Mixing Religion and Politics: The Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden Prayer
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.”