Are Buddhsist Racist

Read my one & only interview in the New Statesman

What is Racism?


Race can be defined as:

"A classification system used to categorise humans into distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, and/or social affiliation.”


Racism can be defined as:

“The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”


When a group of people are labeled according to a certain religious belief or affiliation and their access to public services, jobs, livelihoods and social freedoms are denied or restricted on the basis of this belief or affiliation this is racism.

How does the UN UDHR apply to Dorje Shugden practitioners?

Article 21

“Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3)The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” (see the original here)

The resolutions passed in 1996 and 1997 are in clear breach of Article 21 of the UN UDHR.

State monasteries and the teachings that take place in them are by definition part of the public service of the CTA.

To restrict people's access to them and the teachings that take place in them on the basis of whether someone is a Dorje Shugden practitioner is not giving people the right of equal access to public service of their country.

To prevent Dorje Shugden practitioners from working for the government, its branches or subsidiaries is also a breach of Article 21 – it is denying people the right to take part in the government of their country directly.


Article 18

A more worrying resolution was unanimously passed by the Tibetan Parliament on March 17th 2014 which, “Further recognises also the Dolgyal criminals in history.”

This resolution by the state legislative body of the CTA criminalises people on the basis of their practice of Dorje Shugden, which is a breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” (see the original here)

Michalowski defines criminalisation as, "the process by which behaviors and individuals are transformed into crime and criminals" (Order, Law and Crime: An Introduction to Criminology).

When governments criminalise a religious practice or philosophical belief this not only goes against the UN UDHR but is also more commonly associated with communist, totalitarian or dictatorial regimes. In fact this is the kind of behaviour that the CTA often accuses China of engaging in.

If you have any doubts as to whether the Tibetan Government can pass and enforce laws take a look here.


Article 19

“Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (see the original here)

Since the late 1990s several demonstrations have taken place in the west outside venues where the Dalai Lama has been giving public teachings. Organised under various different names such as the Western Shugden Society, The International Shugden Community and so forth they principally consisted of western students of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

The Tibetan government at the time accused the protesters of being funded by the Chinese authorities to besmirch the Dalai Lama's reputation and thus reduce his power, citing the lack of Tibetans amongst the protesters as somehow proving this.

The real reason for the lack of Tibetans at the initial protests was simply fear. At that time in the Tibetan communities many Dorje Shugden practitioners were struggling to maintain their practice in secret to avoid losing their jobs and livelihoods as well as the very real possibility of putting their family members in danger.

In later protests there have been an ever increasing number of Tibetans taking part, however this has led to some of them having their lives put in danger by the CTA themselves.

In early May 2014 demonstrations took place in Oslo during which members of the Dalai Lama's entourage were pictured photographing Tibetan protesters.

In the images on the right you can see a close member of the Dalai Lama's entourage photographing Tibetan protesters outside the Dalai Lama's teaching at the Chateau Neuf student theatre in Oslo.

Ironically that day, May 8th 2014, marked Norwegian Liberation Day, the day when 69 years ago Norway was liberated from the oppression of the Nazi's.

The Dalai Lama's representative is then pictured being spoken to by the Oslo Police and cautioned about his intimidating behaviour.

In the final image he is pictured helping with the close protection security for the Dalai Lama the day after the Chateau Neuf teachings.

The following week during the demonstrations in Frankfurt the media representative for the German Buddhist Monastic Association (DBO) was also pictured taking photographs of Tibetan protesters, again outside one of the Dalai Lama's public teachings (click here to see the image).

At the end of May 2014 the CTA took the unprecedented step of releasing a list naming 34 Tibetans who had taken part in protests against the ban of Dorje Shugden practice, along with a photograph of each person.

The list even went as far as to give the address of one of the Tibetan women who had taken part in the protests.

This list and photographs were published on the CTA's official website. You can see part one of the list by clicking here, and part two of the list by clicking here.

By conducting a 'name and shame' campaign against members of its own community that had exercised their freedom to express their opinions through a legally accepted means of peaceful protest the CTA have clearly breached Article 19 of the UN UDHR.

So the CTA have breached articles 18, 19 & 21 of the UN UDHR, which is generally held to therefore be a violation of human rights, but does this apply to Dorje Shugden practitioners?

According to senior members of the German Buddhist Monastic Association (DBO) it shouldn't apply to Dorje Shugden practitioners because they are "extremists" and, “The Tibetans have their own way of doing things and of thinking, and they have other values that matter more for them..”

Read more about the German Buddhist Monastic Association's views...

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