By Jigme Duntak
While attending the July Tenshug teachings in Madison, I was surprised to see that each day a group of Shugden practitioners were holding a protest outside of the arena where the teachings were being held. The group was primarily made up of non-Tibetans practitioners and monks, but a few Tibetans were protesting alongside them as well. Some of the slogans being shouted were things like ‘Dalai Lama Give – Religious Freedom, Dalai Lama – Stop Lying, etc…’
I had already read into the issue previously, seen a few videos, and read the Dalai Lama’s reply and stance on the issue which he reiterated during the teachings when a question about the issue came up, so I had a basic understanding of what they were protesting about.
The Shugden protesters were handing out pamphlets and small booklets explaining their cause to the few who would take them, so I went and got myself a copy of both and learned from the pamphlet that the protest was organized by the “Western Shugden Society“.
The small booklet was titled “The Tibetan Situation Today: Surprising Hidden News“. Inside the booklet and pamphlet the purpose for demonstrating was stated as an attempt to: “…bring the attention of fair-minded people to the Dalai Lama’s hidden, unlawful and hypocritical persecution of a large section of mainstream Tibetan Buddhists -those who pray to the protection deity named Dorje Shugden.”
The booklet and pamphlet contained a lot of strong words containing sections with titles such as, “21st Century Buddhist Dictator: The Dalai Lama”,”Hypocrite Dalai Lama.” and also a section which repeats “He is lying” at the start of each sentence in reference to the Dalai Lama. There is also a very long chronicle of events in the booklet which describes the claimed offenses against Shugden practitioners by the Dalai Lama or Tibetan Government In Exile.
The type of rhetoric used in the texts came across as childish and almost hate-filled to me, especially since this is coming from a group of people who are presenting themselves as a “Buddhist society”. Even among the Tibetan groups who protest against the Chinese government, who have inflicted far worse then what this Shugden group is claiming, I’ve never found this sort of rhetoric or words being officially used against the Chinese government or its specific individuals.
In fact while reading these texts, the way it is written reminds me of texts you’d read coming from the Chinese government the way it attacks and insults the Dalai Lama. In one section that is written like a letter directed towards the Dalai Lama it reads, “Dalai Lama, you are a very professional liar”, and also calls the Dalai Lama a “saffron robed Muslim”, claiming that the Dalai Lama was actually born in a Muslim family and was only selected as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama due to the ignorance of the representatives of the Tibetan Government who chose him.
These Shugden practitioners from this “Western Shugden Society” wish to gain sympathy and understanding for Shugden practitioners who have been ill treated by Tibetans in the Tibetan community, but attacking and slandering the Dalai Lama only does the exact opposite.
I do feel sympathetic to those practitioners of Shugden who may have become persecuted or shunned by other Tibetans for their practices, but the anger and blame being directed towards the Dalai Lama by this group is misdirected.
The Dalai Lama has not issued a ban on practicing Shugden like the “Western Shugden Society” claims, he has only advocated those who follow him religiously not to practice Shugden (for reasons you can read in his official statement). However the problem lies wherein the Dalai Lama’s words are so highly regarded among Tibetans that many Tibetans begin to shun those who do not follow them. Consequently some Tibetans begin to wrongly mistreat these Tibetans and/or non-Tibetans who choose not to follow the Dalai Lama’s wishes of giving up the practicing of Dholgyal (Shugden).
The group is incorrectly blaming the Dalai Lama for the actions of other individuals within the Tibetan community in India who have taken it upon themselves to act maliciously towards Shugden followers. The blame should be placed upon these specific individuals who have acted inappropriately.