Going back to my time in NKT from 1995–2000, I remember the point in 1996 when the Dalai Lama was introduced to me as being a bad person who “oppresses religious freedom”, as a politician who “mixes Dharma with politics“, who had no spiritual qualities whatsoever and who had “broken with his root guru”. At that time I still admired the Dalai Lama as a Bodhisattva, as Chenrezig in person. Although I had thrown my Dalai Lama book and a Dzogchen book into the garbage, having learned by the manipulative skills of my NKT teacher that these are not “pure Dharma” books, whereas “Geshe-la’s” (Kelsang Gyatso’s) books are “pure Dharma”, my veneration for the Dalai Lama was still there.
Such veneration wasn’t good for the protests. So my NKT teacher tried her best to convince me that the Dalai Lama was a very ordinary person. It was hard for her, but finally she succeeded. Along with the NKT information I was fed, she was so successful that I really hated the Dalai Lama. I couldn’t bear even to see a picture of him. I immediately felt repulsion and hostility, thinking “this man fools the whole world”. Not only this, I also was thinking that it would be better for the Dalai Lama to be killed because he harms so many sentient beings. I wondered: “Is it my task to kill him out of compassion?” After I left the NKT, it took me years to clear up my mind from these wrong views and projections against His Holiness.
During this process of indoctrination by the NKT, two German speaking TV broadcasts played a major role. They were shown to us to “give evidence” that the Dalai Lama was a “ruthless dictator” who “oppresses his own people”. These were the TV broadcast by DRS (SF 1) “10 vor 10″ of Switzerland TV “Bruderzwist zwischen Tibetern” (05. January 1998) and the TV broadcast by a major TV station in Germany PANORAMA of ARD “Verklärt, verkitscht – Hollywood feiert den Dalai Lama” (20. November 1997). You can find both of them on YouTube uploaded by the NKT or other Shugden groups. The former is being translated into English and both were used for the new NKT video Mr. McBretney (NKT/ICS) showed at SOAS. These broadcasts approved the claims of NKT and tried to convince the audience that indeed the Dalai Lama has a dark shadow that the world ignores.
I remember that while watching “Bruderzwist” from 05. January 98
when I saw and heard the old Tibetan monk who cried and said: “I would prefer to have died than to experience this” my mind was thinking ‘but why doesn’t he consider Karma, cause and effect? And why does he cling so much, that he feels pain?’
However, after we watched the documentary, there wasn’t space for an open discussion in the NKT centre, just instructions of why and how we must continue to organize the protests and attend them at different places.
What most English-speaking people don’t know about that documentary is that it was only part one of a five part TV series on Swiss TV SF1. This part one was considered – and is, in fact – a heavily biased part, which had led to a serious controversy in Switzerland. The TV Chief, Christoph Müller, had to excuse himself, saying in defense that they are only an “Infotainment-Magazine”, “we don’t make academic research.” The protests by Tibetans, the media and scientists forced the TV channel to re-investigate their claims, to consult academic experts and to send another broadcast that corrected most of the former claims. You won’t find this self-correction on YouTube with English subtitles, because it doesn’t support the aims of the proselytizing Shugden group that is very active on YouTube. (The full German version of this “self correction” by the TV channel can be found here.)
The self-correction by Swiss TV corrected and balanced all of their former TV contributions about this issue. It provided explanations from the Indian police – see the English transcript here – and it corrected some of the many misleading claims SF1 made in the first parts of their series which the NKT/WSS/Shugden groups have now spread all over the internet and YouTube. For instance, ex-Minister Mr. Kundeling says in this documentary
I don’t practice Shugden, hence I can’t be stabbed for practicing it, they claimed I would be stabbed by the Tibetan Government because I worship Shugden, this is not true, this is a lie.
The self-correction by SF1 also made it clear that the document about ten Shugden practitioners (hysterically announced by the organized Shugden groups as “The ten most hated enemies of the Dalai Lama” etc) was made on behalf of the Tibetan Parliament and was stamped as being “internal”. The reason for making this document was in response to the brutal killing of the Dalai Lama’s confident and Shugden critic Gen Lobsang Gyatso and two of his students (allegedly by Shugden practitioners). The Parliament made the document to investigate security risks for the Dalai Lama and who might be behind those brutal murders. The announcements of the Shugden practitioners’ names and faces in the public on posters was not spread by the government but leaked by a parliament member.
The moderator acknowledges that, according to the Indian police, there are “fanaticalizations” and “fundamental tendencies” among Shugden practitioners. The SF1 documentation makes clear that every society has a right to decide what is authentic and what violates their rights and that of course, if Shugden practitioners are elected into the government, this will be accepted. […]
However, the constant misinformation by NKT, together with these two one-sided documentaries (which are just propaganda, as a Tibetologist once said to me) were a key factor in convincing me that the NKT was right and the Dalai Lama and the world were wrong.
It was a hard process of more than 4 years after I left NKT to reconsider the validity and claims of all the information and broadcasts. For instance, I didn’t know that some leftist journalists (who often have a problem with religion and authority in general) were in favor of the distorted Shugden claims. They were obviously happy to write something bad about the Dalai Lama, misunderstanding propaganda with enlightenment (“Aufklärung”). This is also true for the well spread PANORAMA broadcast, which was also shown to myself and other NKT followers.
Some of the reporters and journalists who reported about the Shugden controversy in a one-sided way might have been driven by sensationalist greed or by underestimating the complexity of the issue, simply taking the claims of Shugden informants at face value.
However, PANORAMA (John Goetz and Jochen Graebert) topped the misinformation, because they incorporated the interviews with two academic experts, Prof Donald Lopez (USA) and Prof Jens-Uwe Hartmann (Germany), into their misrepresentation of the situation which lent their report more creditability. It was only around 2008 (11 years later) that I learned that both academic experts had distanced themselves from this documentary and what distortions and errors it contained. Prof. Hartmann wrote (unauthorized English translation of his German article):
In a report on Tibet on November 20, 1997 in the Panorama program [of German National TV Channel 1], the Dalai Lama was criticized for his stance in the conflict over the protective deity Dorje Shugden (rDo-rje shugs-ldan). The occasion for the broadcast was the latest Hollywood film on Heinrich Harrer’s stay in Tibet and the Tibet image conveyed in that film; and the presentation was characterized by a desire to scrutinize the “Tibet Myth” and especially the “Dalai Lama Myth” in relation to the reality and to reveal the discrepancies. To illuminate the contradictory nature of the person of the Dalai Lama, he was first introduced as the world’s most highly respected Nobel Peace Laureate, and then shown, in light of the Shugden conflict, as being an entirely different person behind this façade, namely that, together with the Tibetan government-in-exile, he uncompromisingly suppresses the religious freedom of his countrymen.
The show drew its effect from the skillfully constructed contrast. That this approach was mainly aimed to rouse emotion in the viewers, and less on informing critically and emotion-free is a common feature nowadays for all such television magazines and tells something about the general information culture even within the Public Broadcasting Services. However, another thing was the tendentious handling of facts, which was aimed at creating as sensational an impact as possible. Although the editors of the program knew the facts and had the background information, the inclusion of these would have necessitated a much more positive view of the Dalai Lama and, as such, they were left aside in order not to jeopardize the “emotion targeting” effect. This is unfair sensationalist journalism.
As I now know from numerous conversations with viewers, there were misunderstandings not only because of the one-sidedness of the report, but also because of the blurred depiction of individual facts. As such, the viewers got the impression that the murder of Geshe Losang Gyatsho and his two students in Dharamsala earlier that year had been perpetrated by the pro-Dalai Lama faction, as they did not clearly express in the report that the Geshe was a close confidant of the Dalai Lama supporting his position in the Shugden conflict.
In July Prof. Jens-Uwe Hartmann wrote an updated version of his 1997 article and this is now online and has been translated into English (note his clear statement at the end about this broadcast):
- The Dalai Lama and the Shugden Cult: What Is at Stake in This Conflict? by Jens-Uwe Hartmann
It was information and academic papers such as these that helped me to make up my own mind about Shugden. And I am very happy that I found them and that I could re-investigate all of the information I received – not only from the NKT, but also from Shugden lamas such as the self-proclaimed (or fake) Kundeling Lama (Lobsang Yeshi) [note there is an officially recognized, genuine, Kundeling Rinpoche], Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche and some of their students.
In 2008, there were two similar documentaries by Al Jazeera, The Dalai Lama: The devil within and France 24 TV, The Dalai Lama’s demon which repeated similar to the Swiss SF1 TV documentary and the German Panorama documentary distorted claims of proselytizing Shugden groups (e.g. 4 million practitioners).
I would like to encourage any open minded person and those in NKT, those who have left the NKT or who are wondering about all of this, to take time to thoroughly investigate the claims being made by using reasons based on facts. It’s worth doing it. Your mind will come to peace and you will enjoy certainty and confidence about these matters.
Last edited by tenpel August 30, 2014 at 09:55 pm