A Letter for Peace and Freedom
Dear President Obama, July 14, 2014
I am writing you today, both as a democrat and as a Buddhist, to request your help with an international issue that affects my life as an American and the lives of Tibetans in exile; it has to do with freedom of religion and the delicate issue, of your please requesting your fellow Nobel Laureate the Dalai Lama, of actually allowing for religious freedom for people who do the practice of a Buddha named Dorje Shugden, which the Dalai Lama claims is a spirit. I need you to understand, that according to the Central Tibetan Authority, the U.S and Indian governments are both very worried about people like me (who do this prayer) being violent toward his holiness the Dalai Lama. You are my favorite U.S. President so far, and I think you understand, obviously, what it is like when people play politics. The Dalai Lama, we know, talks about peace and tolerance and all of this, but then is demonstrates no understanding of religious freedom when it comes to people who share the Buddhist religion with him. I have always wondered, how exactly do nice people like you face impeachment for simply doing their jobs, while the guy in burgundy is given complete license to act however he likes? He doesn’t deal with the tea party, you say? Well, that is because he really resembles more the tea party than anyone honest or modern in thinking. Please understand, I am a complete pacifist; I try not to even kill bugs if I can avoid it; killing humans or otherwise inflicting physical harm on beings is completely against the teachings of the Buddha. I am hoping you will meet with the Dalai Lama again, and will ask him to please issue a public statement to treat Shugden followers as equal humans, allowing us into shops, to receive medical care, for people to associate still with us materially and with Shugden family and friends, and to proceed with tolerance toward us, just like when he asks people (rightly) to have tolerance toward Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc.
I am writing because I am concerned, because rather famous American Buddhists, like Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist Studies from the University of Columbia, have referred to us (people who do prayers to a Buddha named Dorje Shugden) as the “Taliban of Buddhism.” According to an article Thurman recently wrote in the Huffington Post, we are funded by China, responsible (including one of my very peaceful lamas, named Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, who is very gentle and a vegetarian) for involvement in a triple murder in the 1990s in India of three monks, though the perpetrators were not brought to trial, and no one was even sure that they say our prayers.
Basically, Mr. Obama, in Buddhism we have a lot of different aspects of Buddha, and a lot of different prayers/meditations (which together are called a practice). Approximately 30 percent of Tibetans did prayers to Dorje Shugden, including the Dalai Lama himself, before he disavowed the practice in 1976; he has instituted bans on it (though the Dalai Lama claims there is no ban) in the 1990s and made it very much like apartheid or segregation in India/Nepal by 2008. This affects people’s ability to practice our religion both who are Tibetans in India and also people like me and my daughter, who are sometimes treated badly by other Buddhists who get angry with us for not converting. Furthermore, the ban on this practice is most likely political; nor anyone in my school should be accused of being terrorists, nor should the U.S. government be lied to by the CTA that ordinary American Buddhists would want to harm the Dalai Lama. Allow me to explain the politics, as I understand them to you:
The Dalai Lama, is first of all, not in charge of Buddhism, or even in charge of his own brand of Buddhism, which is Tibetan; he was the political leader; there are four schools, and some lesser schools; there is a head of the Kagyu school, a head of all the other schools, etc. The Dalai Lama has not historically been in charge of the other schools, though the CTA blatantly lies and says otherwise. Furthermore, though Buddhists are supposed to be peaceful, the Dalai Lamas of Tibet were not always peaceful; for example, during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama invited Mongol invaders to Tibet; the alliance between the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpa followers and the Mongols murdered by decapitation the abbots of virtually all of 1000 Kagyu monestaries and slaughtered 7000 Kagyu monks, forcibly converting the Kagyu monestaries to Gelugpa.
The 14th Dalai Lama, the current one, wanted to be in charge of all of Buddhism this life, and tried to get the other schools to agree; he was met with opposition by the other schools, including the 16th Karmapa. Due to a long standing rivalry with the Kagyus, the Dalai Lama, incorrectly touted by the west as the “Pope” of Buddhism, over-rode the acting head of the Kagyu school (the recently late Shamar Rinpoche)’s choice, and instead chose the Chinese candidate for the Karmapa. Incidentally, my first school was the Kagyu school, and I met both Karmapas; the one that I met first, the legitimate one, is not , the Dalai Lama/China one. So, from the Kaygu we have an example of how the Dalai Lama split their school (divide and conquer). Then we have a practice, a perfectly normal practice, also done from the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, that the 14th Dalai Lama decided was that of a spirit. That is my current main practice, which has been my practice for 5 years. I assure you, I am praying to a Buddha, because in Buddhism view and intention are important, and I believe myself to be praying to a Buddha. Incidentally, people in the Dalai Lama’s same school (Tibetan Gelugpas) were also not wishing for the merger of all the traditions of Buddhism under the Dalai Lama, so just like the Dalai Lama split the Kagyus, so the Dalai Lama split his own school, banning the main prayers of many of these same Gelugpa lamas, the prayers to Buddha Dorje Shugden. Around this same time, the Dalai Lama had the head of another school of Buddhism the Nyingma imprisoned on grounds of being a Chinese spy, though the lama was of course, not a Chinese spy, but wanted to remain in charge of his own school.
Now, you and I are western people, and we have already been through the bit where we noticed how the kings of Europe would decide everybody had to be Catholic and murder a bunch of Protestants, and vice versa. Generally speaking, when religion and politics mix, then the results are never good; So, the Dalai Lama, who I have never been convinced is a Buddha, decides he wants to be in charge of Buddhism; he lost his country to China so he had to have power someway, so he chose religion; he instituted the ban (yes it’s a ban, Thurman is completely a yes-man to the Dalai Lama and will lie blatantly to keep the Dalai’s reputation looking good). Now, the Dalai Lama needs the ban to divide and conquer his own school, but do people like me, regular Americans who practice this practice need to be falsely accused and maligned as terrorists? Also, just because the Dalai Lama thinks something is a spirit, doesn’t make it one. This is obvious to us, as Westerners, though Thurman always counters that western Shugden practitioners don’t know about Tibetan culture. I did visit India back in 2001, as well as Nepal, and I felt very much at home in the Tibetan monasteries; I did see evidence of the ban, that is people being afraid to associate with Shugden practioners, because they said they were afraid of the Dalai Lama fanatics hurting them. I had open minded lamas, lamas that do not force their students to think or do any particular thing, but just encourage peace and compassion; these were Shamar Rinpoche and his Karmapa Thaye Dorje, Kagyus, that the Dalai Lama also interfered with. (By the way, Thurman also doesn’t like Shamar Rinpoche and my Karmapa; Thurman sides with an author that claims Shamar Rinpoche murdered another lama. Again, my lamas wouldn’t even order the death of an animal, and certainly would never kill anyone).
Basically, what is disconcerting, is that we have this former dictator of Tibet, that for some reason in the eyes of the press and in the eyes of the American government, can seem to do no wrong. I understand, America has an interest in keeping the region from being taken over by China; I sincerely hope China will stop trying to take over neighboring countries; please understand I love democracy, especially religious freedom and free speech, and would never endorse communism. However, I am hoping that perhaps, since you are both politicians and also Nobel Laureates, that you could ask the Dalai Lama, who claims that the Shugden practitioners are not being discriminated against, are not under ban, to please issue a statement to the effect of his wanting people to sincerely embrace as equals Shugden practitioners, that it is okay to practice Shugden, allow Shugden people in shops, that it is okay for relatives to talk to Shugden relatives; that people should in fact allow Shugden people in their shops, since they are all in exile together. (The Dalai Lama claims the practice of Shugden is harming his long life, but I assure you that that is nonsense according to real Buddhist teachers, that someone else’s prayers can shorten our lives).
So, Mr. Obama, should your committee on human rights look into this, and I hope they will, please understand, that you will be lied to by the Dalai Lama’s people, pretty much like the American people are lied to everyday by the Tea Party. If it is ordinary citizens, rather than CTA or Thurman, then in case that they will have been lied to, and tell you we are doing witchcraft or something. (It’s just prayers, meditation, it’s very peaceful; the Buddha is slightly wrathful looking, as is normal in Buddhism for Dharma Protector practice, but he is only looking scary to help us conquer negative emotions such as anger; we don’t put up with our own anger you see, and we conquer it like an enemy, that’s why he looks scary). Like in all Mahayana Buddhist practices, in the practice of Dorje Shugden, we do not engage in the physical or mental harm of any being; we make aspirations that all beings will be happy peaceful compassionate, and all attain the same state as Buddha, the awakened one. Also they will tell you we are sectarian— 3 out of 4 traditions used to do this practice, for a total of at least 30 percent of Tibetans; I have lamas from 3 schools of Buddhism on my shrine, and am non-sectarian; the Dalai lama is Orwellian in his use of language—if we do what he wants— we are non-sectarian, but if we don’t do what he wants, then we must be sectarian).
I don’t like being considered a terrorist for saying a prayer; I don’t like the lies, and though I understand that the U.S. Government very much wants to keep China at bay in the region (believe me, I don’t want India or any other country to suffer the fate of Tibet) please, can you just ask the Dalai Lama to issue a statement asking his followers to treat Shugden practitioner as equals, to be kind to one another, to do commerce with one another, etc., because they seem to think he wants them to treat us badly, so if the Dalai Lama would just say otherwise, and encourage peace and friendship on both sides, that would be very helpful. He does this with other religions, but tells us we do not deserve the same, because we are ‘worshipping a spirit.’ (Please understand, I know a lot of Christians who think all Buddhists are going to hell; I don’t think they are right, so why would I listen to a politician about what aspect of Buddha to pray to?) With China out there, why do Buddhists need anyone between them?
In closing, I hope whoever reads this, that you will understand, it is very hard to be called a terrorist and have our voices squelched; I do not support China, and I do support human rights and democracy, so please could the U.S. government understand and approach the situation not like good(=Dalai Lama) versus evil(=anything against the Dalai Lama’s decrees) but as life in the real world is, with an approach that brings democracy, non-violence, and human rights for everyone into the picture. Thank you for your time.