Protesting the Dalai Lama

Robert Thurman has written an article posted on Huffington Post titled Concerning The Current Wave of “Protest Demonstrations” Against His Holiness the Dalai Lama by the Just-formed New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) Shugden Protest Front Group, The International Shugden Community (ISC).

Protest over Dalai Lama in New York City on Nov. 4, 2014 (Credit: CBS2)
Protest over Dalai Lama in New York City on Nov. 4, 2014 (Credit: CBS2)

The title alone tells you an awful lot about the whole controversy. You see, these “protesters” would like people to believe they are a “people,” an indigenous-like religious minority group, which is why they have recently begun to position themselves as the International Shugden Community, when in fact they are almost all Western believers in a Western cult of Tibetan Buddhism, the New Kadampa Tradition, founded by Kelsang Gyatso.

Thierry Dodin, a Tibetologist who has taught at the University of Bonn and has served as director of the Tibet Information Network in London, says “The NKT can be described typologically as a cult on the basis of its organisational form, its excessive group pressure and blind obedience to its founder.” This sounds very similar to the Japanese Buddhist group with a like organization form, excessive group pressure, and blind obedience to its (de facto) founder, which I spent some years with.

The NKT just opened a new center a few blocks from my home. It’s called Kadampa Meditation Center Hollywood. Outside the building (a church that went out of business), a sign proclaims that this is Modern Buddhism. Another sign advertises a class called “Mindfulness for Busy People.” That alone is enough to make me want to boycott the place. Intro to Meditation classes cost $12, as do some other classes. If you want to drop in for a nice, relaxing guided meditation in the morning or midday: 5 bucks. Not a lot of money but if you went frequently it would add up after a while. I am used to “free” or “suggested donation” both of which are more in line with the Buddhist tradition of not charging for the dharma.

It’s a real shame because having a Buddhist center so close by would be just great. Their opposition to the Dalai Lama (they have a new book out called The False Dalai Lama The Worst Dictator in the Modern World) and their adherence to Shugden practice, insures that I will never set foot in the place.

To be fair, their practice is more diverse than just Dorje Shugden worship. And what’s wrong with that in the first place? Read this piece I posted a while back that includes some of the Dalai Lama’s remarks about protector deities.

And what is the beef these protesters are voicing? Robert Thurman explains

In the case of the current wave of ISC “protests” against the Dalai Lama, we have to ask ourselves–what is the real motive? What does the small group of highly motivated, well-organized, seemingly media-savvy “protesters” really want? They say they want “religious freedom,” but they have always had religious freedom in India or the West, nobody has banned them worshiping as they wish. Within Tibet they have special support from the Chinese government that dominates Tibet (not giving such freedom to pro-Dalai-Lama Tibetan Buddhists), and outside of Tibet they have their own monasteries, Meditation Centers, and support networks. Their Western followers are free to worship as they choose, and are also free to attack the Dalai Lama, as they are doing. They say they want to end “segregation,” but they themselves choose to separate themselves from member of their own Gelukpa sect who decline to propitiate the protector entity they call Shugden, as well as from other sects of Buddhism.”

Read the rest of Concerning The Current Wave of “Protest Demonstrations” Against His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Huffington Post.

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