GUEST POST by Carol McQuire
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.