This incredible website, Dorje Shugden History, engages in a precise and scholarly examination of the writings of past lamas to reconstruct the history of Dorje Shugden practce. Kalsang Trinley’s website properly cites all sources and thus empowers the reader to independently verify the validity of these sources. This is truly a kindness as there is a lot of misinformation and manipulated information out there on the internet. For an earnest seeker of the truth this website will certainly deliver much insight into the present situation.
Please check out this well informed article, “A Sakya Tale”, which describes how Sakya lineage holders relied upon Dorje Shugden to preserve their precious Tantric lineages.
In analyzing the recent catastrophic failures in the American political system Al Gore analyzes the importance of separation of church and state in warding off abuses of power. I find some of his analysis is particularly relevant to the Dalai Lama’s recent actions in banning the prayer to Dorje Shugden and the abuses of power that have accompanied that ban.
“[Our Founders] were also keenly aware of the thin and permeable boundary between religious fervor and power-seeking political agendas. “A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction,” wrote James Madison, but the new American nation would nevertheless be protected against the ungovernable combination of religious fervor and political power as long as the Constitution prohibited the federal government from establishing any particular creed as preeminent.
The separation of church and state was thus based not only on the Founders’ insights into fear, faith, and reason, but also on their new awareness of the nature of power. They understood that the love of power can become so intoxicating that it overwhelms reason. It was actually this distrust of concentrated power that led them not only to separate organized religion from the exercise of governmental authority, but also to separate the powers of the national government into three coequal branches and embed each in a complex web of checks and balances designed to further prevent the aggregation of too much power in any one branch. (The Assault on Reason, p49-50)”
Now those in the west who have fallen in love with the Dalai Lama’s ecumenical philosophy have been lulled into thinking that it is okay to impose this ecumenical philosophy on others; and have become incompetent to discern what might motivate someone to force a religious view on others. Now if you haven’t been following this blog you might counter that the Dalai Lama isn’t forcing his view on anyone. Please read the first few installments of this blog for hard evidence in video format of the Dalai Lama praising the ban on Dorje Shugden prayer and promoting it as his own.
In this article I will be looking at how the Dalai Lama’s actions (as well as those of the Tibetan Government in Exile) in banning Dorje Shugden are political in nature and are functioning to degenerate Tibetan Buddhism into a pro-Tibet political faction. We can observe this phenomenon in the language used by the Tibetan Government in Exile in promoting the ban on Dorje Shugden prayer:
“After 20 years of painstaking research and investigation, His Holiness the Dalai Lama found that the propitiation of this spirit by the Tibetan people harms the Tibetan national cause and endangers his own personal security. Therefore, he has urged the Tibetan people to stop propitiating this spirit.” ( Read source article )
“However, some people have continued to propitiate Dolgyal, either because they failed to appreciate the threat it poses to the Tibetan cause or because they have decided to disregard it. There are yet others who not only propitiate Dolgyal themselves, but also actively encouraged others to follow suit. This has impaired the sacred relationship between the people of Tibet and their protector-deities. Today, this is one of the greatest dangers to the cause of Tibet and the life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” (Read Source from TGIE website )
There is something deeply problematic about this simplistic reduction of a profoundly religious subject into terms of “harming the national cause of Tibet” because it is a politically loaded statement given all the pro-Tibet and anti-China rhetoric pervading the Tibetan community and Western media.
It is saying quite explicitly that the prayer to Dorje Shugden harms the Tibetan nation which pits the pro-Tibet political movement against the people who pray to Dorje Shugden. The implication here is that the people who pray to Dorje Shugden are a member of a political faction — the anti-Tibet faction. Evidence that this is the message being taken to heart is clearly demonstrated by what happened after the Dalai Lama’s talk at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on July 17th
The New York Times reported:
“About 200 members of a Buddhist sect, the Western Shugden Society, were outside the hall protesting the Dalai Lama, who they said had persecuted monks who supported the sect. Some among the thousands coming out of the lecture began shouting at the protesters. The crowd began to swell, and eventually thousands were shouting “Long Live Dalai Lama” and waving dollar bills at the protesters, asserting that they had been paid by the Chinese government.” (Read source article )
So if you disagree with the Dalai Lama’s views on the Dorje Shugden practice, which I should highlight is a prayer — the implication being drawn here is that you are against the Tibetan national cause and must be on the Chinese Government payroll. Why should one’s religious beliefs necessarily determine one’s political allegiances? If you disagree with the Dalai Lama on the subject of a prayer why does that make you against the Tibetan cause?
We can see from this example why the Tibetan Government is characterizing the Dalai Lama’s religious views as a political ideology — because it incites a nationalistic response in the masses which is functioning to exclude all those who do not share the Dalai Lama’s religious views.
The marriage of political and spiritual agendas is something that the Dalai Lama is invested in and is central to his political ideology. He is invested in it of course because it is the very basis for his qualification as leader of the Tibetan people. Quoting the Dalai Lama’s older brother Thubten Jigme Norbu (Tibet, p323):
“I also believe that our system’s greatest strength comes from the undisputed leadership of the Gyalwa Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama); but this is an act of faith that must be difficult to understand. Others in our government can be weak, but never our highest authority, for he is the reincarnation of Chenresig, the embodiment of perfection and enlightenment. It is pointless to criticize the Tibetan system without considering and allowing this faith, for without it the whole system becomes a mockery.”
Now I am a Buddhist and so I am a student of faith, but I disagree with Norbu’s usage of the word faith. Buddha discriminated between blind faith and faith that is based on reason; the difference being that the latter would not ignore contradictions with observable facts and manifest evidence. So in my understanding a Buddhist interpretation of faith does not try to hide contradictions with the truth, in fact due to actually having some degree of faith one would be courageous enough to challenge the assumptions upon which that faith is founded knowing that if the faith was well placed it would hold water.
So for me I do not believe that having faith in the Dalai Lama means never questioning his actions, quite the opposite. If the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of Chenresig then surely we should be able to discuss his actions using the rule of reason to scrutinize his actions and his good qualities would shine through. If we start calling everyone who disagrees with the Dalai Lama a fundamentalist or a Chinese agent, we are doing the Dalai Lama and in truth all of Tibetan society a disservice. And of course in this instance because people are being denied access to monasteries, hospitals, and food there is good reason to bring the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden prayer into question.
As Michael Backman noted in the Age on June 5th:
“Why is the Dalai Lama so hell-bent on moving against Shugden supporters? A reason might be that he genuinely believes Shugden worship is wrong. Another seems to derive from his desire to unite the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism – the Nyngma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelugpa. This has always been one of the Dalai Lama’s problems. He is not the head of Buddhism; he is not even the head of Tibetan Buddhism. Traditionally, the Dalai Lamas are from the Gelugpa sect. But since leaving Tibet, the current Dalai Lama has sought to speak for all Tibetans”
Because the Dalai Lama’s influence is based on his spiritual authority he is at a loss with respect to the Kagyus, Nyingmas, and Sakyas because he himself is a Gelugpa. As Norbu notes: “While not denying the validity of the other school, each believes that its own emphasis is the most important” (Tibet, p233). To forge new spiritual relationships with the other traditions, particularly certain Nyingma lamas, the Dalai Lama has had to denounce the practice of Dorje Shugden which is the Dharma protector practice meant to protect Je Tsongkhapa’s Oral Lineage from being mixed with other traditions. So what we have here is the Dalai Lama making religious policy for political purposes.
What is this political purpose?
It is the protection of an extremist ideology that views the Dalai Lama as the sole hope for Tibet’s future. It is the view that the Dalai Lama and the future of the Tibetan people are inextricably intertwined. Referring to Norbu’s quote from above, it can even mean that the Dalai Lama is the saving grace of the Tibetan people. I have observed this view in many of the people casting negative aspersions towards Dorje Shugden practitioners. It is a phenomenon also revealed in Robert Thurman’s latest book “Why the Dalai Lama Matters.” For this ideology to achieve dominance the Dalai Lama needs a coalition of support from all four Tibetan Buddhist traditions. To remove any barriers to this coalition the Dalai Lama banned the prayer of Dorje Shugden and is engaging in a systematic campaign to destroy it. This highlights the dangers of a unified church and state.
Thomas Jefferson had great insight into this as Al Gore notes:
“Jefferson wrote that throughout history, the state-sanctioned religious authority ‘has been hostile to liberty.’ He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own.” (The Assault on Reason, p46)
The fact that the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile have been able to subject the Tibetan populace to an oath swearing campaign, whereby they promise not to engage in prayer to Dorje Shugden or have dealings with anyone who does, harkens back to the religious persecution in England during the 17th century whereby religious uniformity was mandated by the state.
That this oath swearing campaign initiated by the Dalai Lama has bypassed our conscience and our concept of religious freedom as an unalienable human right is a sign of a deeper crisis that has emerged in the Tibetan and Buddhist Community.
It is a crisis that has arisen in part because the Dalai Lama is appealing to something quite unrelated to reason.
In video footage aired by Al Jazeera on Sept 30th the Dalai Lama says:
“I used to worship Shugden. The spirit was very fond of me. However, I realised it was a mistake. So I stopped. Recently monasteries have fearlessly expelled Shugden monks where needed. I fully support their actions. I praise them. If monasteries find taking action hard, tell them the Dalai Lama is responsible for this. Shugden followers have resorted to killing and beating people. They start fires. And tell endless lies. This is how the Shugden behave. It is no good.” Click here to view source footage.
In the same video Samdong Rinpoche the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile says:
“A lot of Shugden perpetrators are becoming terrorists and that they are willing to kill anybody. They are willing to beat up anybody. It is very clear that now people who are propitiating Shugden are very close to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) leadership. That is clear.”
So by characterizing Dorje Shugden practitioners as killers and thugs with links to the People’s Republic of China the Dalai Lama and Samdong Rinpoche are appealing to some of the deepest fears that Tibetan people have. This is quite dangerous because by appealing to these fears allows the Dalai Lama to dismiss any evidence of wrongdoing in the name of protecting the Tibetan people. This is very similar to what is happening in American society. In the wake of September 11th, the Bush Administration has used the politics of fear to wage war on an enemy that didn’t pose any threat to us (as we now know Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda and no WMD). By subscribing to fear based politics we are eliminating the role of fact-based reasoning in the proceedings. This phenomena is described so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson:
“Throughout history, our innate fear of others-who-are-different-from-us has combined all too frequently with some malignant dogma, masquerading as a message from God, to unleash the most horrific violence and oppression in the repertoire of hell. Moreover this deadly form of exclusivist group passion can be virtually invulnerable to reason. So it is especially useful to demagogues who learn how to fan it and exploit it to gain and consolidate power…
…Having replaced the divine right of kings with the divine rights of individuals, our Founders overthrew the monarchy and designed a self-government according to the structures of reason. And they took special care to insulate the ongoing deliberations of democracy against the recombination of fear and dogma, by guarding against any effort by government to establish in law any trace of divine justification for the exercise of power.” (The Assault on Reason, p48)
So what we have here is the divine right of the Dalai Lama versus the rights of individuals to practice the prayer of their choosing.
In the Al Jazeera segment the interviewer asks Tsultrim Tenzin, MP in the Tibetan Government in Exile, if the Tibetan Parliament debated the Dorje Shugden issue He replies:
“There was no argument. If there was some opposition, then there will be some argument, but there is no opposition. We do not have any doubt about the Dalai Lama’s decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He is a supreme human being, and he is god, he is Avalokiteshvara, he has no interest [in] himself, he always thinks of others. Everybody is happy. Our system is everybody is happy. There is democracy, full democracy. Everyone can experience whatever he likes”
Thomas Jefferson could not have scripted a better example as to why the divine right of kings and the divine right of individuals are incompatible governing principles. Surely Tsultrim’s nonsensical assessment that everyone is happy is callous and insensitive to those monks who are being expelled from their monasteries because of their practice of the Dorje Shugden prayer. Surely it is lunatic reasoning for those people who have been forced to flee from their homes under threat of violence because of their practice of this prayer. But the lack of interest in these crimes by the TGIE is indicative of the Tibetan thought process. The Dalai Lama is god therefore his decisions must be correct. Unfortunately this holds even if in reality they are harming others.
This divine right of the Dalai Lama in the eyes of the TGIE is allowing a bending of the law that makes a mockery of any sense of truth and justice. How can Tsultrim Tenzin say there is no opposition when on their own website, http://www.tibet.com it says:
“An organization, called Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society, has been spreading a great deal of misinformation, alleging that the Tibetan Administration in exile is persecuting the devotees of a certain spirit, known as Dholgyal, otherwise known as Shugden.” (Read source article )
But this is politics Tibetan style. So instead of granting the opposition a voice in the government what it does is re-categorize the opposition as a fringe and fanatical element of society and then turn around and say that there is no political opposition. Guess again. In fact the Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society have filed a lawsuit against the Dalai Lama and the TGIE for violations of basic human rights in the Delhi High Court of India having no other political recourse with their own government.
As their lawyer Shree Sanjay Jain says:
“It is certainly a case of religious discrimination in the sense that if within your sect of religion you say that this particular deity ought not to be worshipped, and those persons who are willing to worship him you are trying to excommunicate them from the main stream of Buddhism, then it is discrimination of the worst kind.”
Following the media coverage of the protests against the Dalai Lama by the Western Shugden Society one inevitably comes across a very basic contradiction. On the one hand, here is this Buddhist group protesting the ban on Dorje Shugden practice, and on the other hand there is the world’s generally accepted “face” of Buddhism, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, along with representatives of the Tibetan Government in Exile, saying there is no ban.
So what exactly is going on?
We can all agree that the Dalai Lama doesn’t like the practice of Dorje Shugden and that he has his stated reasons for disapproving of it. Leaving these reasons for future debate, the intention here is to focus on whether or not the Dalai Lama is using his position as a political leader to ban Dorje Shugden prayer, which is clearly a religious practice.
This is an important point for investigation because the Dalai Lama declares publicly that he is not banning the practice, merely advising against it because it is not “Buddhist in nature.”
“In a BBC interview, the Dalai Lama said he had not advocated a ban, but he had stopped the worship of the spirit because it was not Buddhist in nature. The exiled Tibetan leader said people were free to protest and it was up to individuals to decide.”
(BBC News 2008, Click here for source article)
Factually speaking, the consequence of this statement is that those speaking up about the ban on Dorje Shugden prayer by the Dalai Lama are being routinely discredited, and the documented crimes and abuses that they are protesting against are being disregarded as non-existent. Politics has a long history of employing such tactics. If a fact is denied often enough and loud enough and by enough people (especially if a weighty figure of authority lends his or her voice to the dismissal), the fact eventually becomes generally viewed as a falsehood. [Question: How many Iraqi nationals were on the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center buildings?]
I have nothing against the Dalai Lama personally, and I possess no abiding need to defame him, but I do have to say, Dalai Lama, “Your pants are on fire!” In a speech the Dalai Lama made at a Tibetan University in Southern India January 2008:
“I have meditated and considered (my decision to put aside the Shugden) at length in my soul and spirit before coming to the right decision”, he said. People have killed, lied, fought each other and set things alight in the name of this deity. These monks must be expelled from all monasteries. If they are not happy, you can tell them that the Dalai Lama himself asked that this be done, and it is very urgent.”
For more quotes and translations of speeches given by the Dalai Lama where he bans the practice of Dorje Shugden please refer to:
It is through words that we reveal our mind and our heart. A cool-headed assessment of the words of the Dalai Lama on this subject reveal quite a complexity of ‘truths’ about what this revered leader is actually saying and actually meaning.
Much of the confusion that has presently developed in the Tibetan diaspora and within the Buddhist community surrounding the Dorje Shugden issue is a result of these contradictory messages, because there is, quite plainly, a ban. And a severe ban at that. The free flow of information is crucial to the ability of human beings to use reason in order to make correct decisions about what the proper course of action is in any situation. This is one of the guiding principles of a qualified democracy; that the free flow of information to the masses via the press, will lead to an organic system of checks and balances wherein the actions of the government can be scrutinized by the reason and intelligence of the populace. We see all too often that when governments seek to distort, censor, and manufacture the information that is fed to the populace, this natural immune system against political despotism shuts down because of course there is no basis for rational discourse.
The Dalai Lama’ s wordplay in the matter of his clearly intended ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden is no different. Ultimately it is the Tibetan society and the Buddhist community as a whole that suffer as a result of any manipulation of information by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE). In the face of such manipulations, public forums even for discussing the pros and cons of the policies become increasingly crippled, and even vanish altogether. An honest argument can only be built on facts. Distort – or remove – the facts, and healthy discourse ceases. Meaningful discourse ceases. Essentially, manipulation of ‘facts’ is the means of manipulating an entire populace. Muddy the waters sufficiently, and uncertainty and confusion as to what are the actual policies and intentions of the government are the guaranteed resut.
This confusion can be highlighted by the following example.
John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group that promotes human rights for Tibet, said that the Dalai Lama had discussed the issue in a question-and-answer session after an address Monday at Lehigh University.
“He’s really trying to create an atmospheric tolerance around this by saying . . . that he thinks the worship of Shugden is inadvisable and harmful,” Ackerly said. “But he says people can worship it or not. That’s their choice. There’s nothing that should befall anyone who chooses to do so… People have the right to demonstrate, and the important thing is that there really needs to be an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance,” Ackerly said. “To my knowledge, there is no tolerance for any discrimination, and certainly nothing that says in writing that followers in Shugden should be excluded [from anything].”
Well, that was Lehigh. Clearly John Ackerly didn’t hear the Dalai Lama’s speech quoted above where he says “These monks must be expelled from all monasteries.” In fact Ackerly’s statement is perfectly in-line with the misinformation put forth in the BBC interview where the Dalai Lama says “he had not advocated a ban.” This highlights the basic problem that is created by this misinformation; the public’s perception of the Dalai Lama’s policies are the exact opposite of what his actual policies are. In this environment how is one to determine whether or not the Dalai Lama is governing in an ethical and humane fashion?
How are we to question, or even discuss, His Holiness’s leadership of the Tibetan people, not to mention Buddhist practitioners worldwide? It seems to me that the implication of the don’t-question-him mindset falls under the very scary category of “divine justification for the exercise of power.” The Buddha himself certainly never advocated such a truth-killing notion. After all it was Buddha who said “Do not accept my teachings simply because I am called Buddha.” Unfortunately in our current environment, the Dalai Lama’s well-tended spiritual stature serves to stifle discourse to the point where it is deemed inappropriate simply to raise a dissenting voice.
If one looks, it doesn’t take much to see the layers of deception taking place. In addition to denying that the ban on Dorje Shugden practice exists there is a consistent campaign by the Dalai Lama and the TGIE to discredit the idea that the government is responsible for the ban. (although in doing so it is discrediting its first assertion that there is no ban).
For example, in a Time Magazine Online article on July 18, 2008 (Click here to see source article):
“Tashi Wangdi, the Dalai Lama’s American representative, denied the allegations. “I have heard about the [I.D.s],” he said. “But as far as official policy goes, there’s no discrimination.” Regarding the oath to give no assistance, he said, “I am sure that no Tibetan government administration office has asked anyone to sign this document.” However, he notes, “It is within the rights of individual organizations to have conditions that they stipulate for members.”
This quote from Tashi Wangdi clearly distances the Dalai Lama and the TGIE from the ban, portraying it as the activity of “individual organizations.” Once again I have to say: “Tashi Wangdi, your pants are on fire!” The following is an excerpt from the TGIE website:
“In sum, the departments, their branches and subsidiaries, monasteries and their branches that are functioning under the administrative control of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile should be strictly instructed, in accordance with the rules and regulations, not to indulge in the propitiation of Shugden.” http://www.tibet.com/dholgyal/CTA-book/chapter-3-1.html
The government departments, monasteries, and their branches where these practices are prohibited are under the control of the Tibetan Government in Exile. The irony (the inconsistency; the willful manipulation of facts) is that the Tibetan Government website claims there is no ban, no abuse of human rights, and that they are merely discouraging the practice. But then on the very same web page they “strictly instruct” people to “not indulge in the propitiation of Shugden.” Let me translate that into English for you:
There is a ban.
The purpose of this article is to examine whether or not the recent actions of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama with respect to the practice of Dorje Shugden are in accordance with the Vinaya, Buddha’s Code of Conduct. My intention here is not to engage in hurtful speech or divisive speech but rather to investigate the Dorje Shugden dispute through the lens of the Vinaya with a wish to determine which of the two opposing views on this practice is in accord with the Dharma. In particular, the Dalai Lama has initiated referendums at each of the great Gelugpa monasteries on this issue and my efforts here are focused on checking the validity of these referendums.
During a speech made by the Dalai Lama in January 8th 2008 at Drepung Loseling Monastery (transcript from Voice of America) he said:
“In the Vinaya rules also, when there is a contentious issue, the monks take vote-sticks and decide, as mentioned in the seven methods of resolving conflict. In contemporary democratic practice, there is such a thing as ‘referendum’, ‘consulting the majority’. The matter has now reached this point of consulting what the majority wants. Therefore, when you return to your respective places after this programme at Loseling Monastery, put these questions:
1. Whether you want to worship Dholgyal. This is the first question. Those who want to worship, should sign saying they wish to worship Dholgyal; those who don’t want, should sign saying that [they] don’t want to.
2. ‘[Whether] we want to share the religious and material amenities of life with Dholgyal worshippers.’ You should sign saying so. ‘We do not want to share religious and material amenities of life with Dholgyal worshippers.’ (You should) sign saying so.'”
The particular section of the Vinaya to which the Dalai Lama is referring , known as “The Seven Methods for Resolving Conflict”, is the scriptural basis for the referendums at the great Gelugpa monasteries of Sera, Ganden, and Drepung. I decided to study these instructions to discern whether or not those procedures are being followed. As I proceeded I was shocked to find that the protocols laid out by Buddha on how to handle such conflicts are being completely ignored by both the Dalai Lama and the abbots of those monasteries. In fact, the particular translation and commentary I referenced for this article offered many instructions that, if followed sincerely, would ease much of the suffering being endured by practitioners on both sides of this issue.
For the sake of readability and in the interest of space I will not insert all seven methods for resolving conflict here. I have based this article in its entirety upon The Buddhist Monastic Code, Volume I: The Patimokkha Training Rules Translated and Explained, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Thanissaro Bhikkhu for this work as I would be unable to investigate the scriptural validity of these referendums without his kindness in composing this work. In this instance it is not ideal to use the Pali translation of the Vinaya Pitaka because it would not be the translation that the Dalai Lama himself would follow. However, after some consideration, I realized that the violations of the protocols laid out by Buddha in the Pali translation of the Vinaya Pitaka would be reasonable objections to the referendums even if they were not mentioned in the Tibetan translations, thus I decided to compose this article.
The main reason why I didn’t use one of the Tibetan translations is that I could not find them translated into English. If you have access to a translation of these seven methods for resolving conflict from the Kangyur and Tangyur I would love to study those, please pass them along.
The particular method in question is method #5 which I have copied below.
“5. Acting in accordance with the majority. This refers to cases in which bhikkhus are unable to settle a dispute unanimously, even after all the proper procedures are followed, and – in the words of the Canon – are “wounding one another with weapons of the tongue.” In cases such as these, decisions can be made by majority vote.
Such a vote is valid if –
1. The issue is important
2. The procedures of “in the presence of” have all been followed but have not succeeded in settling the issue. (The discussion in the Cullavagga indicates that at least two Communities have tried settling the issue; the Commentary recommends trying the normal procedures in at least two or three.)
3. Both sides have been made to reflect on their position
4. The distributor of voting tickets knows that the majority sides with the Dhamma.
5. He hopes that the majority sides with the Dhamma.
6.The distributor of voting tickets knows that the procedure will not lead to a split in the Sangha.
7. He hopes that the procedure will not lead to a split in the Sangha.
8. The tickets are taken in accordance with the Dhamma (according to the Commentary, this means that there is no cheating – e.g. one Bhikkhu taking two tickets – and the Dhamma side wins)
9. The assembly is complete
10. The bhikkhus take the tickets in accordance with their views (and not, for example, under fear of intimidation or coercion)” (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Monastic Code I, Chapter 11 – Adhikarana Samatha)
The Referendum is Under Fear of Intimidation or Coercion
(which invalidates the referendum according to #10)
On January 26th, 2008, the referendum was conducted in Sera-Je monastery. On February 9th,, 2008 the referendum was conducted in Ganden-Shartse Monastery. Prior to either of these referendums there were actions already taken against Dorje Shugden monks. Here is the time line of events:
In the assembly hall of Ganden-Jangtse Monastery, each monk had to stand up in turn and declare that he will never practise Dorje Shugden. Twelve monks who practise Dorje Shugden did not attend and were expelled from the monastery.
In Phukang Khangtsen (also in Ganden-Shartse) signed statements were collected from each monk, declaring that the signatory never practises Dorje Shugden. Monks who do not want to sign the statement and take the oath to forego the practice of Dorje Shugden were pressured to do so. The signature and oath campaign was conducted in ten monastic sections. When the signatures were collected in Phukang Khangtsen, one monk was expelled for refusing to sign.
The abbot of Ganden Jangtse Monastery, Gen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tsephel was publicly scolded by the Dalai Lama in a public meeting for being a Dorje Shugden practitioner. He was accused of being ‘two faced’ for seemingly following the Dalai Lama’s advice while secretly practising Dorje Shugden.
In the shadow of these events, the Ganden and Sera monks were asked to participate in a referendum for which they were already aware of the consequences should they vote against the majority. My question, is this what we call a referendum? Does it sound like this referendum was held wholly without intimidation or coercion? I ask the reader to consider how you would vote in such a situation if your livelihood was on the line, knowing as well that you would have no more access to physical or spiritual nourishment and would be effectively disowned by your spiritual family. Might it be more prudent to vote against Dorje Shugden in public while continuing to practice in secret? This is precisely what many lay and ordained Tibetans are doing.
When these pre-loaded referendums were being held the Dorje Shugden practitioners had to cast their vote in the face of definite expulsion from their monastery. They also had to consider that non-Dorje Shugden practitioners had signed the oath to not to share material amenities of life. The choice made publically by Dorje Shugden practitioners would clearly impact their ability to survive outside the monastery. It is difficult to conclude that such a ‘choice’ is not coercion in its grossest form and that as such the Dalai Lama’s so-called referendums directly contradict the Vinaya and the spirit of Buddha’s teachings as a whole.
The second question put forth by the Dalai Lama is: “[Whether] we want to share the religious and material amenities of life (live together in the monastery) with Dholgyal worshippers.”
“A schism (saṅgha-bheda, literally a split in the Saṅgha) is a division in the Community in which two groups of bhikkhus of common affiliation, with at least five in one group and four in the other, conduct Community business separately in the same territory.” (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 21)
On February 7th 2008, in the assembly hall of Shartse Monastery, the disciplinarian – with tears in his eyes – announced: ‘Now Dhokhang Khangtsen will be separated from Shartse Monastery.’ This clearly meets Buddha’s definition of a schism (which I will explore in a future article). It is clear that the vote itself is on whether or not to split the Sangha. Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s commentary clearly indicates that if it is understood that the referendum would lead to a split in the Sangha the referendum is invalid.
Furthermore, on the issue of how to handle a schism according to the Vinaya, the present Dalai Lama has not been following Buddha’s advice.
“As for the laity, the texts quote the Buddha as saying that they should give gifts to both factions and listen to their Dhamma. Then, on consideration, they should give their preference to the Dhamma-faction. Notice, however, that in advising the laity to give preference to one faction over another, the Buddha does not say that only one faction should receive alms. After all, the laity may be misinformed about the Dhamma and in a poor position to tell the right faction from the wrong. At the same time, the Buddha has never been recorded as declaring a living being as unworthy of gifts, for that would be tantamount to saying that the being was unworthy to live.” (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 21)
This means that the signature campaign being conducted in the lay community by the CTA (within which the Dalai Lama is the final authority) to not share material amenities with Dorje Shugden practitioners directly contradicts the Vinaya. The language of the Vinaya makes clear that both Dorje Shugden practitioners and non-Dorje Shugden practitioners should be able to purchase goods and receive services like any other Tibetan living in exile. If the reader has any doubts as to whether this discrimination is really happening please refer to the France24 documentary which reveals such religious discrimination.
The Referendum has not followed Buddha’s Protocols in the Vinaya
(which invalidates the referendum according to #2)
According to the commentary the referendum is only valid if the procedures of “in the presence of” have all been followed but have not succeeded in settling the issue. “In the presence of” means that the community has to meet and try to settle the issue before the referendum is taken (emphasis added). This has not happened. In fact, the Dalai Lama has never met with the community of Dorje Shugden monks from these monasteries. There has not even been a reply from the Dalai Lama or his representatives to the requests of Shugden practitioners to have a dialogue on this issue. This is a clear contradiction with the commentary given. The referendum is not the result of a meeting within the monastic community but rather it has been unilaterally decreed by the Dalai Lama himself (please refer to the January 8th, 2008 talk at Drepung for evidence of this).
This brings up the question, is the Dalai Lama a member of these monastic communities? If the answer is yes, then he (or a representative of his) has to meet with the Dorje Shugden communities at these monasteries prior to any referendum. If the answer is no, which can be stated in terms of the Dalai Lama not residing within that monastery, then on what basis is he even involving himself? Where does the Vinaya say that to resolve a conflict, high lamas should adjudicate? This is what the Dalai Lama’s supporters are saying but it has no basis in Buddha’s teachings.
Others might argue that the Dalai Lama is not involving himself but simply saying the matter should go to a vote. To refute this point please watch the france24 video (web link to this piece is above) where the Dalai Lama is on video saying from the teaching throne:
The most compelling argument on this point is that the Vinaya provides an opportunity for any monk in the assembly to protest against having the matter settled by the group. If this happens then the group is deemed incompetent to resolve the issue. The purpose of this is to protect the Dharma from bhikkhus who advocate what is not truly Dhamma or Vinaya yet hold sway over the group. Surely if such a meeting would have occurred the Dorje Shugden monks would have protested.
The Outcome of the Referendum is not in Accordance with the Dharma
(which invalidates the referendum according to #4, #5, and #8)
Venerable Atisha said:
“Friends, until you attain enlightenment the spiritual teacher is indispensable, therefore rely upon the holy Spiritual Guide. Until you realize ultimate truth, listening is indispensable, therefore listen to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.”
The referendum contradicts the words of this holy teacher because the practitioners of Dorje Shugden received a commitment to do this practice from their Gurus Trijang Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten, Zong Rinpoche, Dagom Rinpoche, etc. To abandon their teachers’ advice by voting in favor of the ban would be non-Dharma according to Venerable Atisha.
The irony is that this puts the Dalai Lama and his followers in the position where if they are to establish their view as Dharma then they would have to say that Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama’s Gurus) taught non-Dharma thus invalidating his own teachers’ qualifications as authentic Gurus. How can a valid teacher teach non-Dharma? If the Dalai Lama’s teachers are not valid teachers then by what lineage is the Dalai Lama a lama himself?
Therefore, for all the reasons mentioned here, the referendum on Dorje Shugden practice is non-Dharma. Since the Dalai Lama is presenting the referendum as Dharma when in reality it is non-Dharma he is deceiving Buddhist practitioners around the world.
Furthermore, by denying these practitioners the basic necessities of life (by these I mean the aforementioned material amenities) the Dalai Lama and the abbots carrying out these referendums are breaking their refuge vows to Buddha which include not harming any living being.
Typically, those who have spoken out against the Dalai Lama on this issue have been portrayed as gullible, naive, and unaware of the harmfulness of Dorje Shugden. I would like to point out however that those in the Tibetan and Western communities who practice Dorje Shugden have experienced considerable slander and libel thus making this issue a point of internal reflection and consideration for many of us. This article is the result of one Dorje Shugden practitioner’s investigation, my own. What I ask to all those who disagree, can you establish – based on Buddha’s teachings – the validity of these referendums?