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A Critique of ‘Why the Dalai Lama Matters’ by Robert Thurman, Part 3

November 13, 2008

Part Three from the Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden Blog:

In this article we continue to examine Thurman’s book and point out the inconsistencies in what he writes about the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama’s actions over the years. Through the Dalai Lama’s actions, we can glimpse his real qualities and beliefs; and we can see a big difference between Thurman’s lavish hype and the truth.

To quote his own expression, the Dalai Lama’s “Three Main Commitments in Life” are:

1. As a human being, to promote common human values, tolerance, compassion, and so on
2. As a religious practitioner, to promote world religious harmony, Buddhist self-discipline, and so on
3. As a Tibetan, to represent his people until oppression by China is solved, then retire to being a spiritual teacher in Drepung, his traditional monastic university. (p 35)

If the Dalai Lama claims that this is what he is trying to do with his life, let’s examine these claims to see how much he is acting in accordance with his commitments. Thurman uses the world ‘promote’ rather than ‘practice’. Does the Dalai Lama see himself as a promoter of these values, or as someone who encourages people to adopt these values through his own practice and example? Given the frequent discrepancy between his example and his rhetoric, it might fairly be said that he is acting like a salesman for something he hasn’t bought himself.

For example, do these speeches by the Dalai Lama sound like tolerance, compassion and promoting world religious harmony to you? :

“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.” (Al Jazeera news report, October 2008)

“Until now you have done a very good job on this issue. Hereafter also, continue this policy in a clever way. We should do it in such a way to ensure that in future generations not even the name of Dholgyal (Dorje Shugden) is remembered.” (At a meeting of Tibetans in Caux, Switzerland in 1999)

For more examples of the Dalai Lama’s harsh and intolerant attitude toward fellow Buddhist practitioners, see In the Dalai Lama’s words.

Thurman now talks about the third commitment of the Dalai Lama:

In terms of the third commitment, the Dalai Lama is Tibetan and Tibetans place their trust in him (p 37)

Although the Dalai Lama is loved by many Tibetans, not all Tibetans trust him, and with good reasons. Here are some examples of Tibetans who do not trust him or accept the function of the Dalai Lama as it stands presently:

From the pro-Tibetan “Phayul” website:

The institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose and is now obsolete. It has to end for the sake of Tibet. Religion, like a lot of other things, is personal. It must never meddle in the politics of Tibet. We have the past blunders to prove it. There must never be another regent. There must never be another religious king. There must never be another monk or nun Prime Minister. There must never be another Dalai Lama, at least with political powers. There must never be another Lama with political powers no matter who, whether it is a Bonpo, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug et al. It all now depends on the current Dalai Lama, the type of legacy that he wants to leave for Tibet…… The Dalai Lama has to resign in this incarnation as it will be almost impossible to do so if a 15th Dalai Lama is enthroned.

(From the recent France 2 Documentary Report, translated from French)

Reporter: Lobsang Yeshe and Namgyal were previously the Dalai Lama’s bodyguards. 50 years ago, they saved the life of the head of Tibet, running away from the Chinese. But today, they feel betrayed.

Lobsang Yeshe: The Dalai Lama, I don’t want to hear about him any more. He is no longer the Buddha of Compassion. He is a traitor. The Dalai Lama has committed the gravest crime. He has divided all the Tibetans. He is against our deity, Dorje Shugden. He has forbidden us from venerating him. Because of him, I had a heart attack

And, of course, the Mongoose-Canine Letter, written in the 1990s by a group of Tibetans:

…..you always give priority to your own well-being and power, even at the cost of Tibet’s future. I am not trying to tell you that you should be concerned with the future Dalai Lamas regarding them being leaders of Tibet. I am telling you that you are not working for the future progress and democracy of the Tibetan people in Tibet. Also, I am telling you that you are extremely dishonest and hypocritical.

Thurman continues:

His sense of himself as a Tibetan comes, in this incarnation, from an extraordinary life, detailed in two autobiographies so far, and many works by others. Born in a well-off peasant farmer-trader family, he was recognized as the Dalai Lama very young, was brought up as a monk with a special education, was trained to be a head of state, and was entrusted with the political leadership of his people. (p38)

No mention is made that he was born into a Muslim family. Many people misunderstood why the Western Shugden Society made known in the West what is already public knowledge to many Tibetans. There was no insult to Muslims; it is just curious why, if the Dalai Lama was genuine, he would choose to be born into a family of a completely different religion. Given that the genuine Dalai Lama is supposed to have control over his rebirth, is it not a curious choice? The implication is that the Dalai Lama may not be genuine and that his non-Buddhist actions in discriminating against the practitioners of his Spiritual Guide’s tradition seem to corroborate this. This is further supported by the article on the Western Shugden Society website explaining how the Reting Rinpoche, the regent of Tibet, caused the wrong boy to be chosen as the Dalai Lama. The deception by Reting Regent was suspected in Tibet at the time, but naturally covered up for political reasons. (Later, the deception was compounded by recognizing the Dalai Lama’s siblings also as reincarnate Lamas).

That, of course, was no fault of the boy who became the Dalai Lama. One cannot help but feel compassion for the Dalai Lama if he is not a realized being. His upbringing must have been curious and lonely. Indeed, Thurman makes the observation earlier in the book that the Dalai Lama seemed to him to be “slightly stressed, lonely and a little sad” (p 6). No wonder the eleven-year-old boy greeted the arrival of Heinrich Harrer in Lhasa in 1946 with such excitement, receiving from him much tutoring about the outside world, despite Harrer having been a Nazi sergeant in the Waffen-SS from 1938.

The young Tenzin Gyatso was certainly invested with a lot of responsibility and the heavy weight of everyone’s expectations from an early age. However, no matter how abnormal the Dalai Lama’s childhood may have been, it cannot be used as an excuse for his present sectarian actions in persecuting Shugden practitioners, for which he should be made to answer internationally. If the Dalai Lama’s actions of working for a peaceful solution to the Tibetan problem was recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize, his actions of persecution, curtailing religious freedom and causing disharmony in the Tibetan community should also fairly be recognized.

One Comment
  1. The pro-Shugden website recently reported that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had ordered for the removal of the thrones of the Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, the junior Tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from the monasteries of the Ganden Lachi and Shartse.

    The article titled, “A Critique of “Why the His Holiness the Dalai Lama Matter” by Robert Thurman, Part 4″ published in the pro-Shugden website http://www.wisdombuddhadorjeshugden.blogspot.com says “His Holiness the Dalai Lama has ordered Trijang Rinpoche’s thrones to be removed from Gaden Lachi and Shartse monasteries. The thrones represent the continuing presence of this great Master, so what is the His Holiness the Dalai Lama saying by ordering the removal?” This report is only another lie of Shugden Party. Neither the Gaden Lachi nor the two colleges (Jangtse and Shartse) under it have received such order from the His Holiness the Dalai Lama and any offices of Exile Government. We Gaden monks have never thought and dreamt of removing the Thrones of Kyabje Trichang Rinpoche from Monasteries, leave alone the ordering of removing His throne by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We monks consider this as a false and baseless allegation intended to tarnish His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s image and to create wall among monks and monasteries, which they will never succeed.

    The report also alleges that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was from a Muslim village, which the report surmises is the “natural” cause behind His Holiness, the Dalai Lama’s defending Muslim religion.

    The Gaden Lachi, on behalf of all the monk community of the Gaden monastery do hereby declare that nothing of the sort, as alleged by the Shugden supporters have been undertaken. The thrones of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, whom we all revere and respect as one of the foremost Gelugpa Master, are still at their previously installed places in both Ganden Lachi and Shartse College without an inch being budge.

    Therefore, the report is purely baseless and without any substance and we condemn the Shugden supporters, whosoever may have reported this for playing with the sentiments of all the students and followers of late Kyabje Trichang Rinpoche for their own vested interest.

    We also condemn and strongly oppose the actions of few Dhogyal (Shugden) supporters who have resorted to a cheap publicity stunt, by claiming His Holiness the Dalai Lama as being a “Muslim”.
    It is well known fact that the regions of Kumbum and Taktser village were traditionally Buddhist. So nothing is farther from the truth than His Holiness the Dalai Lama family was Muslim. Such statement shows the baselessness of the whole story cooked up by the Shugden followers.

    By resorting to such a misinformation drive, based on rumor and gossips, the Shugden supporters aim to tarnish the image of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the eyes of international public. This is doomed to fail.
    His Holiness the Dalai Lama is and will remain the supreme religious and political head of all the Tibetan people, both inside and outside of Tibet and His persona will continue to grow far and wide all over the world emancipating millions of their sufferings to peace and happiness notwithstanding a handful of Shugden supporter’s unfounded claims and groundless accusations.

    This report is drafted by:
    The GREAT SEAT OF JE TSONG KHA PA, The Gaden Lachi
    Tibetan Colony, Mundgod
    Karnataka, INDIA

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