In 1996 the Tibetan Government in Exile, under the direct control of the Dalai Lama, issued an official ban on the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist practice of Dorje Shugden.
Prior to this point Dorje Shugden was widely practised amongst the largest school of Tibetan Buddhism and according to Thupten Wangchen of the Central Tibetan Administration approximately 30% of all Tibetans used to practice this protector Deity.
The Dalai Lama told his government to release an official decree to all Tibetans stating that, “Propitiating Dolgyal [Dorje Shugden] does great harm to the cause of Tibet. It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama.”
A few days later the Dalai Lama then instructed his government to tell all of its employees, “not to indulge in the propitiation of Shugden.”
This was the beginning of the Dalai Lama’s great purge of Shugden Buddhists from all aspects of mainstream Tibetan society. People were forced to either give up their faith or lose their job.
In 2008 the Dalai Lama forced all monasteries in South India to expel any monks who still refused to give up their practice of Dorje Shugden.
As Rebecca Novick (author and editor of 6 books on Tibetan Buddhism and culture) stated in an article for the Huffington Post, “Shugden practitioners gradually became social pariahs. Shopkeepers refused to sell to them, and landlords refused to rent to them. In 2008 the Tibetan leadership ordered the monasteries in South India to purge their populations of Shugden devotees. Monks who had formerly lived like brothers were now forbidden to talk to one another.”
During this time the Dalai Lama was travelling throughout the West preaching a message of inter-religious tolerance and love, while at home he was ruthlessly persecuting and suppressing his own people.
Rather than speaking out against religious discrimination the vast majority of Western Buddhist organisations actually spoke out in support of such actions. One such group, the German Buddhist Monastic Association (DBO) issued a press release stating, “In any society it is necessary for the protection of freedom of the majority…to exclude [Dorje Shugden] advocates from public institutions.”
The unquestioned acceptance of the Dalai Lama as some kind of perfect being by the media, coupled with the support for his own discrimination and prejudice by groups such as the DBO further emboldened him.
On March 17th 2014 the President of the Dalai Lama’s government, Lobsang Sangay passed a resolution in their Parliament which criminalized all Shugden Buddhists. In the resolution it stated that it, “recognises also the Dolgyal [Dorje Shugden] followers…as criminals in history.”
Just this week Lobsang Sangay delivered the Berman lecture at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. In it he explained the way that democracy works in the Tibetan exile community, “when the Tibetan cabinet makes a decision, they send the notice to Tibetans around the world and it is followed by all, irrespective of the size of the Tibetan community in the place.”
It is clear therefore that since 1996 the Dalai Lama has effectively banned the practice of Dorje Shugden within the Tibetan community. He has expelled people from jobs, monasteries, and even told people directly to leave his teachings if they practice Dorje Shugden.
Can you imagine the headlines if the Dalai Lama banned Jews, Muslims, or Christians from attending any of his public teachings? Why is it acceptable therefore for him to ban Shugden Buddhists?
The Dalai Lama’s persecution of Shugden Buddhists is also evident to prominent Buddhist scholars such as Dr Robert Barnett at Columbia University who said, “As you know, the exile authorities do not accept that there is a ban on Dorje Shugden practice…and does not accept that there is discrimination towards Dorje Shugden practitioners within the exile community…my view is the opposite on both these questions.”
Dr Barnett also stated to the BBC World Service that Dorje Shugden practitioners in the Tibetan exile community have faced persecution as a result of the Dalai Lama’s actions towards them.
Dr Nathan Hill of the SOAS University in London, England also confirmed that discrimination towards Shugden Buddhists has arisen as a result of the Dalai Lama’s actions, “There is absolutely no doubt at all that individuals are discriminated against: they have lost their jobs, they have been told they must not enter restaurants, shops and businesses.”
Even one of the Dalai Lama’s two personal emissaries, Samdhong Rinpoche, tasked with representing him on foreign trips stated, “It seems that there are some who feel we should make some concessions to the Dholgyal [Dorje Shugden] worshipers who are unable to stop the worship so that they could return to the mainstream society.”, adding, “On our part, it is an easy job to come up with a clear demand. That is to ask them to stop the worship of Dholgyal [Dorje Shugden]. On the very day that they stopped the worship, they could readily enter into the old community. If one asks if there is any way by which they could receive acceptance without having to stop the Dholgyal [Dorje Shugden] worship, then, decidedly, the answer is that there is none.”
As recently as March 2017 the Dalai Lama held a prayer session in which he had 170 members of his security department make a pledge to never associate with any Dorje Shugden practitioners which he, “joyfully accepted”.
Clearly the Dalai Lama is the driving force behind the segregation and discrimination of Shugden Buddhists within the Tibetan community. He is acutely aware of the impact of his actions and the suffering they cause within the society he is supposed to cherish and protect. Yet he still expects people to pledge to continue this discrimination. Both of his emissaries, Lobsang Sangay and Samdhong Rinpoche support the criminalization and marginalization of Shugden Buddhists, and yet the Dalai Lama continues to be praised as an icon of peace, love and tolerance.
How much longer can the west turn a blind eye to the suffering of religious apartheid that the Dalai Lama is inflicting on his own people?