planet who possesses the oral lineage of Mahamudra passed on by Trijang Rinpoche to him. Which means, enlightenment goes only through him (or his books) nowadays.

line-gothicTitle: “Meaningful to Behold” (mthong ba don ldan) : The Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage Well Explained, Combined with A Summary of Essential Instructions of the Hearing Lineage

author credited on cover: Lama Losang Thubwang Heruka

TheOralInstructionOfMahamudra-KelsangGyatso

Front cover of “The Oral Instruction Of Mahamudra” by Kelsang Gyatso

Contents:

1.”Meaningful to Behold”: The Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage Well Explained

2. The Preliminary Practice of the Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage: How to Practice the Guru Yoga of the Hundreds of Deities of Tushita – in Accordance with the Mantrayana System

3. The Ganden Whispered Lineage Mind Ornament (“Adornment of Realization”): The Meaning of Profound Emptiness Well Explained (in verse)

4.”Essence of Tantra” Way of Practice of the Method of Accomplishment (Sadhana) of the Great Ghantapa’s Body Mandala of Glorious Chakrasamvara

Summary of Forward (Quick, Rough Rendition, Not Checked or Polished):

Many years ago Gelek Rinpoche, now resident in America, via telephone, asked a question to the Honorable Palden la of Trijang lhabrang. Gelek Rinpoche asked Palden la if there was anyone who had received the Mahamudra commentary instruction lineage suitably.

Palden la replied that he remembered, back in Tibet, at Tsechokling Monastery, among those who requested teachings of the Profound Instruction of Mahamudra there was Tsangpa Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, now of England, present. He also indicated another suitable receiver of this teaching may not exist.

Back-TheOralInstructionOfMahamudra-KelsangGyatso

Back cover of “The Oral Instruction Of Mahamudra” by Kelsang Gyatso

Then, at the insistence of a few lamas and geshes in both India and the West, who said since you are advanced in age it would be difficult for you yourself to teach/transmit this to assemblies of Tibetan people.

Within Tibet, Lama Thubten Purbu Rinpoche said you must offer this lineage of Mahamudra Instruction that you hold.

The reason to offer this is to revive the essence of the Conqueror’s doctrine (Gelug tradition), which has degenerated, and also to develop it, amongst the Tibetan people.

In this way may hearts  hold a cherishing of Jamgon Tsongkhapa’s Doctrine.

Kelsang Gyatso

line-gothic

It is clear that after the Dalai Lama failed so tremendously (in the eyes of Kelsang Gyatso and NKT) there is now only one shining star that is the bearer of the holy, secret and pure lineage of Trijang Rinpoche and Tsongkhapa, which is Kelsang Gyatso. “How fortunate we are!” (as NKT would joyfully exclaim the underlying message.)

Apparently the book seems to be looking for legitimacy from Tibetans (although two people who speak Tibetan say it is full of grammatical mistakes). It claims that Kelsang Gyatso received this transmission from Trijang Rinpoche at a place called Tsechokling in Tibet and that he might be the only living person who has it. This increases his importance and subsequently he claims that he was urged to “offer this lineage of Mahamudra Instruction” – and kindly he did. As the back cover puts it: “This precious text was written by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in Tibetan.” The author credited on the front cover: Lama Losang Thubwang Heruka (which insinuates an enlightened being) is one with the author credited on the back cover: Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Quite modest. According to the book, the name of the person who officially requested the book is a lama in Tibet, Lama Thupten Phurbu Rinpoche.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

David with the head of Goliath

The book must be seen in wider context of a long battle (or vendetta) of Kelsang Gyatso against the Dalai Lama. It appears a bit as the fight of the small David (Kelsang Gyatso) against the giant Goliath (Dalai Lama). Kelsang Gyatso spend a lot of time and effort to denounce the Dalai Lama as a total non-spiritual fake Dalai Lama and he himself personally took responsibility to organize the international protests against the Dalai Lama in 1996-98 and from 2008 onwards. Kelsang Gyatso also tried to educate Tibetans with his own pamphlets in Tibetan language where he claimed such things as:

He (the Dalai Lama) spent his whole life only collecting the wealth of simple Tibetan People. What material help has he provided to the Tibetan people? And regarding the issue of Tibet, what has he done that is really helpful? – see “A refutation of attacks on the advice of H.H. the Dalai Lama regarding the propitiation of guardian deities” by Tenpai Gyaltsan Dhongthog, 1996, p.33

In that context it is noteworthy to watch how NKT tries by all means to claim that the Dalai Lama would have lied with respect to Trijang Rinpoche’s acceptance of HH the Dalai Lama’s stance on Dorje Shugden. The NKT wants to tell: this man is not reliable (whereas Kelsang Gyatso is). The more the giant Dalai Lama is put down the higher the glory of small David. The NKT put a new video on YouTube that continues to spin the NKT myths. Without having any convincing argument the NKT / ICS still claim that the Dalai Lama lied. As a part of the video the NKT / ICS present a rather young monk, Geshe Lobsang Kalsang, as the Disciplinarian Master of Sera Mey Monastery.

LharampaGesheLobsangKalsang

According to the screen shot of this new NKT / ISC video this Lharampa Geshe Lobsang Kalsang is ‘from Sera Mey Monastery, Pomra Khamsten, Disciplinary Master from 200-2003′. However, according to Siling Tongkhor, Coordinator at Geden Tulku Association and Spiritual Director at Sermey Rongpo Khangsten, previously at Sera Mey Monastic University and Sera Tulkus group: “This monk, Lobsang Kalsang has never been the Disciplinarian Master of Sera Mey Monastery. He was from Sera Mey Monastery prior to the 2008 separation. And he became the disciplinarian master of Serpom, the Shugden monastery near Sera Mey.”

Geshe Lobsang Kelsang who was surely not any witness of the discussions between the Dalai Lama with Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche issues forth one claim after the other what Trijang Rinpoche had said without naming any reliable source. Mere claims that prove not anything.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-08-03 um 20.29.26The cover of the book is a portrait of Kelsang Gyatso ‘as’ Je Tsongkhapa, with Buddha Shakyamuni at his heart, and Heruka inside his heart. That makes Kelsang Gyatso appear as the direct ‘successor’ of Je Tsongkhapa, insinuating to bring to fruition the prediction of the Whispered Lineage – the Ganden Oral lineage – that states that one of the Buddhas of this fortunate aeon will actually be a manifestation of Tsongkhapa and will teach tantra … (In the past NKT spread quotes “from a Sutra” that in extremely degenerate times – which is now according to NKT – a very pure being will appear that restores the “pure Dharma”. Such claims are part of the myths which NKT creates to attribute a special role in this world to their leader Kelsang Gyatso – a special role also Kelsang Gyatso is convinced of to have.)

Lama Lobsang Thupwang Dorje Chang is now called ‘Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka’ (on the frontspiece) and in Tibetan ‘Lama Losang Tubwang Heruka’.

I understand this is problematic as

a) This kind of portrait of the teacher as ‘the Guru Tsongkhapa’ is a private part of practice and paintings such as this are traditionally not done until a teacher has died.

b) Siling Tongkhor told that ‘this is acceptable, technically’, or ‘theoretically’ ‘as long as they don’t regard him as a Yidam but merely as an spiritual protector – Dharmapala’. This requires more thought.

c) The cover features a living teacher seated on a lotus. This lotus seat is traditionally only used for teachers who are dead and it is considered highly inauspicious to depict a living teacher in this way; if I remember correctly it is said to be the cause of premature death. (This is also true for the NKT practice to put a hair of Kelsang Gyatso in statues. This is done only with hairs of dead teachers. If it is done with the hairs of a living teacher, such an action too is seen as very inauspicious and as a cause for calamities.)

Update August 30, 1014

1. Enquiries in Dharamsala suggest that His Holiness has taught it at least 5 times. Once back in the 70s or early 80s during one of Lama Yeshi’s Dharma celebrations; a couple of times since in the Tsuglagkhang here; last year at Gyumey and at Emory University in USA. He says he received the transmission from both his tutors. Apparently recently he asked Samdhong Rinpoche to give it somewhere and when Rinpoche said he was willing, but he didn’t have the transmission, His Holiness said then I’ll give it you. It doesn’t sound as rare and exclusive as the NKT make out.

2. Palden la was the manager of Trijang Labrang when Trijang Rinpoche was still alive.

When shown Kelsang Gyatso’s book, a Rinpoche in Dharamsala who had studied in Sera said almost immediately responded “O this looks like a lie” particularly in reference to Gelek Rinpoche. About Lobsang Kelsang he said “O he’s crazy.” Checked with a translator he said that in the Sera mey he was known as Palden Nyonpa which roughly means Glorious Nutcase. He said he was wild and eccentric; inclined to cause a splash. Even about his own teacher Gyarong Khensur he could be disparaging. Therefore this person is not a particularly credible witness.

3. His Holiness has been quite clear about the fact that he kept his tutors informed about his views and activities. He didn’t ask Ling Rinpoche to prevail on Trijang Rinpoche. He has himself described how he asked Trijang Rinpoche to speak out on the matter because of the weight of his influence.

Bad News About Dharma

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Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Never think that you will be able to settle your life down by practicing the dharma. The dharma is not therapy.
In fact, it is just the opposite.
The purpose of the dharma is to really stir up your life.
It is meant to turn your life upside down.
If that is what you asked for, why complain?
If it is not turning your life upside down, on the other hand, the dharma is not working.
That kind of dharma is just another one of these New Age methods;
the dharma should really disturb you. –  Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

See also

 

Bringing the Nalanda Tradition to the West: Reflections and Challenges

Dharma Studies in the West: The FPMT Master’s Program

Since the time of the Buddha, approximately 2,500 years ago, the Buddhist teachings have been transmitted in an uninterrupted lineage, eventually reaching Tibet and flourishing there for more than 1,200 years. In recent years, as Buddhism has come to the West, there has been a steady rise in interest among Western students of Buddhism in deepening their understanding of the philosophical teachings that form the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as a wish from the side of Tibetan teachers and scholars to develop study programs to meet these needs. A number of highly respected academic institutions have programs focusing on Tibetan Buddhist religion, culture, and philosophy, but it is a fairly recent phenomenon that Western Dharma centers have attempted to develop serious, in-depth programs for the study of the great philosophical treatises of the Indian and Tibetan masters. One of the most ambitious of these programs has been the FPMT’s Master’s Program in Buddhist Studies,[1] which was initially conceived by Lama Thubten Yeshe, and further developed and taught by Geshe Jampa Gyatso. The Master’s Program (or MP) is aimed at training both lay and ordained Western students in the classical philosophical treatises (known as the “great texts”) and the practice of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The program involves six to seven years of study, and is supplemented by one year of meditation in order for the students to integrate their learning and practice. I graduated from the first full-length program in 2004 and, since 2008, I have served as an online tutor for the most recent program, which just recently concluded.[2] This experience has led me to reflect at length on the challenges involved in developing advanced Buddhist study programs in the West, and I would like to share some of my thoughts on how we might begin to address these challenges.

The MP curriculum is similar to that of the Geshe programs in major Gelug Tibetan monasteries, although it is completed in a much shorter period—obtaining a Geshe degree would normally take from fifteen to twenty years in a Tibetan monastery. This difference in itself presents a huge challenge: how to condense such a vast amount of material into a program that is less than half the length of the traditional course of study. However, we should not make the mistake of assuming that those entering the program are lacking in knowledge or study skills when compared with their Tibetan counterparts: most MP students have already done many years of study before entering the program, many having earned various levels of university degrees, and thus have a wide range of knowledge of different fields, including science, humanities, business, and philosophy. Clearly, such students may begin with little formal Buddhist knowledge, but it would be unwise to underestimate the value of the intellectual and scholarly skills they have acquired in other fields. At this juncture, when the ancient teachings of Buddhism have really begun to penetrate into the fabric of societies that are not traditionally Buddhist and interact with Western fields of thought—philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, just to begin with—we need to think seriously about how an advanced program of Buddhist studies may look in the future.

A central concern in designing and implementing such a study program is how to continue the transmission of traditional Buddhist teachings while bringing them into a modern, Western context and making them relevant to our own times and cultures, without sacrificing their essence and integrity. We need to reflect on how study of these texts can enrich understanding and practice of the Dharma, without their becoming seen as a canon that is beyond question and automatically accepted as infallible. In other words, we should not abandon the spirit of rational and scientific inquiry that forms the basis of modern Western thought, and we should seek ways to harmonize this with our study of Buddhism. This development can only occur when we approach the teachings with a balance of critical analysis and respect, having faith in the teachings without being afraid to challenge and understand them in new ways.

The Nalanda Tradition: Balancing Faith and Reasoning

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often refers to the basis of Tibetan Buddhism as the “Nalanda Tradition,” emphasizing the direct connection between the Tibetan Buddhist tradition with the work of the great scholars of Nalanda University, the ancient Indian Buddhist institution that produced some of Buddhism’s greatest scholar-practitioners, including Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Vasubandhu, and Dharmakirti. A central aspect of the Nalanda Tradition is an emphasis on approaching the Buddhist teachings not just through faith and devotion, but also through rigorous critical inquiry. This emphasis on intelligent investigation in Buddhism is illustrated by the analogy, often cited in Buddhist teachings, of a merchant who only buys gold after determining its quality and purity through various tests. All of the Buddha’s teachings emphasize the importance of investigating the Dharma deeply before accepting it. This critical inquiry is precisely what is being pursued in programs such as the Master’s Program.

Developing such programs is a crucial and difficult step in the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings to the West, and one of the most significant difficulties we face is how to successfully present such complex and dense material to people whose cultures, beliefs, and history are fundamentally different from those of a traditional Asian culture, such as Tibet. I have often struggled to find a balance between respect for tradition and honest critical inquiry, how to cultivate stable faith in Dharma while not giving up a healthy level of skepticism. This process of investigation is an indispensable part of our progression towards a more awakened, more compassionate, and wiser state, the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. However, it is not easy to skillfully balance these various facets of the spiritual path in our lives. Many Western Buddhists, especially those pursuing advanced philosophical studies, come from a perspective that is highly suspicious of orthodoxy or dogma, religious or otherwise. The past few centuries of European and American thought have, after all, elevated the status of rational inquiry far above that of religious piety. On the one hand, Buddhism appeals to this rationality by deeply challenging engrained ideas about success, happiness, material wealth, and even mainstream religion. On the other hand, when we study Buddhism with traditionally trained Tibetan teachers, we often find that the teachings are intertwined with a wide range of cultural assumptions, which do not always fit neatly or comfortably with a strictly rational perspective.

It is useful to look briefly at how Buddhist philosophy has traditionally been studied by Tibetans, and to consider how this contrasts with Western educational methodologies.[3] (I am mainly referring here to the Gelug tradition, which places strong emphasis on scholastic understanding as a basis for spiritual realization.) Historically, in Tibetan culture the study of high-level Buddhist philosophy has been almost exclusively the domain of monks. The Tibetan monastic approach involves many years of memorization, study, and debate of texts that are complex and multi-layered, sometimes incomprehensible without explanations of highly trained masters. The students learn the art of debate from a young age, methodically analyzing a wide range of subjects, beginning with simple phenomena such as colors and shapes and moving on to more complex topics, such as divisions of the mind, advanced logic, and so forth. The debate format is tightly structured and follows strict rules, requiring students to thoroughly memorize the texts and to internalize the rules of debate to the point of their becoming virtually automatic. Without memorizing the texts, it is impossible to get far in a debate. There is no room for guessing or speculation; the respondent must be able to reply with absolute precision, based on what is stated in the text. As their studies progress, they apply their analysis to increasingly subtle topics, such as the four noble truths, emptiness, dependent arising, and the paths to liberation and enlightenment. After gaining a solid foundation in logic, debate, and the overall Buddhist worldview, those seeking to attain the degree of Geshe (a Buddhist monastic academic degree) spend many years studying subjects such as the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita), Middle Way (Madhyamaka), valid cognition (Pramana), ethical discipline (Vinaya), and manifest knowledge (Abhidharma). Monks (and now nuns) can obtain one of several types of Geshe degree, the highest level being Geshe Lharampa. Although this approach is most emphasized in the Gelug tradition, the different Tibetan traditions offer variants of the Geshe degree. The deep understanding that one gains from these many years of study and debate becomes the basis for the transformational wisdom that one may later gain from deeper meditation on these subjects.

The curriculum of the Master’s Program as it is presently structured includes three of these five “great texts” and their Tibetan commentaries—Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara), Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the “Middle Way” (Madhyamakavatara), and Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha)—as well as the “grounds and paths” of tantra and the Guhyasamaja Tantra (which are normally studied only in specialized tantric universities). Supplementary subjects such as mind and awareness, philosophical tenets, or reviews of the main topics are sometimes taught if time allows. Students take regular exams, and at the end of the program, they review and are examined on all five subjects. In order to receive a completion certificate, they are also required to do one year of retreat, which allows them to integrate the material more deeply. Parallel to the residential course is an online course, with students around the world studying via an e-learning environment, with recorded review lectures, quizzes and exams, and online discussion.

Given the much shorter length of the Master’s Program compared to traditional geshe studies, the MP clearly does not aim to produce “Western geshes,” but to give Western students a complete education in Buddhist studies. However, this format is not without its shortcomings. While students in such a program receive an enormous amount of teachings, and thus a good basis for deepening their studies and practice, relatively little time is dedicated to a deep analysis of the teachings, and formal debate is virtually absent. There are numerous reasons for this, one of the principal ones being the difficulty of translating the highly formalized Tibetan debate method, so deeply based on rote memorization, into a Western context where students have little familiarity with memorization as a learning tool. With this lack of debate, the teachers and tutors of such a program are forced to come up with effective tools for helping students not only to learn, but to master such dense, difficult material. So far, this has been one of the greatest challenges of this program.

I have had the great fortune to study these texts with highly qualified teachers, including my principal teacher Geshe Jampa Gyatso, who helped me to understand that Dharma is not just about knowledge obtained from study, but the skillful integration of this knowledge into our experience, and the transformation of our very way of being. As a tutor for such a program, I have found myself trying to explain Buddhist texts that are often centuries old, with multiple layers of meaning and complex terminology, to students whose culture and worldview differs radically from that which informs these texts. These texts are often obscure and difficult to understand, even for the most erudite lamas and scholars. A Western tutor working with this material may feel obligated to be faithful and respectful to the tradition, on one hand, and wish to make the teachings relevant to students’ lives and spiritual development, on the other—not an easy task. With more general subjects such as the Stages of the Path (lam rim), this is already challenging, but many lam rim subjects are self-explanatory and one has some flexibility in how to present the topics, choosing to emphasize some more than others, offering different interpretations, and so forth. However, with texts as complex as the Abhisamayalamkara or Abhidharmakosha, just to understand the basic meanings of the texts requires extensive study and reflection, and understanding their relevance to practice means taking a huge leap beyond that.

Difficulties for Western Students: Challenging Orthodoxy

Western students of Tibetan Buddhism must wrestle with apparent contradictions between the worldview and didactic methods in our own culture and those that we encounter in traditional Asian Buddhist teachings. The cornerstone of a modern Western education is critical examination of facts from varying points of view, without automatically privileging any one of these points of view as absolutely true. We are taught to value originality and to explore ideas that innovate and challenge orthodoxy. In traditional Buddhist teachings, on the other hand, innovation is often regarded with deep suspicion, and even discouraged. Although we are encouraged to rigorously analyze the teachings before accepting them, this analysis takes place almost entirely within the accepted parameters of the Buddhist worldview, and those propounding new interpretations of the Dharma may be viewed as pariahs, whose straying from accepted explanations might somehow contaminate the teachings—even Tsongkhapa was heavily challenged and criticized for his sometimes radical interpretations of Buddhist teachings.

Despite the strong emphasis on reasoning, it is difficult to escape the weight that the authority of tradition and scripture carries for traditional Buddhists. There are unspoken, but evident, taboos in not accepting certain teachings as infallible truths. Thus we see that when His Holiness the Dalai Lama questions the validity of Abhidharma cosmology or downplays certain aspects of traditional teachings, there is no hesitation in following his lead. However, if a less authoritative teacher or (heaven forbid) a Westerner challenges orthodoxy in the same way, it may even be seen as a degeneration of the purity of the lineage, when in fact such a person is simply following the Buddha’s advice to closely examine the teachings. This can create a sense that one cannot ask honest, critical questions without being judged or criticized; one may begin to feel that one is not a “good Buddhist” if one asks too many questions. We find ourselves in a quandary: our initial sense of skepticism and curiosity, which led us to the apparent tolerance and openness of the Buddhist tradition, now comes to be seen as risky, or even dangerous. However, if we are to develop into mature practitioners of the Buddha’s teachings, we must ask some difficult questions. We may even need to ask what it really means to be “Buddhist.”[4] It would be unusual for Tibetans to question whether or not they are Buddhist—Buddhism is a culture and tradition they are born into and which they, for the most part, readily accept. For Westerners, more investigation is required when one decides to actively engage with Buddhism as a practice and view.

Dharma in the Modern World: Developing New Tools

Let us consider the idea of “transmission” of the Dharma—the Buddha’s teachings—and what that entails. Traditionally, the Buddha’s teachings are divided into the Dharma of scriptures—the texts containing the teachings and commentaries of the Buddha and the lineage masters—and the Dharma of realizations—the internalization of the meanings in these texts, resulting in the final goal: liberation or enlightenment. In reality, these two are intimately related, and both are necessary in order for the Dharma to be effectively and completely transmitted from one culture to another. The transmission of Dharma depends on maintaining an “uninterrupted lineage” of the canonical texts, teachings, and commentaries from qualified masters to their disciples, but just continuing the scriptural transmission is not sufficient, even if done with great faith and diligence, if we do not also transmit the transformative aspect of the teachings, the realizations. A complete transmission of the Dharma is contingent on the development of skillful methods that enable the transmission of these teachings to different cultures, and thus a certain amount of adaptation is unavoidable. This has been the case everywhere that the Dharma has traveled from one culture to another: from India to Tibet, China, Korea, Burma, and other countries that became Buddhist. Now Buddhism has come to the West, in a period in which technological advances have rapidly sped up the availability and exchange of information. Those involved in this exchange must adapt to this reality and utilize a variety of methods in this transmission, not just traditional ones. If we simply mimic the traditional methods of Buddhist study and education without adapting them to their new context, we may well see these sublime teachings, which show us how to develop the greatest human potential, becoming little more than quaint, but largely irrelevant, cultural relics. One of the greatest challenges we face in this process is how to relate Buddhist scholastic practice to the practical, realized aspects of Dharma: cultivation of positive inner qualities such as mindfulness, mental stability, compassion, and wisdom. In Buddhist terms, we need to approach this process with a balance of skillful methods and penetrating wisdom, integrating the insights of the Buddhist tradition with the best of Western pedagogical methods and technology.

When studying the great philosophical texts of Buddhism in a traditional way, students would first memorize the “root text,” and then receive a transmission and detailed commentary on the entire text from start to finish, slowly bringing out the deeper meaning through extensive debate, as mentioned earlier. Without the process of internalization and mastery that occurs through debate, it is difficult for students to identify the essential points in a text that may consist of literally hundreds of lists, definitions, and conflicting assertions from various philosophical points of view. When studying such texts without training in debate, Western students encounter many difficulties in knowing how to “take the essence” of these teachings, and how to put them into practice.

It would be easy to suggest that Western students should simply learn how to debate like Tibetans, but the traditional reliance on memorization brings up many difficulties. We have a strong tendency to suspect or even reject anything resembling dogma or absolutist religious authority. Rote memorization has long been rejected in Western education in favor of developing skills of critical thinking and analysis; originality of thought, rather than repetition of doctrine, is one of the prime objectives of modern education. While a traditionally educated Tibetan student would not have much difficulty accepting that something is true simply because it was stated by the Buddha, Nagarjuna, or Tsongkhapa, a Western-educated student might strongly question the notion of the author’s infallibility. This is not to say that memorization should be rejected outright—it can indeed a very valuable tool for sharpening one’s mental faculties, among other things—but it needs to be supplemented with learning methodologies more familiar to Western students, where one would consider a broader range of viewpoints, even from other traditions or disciplines. We should make use of the many tools we have, not just dismiss them as irrelevant to the study of Buddhism.

We must also remember that while Tibetan monastics often begin their religious studies as children, Western students in programs such as the Master’s Program have already acquired a great deal of knowledge and experience, both through higher education and professional careers. Despite this, it seems that when we approach traditional Dharma studies, we often feel compelled to reject large parts of our “secular” learning, rather than building on it and integrating it with our understanding of Dharma. This only serves to strengthen a false dichotomy between “worldly” knowledge—literature, art, science, philosophy, mathematics, etc.—and “Dharma knowledge,” which concerns questions that somehow transcend this world. I often get the impression that Western Buddhists feel they must ignore the great intellectual, artistic, and spiritual innovations of their own culture—whether they come from Einstein, Jesus, Shakespeare, Picasso, or John Coltrane—in order to be serious Buddhists, rather than appreciating how the insights of great minds, regardless of their culture or religious beliefs, may help to cultivate a broader, deeper understanding of Dharma. Rigidly adhering to such an artificial split contradicts the exemplary openness shown by the Dalai Lama, who has consistently pioneered and encouraged cross-cultural and interdisciplinary dialogues, such as the Mind and Life conferences, and the introduction of scientific education into Tibetan monasteries. He has even appointed an American monk as the abbot of a Tibetan monastery.[5] We would do well to learn from the example of His Holiness, who consistently shows himself to be an innovator in the best sense of the word, as well as being an undisputed master of the subtlest points of Buddhist philosophy and practice and a living example of compassion, kindness, and deep insight. Lama Thubten Yeshe was also a proponent of integrating modern knowledge with Buddhist wisdom: “Today, scientific technology has discovered many things that human beings cannot touch—energy, for example. This development of scientific higher consciousness is beautiful; we can carry it into our meditation. When people who study and practice Dharma examine developments in scientific technology, they can find extraordinary examples that they can use. This understanding of reality is very important.”[6]

Conclusions: The Road Ahead

What can we conclude from all of this? Are we looking at the inevitable degeneration of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, in favor of a dumbed-down Buddhism ready for easy consumption by a public wanting everything to be downloadable as a smartphone app? Not at all. We are looking at an evolution of Buddhism in the West, just as it has evolved in its transmission from India to many other cultures, including Tibet. In order for the Dharma to continue to thrive, and for Dharma education to develop in the West, a few fundamental ingredients are necessary: first, willingness to experiment with the format, and not being obstinately attached to an exclusively traditional approach; second, a clear understanding of the goal of such education: a combination of scholastic depth and experiential application; and third, an approach that builds bridges between the wisdom of Buddhism and of our own cultures, such as science, the humanities, and philosophy, rather than seeing them as contradictory. All of this, of course, needs to be carried out in a way that is balanced and respectful, by teachers who understand the teachings well and have made serious effort to internalize and realize their meanings. My hope is that we will see in the future a proliferation of aspiring bodhisattvas who are able to integrate their intellectual and experiential understanding of the great spiritual insights of the Buddha and the great Indian and Tibetan masters with the thought of Plato and Wittgenstein, quantum theory, neuroscientific research, and expressions of Dharma in literature, art, and poetry, all for the greatest benefit of infinite sentient beings. Why not?

 

Patrick Lambelet
Tutor for the online FPMT Master’s Program
Pomaia, Italy

© Patrick Lambelet
March 23, 2014

Footnotes

[1] Despite being called “Master’s Program,” this program is presently not formally accredited by any university and does not lead to an MA, or Master’s degree.

[2] There was an earlier version of the program, before 1998, but it was not as comprehensive, with regular examinations and certification.

[3] Georges Dreyfus’ book, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping, is an excellent resource for this subject, combining academic research on Tibetan monastic education with reflections drawn from his own experience as a Western Buddhist monk (Dreyfus was the first Westerner to obtain the Geshe Lharampa degree).

[4] Interestingly, the Tibetan word translated as “Buddhist” (nang pa) literally means “insider,” or “practitioner of the inner tradition.” It thus has a broader sense than simply being a follower of the Buddha, unlike, for example, the term “Christian.”

[5]In 2012, His Holiness appointed American monk Nicholas Vreeland as the abbot of Rato Monastery, in India, telling him, “Your special duty is to bridge Tibetan tradition and the Western world.” See Tricycle article (www.tricycle.com), Fall 2012.

[6] Lama Thubten Yeshe, Becoming the Compassion Buddha (2003, Wisdom Publications), p. 44.

See also

 

 

The New Kadampa Tradition / Kadampa Buddhism: The Real Danger

GUEST POST by Robert – a former NKT monk

The Real Danger

If you are a scifi fan, you may remember the old television show, ‘Stargate: SG1′, where in the later series there were two races who were said to have transcended the mortal realm: the Ori and the Ancients. The Ori created a book, similar to the Bible, called the ‘Book of Origin’ and they promised their followers perfect enlightenment, if they simply put their unwavering faith in the Ori, and put aside their own intelligence for the ‘Will of the Ori’. The most devout of the Ori followers became like mindless zombies, or shells of the people they once were, who emptied their minds and allowed the Ori to speak through them. Then on the other hand, we had the Ancients, who mainly spoke in apparent riddles, not unlike Zen Koans. In stark contrast to the Ori, the Ancients did not tell their followers anything of the truth, and refused to help them directly, as they believed that human beings must think for themselves and realize the truth for themselves. So they would not help them to ‘ascend’, rather they had to learn for themselves.

These two fictional enlightened races are a great metaphor for two ways we could approach religion or a spiritual tradition. The majority of religions are not too dissimilar to the Ori, in the sense that practitioners are told what to think and how to behave, by following a book. In these religions there is not much room for free-thinking, as they are centred around the concept of faith. All good things are promised to those who have faith, and not for those who harbour doubts or refuse to believe what they are taught. Over time, when one has developed ‘faith’ in their religion, they think for themselves less and less, and rather than relying on answers born from their own contemplation, they refer to answers handed to them by their teacher or written for them in a book. They become like a zombie, or a religious parrot. Like the followers of the Ori, they put aside their own intellect, as a sort of lazy mentality emerges, where all the answers are given to them, so they don’t need to bother to contemplate for themselves.

Buddhism, for the most part, is the healthy alternative, where its practitioners, like the followers of the Ancients, are encouraged to think for themselves and arrive at their own understanding. They are encouraged to look for themselves at the reality of their own minds and see what’s there. Through genuine Buddhism, the mind can become strong and healthy, through seeking out its own understanding.

However, even Buddhists can fall into the Ori’s trap, and this is particularly true for one young tradition, which broke away from its much broader-minded and wiser parent, Tibetan Buddhism. This tradition is called the New Kadampa Tradition, or the NKT.

After it’s break-away from Tibetan Buddhism, the NKT became much more fundamentalist and purist than its predecessor. They removed all books from their Dharma centres that were not written by the NKT Guru, and advised their practitioners to only read their Guru’s books. The NKT wants its followers to have only one source of information on the Dharma, or spiritual truth: their source.

When they choose some of their new followers to becomes teachers, they are instructed to teach directly from these books, and not from any other source of information. They are to put their own understanding aside, and are told to imagine the Guru is speaking through them. Over time, the ‘teacher’ becomes like a mindless parrot, with no understanding of their own to share and only speaking the words they have been told to speak. When they are asked a question about the Dharma, they do not refer to their own understanding, but will often begin their thoughts and speech with “my Guru says.”

If a student ever questions or doubts the teaching of the Guru, they are told that their own mind is impure and deluded, so their own intellect is unreliable, and that they must rely on the Guru’s wisdom instead, as he is enlightened. In this way, students of the NKT gradually learn to think less and less for themselves, as they steadily increase their faith in the Guru’s wisdom. Eventually, they never harbour doubts in their mind, as they perceive their own mind as being deluded and unreliable, so they never take their doubts or questions seriously, and always fall back to their ‘faith’ in the Guru.

This is further enforced through manipulation of the students through fear. There is something I forgot to mention about the Ori: those who refuse to put their faith in them are simply destroyed. This is not so different from the NKT’s brand of fear manipulation. Early on in the student’s learning, they are taught to rely on the Guru, and they are also taught that those who abandon the Guru, or break their vows, will create the horrible karma to be reborn in a violent hell realm for a near-infinite period of time. They are also taught that for every moment of doubt that arises in their minds, they are creating a future in hell for themselves. Over time, these beliefs become ingrained in the student’s mind and they come to really believe these statements to be true. So the student does not dare to doubt the Guru, or to leave the tradition, out of a very real fear of hell.

I don’t think I have to connect the dots any further for the reader, as it is clear to see the blatant and horrifying similarities between the New Kadampa Tradition and the Ori. This, I feel, is the real danger of getting involved with this tradition. It is a great shame, that those sincerely interested in Buddhism, may stumble upon this tradition first and not recognize the difference between it and genuine Buddhism. This is a very real threat as well, as no tradition has expanded at the rate the NKT has. Almost every city and major town in England now has an NKT centre, and even the surrounding towns have branch classes, stretching out from the parent centres. This is due to the large amount of income the NKT receives, through donations from its students, excessive fees for its meditation and Buddhism classes, its festivals, Dharma shops and even hotels and other businesses.

Just like the Ancients of Stargate: SG1, the Buddha’s true intention for us, was for our minds to grow strong, through thinking and questioning things for ourselves, through doubting things not blindly believing them, through doing the work for ourselves, looking and seeing what is the reality or the truth of our own minds and the world we live in. The Buddha wanted us to “come and see”, not just believe what he has told us out of laziness or fear. The Buddha himself grew up in a time where the people put their blind faith in books and superstitions, just like the followers of the Ori, but the Buddha was the one who questioned things, who doubted what he was told. His mind grew strong through thinking and looking for himself, and he wanted everyone else, including you and I, to do the same.

Thank you for reading,
Robertline-gothic

Robert set up a Facebook group, Exposing the NKT. The description of the group is:

This community is for those who wish to share and discuss their experiences within the New Kadampa Tradition, so we can support each other, and also we hope that this information may prove valuable to those interested in the tradition, who want to learn more about what they are getting themselves into.

This is also a community for the research into the Dorje Shugden controversy, and the elaborate campaign the NKT has undertaken against His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

We are not a hate community, and we believe in unbiased research. Our goal is simply to make information available to people, with which they can make up their own minds.

We believe that current NKT practitioners, as well as ex-practitioners, deserve our kindness and respect, so this community will not tolerate any hurtful speech, and we wish only to benefit all parties.

See also

 

Dalai Lama: Good and bad Buddhist monks in Tibetan Buddhism

If we look back, many of the things we did in Tibet were wrong — like sectarianism, not … paying enough attention to monks’ Vinaya rules. If we continue with this kind of system, Buddhism will not exist, will not continue, will terminate one day. In Tibetan tradition we have a saying– in some families, a saying: ‘Oh I have a boy, he’s not very clever, he’s kind of sloppy, let’s put him in the monastery.’ If you do like that, the monasteries and Buddhism will not be in good shape.

So if you want to be a good monk, if you are genuine and determined, then it’s good to become Sangha. And don’t enter Sangha just to find a livelihood there … Monks should be knowledgeable, and hardworking, focused on the Dharma. So then the Sangha will have more respect.

In Tibet, we have a system of monk tax. That means each family has to donate … one child to the monastery. That’s not a very good thing to do but it was passed. Real sangha should be voluntary. So we should not leave everything to custom and tradition. I am saying this out of concern. I personally don’t lose anything … that’s why I’m stressing on these things. We must change our system and should not just carry on with old systems, sort of corrupt and hypocritical ways of our functioning in our older system. – (Day 2, Kalachakra preliminary teaching, 2014 Ladakh; position 1:30, 140,000 attendees)

See also

  • The Monk Scam: Faux monastics prey on tourists in New York City by Daisy Radevsky

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