Part III - analyzing reality
The Dalai Lama said about the Dorje Shugden conflict, "This is not my issue: it is the issue of Tibetan religion and politics..." Quoted by the Kashag (his Cabinet) in an Announcement of May 22, 1996. I will follow this lead and examine the uniquely Tibetan mix of religion and politics primarily as it pertains to the Dorje Shugden issue in the hope of disentangling some of the religious from the political explanations. Their indiscriminate mix has caused endless confusion and misuse. I see this to be the true source of the problem. Thus, I am treating the Dorje Shugden conflict as the most obvious symptom of a larger identity crisis I believe will not begin to be solved until the currently instituted political practice of merging religion and politics has been adequately scrutinized.
My attempt at clarification tries to show the complex historical juncture in which any Tibetan issue must be considered. Since the Dalai Lama plays such a central role in the lives of Tibetans, especially since coming into exile, and in taking their religious traditions into the twenty-first century, he figures prominently in this writing as well. He has taken an active role in the political future of Tibet and in the social transformation of his people. It should not be surprising that the Dalai Lama, in that context, is a prisoner of historical forces just like everyone else and does not always look as perfect as a religious person sees him or would like him to be portrayed. I hope this will not be interpreted out of hand as demonizing or an out-right attack on the Dalai Lama. At least, it is not my intention.
My approach distinguishes between three different aspects of the Dalai Lama: the religious figure, the politician, and the media created celebrity. The relationship between Buddhist master and disciple is private and cannot be legislated. It resists public discourse beyond the right to freely choose and to maintain such a relationship. This aspect of the Dalai Lama, the object of people's faith, is not the subject of this book.
As an active public political figure, on the other hand, the Dalai Lama is subject to criticism as are all political leaders whose main function is to compromise and to negotiate between different political factions. I believe criticism in politics is not so much based on morality than on law, contracts, and principles, a distinction also often lost in American politics. Thus, when the Dalai Lama uses his political office to universally institute his personal rejection of a religious practice, as is the case with Dharmapala Dorje Shugden, he lays himself open to such criticism. Historically, Buddhist masters have disagreed on a great number of religious practices, but only the Dalai Lama has the political power to enforce his preferences. The fact that some Tibetans did not go along with this type of politics could be seen as a sign of health rather than weakness.
Finally, the Dalai Lama as pop icon gives him a modern mythical status that seems in seamless continuity with the institutionalized myth at the base of the Tibetan national identity. Even though this modern myth-making has helped turn Buddhism into a household name, globalizing that profound religion within the entertainment driven media culture propagates a new version not necessarily accepted by all practicing Buddhists because it is perceived to be inimical to the religion's depth dimension. The supreme political status of the Dalai Lamas since the Fifth has naturally lent their religious words different weight from other spiritually equally accomplished Lamas. However, the process of transforming such a religious public figure into an international celebrity also made possible its political appropriation in ways previously unthinkable. Since the Dalai Lama as pop icon is now the most well-known Buddhist leader worldwide, "the face Buddhism wears in the West," the political appropriation of his celebrity status necessarily has far reaching effects on Buddhism too, something not yet adequately thought through.
The Tibetan identity crisis to which the Dalai Lama is responding is largely a result of a society having to face a secular world in which religion does not play the same role as it did in traditional Tibet. To fill the void and in order to meet the many different political and social demands, a new Tibetan self-image had to be constructed. Tibetans in exile are passing through a social mirror stage for the first time in their culture's history. See, for example, Donald Lopez: Prisoners of Shangrila, who seems to reduce most of what we know about Tibet and Tibetans to this experiment with social change. They had no need before to see themselves reflectively through the eyes of another culture politically the geographical distance helped maintain the isolation and the religious cultural influence extended mostly outward from the center, Lhasa. This self-contained status changed dramatically when Tibetans were thrust into a multi-cultural world. By the 1990's Tibetan culture had increasingly been scrutinized by those intensely interested to the merely curious and from all around the world. Today, Tibetan culture exists more in front of cameras than elsewhere. In this, Tibetans mistakenly see the guarantee for its survival. We know that the self-conscious creation of a public image does not follow the same process as cultural transformation. The gap between them is at the center of the Tibetan identity crisis in which Dorje Shugden has played such a surprisingly prominent role. He has served as scapegoat for all unwanted cultural, political, and psychological baggage. Thus purifying many of the undesirable elements from the newly constructed Tibetan image made it more presentable to the rest of the world. The image of an exotic, yet compassionate, culture was the one commodity Tibetans could trade in the global market place. The need to eliminate important cultural distinctions in the service of a uniform global Tibetan cultural image explains to some extent how Dorje Shugden came to play such a crucial role in the current Tibetan identity crisis.
The success of the process is measured by how thoroughly the Tibetan exile government and the social groups that constitute it pursued -- and continue to do so -- the demonization of Dorje Shugden so that his name elicits instant deep hatred, revulsion, or, at best, anxiety and intense discomfort. Name recognition of Dorje Shugden is now 100% in the Tibetan exile community. Unlike Nechung, the protector who speaks through the State Oracle, whom every Tibetan has heard of since he is also used for functions of state and politics, the name of Dorje Shugden had not been much in public circulation before 1996. There was no reason to do so even by those who relied on this Dharmapala, since the practice was maintained within the religious domain of esoteric Buddhism. It is customary among Gelugpas to discuss such issues only in appropriate fora, not among the public in general as it became routine since Dorje Shugden was made a political issue. I will summarize here, before discussing them in more depth below, the common reasons the Dalai Lama and his government The Dalai Lama has made these points many times, in the press and to individuals. When I interviewed him December 8, 1997, about another matter, he brought up point 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. However, lacking a coherent framework for making sense of these disconnected fragments, they have been repeated everywhere as if they were facts and understandable on their own terms. Most recently the Dalai Lama mentioned them again in Bloomington, Indiana, August 16, 1999, to the press in preparation for the Kalachakra empowerment and in answer to a journalist's question whether or not Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden were permitted to attend. have given for their ban of Dorje Shugden, which turns out to be far more comprehensive than the usual meaning of that word. These reasons were used to create a universal perception of the evil-spirit-scapegoat. In this they were successful and, solely with this aim in mind, they even have some coherence. However, they have nothing whatsoever to do with a religious explanation or the view of the people involved in the practice of Dharmapala Dorje Shugden and their reasons for relying on him. After stating the most commonly cited reasons, I will abbreviate the most salient reason why the government's do not amount to a satisfactory explanation for a large number of Tibetans.
(1) Claim: Dorje Shugden harms the cause of Tibet. Objection: The cause of Tibet means freedom to Tibetans while their leader has long given it up. It is difficult to see how, then, Dorje Shugden could harm it.
(2) Claim: Dorje Shugden harms the life and health of the Dalai Lama. Objection: The Dalai Lama is a manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion and cannot be harmed by spirits. It is difficult to see how Dorje Shugden, even if he were an evil spirit, could do so, according to Buddhist doctrine.
(3) Claim: Dorje Shugden harms the institution of Dalai Lama. Objection: That institution, i.e. the Ganden Potang government, is history. It lacks any legal basis or official recognition at this point. It exists today only in the person of the Dalai Lama. How can Dorje Shugden then harm that institution? The future of the Dalai Lama's personal religious lineage is put in question only by the Dalai Lama himself, not Dorje Shugden.
(4) Claim: Dorje Shugden is sectarian. Objection: All Tibetan Buddhist traditions are sectarian. There is no reason to single out Gelugpas if it were not for their historical proximity to political power.
(5) Claim: Buddhism degenerates into spirit worship as a result of propitiating Dorje Shugden. Objection: Buddhists who rely on him do not see Dorje Shugden as a harmful spirit but a Dharmapala whose nature is the Buddha of wisdom. If the Dalai Lama were concerned with Buddhism degenerating into spirit worship why is everyone else (including his government) permitted to worship them?
(6) Claim: Precedent: the Fourteenth Dalai Lama cites the Fifth and Thirteenth, as well as two or three other influential Lamas as having banned Dorje Shugden. Objection: The historical references are problematic in each of these cases. At the very least, they are open to interpretation, which still puts in question the Dalai Lama's dogmatic stand.
(7) Claim: Dorje Shugden harms Nyingmapas and practitioners of other traditions. Objection: A Dharma protector of a particular tradition protects that tradition, it does not attack others. This goes for all traditions. Why apply this mistaken view to only one protector?
(8) Claim: Dorje Shugden destroys those who rely on him. Objection: The function of all protectors is to prevent the practitioner from going against one's and the Buddhist way. If anyone is harmed, the cause is a violation or other negative actions, not the Dharma protector.
I will try to show in this part of the book that the dramatized, widely propagated nature of these claims especially the most serious ones of harming the cause of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and sectarianism have no basis in reality. They are for the most part projected fears hardened into political slogans. I think it is preposterous to believe this campaign of hate has anything to do with religion. One has only to look at the other bizarre charges raised indiscriminately and universally against Buddhists who rely on Dharmapala Dorje Shugden, such as murder, assassination attempts and designs on the Dalai Lama and other government officials, treason, and all sorts of betrayals and evil actions -- dealt with below in the section "War on Words" -- to know that the conflict takes place in the vicinity of political wrangling for fame, power, and influence, not religion.
This brings me to the difficulties I found in writing about this issue some of which I would like to touch upon here. For example, the above claims are usually made without any other context than an appeal to the absolute authority of the Dalai Lama. Looked at from another perspective, their fragmentary nature bring into focus the lack of a coherent rational framework. This becomes particularly clear when examining the apologies by Western scholars of the exile government actions. So far, there has been no serious scholarship on the issue. Dreyfus' rhetorical strategy ("The Shuk-den Affair: History and Nature of a Quarrel") is obvious when he repeats baseless accusations and speculations in the language of fundamentalism: Pabongka and Trijang Rinpoches as charismatic leaders, as though they were the leaders of a cult when they were mainstream Gelugpa scholars and teachers; terms like revivalism applied only the these masters, not the Dalai Lama who is truly reviving older Tibetan shamanistic, religious, and political practices; conservative to denote the religious concern of these Lamas but not to the authoritarian political ways of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, for example. The contradictions abound and Dreyfus even admits that after he has spun his rhetorical spin that he had discovered the proof for what he was saying, a date which supposedly contradicts the time Dorje Shugden was "subdued," when those who practice Dorje Shugden do not believe he had to be subdued since his actions are believed to be a result of his promise made long before the controversial events (see Part I, FN #80; also Part II, 17th Century). Berzin in a talk about Dharma protectors (June 5, 1998 in Munich) reads Dorje Shugden followers' "fundamentalism" back into Tibetan history of the last three hundred fifty years and that they were against the Fifth Dalai Lama's "non-sectarianism" -- the project of the Fourteenth. It is a strange line of reasoning to say that the Fifth destroyed or converted many monasteries of other traditions to establish his version of "non-sectarianism" just as it is strange to destroy the Geden Oral Tradition protected by Dorje Shugden in the name of the Fourteenth' "non-sectarianism." As is common with Western defenders of a policy from another culture, he is more extreme in his anti-Dorje Shugden stand than the Tibetan exile government. Berzin gives a psychological explanation of the Buddhist reliance on Dharma protectors according to Jung which leaves out any religious dimension whatsoever and the commonly held Buddhist belief of the Buddha's activities made present in this world in different ways and through different appearances in which protectors also participate. Berzin explains the protector conflict on the basis of his reductive psychological model with pseudo-historical underpinnings. The supposedly protective wrathful forces he portrays this way are very strange indeed and one wonders why anyone would want engage them. It makes their practice a manipulative, worldly activity when the Buddhist explanation of these forces Berzin omits and their engagement are quite a different matter. In the question and answer period after the talk Berzin attacks Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden as distorting the issue by placing them in Western psychological terms, thereby dismissing out of hand any objection a person might have to the official government view. Another such contradiction is when Berzin forgets that the Dalai Lama and the Tibet Lobby rely heavily on the human rights language to bring to the attention of the world the plight of Tibet especially after the Dalai Lama had given up Tibetan independence formally in 1988 and says that the human rights language cannot be applied to Tibetan in exile when they are coerced into giving up their religious practice because we have to understand Asian psychology. The point here is not merely to point out the chauvinism in such an approach but to show the lack of rational framework in explaining the conflict. Berzin has been a vocal anti-Dorje Shugden activist since the early eighties and if he -- a Harvard Ph.D. with all the languages that qualify him to do serious research -- has not yet come up with a coherent explanation after crusading against this tradition around the world for almost two decades merely repeating the prevailing prejudices, it points to the possibility that there may not be one. Hence, the problematic of the subject matter itself -- demonizing Dorje Shugden to create an effective scapegoat -- limits my approach. Considering the source of the conflict, it is not difficult to see that the subject defies a simple, straight forward analysis. How can one reason about a problematic that has its origin in prophesies from invisible beings speaking through oracles? The situation is so obscured by layers of ancient and modern myths of power that it has so far resisted any reasoned explanation. The irrational response to the ban even by Western Tibet experts in their attempts to justify the Dalai Lama's actions and the mostly emotional content of the Tibetan experience makes the issue even more difficult to analyze. Ironically, even though the truth of the Dorje Shugden conflict is stranger than fiction, to date its most accurate rendering, at least from an experiential point of view, can be found in a work of fiction by Salman Rushdie: The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., New York, 1999, in chapters 13 & 14.
One of the most disturbing components I found in trying to make sense of this complexly layered phenomenon is the intolerant out of hand rejection of any interpretation other than the official one. This forces anyone open-minded and inclusive into a position of having to disagree with the Dalai Lama instead of merely presenting a different perspective on an issue. It is deeply disturbing that the global Buddhism the Dalai Lama has dedicated his life to constructing rejects so absolutely any interpretation of the most learned Gelugpa Buddhist masters other than that of ignorant devil worshipers. It makes a rational approach practically impossible. Another troubling point I found was that no overall group or organization of "Dorje Shugden followers" existed until in 1996 when the government indiscriminately declared this fictitious entity to be a "cult." This way they lumped together a diversity of people from different geographical and cultural areas and across the social and economic spectrum and labeled them with a word absent from the Tibetan language. There was no such separate group of Dorje Shugden followers until the Tibetan government-in-exile attempted to create one intentionally in order to marginalize them more easily, according to its own documents. This makes writing about them very difficult, especially in any general way as I am doing here, without participating in the government's strategy of casting them out of Tibetan society.
In addition, the most educated Gelugpas affected by the ban remained silent. I respect their contemporary wisdom of refusing to compete in the global market place with discussions about esoteric Buddhist subjects where they are inevitably misunderstood. The government's rejection of any reasoned debate about the subject condemned them to silence. From the beginning of the crisis in 1996 the Dalai Lama was determined to destroy the practice. Whether or not to continue Dorje Shugden was never subject to debate or negotiation. This type of intolerance is foreign to Buddhist principles. While a Buddhist teacher may advise the disciples not to do certain practices for religious reasons, the Dalai Lama's political status empowered his government, made up of many social groups, to enforce it. Hence, since a religious issue was displaced into the political domain in order to destroy a tradition, the official literature on the conflict is full of contradictions and unproven accusations. It is fragmentary and incoherent because it is primarily supported by appeal to authority in an attempt to prove the unprovable, not by facts or reasons. The Dalai Lama himself did not add anything to help find a reasonable approach to this subject. In answer to my repeated request to provide reasons Westerners could understand so that they may judge for themselves why this conflict was occurring, he talked quite emotionally about evil spirits, spirit worship, and the mental instability of Western Buddhists, Interview, December 8, 1997, Dharamsala. hardly a rational approach.
Thus, I will limit my presentation to providing some historical and cultural background, especially leading up to the identity crisis of the 1990's in exile, in order to contextualize the relevant material. In addition, I will focus on the medium of language in which the creation of the new global Tibetan image meant to replace the old identity plays itself out. I will try to unravel some of the religious and political meanings mixed and confused in key terms and slogans in the vicinity of the Dorje Shugden conflict; point to the use of magical realism in Tibetan political discourse; shed some light on the manipulation of the media in the service of the new Tibetan image; as well as touch on the construct of a global Buddhism currently propagated a Buddhism determined more by market forces, the norms of the entertainment industry, and by celebrity cults than its Tibetan tradition. In the process, I hope to raise more questions in urgent need of being addressed than provide answers.
The Tibetan identity is in crisis and in danger of losing whatever is its Tibetanness. This is the Dalai Lama's stated concern for Tibetans inside Tibet that he says has motivated him to give up independence in favor of "cultural autonomy." Exactly what makes Tibetans Tibetan is hard to define. Samdong Rinpoche, for example, defines the Tibetan national characteristics as, "The fundamental characteristic of Tibet as a nation has been peace, compassion, non-violence, and spirituality." Tibet: A Future Vision, Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre, New Delhi, 1996, p. 8. To an outside observer like myself it would have to include the irrepressible sense of individual freedom, a culture specific religiosity, and the curious ability to inspire the imagination of countless people around the world. In exile, the Dalai Lama, embodying all of these factors, became the very soul of Tibetans, their identity, and, as Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of compassion, their myth of origin. Even Richard Gere, a very public disciple of the Dalai Lama, expresses it this way, "His upholding of our highest ideas of love, compassion, and forgiveness have made him our very soul." Introductory Message to Wisdom and Compassion, The Sacred Art of Tibet, Marylin M. Rhie, Robert A.F. Thurman, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1991, p. 8 In holding on to the one institution left from the old Tibet, they often do not acknowledge the changed realities the Dalai Lama has to deal with in exile. The myths revived are now in danger of ossifying into a utopian ideology of cultural superiority that sees Tibet not as a country but as the realm for the revival of the spirit, a zone of peace between China and India. In a proposal to the United States Congress in 1987 that served as the basis for the Strasbourg proposal in 1988. Inasmuch as the Dalai Lama is symbolic of the undying flame of Tibet, no matter what the myth, Tibetans believe they owe him absolute loyalty and allegiance now more than ever.
The Dalai Lama is the one correct role model for Tibetans, beyond criticism, beyond reproach. Reflected in the behavior especially of young monks across India is the Dalai Lama's un-Tibetan mix of "simple monk" image and international jet setter. The Mahayana goal of enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings is changing to a public persona teaching in the West to make the plight of Tibet known to the world. This striving is pervasive and has become part of the exile cultural fabric reflecting the unconscious identification with the His Holiness and legitimated by his celebrity status, the highest goal visible to the image culture. Many monks even imitate the emotional range of the Dalai Lama's verbal expressions that glide effortlessly from the deepest low to the highest high in a matter of seconds, his elaborate hand gesturing influenced by Indian body language, their use of his pervasive terms, like universal responsibility and tolerance, to cover their own often un-monk like behavior. The more the Dalai Lama's Western persona as champion of democracy, innovation, non-violence, science, ecumenism, new age universalism and global interrelatedness is perfected and celebrated worldwide, the older the myths seem that are revived by Tibetans in India and Tibet. As Buddhism is transformed into a global phenomenon, pre-Buddhist beliefs are resurrected among exile Tibetans on a larger scale than before.
There are plenty of myths perpetuated within Buddhism as well -- some perhaps more necessary than others. Debunking the myth of Shangrila Started by Peter Bishop, The Myth of Shangri-La, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1989 has become the academic fashion of the moment. Tibet related intellectuals have found that the West projects its own fantasies, needs and desires onto "Tibet." This is considered unique, as if we did not project our own desires and fantasies onto other countries, like China, See, for example, Jonathan D. Spence: The Chan's Great Continent, China in Western Minds, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1998 for example, or as if Tibetans, Indians, Indonesians, and many others did not project their fantasies of the "American dream" onto the United States, each according to need. Since Tibet is currently fashionable, it is also fashionable to deconstruct it where, strangely, Tibet is assumed to be an empty projection screen, perhaps a synonym of a modernity whose mythic content has been sidelined. Ironically, Tibetan Buddhism originally became so popular because it was a religion with its own world that had not yet been subjugated by the media empire. A window opened on a genuine otherness accessible to Western emotional experiences through the universality of Buddhism. Since it has become a media phenomenon, the Western fascination with Tibet is described almost exclusively as a mere projection of its own spiritual needs and fantasies rather than a legitimate exercise of the cultural imagination in pursuit of something lost from its own history. The search for Shangrila has become utopian which throws a shadow on the truth of Buddhism and the inner journey its traditional Tibetan versions could provide.
"Shangrila" is considered a distortion of Shambala, the mythical land Shambala is also identified with Amaravati, South India, and the Tarim Basin of East Turkestan as historical places of origin. See, The Kalachakra Tantra, edited and translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, Wisdom Publications, London, 1985, p. 59. There is a vast amount of literature about Shambala, also appropriated by Theosophists. of the kings that are also knowledge holders (rigs.ldan) of the Kalachakra tantra. The first king of Shambala to have received the Kalachakra empowerment from the Buddha "returned to Shambala, wrote a long exposition of it, and propagated Kalachakra Buddhism as the state religion." ibid., p. 65 The myth, according to Tibetan sources, tells that the last king of Shambala will defeat the "barbarians" in a great war of apocalyptic proportions after which Buddhism will flourish again for another two millennia. The Kalachakra tantra came to Tibet from India through several transmission lineages from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries long before the Ganden Potang government was established. It was first practiced by the Panchen Lamas, especially the third, and from the eighth Dalai Lama it was performed by Namgyal Monastery, the private monastery of the Dalai Lamas. John R. Newman: "A Brief History of the Kalachakra," The Wheel of Time, The Kalachakra in Context, Geshe Lhundup Sopa, et.al, ed. by Beth Simon, Snow Lion Publication, Ithaca, 1985, p. 76. A slightly different overview is presented in Philippe Cornu: Tibetan Astrology, Shambala, Boston, 1997, p. 25-30.
A Dalai Lama gave Kalachakra empowerment to large groups of people traditionally no more than five times, since it is meant for attendees to establish a karmic connection with a future world Buddhist revival believed to be the fated task for Shambala's king. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama has performed Kalachakra empowerment many more times and in different parts of the world from Tibet, India, Mongolia, to the United States and Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people attend these mass events to which Buddhists and non-Buddhists flock. The one in Bloomington, Indiana, in August 1999, was organized by one of the Dalai Lama's brothers, Professor Norbu, with the help of many different groups, including Christian, interfaith and non-religious social groups. Its theme is world peace and to "transform the millennium." "The Kalachakra, the most revered of all Tibetan Buddhist rituals, is open to persons of all spiritual traditions and beliefs," Peter Pitts, Senior Vice President and Director of strategic planning at Montgomery Zukerman Davis, Inc., an ad agency in Indianapolis in a press release, PRNewswire, AOL, June 28, 1999. Billboards of the Dalai Lama advertising the Kalachakra line the roads entering Bloomington. With costs as high as $1,000 per person for a seat on stage and the lowest at $375, it is still an exclusive event even with transmission over the Internet, unlike that of Billy Graham, the Christian evangelist, in a nearby Indianapolis stadium. His event is free as was the Kalachakra empowerment when given in a religious Buddhist context. according to the advertising company handling the publicity for the event, except for Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden. It is clear to anyone from the absolute stand the Dalai Lama has taken for the past three years of refusing anyone who relies on Dorje Shugden to attend his public teachings and empowerments that they are also excluded from the Indiana Kalachakra affair. However, Professor Norbu and his son, organizer of the event, seemed surprised that Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden do not feel welcome, according to an article in the Village Voice. As required by public relations, That not all faiths never were welcome in Professor Norbu's Tibetan Cultural Center in Bloomington is clearly shown by the following incident: Thomas Canada, married to an heiress to the Eli Lilly fortune, had offered the land for the Tibetan Cultural Center where the Kalachakra is to be performed in August 1999 to His Holiness the Dalai Lama through his brother Professor Norbu in 1977 but inaugurated by His Holiness in 1979. Thom helped build the stupa and other structures on the land. According to Thomas Canada, when at the end of September 1996 he drove into the Center to show the stupa to Dagom Rinpoche, a popular Lama based in Nepal who is known to rely on Dorje Shugden, Professor Norbu "was standing in front of his residence with his arms folded. I pulled up in my van with the Lama in the passenger seat on the side facing Norbu. He was fuming and glaring at us. I said, Hello Rinpoche. He said, Leave! I said, What? He said, Go away!. I spun my wheels and drove out for the last time." On August 25, 1999, Thomas Canada went to attend the Kalachakra Initiation. He was turned away by a group of armed State Department security guards and local police and told him that he was on a list and could not attend. At night Tibetan voices called expletives from between the trees near his house as well as, "Devil worshiper, we will kill you. You are on the list." the Norbus contend "that all faiths are welcome at the Kalachakra." Jason Vest: "Bickering Buddhists," Village Voice, July 27. 1999. A month later the Dalai Lama confirms at a press conference Hoosier Times, Bloomington, August 16, 1999. The reason usually given for excluding Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden from an empowerment is that they will shorten the Dalai Lama's life if they enter into the Guru/disciple relationship required by the rules of the highest class of Vajrayana. The Kalachakra initiation in Bloomington has been advertised like a secular event without any reference to religious commitments. Looking at it from a rational point of view, there is a double standard here. Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden are held to the rules of the tradition while everyone else is exempted. Traditionally, those who attend an empowerment also take the vows and commitments as part of the religious ceremony. Since the Kalachakra is open to people from all religions as well as atheists they would necessarily break these vows and commitments and shorten the life of the empowering master, the Dalai Lama. If the rules are not applied universally according to the Buddhist texts, it is clearly not a religious issue. that Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden cannot come to the event open to people from all faiths and atheists alike.
The myth of the king of Shambala Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche also used "Shambala" to establish a of movement or a Buddhist social organization with Shambala training. It included military drills, Buddhist practice, and a publishing company by that name. However, he is said to have stated explicitly that his source was not the Kalachakra tantra but, according to the editor, Carolyne Rose Gimian, "draws on the ancient primordial wisdom of pre-industrial societies of Tibet, India, China, Japan, and Korea." Shambala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Shambala, Boston 1988, p. 14. now reigns over vastly larger parts of the world than he does in his mythical kingdom. Professor Robert Thurman, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama, identifies him with the Kings of Shambala not only from the point of view of personal religious practice, as mostly taught in Buddhism, but also in millennial fashion. He outlines Tibetan history through the Kalachakra mandala M. Rhie and Robert A.F. Thurman: Worlds of Transformation, Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, Tibet House New York, Publishers, New York , 1999, pp. 21-39 and criticizes scholars attempting to find a model to cut through the mythic overly to knowledge about Tibet as "driven by their deeply ingrained sense of the intrinsic superiority of the West and the historic inevitability of its form of modernity." Thurman: ibid., p. 27 When describing the Kalachakra emblem on a hat a Manchu emperor had offered to a "a high Lama in government service, ...such as the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama," he says, "The Kalachakra or Wheel of Time Tantra ...[is] especially connected with the Tibetan calendar and sense of history or destiny, as it contains the famous prophecy of Shambhala. [The emblem] was regarded as a powerful talisman, signifying that the Ganden Palace government based in the Potala was authorized to maintain Tibet's connection with the Kalachakra eschatology." Robert A.F. Thurman, David Weldon: Sacred Symbols, The Ritual Art of Tibet, Sotheby's Rossi & Rossi, New York, 1999. Thurman, as quoted in "Die Macht der Bilder," Die Woche, March 19, 1999, also proclaimed at a Tibet conference in Bonn, Germany, in 1997, that the decadent materialistic West would soon fall apart replaced by Buddhist rule and value system. At the 1999 March 10th demonstration in New York, I listened to Thurman summarizing to his audience of wildly applauding Tibetans the same view of a future when Buddhism would be the dominating world religion and everyone would come to them, the Tibetans for advice and teachings. See also a discussion of the Shambala prophesy as "holding a millennial message for all of mankind," with reference to Thurman, in "Tibet und die New Age-Bewegung," Mythos Tibet, p.189 Authorized by whom? The Manchu emperor? The legitimation of the Dalai Lama's claim to the prophesy of Shambala, that is, to the future world leadership of Buddhism in the form of Shambala's king victorious in the apocalyptic war with evil -- Thurman here brings here into historical proximity with a Chinese emperor -- is worrisome .
It is however not history in the common sense of that word which is the issue. It is rather a Tibetan identity in search for a country. The Kalachakra myth provides the Dalai Lama, invariably referred to as God King in the press, with a mythical country to his now mythical Ganden Potang government. Yet the Dalai Lama is also hailed as a modernizer. This is just one of the many contradictions inevitably surrounding someone of such legendary status. Most Tibet experts other than Thurman currently claim that the myth of Tibet is merely in the eyes of the beholder. That leaves Tibetans out of the picture altogether and makes totally acceptable the view of the Dalai Lama as modernizer. If, indeed, the myth of Tibet were merely the projection of naive Westerners who have lost the claim to their own imagination as a result of demythologizing Christianity and other Euro-centered religious belief systems, then just look who helps feed that myth! The image of Dalai Lama as a modernizer seems to obscure the wider panorama on this issue. Interestingly, in the concluding section of an anthology, Mythos Tibet, about how the West projects its own fantasies onto Tibet, only the image of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas as modernizers is excluded from being examined as a myth. Everything else is considered a projection of our desires to encounter the unknown. This is significant, because a wide range of scholars portray "images" of Tibet, the complexity of its culture still withdrewing from the Western analytical gaze as if the episteme of our culture were a camera, the eye that mirrors and captures images on blank film. Thierry Dodin and Heinz Räther "Mythos Tibet - Zwischen Shangrila und Feudalherrschaft. Versuch einer Synthese," in Mythos Tibet, Wahrnehmungen, Projectionene, Phantasien, DuMont, Köln, 1997. Cover: the palace (mandala) of the King of Shambala.
Regardless of whatever modernity the West reads into the exile community on the basis of the Dalai Lama's image, the voice of reason in political discourse and social dialogue is very hard to find. It is conspicuously absent not because it does not exist, but because it is silenced. The ground for the Tibetan identity in exile is the Dalai Lama myth, not a country; a culture, not workable institutions; devoted imitation, not rational discussion; morality play, not analysis and reason. With the Dalai Lama believed to have a monopoly on the truth rather than power, free speech and public debate become superfluous in the exile community, free participation in the political process impossible. In a crisis, a few words by the Dalai Lama repeated as slogans eclipse any rational public discourse.
SHIFTING POWER BASE IN EXILE
From Politics back to Religion in a new Mix
The cultural and political upheaval for Tibetans in exile since 1959 naturally caused an unsettling identity crisis of unparalleled proportions. The many shifts and changes in their lives brought to the surface old conflicts and created many new ones. The mechanism to deal with them adequately was simply not in place at a time when struggle for survival took precedence over all else. The strategy was to line up everyone behind the Dalai Lama, seen as the single legitimate symbol of the Tibetan nation. The problem however was that without adequate new structures to deal with the changed social and political realities, old habits prevailed. The culture could not transform itself and started to become hollow after only one generation in exile. This merely accentuated the identity crisis erupting for the first time large scale in the 1990's. The Dalai Lama also had to reinvent himself, and the old myth of the Ganden Potang government with the Dalai Lama at its center had to be transformed into a modern one. This became the main Tibetan project in exile. The exile administration started to use the term Ganden Potang government again in the 1990's with the official reinstatement of the union of religion and politics in 1991.
The adoption of the first Charter for the Tibetan exile administration in India in 1991 actually grew out of the political need to include solutions to Tibet's status other than complete independence. See, for example, "Independence has been the mantra to every Tibetan. Tibet's proposed future constitution promulgated in 1965 -- now rendered obsolete -- clearly mentioned the need for Tibetans to strive for independence. This has been diluted to accommodate the Chinese offer to negotiate anything less than independence. The 11th Assembly of the Tibetan People's Deputies adopted this in the present Charter of Tibetans in exile." Tseten Norbu: "Where are the Conditions for Holding a Referendum?" The Tibetan Review, October 1997. The draft constitution for a future Tibet of 1963 was explicitly committed to independence on which the Dalai Lama reversed himself in 1987-88 (Five Point Peace Plan and Strasbourg Proposal). The new charter was hailed as a great advance in the experiment with democracy the only reason given publically for its adoption -- because it increased the number of elected deputies. Yet they insisted on keeping in its preamble the term unity of religion and politics, the defining feature of Tibet's historical Ganden Potang government, as the mandate of the new exile administration. This was out of respect for His Holiness, who accepted the devotion of his subjects without overriding their decision. The Dalai Lama as Dalai Lama is part and parcel of the Ganden Potang government. It must have been inconceivable to the officials to keep one and reject the other. A rejection of the Ganden Potang also meant the rejection of the Dalai Lama, the very symbol of Tibet. Had the Dalai Lama pressed harder for a secular government at the time, as he had initially proposed, the experiment with democracy might have taken a different turn. Not much is published on the history of the government in exile, its shifting emphasis on either religion or politics, or its relationship to the many non-governmental organizations that act on its behalf. For some insight into the workings of the Tibetan exile community, see Tsering Sakya: the Dragon in the Land of Snows, Pimlico, London, 1999; A. Tom Grunfeld: The Making of Modern Tibet, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, 1996; also assorted Tibetan Review issues In this carefully choreographed dance with the Dalai Lama, a conservative element took over foreshadowing the increasingly militant positions Tibetans would take especially on controversial issues. Why did Dharamsala revert to the basis of the Ganden Potang government at a time when it claimed to modernize? In Tibet the main power base for this government was the landed aristocracy, the great monastic universities around Lhasa and the landed Gelugpa monasteries across the country. Where before in Tibet Gelugpas controlled the government, now, in exile, the government controls Gelugpa, and the other religious traditions are demanding a larger share of the political pie. Either way, the unity of state and religion is upheld. The only difference is that today, inside and outside Tibet, the respective governments interfere much more in the religious aspect of the Gelug tradition which has become politicizing it in unprecedented ways. In exile, the person of the Dalai Lama, the power of the name and institution inherited from Tibetan history, as well as the myth carrying his fame have become the power base for exile Tibetans in the absence of a country, independent economic base, legal status to their government in India and abroad.
Intentionally and carefully crafted in the early days of exile from 1962-1967 by the Dalai Lama's brother Gyalo Thondup, According to Demo Rinpoche, in an interview about Tibetan history, New York, February 24, 1998; His Holiness' persona was hailed as the only savior of Tibet and its cause. The exile government distanced itself early on from politically educated Tibetans, since they had been the elite in Tibet, and replaced them with their servants, according to Professor Dawa Norbu. Since then, not only the old elite but also the young, educated new elite -- especially intellectuals like Jamyang Norbu, Tashi Tsering, Lhasang Tsering, Sonam Chopel, and late K. Thondup, who were pointing in a direction of separating religion from politics -- has been excluded from political power. Instead, officials subservient and loyal to the Dalai Lama's family were said to have the best chance of succeeding in the Dharamsala government. The main focus is on His Holiness. Samdong Rinpoche underscores the savior image of the Dalai Lama when he says that the only reason why Tibetans are tolerated in India is because of "the person, not the institution, of this Dalai Lama." Interview with Samdong Rinpoche, Varanasi, January 12, 1998. Children growing up in exile were reminded at every moment that their lives, sustenance, livelihood, and education came to them by the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They were educated into an unquestioned acceptance of his role and so believed this literally as did the older, religious minded Tibetans, whose proximity to the Dalai Lama was now much closer than it had ever been in Tibet. A whole generation grew up in exile believing in the Dalai Lama as a God who provides everything for his children rather than a Buddha, a guide to enlightenment. Developing an idea of the Dalai Lama as God might have been come from the influence of Indian culture on Tibetans as well as the Christian model that played such a large role in the education of the Tibetan elite in exile. Most were educated in the Christian missionary schools in India, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Dehradun. See also below the section on the influence of Christianity on Tibetans in exile in "In Search for a Modern Identity." The idea that the sole source of every small and big happiness of Tibetan existence is the kindness of the Dalai Lama and that they were deeply indebted to him was thoroughly inscribed into the cultural fabric in exile. In a touching display of submission, the 1999 official Tibetan calendar, published by the Tibetan Medical Institute in Dharamsala, lists December 10th as the "coronation day" on which the Dalai Lama was crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize. This idolizing relationship Tibetans developed with the Dalai Lama in exile is quite different from that of the more independent minded people of old Tibet. The image of the sole savior of Tibetans is a construct "The Dalai Lama's public persona was built up one grain at a time, like the celebrated mandala, over a period of nearly forty years. By the time I met him back in 1970, he was already highly respected as a great Buddhist teacher and an untiring advocate of non-violence. Since then, like Gandhi and Mother Teresa, he came to epitomize the very essence of humanity itself." Victor Chan, "The Dalai Lama as Petty Tribalist," Chinese Community Forum (CCF), an electronic journal, March 25, 1998 (Issue No. 9810) posted on the website of The Government of Tibet in Exile. Victor Chan, a Buddhist and well versed in Tibetan culture, spent more than two years walking and hitchhiking across Tibet collecting material for his Tibet Handbook: A Pilgrimage Guide, Moon Publications Inc., Chico, 1994. fashioned out of political necessity with religious content. For political reasons even the accomplishments of other Tibetan Lamas were appropriated by the official religious establishment in Dharamsala. All good things were attributed to His Holiness starting in the 1980's not necessarily out of religious devotion but out of an overriding political urgency. When today the Dalai Lama's representatives lecture other Tibetan Lamas teaching in the West on the kindness of His Holiness, i.e. that they owe him everything since, according to them, Dharma would not exist in the West without the Dalai Lama, they unwittingly tell the story in reverse. The Dalai Lama's representative in Geneva, Chungdak Dawa Koren, for example, in a meeting with Lama Gangchen Rinpoche and group, according to Sharon Dawson, Coordinator of "Help in Action," in an interview, Delhi, May 18, 1998 Buddhist teachers from Japan, Vietnam, Shri Lanka, etc., and Tibetan Lamas from all schools laid the foundation for Buddhist development in the West. They made possible the later success of the Dalai Lama. A well functioning net of Tibetan Buddhist organizations was already established when the Dalai Lama taught in Europe for the first time. His first visit to the United States was not until 1979. "On the Dalai Lama's first trip to New York in 1979, he went to see the Statue of Liberty ... not even recognized by passers-by. He gave talks ... to a total of 1,000 people, without security guards, police escorts, or trailing photographers. Today, ... his fame and his following will draw a more traditional reaction to celebrity. His every move has been mapped out by the State Department. City police officers are blocking off and stationing guards along his itinerary. Photographers, television camera operators and reporters from around the world will be following him. And an estimated 40,000 people are expected at the four major talks ..." Barbara Stewart: "With 13th Visit, Dalai Lama has Gone from Obscurity to Celebrity," The New York Times, August 11, 1999. When the Dalai Lama says of himself today, "The institution of Dalai Lama has become the guardian of Tibetan Buddhism," Interview, Torsten Engelhardt, Nina Freydag: "Tibet ein Teil Chinas? Der Dalai Lama," Die Woche, November 6, 1998. one wonders why a politicized institution such as that of the Dalai Lama with his Ganden Potang government and its failure to resolve on any level the political task with which it was entrusted should be seen as being any better qualified to serve as guardian of Tibetan Buddhism than the hundreds of other equally realized masters of Tibet's different Buddhist traditions who are working as hard, if not as famously, at the common task of saving their religion outside of the domain of active politics. The carefully crafted image of the Dalai Lama as religious leader the world knows today, popularized with the help of political world leaders and Hollywood since late 1980's, became the repository for all Tibetan aspirations and hope. It provided a model for a new Tibetan self-image and identity.
The basis for the successful Dalai Lama image as the sole savior for exile Tibetans and later its globalized version was to a large extent Tibetan independence but then, in the 1990's after many political failures, it shifted back primarily to religion. In the earlier exile days the Dalai Lama was not permitted to make political statements in India. The world did not acknowledge Tibet's existence as an independent country. He received his first visas abroad in the late seventies only on condition of refraining from engaging in political activities or making political statements. Whatever political aims Tibetans advanced at that time, they had to be hidden behind religious discourse or worked through local organizations. This created a most distressing situation for Tibetans almost forcing the Dalai Lama into mixing his religious and political pursuits in new and unprecedented ways. When exile Tibetans made their first contacts with Tibetans inside Tibet in the late 1970's The first delegation sent as a fact finding mission from Dharamsala to Tibet, led by Lobsang Samten, the Dalai Lama's brother, started in January 1979, the second, led by the Jetsun Pema, the Dalai Lama's sister, in May 1980, and the last of the series in 1982. These delegations brought back hours of film and video footage and thousands of pictures as testimony to the destruction inside Tibet. they became painfully aware of the scope of Chinese destruction in Tibet. The reality hit them that there was almost nothing left of their culture and way of life to which to return. At that point the call for independence became more loudly heard beyond the exile community. The idea of independence became a powerful unifying factor for Tibetans with the Dalai Lama at the helm of this movement. In the eighties, the free Tibet movement gained momentum and became visible worldwide. Tibetans became more vocal and stated their political aims more freely. The Nechung oracle's continued prophesies from the early 1980's onward of freedom and the exiles' speedy return to a free Tibet were taken absolutely literally by almost every Tibetan. Later, in the 1990's, when it became apparent that these prophesies had not come true, the government's oracles started to blame Dorje Shugden for its failure The Dalai Lama himself acknowledged the failure of his Strasbourg proposal to bring the Chinese to the negotiating table. For example, "Although the last few years have been more or less a failure, it does not mean that we have no hope," in an interview, "We Want Genuine Autonomy or Self-rule," The Times of India, Delhi, August 17, 1996 and, with the unfulfilled expectations of the Strasbourg proposal (1988) to open any productive dialogue with the Chinese, the power base shifted back to religion.
When in 1988 the Dalai Lama in a speech to the European Parliament, later called the Strasbourg proposal, reneged on the commitment to independence in favor of Tibet as a zone of peace under the suzerainty of China, most Tibetans were reluctant to criticize this proposal openly, especially since it was presented to Tibetans then as a temporary solution with complete independence still as the final goal. Most Tibetans, especially those who today demonstrate in capitals throughout the world for Tibetan freedom, still explain away the ever widening gap between the Dalai Lama's political statements and his people's beliefs in independence on religious grounds. "His Holiness knows best what is needed in the long run," they say, "He knows everything." However, after Strasbourg, the idea of independence as the main focus for Tibetan unity disintegrated and the shift back to religion was the only possibility left to the exile leadership to maintain its control over exile Tibetans everywhere in the world. However, this religion could clearly not be the Gelugpa tradition, the most powerful religion of old Tibet to which the Dalai Lama also belonged. It had to be a new state religion under the leadership of the Dalai Lama and in a form that could be endorsed by the other Tibetan Buddhist schools as well. The older traditions in Tibet (not in exile) had been marginalized by Gelugpa's popularity and political power. This was perhaps more true of Nyingma, which incorporated non-Buddhist practices and beliefs mostly from Bön, than Kagyu and Sakya, although hundreds of Kagyu monasteries had been destroyed or converted to Gelugpa when the fifth Dalai Lama established his rule. The Nyingmapas have long led the vociferous anti-Gelugpa rhetoric. Gelugpas were often totally unaware that there was a Nyingma-Gelug difference, as is often the case for those in the majority. Interesting here is that Nechung is of Nyingma origin, and Dorje Shugden is mostly Gelugpa, although relied on by Sakyas as well. I see the source of the old problematic between Nyingma and Gelug, which is today blown way out of proportion, situated in the cross between religion and political power. I believe the political misuse of religion is the source for sectarian conflict in Tibetan Buddhism rather than their legitimate doctrinal differences, as is implied today in the denigration of the Gelugpa lineage and its masters protected by Dorje Shugden as inherently sectarian. However, the conflict erupted when the shift from a more political focus moved back to a form of religion as the dominant power base, inevitable after all the political failures. To be sure the new form of Buddhism was a politicized version of a religion that did not exist in Tibet. Barbara Crossette, seven year Asia correspondent for the New York Times, sums up this difference in a book dedicated "To all Himalayan Buddhists who fear the extinction of their culture more than death," "Historically, Buddhism grew and expanded its reach through the support of enlightened (or shrewd) emperors and kings. These realms, while feudal in organization, were not usually intolerant theocracies. Rulers among them the early kings of Tibet and Nepal saw in Buddhism not a philosophy with which to garb authority or cloak conquest but a force for civilizing and elevating their courts and the people they ruled. ...With the demise or dilution of the old kingdoms, Tibetans, Ladakhis, and Bhutanese in recent decades have consciously made Buddhism the hall mark of their nationality and sometimes a banner for militancy or even violence that in some few places (at certain overheated moments) approaches religious fundamentalism." : So Close to Heaven, The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas, Vintage Books, New York, 1995, p. 48. As a power base for the Ganden Potang government and its administration in exile, it had to give at least the appearance of representing everyone even if the integrity of individual traditions had to be compromised.
While the issue of independence had split the exile community in India and Nepal, with many groups and individuals still firmly committed to Tibetan freedom, at least in principle, the Dalai Lama and his project of saving Tibet's unique culture, much of which is religious, was embraced wholeheartedly. Power consolidated in the person of the Dalai Lama became absolute. It was publicly legitimated again and again by ancient protectors Even though already pointed out, I think few Western people know or understand the extent of the Tibetan government's reliance on protectors and divination. "The interrelationship among the Tibetan gods are too complicated to be comprehended by a common man but it is in fact the key element influencing all facets of Tibetan life." And, quoting the Dalai Lama from his autobiography, "I seek his [Nechung] opinion in the same way as I seek the opinion of my cabinet and just as I seek the opinion of my conscience. I consider the gods to be my 'upper house.' The Kashag constitutes my lower house. Like other leaders, I consult both before making a decision on affairs of State." P. Stobdan: "Shugden dispute baffles Tibetans," The Hindustan Times, Delhi, August 23, 1996. speaking through oracles, the ultimate court of appeals in which the Tibetan people do not have a voice. Consulting oracles was something the Dalai Lama had strongly criticized early on in his exile days. Attached to it was the advice to give up such practices in favor of more modern ones, like "meditation," not common among Tibetans for whom "recitation" is the most prominent practice and the rituals connected with their belief system. Most older Tibetans, who considered a little too fast the Dalai Lama's "modernizing" pace started in the 1960's -- i.e. his disapproval of the widespread Tibetan practice of relying on major and minor oracles, of making traditional offerings, large monasteries, extensive rituals, etc., which make up a large part of "Tibetan culture" were now surprised about the renewed popularity of oracles and elaborate government rituals in the 1990's, their scope and the oracles' access to the Dalai Lama. Perhaps the earlier advice was meant only for everyone else's oracles, not necessarily the Dalai Lama's or those of the government. The following anecdote told by older Tibetans illustrates the point. Sometime in the mid eighties, the Dalai Lama told his religious attendants to stop certain local protector practices specific to each Dalai Lama. Attached to each incarnation of Dalai Lamas is a local protector of the region of his birth place, or birth protector. Thus there are fourteen of those local protectors that require monthly rituals. His Holiness instructed to give up some of them -- on grounds that there were too many -- and to continue only the important ones. When in his dreams different beings were fighting, believed to have been the result of having giving up the rituals for some of the Dalai Lama's birth protectors, he reinstated them. On the whole, the shift back to religion in the 1990's, after an earlier disillusionment with "the novelty of modernism wearing thin in Dharamsala," is also described as "religious fundamentalism [which] began to supersede any idea of learning from the West." Jamyang Norbu: "Opening of the Political Eye, Tibet's long search for democracy," Tibetan Review, November 1990
Globalizing the new image of this politicized Tibetan Buddhism went hand in hand with the celebrity status of the Dalai Lama as a world religious leader. This began in 1989, when the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize, and exploded in the nineties with Hollywood's help: its celebrities and two movies featuring the Dalai Lama as main hero. The Western image culture as power base has taught Dharamsala to construct a most efficient media machine capable of an exquisite manipulation of the press. See for example, Isabel Hilton and her role as a journalist in the selection of the new Panchen Lama: "Spies in the House of Faith," The New Yorker, August 23-30, 1999. Yet the effect of a media driven culture and the celebrity status of their Buddhist leader on Tibetans in India and Nepal, aside from the financial support it generates, is still indirect and by no means the main motivator, as Tibet scholars now seem to imply. As Donald Lopez suggests in Prisoners of Shangrila, especially in chapter seven, "The Prison." The celebrity image imported into the exile community serves to confirm the religiously based "chosen people" status that has been part of the Tibetan national identity for a very long time. Today, Tibetans claim to be special because they are preserving their religious heritage for the world, not for themselves. "In our work and in our cause, we are trying to be very responsible, but the world should also be responsible toward a group of people that is trying to be an example for the world." Rinchen Khandro Choegyal, Education Minister of the exile government and sister-in-law of the Dalai Lama, sums up this attitude. Quoted by Stephen Kinzer: "As the World Heals, Tibet's Exiles Feel Forsaken," The New York Times, June 24, 1999. This makes the unquestioned epochal shift of globalizing traditional Buddhist language and images so plausible to Tibetans and their supporters in the West, who seem unaware that Tibetan culture now lives mainly in media images and in decontextualized fragments of the Dalai Lama's speech propagated throughout the world. The sad loss of cultural content was to be expected but taking them to be the sole reality of Tibetan Buddhism even more so.
Returning to the Dorje Shugden issue as example, how could anyone possibly trump the following statement by the Dalai Lama concerning Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden made in Germany in May 1998, "Whoever fights against the Shugden spirit defends religious freedom. I compare this definitely to the Nazis in Germany. Whoever fights them, defends human rights, since the freedom of Nazis is not freedom." Ludwig Klemens, Esotera, May 1998, p. 82 Since no distinction was ever made As far as I know, at least not publically since the crisis erupted in 1996. The idea was to distance the name of the Dalai Lama from all who had relied on Dorje Shugden, including his own spiritual masters, to safeguard it against charges of sectarianism by anti-Gelugpa factions. The Dalai Lama privately told the old manager of Trijang Labrang, who had served the previous Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, that the young incarnation could continue to rely on Dorje Shugden until he, the Dalai Lama, performed a dough ball divination to determine once and for all whether or not Chogtul Trijang Rinpoche could continue to rely. However, even when the manager requested the Dalai Lama to state this publically in order that the death and other threats against the young Lama and the disparaging campaign against his predecessor might stop, the Dalai Lama did not do so. between Buddhists who rely responsibly on Dorje Shugden and those who might misuse the practice, the Dalai Lama's statement would thus include all the great masters who believed Dorje Shugden to be a reliable Dharma protector. The mentors of the Dalai Lama himself, who transmitted hundreds and hundreds of the Buddha's teachings to him in a purely religious context would thus be like Nazis, unworthy of freedom. With such statements by the Dalai Lama and the widespread literalist belief in the truth of all his statements regardless of context, how can anyone speak the truth about these outstanding people and be believed? How can such stigma ever be overcome? This much power has the Dalai Lama's speech to silence. In fact, in March 1999 the word in Dharamsala is that Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche incarnated in a ghost. I do not take rumors seriously, but in a still largely oral society they can be looked at as a barometer of the culture. Nobody from the exile government, as far as I know, has publically questioned the offense to the religious sensibilities of the many tens of thousands of Buddhists for whom those included in such statements are revered masters. If anyone did, he or she would be reviled as anti-Dalai Lama. This is one of the sad results of mixing religion and politics in a post-modern world. The Dalai Lama's power is mostly expressed through words and even political statements are believed to be backed by the Buddha's doctrine which values truth.