Tibet’s Mystic Politics: Review of The Dalai Lama and the King Demon by Raimondo Bultrini

There is now a review of Raimondo Bultrini’s Shugden book The Dalai Lama and the King Demon – Tracking a Triple Murder Mystery Through the Mists of Time“  in the Huffington Post: “Tibet’s Mystic Politics: Review of The Dalai Lama and the King Demon by Raimondo Bultrini

The review addresses some important issues like the missing of an analysis of the Western movement behind the protests, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and his New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). The journalist, , is one of those very rare journalists that is well informed. Here an excerpt of her review dealing with some of the protagonists:

There are a number of interesting dialogues with leading Shugden personalities such as Ganchen Tulku and Kundeling Rinpoche. Significantly absent, however, is the highly influential Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who heads the New Kadampa Tradition that runs over 500 centers around the world. We never get to hear the personal perspective of ordinary Tibetan Shugden practitioners, either lay or monastic, whom Bultrini characterizes as “pawns” in the dispute.

Another omission is any substantial analysis of the Western Shugden Buddhists, who curiously have emerged as a well-funded and vocal lobby in what previously was a purely Tibetan domain. The Shugden Supporters Community, the Freedom Foundation, and, more recently, the International Shugden Community (ISC) are all fronts for the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), who make the highly implausible claim of 4 million Shugden followers worldwide. Bultrini’s inquiry would have benefited from an interview with American ISC spokesperson Rebecca Gauthier, for example, who, in between posts about “stress-busting” salad dressings, tweets things like “10 SIMPLE reasons why Dorje Shugden is a Buddha and NOT a spirit” and “The Dalai Lama is NOT REAL: find out why here.”

The review isn’t shy to make judgements and it includes also recent developments:

The attacks on the Dalai Lama by the Shugdenites, particularly by Westerners, are cultish, paranoid and extreme. While accusing him of religious discrimination, they themselves maintain a far less ecumenical approach by pressuring their own followers to not engage in Nyingma practices. But the Tibetan government’s response has been less than skillful, with incendiary speeches that have been easily interpreted as encouraging violence. Most recently, the Central Tibetan Administration has made public a “blacklist” of Tibetan Shugdenites. Dorje Shugden is either a malevolent spirit or an enlightened being, depending upon whom you ask (and the book title is revealing of the author’s own bias), but the “Shugden effect” in terms of both Tibetan society and the Tibetan cause appears to consist solely of damage. None of it seems particularly Buddhist.

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However, Rebecca Novick misses the point, when stating: “In 2008 the Tibetan leadership ordered the monasteries in South India to purge their populations of Shugden devotees. Monks who had formerly lived like brothers were now forbidden to talk to one another.” In fact she demonstrates that she doesn’t understand the Vinaya procedure for settling disputes and the events that led to the majority vote in the monasteries to ban that practice from their places – which is their very right to do. Such decisions cannot be ordered (see stick vote) and they are democratic. It is also incorrect to state that “monks who had formerly lived like brothers were now forbidden to talk to one another” because there was no prohibition to talk to each other nor did they live like brothers with each other, in fact, there were a lot of tensions which were aimed to be solved and settled by majority vote.

Ignoring history and facts, Shugden followers and NKT/ICS spokesperson Len Foley claim wrongly in the comment section: “… using the term “Dolgyal” in a book title is offensive to me, as a Shugden practitioner, and should be offensive to anyone who doesn’t appreciate religious slurs being so callously used in public.” Foley and his misinformed NKT fellows don’t understand that Dolgyal was a common but less exalted name for Shugden even used by the strongest Shugden proponent, Pabongkha Rinpoche (see Dreyfus’ research):

If we look at earlier mentions, however, we can see that Shuk-den also appears under another and less exalted name, i.e., as (Dol Gyel (dol rgyal).Even Pa-bong-ka calls him in this way when he says: “The wooden implements (i.e., crate) having been thrown in the water, the pond of Dol became whitish. After abiding there, he became known for a while as (Dol-gyel).”[23] This name helps us to understand how Shuk-den was considered in the earlier period, that is, as a troublesome but minor spirit, an interpretation confirmed by the explanations concerning Drak-ba Gyel-tsen’s reincarnation.

The name (Dol Gyel) is quite interesting, for it yields a possible explanation of the origin of Shuk-den. It suggests that originally Shuk-den had a close regional connection with the area of the Tsang-po and the Yar-lung valleys where the pond of Dol lies. There, Shuk-den/ Dol-gyel was considered a (gyel po (rgyal po)), that is, the dangerous red-spirit of a religious person, who had died after falling from his monastic vows or had been killed in troubling circumstances.[24] Shuk-den/ Dol Gyel would then be a spirit from Southern Tibet, potentially troublesome like other red-spirits. No wonder then that his identification with Drak-ba Gyel-tsen was rejected by the latter’s followers as an insult to this important and unfortunate lama.

The article by Rebecca Novick describes also how China takes advantage of the situation

Chinese authorities in Tibet have been quick to take advantage of the situation, knocking down statues sacred to followers of the Nyingma and erecting statues of Dorje Shugden. The Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama (as opposed to the one acknowledged by the Dalai Lama and the majority of Tibetans) finds support among key Shugden leaders, and Bultrini asserts that a number of Shugden projects are funded directly from Beijing.

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