Cultural Chauvinism: The Flavour of the Shugden Protesters’ (NKT’s) Latest Campaign Against the Dalai Lama


The anti-Tibetan rhetoric of the New Kadampa Tradition’s International Shugden Campaign is beginning to take on a decidedly racist flavour. Words like backward, barbaric, feudal, foolish and violent are being tossed around very casually based on relatively minor incidents. Indeed, much of the language reminds me of the anti-Tibetan sentiments one reads in official Chinese government publications, such as the People’s Daily.

This is not the first time the New Kadampa Tradition has used racist sentiments in its campaigns. A few short years ago the headline was “Dalai Lama, Saffron Robed Muslim” and the photos along with this headline on the Western Shugden Society website mocked His Holiness for participating in Muslim and Hindu ceremonies in the interest of greater religious harmony. When several NKT people pointed out that equating Islam as evil and using this to defame the Dalai Lama seemed Islamophobic, the NKT disciplined those members by relegating them to the back rows of the protests.

As a friend of the Tibetan people, whose kindness has allowed me to dedicate my life to the dharma and translation of the teachings, I am hurt by this latest tactic of the NKT/ISC, which seeks to paint a picture of the Tibetans as a backward people. This is especially disturbing since NKT members have a very limited experience of the Tibetan people, do not speak the language and do not know the culture.

At HH Dalai Lama’s teachings in Rotterdam, a small contingent of Tibetans from Zawa Rinpoche’s centre in Montreal and a Shugden support group based in France were in attendance. They were shouting incendiary and hateful things about HH Dalai Lama in the Tibetan language as Tibetans from the Netherlands and Belgium arrived to attend the teachings.

I could see the hurt in the eyes of the Tibetan people as the protest group mocked and insulted His Holiness, with both divisive words and demeaning photos of their beloved leader. Two or three Tibetans got upset and began shouting back, (one made a spitting motion but he was at least 15 feet away from the protestors). This was filmed by NKT personnel and edited and posted on the internet, to make the Tibetan people look like an uncontrolled mob.

These photos demonstrate that the vast majority of the Tibetans (hundreds, as opposed to two or three), handled the situation peacefully with great dignity. They simply smiled, folded palms and prepared khatags (prayer scarves) to greet their spiritual inspiration as he arrived at the auditorium.

Of course, the NKT did not capture these moments or report honestly on the behaviour of the majority of the attendees as this would impact their racist campaign to paint the Tibetans as a backward people.

They also refused to acknowledge that two announcements were made inside the Ahoy auditorium asking attendees of the teaching to remain composed when passing the protest site. This they would definitely have been aware of as NKT posted two monks, not wearing robes, inside the auditorium to ask HH Dalai Lama about the Shugden issue. Incidentally, the Dalai Lama replied in a rather polite and restrained fashion, despite the noisy protest that marred the atmosphere of his teaching.

My humble request is that the NKT immediately desist from trying to put down the culture of the Tibetan people at a time of unprecedented difficulty in their history. No cause is worth tarnishing an entire group of people with racist stereotypes.