The White Shadow of the Dalai Lama

Some people from China – especially some communist “concrete heads”, far left wing people, pro Shugden campaigners and a few uninformed journalists or blogger claim a shadow side of the Dalai Lama.

Personally I have nothing against pointing out shadow sides or things which should be addressed. But what they say about the Dalai Lama is often a projection of their own shadows than being based on a real shadow side of the Dalai Lama or just facts and sober knowledge.

In the following guest post Joanne Clark sums up some points worth to consider.

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

It has impressed me that Shugden websites describe this person they call the “hidden Dalai Lama.” I am impressed because I follow the visible Dalai Lama, listening daily to his teachings, talks and conferences and I am awed by how any man can fit all that he does into one lifetime—yet now I am being told that he can fit even more! I would expect that during those hours that I don’t see of the Dalai Lama, he would need to be resting. But no, according to the Shugden websites, there is this “shadow” Dalai Lama who can fit an entire other lifetime in, complete with secret strategies and agendas, and he doesn’t need any rest! At the same time, they claim he is not an enlightened being!

To demonstrate my confusion, I would like to simply present a few of the facts that are clearly visible about the Dalai Lama. He is arguably the most visible and transparent individual on earth. There are literally thousands of hours of talks, interviews, teachings, conferences, photos, speech transcripts, books and random video clips of His Holiness in action in the world. I once even saw a video of him brushing his teeth!

Not only is he transparent, but he is definitely the most consistent individual I have ever known. Sometimes, for a follower such as myself, it can be a little boring listening to the same message again and again, the same stories and jokes. I have seen him jetlagged and badgered, but I have never seen him stray from who he is. Surely if there was this other “hidden” Dalai Lama, he would show up in the cracks now and then, show up under pressure or extreme fatigue?

I am concerned that the strategy of the Shugden camp is to repeat their fallacies about the Dalai Lama again and again, on many different websites, in order to create an illusion that these fallacies are true and widespread. Over time, I have noticed that even assertions that can be clearly refuted by evident fact are becoming assumptions amongst NKT students. So to counter that, I am providing the following list of evident facts about the Dalai Lama. These are not things that need to be proven or argued about. They are simply clearly evident facts. Hopefully, wise and reflective NKT students can pause a moment and ask themselves if all that they are hearing about a “hidden” Dalai Lama can be true. That’s all I ask, simply for a moment of reflection and pause.

  1. His Holiness is no longer the political leader of Tibet. He fully relinquished that role in 2011. Before that, he was in “semi-retirement”, meaning that he was in the role only of an advisor. He has been working towards the democratization of the Tibetan government for many years. Does he advise on political matters still? I see no evidence of that. If you read his speech on retirement, it is clear that his interest is now solely on his spiritual responsibilities. He has also said on many occasions that he believes that combining spiritual and political powers is not a good thing.
  2. His Holiness takes no money for teachings or talks. Teachings in India are free and Tibetan tea and bread are generously served to attendees. Proceeds for events overseas are used to cover the expenses of his visit. Any excess is used by the host sponsors either for charitable purposes or to further their own mission. If you want to donate to His Holiness, you will be redirected by his website to the Dalai Lama Trust: This is a non-profit charity, supporting many causes. In 2013, the trust contributed $50,000 to the Red Cross to support typhoon relief efforts in the Phillipines and $1,250,000 to the Emory-Tibet Science Partnership. In 2012, the trust contributed $1,510,000 to support science partnership projects in the West, including $1,250,000 to the Mind and Life Institute in Hadley, Mass. In that year, $10,000 went to the Tibet Fund in New York and $84,350 went to the Tibetan Village project in Westminster, Colorado.
  3. As evidenced by his generous donations, His Holiness is passionately interested in dialogue between science and contemplative traditions. His interest is based on the belief that contemplative traditions have much to learn from science and science has much to learn from contemplative traditions. There are hours of conferences with panels of leading scientists in discussion with His Holiness on webcasts available on his website ( His Holiness spends most of the time during those conferences listening to scientists report on findings and asking questions. The topic is always grounded on themes of altruism and mindfulness.
  4. Resulting from these conferences are several projects that His Holiness is very enthusiastic about. These include bringing altruism/secular ethics as a subject and discipline into schools around the world—and bringing Western science as a subject and discipline into Tibetan monastic institutions.
  5. In addition to this commitment to human values, His Holiness is also committed to the promotion of religious harmony. Towards this end, he meets with religious leaders around the world, visits different religious temples and mosques, prays and chants side by side with other religious practitioners. He teaches frequently on the sameness of all religions in terms of their emphasis on human values of love, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness.
  6. I have listened to many hours of his teachings and talks and conferences. I have never heard him speak about Geshe Kelsang or the NKT. He does speak about lamas misbehaving, but does not specifically name any lama. He speaks about Shugden only when asked a direct question about the practice or when he is about to give an initiation (in which case, he requests that Shugden practitioners not attend). On both these occasions, he calmly gives his extensive reasons for discouraging worship of Shugden and for his belief that Shugden worship limits religious freedom. Citations of these reasons can be found on this website and his own website.
  7. Every time His Holiness teaches in the West, he advises attendees that it is safer to keep to their own traditional religions and he discourages them from conversion. He has many friends and followers from other religious traditions. He never propagates Buddhism—but he does propagate altruism!
  8. His Holiness teaches from Buddha, Tsongkhapa, Nagarjuna, Shantideva and Kamalashila frequently. These are clearly his favorite teachers. He says frequently that the Tibetan tradition is the Nalanda tradition and that we need to base our practice and study on those scholars of ancient India. This is the basis of his non-sectarian approach—returning to the root and foundation of all the Tibetan traditions and lineages. He has books out on Dzogchen and Mahamudra, but he does not teach extensively from traditions other than Gelug.
  9. His Holiness requests that students have copies of the root texts that he is teaching from. He will ask during teachings if they have brought their copies. Often these texts are provided. I attended a teaching on the Bodhicharyavatara in New York and attendees were given copies of the entire text.
  10. His Holiness states many times that students need to be “21st century Buddhists” and be well read. By this he means studying from a broad base of Buddhist texts as well as reading scientific and other modern texts. He encourages students to investigate and question, even their own teachers if necessary. He quotes Tsongkhapa and the Buddha—and cites stories from past masters such as Atisha—to support this approach.
  11. Yes, His Holiness “hobnobs” with the rich and famous. He also communicates with and never forgets the poor and destitute. There are stories of him making sure to meet with the employees of his hotels and teaching venues. There are photos of him with those employees. I have also seen pictures of him stopping his car in order to give to a beggar. I have seen him lovingly touching the face of a lepper. I have heard that most Tibetans who make the dangerous trip over mountain passes to leave Tibet receive an audience with His Holiness upon arriving in India. I sponsor a nun who spent some years in a Chinese prison before escaping Tibet. She is just an ordinary nun, but received an audience with His Holiness upon her arrival in India. I believe he is the most accessible of all the Dalai Lamas.
  12. When I attend his teachings, talks and conferences, I sit beside Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. All of them are deeply moved by his presence. Some of them weep. Some of them rush up to the stage to touch his hand after the event. Some of them call out “I love you.” These are people in the thousands and they are not going crazy, because they leave more grounded in reality and basic human values than they were when they came in. I have communicated with some of these people afterwards. These emotional experiences do not make them abject followers of His Holiness. They don’t cause them to become crazy. Nor do they lead them to become Buddhists. Rather, they make them more interested in their inner values, less interested in material gain and more kind to their fellow human being. Simple things. These are clearly what motivate the visible Dalai Lama.

See also