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.

Key Facts

Due to the wealth of information submitted to media outlets by both sides of this controversy this page exists to clarify the key facts surrounding the main issues.

Click on any of the questions or topics below to see a short summary of published quotes or references related to it.


According to several highly regarded academics there is absolutely no doubt that extensive religious discrimination towards Shugden Buddhists exists within the exile Tibetan community. Samdhong Rinpoche, one of the Dalai Lama's most trusted advisors and his ex-Prime Minister was even caught on camera justifying an apartheid-like segregation within the exile community (see here).


Even academics who are staunch supporters of the Dalai Lama agree this discrimination exists, they agree that the Dalai Lama knows about it and that he is doing nothing to stop it.


"...the Dalai Lama's statements resulted in a de facto ban that was self-enforced by the majority of Tibetan exiles. 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.

The more zealous engaged in violent scuffles and beatings. Hundreds of monks were expelled, and those who remained were required to publicly denounce the practice under the eyes of the abbots, eager to prove their loyalties." Rebecca Novick, Huffington Post.


"If you want to know more go to India. Large monastery of worship of this [Shugden Buddhism] there now. Only difference is the majority of the monks not mixing with them. That is the situation." Dalai Lama, DBTV


"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." Dr Nathan Hill, Dagbladet Information.


"However, when privately owned restaurants and stores carry signs that say the Dholgyal [Shugden] worshipers are not welcome, then that is the freedom of the owners. That is their Fundamental Human Rights...Under that right, anyone can express their mind of being not receptive of someone. That is their fundamental right...That is not a case of discriminating against anyone...for the time being the sign keeps them away." Samdhong Rinpoche, Are Buddhists Racist.


"Barnett says the Dalai Lama discouraged rituals aimed at Dorje Shugden starting in the 1970s, but some members of the clergy ignored him and carried on with the tradition. So in 1996, he prohibited his followers from engaging in Shugden rituals altogether.

What has happened since then, Barnett says, is that Shugden practitioners in the Tibetan exile community have faced persecution. And he says the Dalai Lama’s administration hasn’t dealt with that very well." Public Radio International / BBC World Service


"As you know, the exile authorities do not accept that there is a ban on Dorje Shugden practice in certain quarters, and does not accept that there is discrimination towards Dorje Shugden practitioners within the exile community. 

If you had read the PRI article, you will have noticed that my view is the opposite on both these questions." Dr Robert Barnett, Are Buddhists Racist


"It seems that there are some who feel we should make some concessions to the Dholgyal [Shugden] worshipers who are unable to stop the worship so that they could return to the mainstream society. Particularly, there are some who feel that there could be a way to make some kind of compromise and reach an understanding between those who worship Dholgyal [Shugden] and those who do not.

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 [Shugden]. On the very day that they stopped the Dholgyal [Shugden] 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 [Shugden] worship, then, decidedly, the answer is that there is none. If one were to hypothetically allow for that, then that would mean all of our previous claims of harm accrued from the worship would have been baseless; all those would have to be withdrawn. So, there is nothing that could be compromised and harmonized here." Samdhong Rinpoche, Are Buddhists Racist.


Supporters of the Dalai Lama, such as Robert Thurman, claim that the Dalai Lama cannot ban any religious practice. They seek to undermine the use of the term 'ban' by claiming that the Dalai Lama simply gave 'advice'.

The Dalai Lama's authority in the Tibetan exile community stems from the authority of the previous Dalai Lama's. In this instance the incumbent Dalai Lama spoke in 1978 about his predecessor's ban on several religious practices.

It is obvious therefore that the Dalai Lama can ban religious practices in Tibetan society since this authority was likewise exercised by the 13th Dalai Lama. In 1978 Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama used this as justification to Tibetans for his present day ban on Dorje Shugden practice:


"During the reign of my predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876-1933), the performance of many deity-mediums were banned.

In those days, the ban was strictly enforced even in Drepung and thus, the only image of Gyalchen [Dorje Shugden] in the Drepung Tantric College had to be removed.

It was traditional for the monks of Drepung Tantric College to blow conches and trumpets while summoning Gyalchen [Dorje Shugden] and this was also banned.” Dalai Lama 1978 talk at his residence in India


"Just after the Thirteenth Dalai Lama banned this practice, the Ganden Throne-holder, who was either Minyag Ami or Yeshi Wangden relentlessly applied the law and so it occurred that even in Ganden propitiation of Gyalchen [Dorje Shugden] had to be carried out very secretly.

This is what happened during the reign of my predecessor, the previous Dalai Lama.” Dalai Lama 1978 talk at his residence in India


A common tactic used by the Dalai Lama's representatives is to try and undermine the International Shugden Community (ISC) protests rather than addressing any of the points they raise.

A major theme in this attack is to claim that the ISC are a front group run by the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). The main reason for this is because the Dalai Lama's representatives have been waging a 19-year long smear campaign against the NKT because they organised the first ever demonstrations on the issue in 1996.

The ISC is a separate legal entity to the NKT, registered in the US as a non-profit organisation. It's members come from several different groups who are all united in their practice of Shugden Buddhism.

Even INFORM, a UK based religious research charity based at the London School of Economics who have a certain degree of animosity to the NKT conclude that there is no direct link between the organisations other than stating some members of the NKT participate in the ISC protests.


"In the information Inform provides, we also stress that there is not a direct or official institutional connection [between the ISC & NKT] and being a member of the NKT does not mean that one is involved with the ISC or vice versa.  Demonstrably, there are also other networks and individuals unconnected with the NKT who participate in the protests.

No enquirer who was at one time affiliated with the NKT ever described feeling compelled to attend the protests or that their affiliation with the NKT was in any way jeopardised by choosing not to participate.

And considering the much larger numbers of people affiliated in some way to the NKT and the much smaller number attending protest events, it is clear that the majority of those interested in NKT teachings are not involved with the protest movements." Dr Suzanne Newcombe, INFORM

Another common tactic to try and undermine the protests is to issue declarations from national "Buddhist Organisations" in each country the Dalai Lama faces protests.

The aim of the declarations is to promote the Central Tibetan Authorities (CTA) narrative regarding the protests. They often present the signatories of the declarations as independent organisations, whereas in fact they are almost always Tibetan groups which follow the Dalai Lama.

For example the CTA have issued a declaration in the UK on 14th September 2015 which they claim is signed by 37 UK Buddhist organisations.

If one were to check the list however it soon becomes apparent that there aren't 37 organisations that have signed it. Many of the signatories are study groups which meet once a week in someone's house or a rented room.

There are actually only 12 different organisations that are recognised or registered in any official capacity in the UK.

Other than providing an excellent example of the spin and misrepresentation of information that is synonymous with the CTA it also shows quite clearly that the only UK Buddhist organisations which publicly oppose the ISC protests are those affiliated to the Dalai Lama.

There's quite a difference between claiming it's a statement of "UK Buddhist Organisations" rather than a statement from "UK Buddhist Organisations Affiliated to the Dalai Lama".

The fact that the CTA have more than tripled the actual number of organisations by including study groups also indicates they are becoming somewhat desperate in their attempts to derail the protests. I hardly think a group of 5 people meeting in Aunt Edith's living room on a Sunday afternoon constitutes a "UK Buddhist Organisation".

Furthermore where one organisation may have several branches or satellite centres under its direct administrative control the CTA have listed each of these as if they were separate organisations. That's akin to claiming that 100 branches of McDonald's represent 100 different UK restaurants.

It does raise the interesting question of why there is so little support from UK Buddhist groups in general for the Dalai Lama's position and why the CTA are scraping the bottom of the barrel with these statements.


The full list of, "SIGNATORY BUDDHIST ORGANISATIONS (Total 37 – across UK)", issued by the CTA along with details of their official registrations in the UK where they exist is:


Awakened Heart Sangha UK [UK charity no. 1078783]

Bodhicharya Kent - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Bodhicharya Somerset - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Bodhicharya Sussex - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Bodhicharya Totnes - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

British Buddhist Community of the UK - no organisation or registered charity by this name

Buddhist Society, London [UK charity no. 1113705]

Cham Tse Ling, Preston - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Drukpa UK [UK charity no. 1120665]

Dzogchen Community UK [UK charity no. 1019101]

Gomde UK Tibetan Buddhist Centre [UK charity no. 1132050]

Jamyang Bath - satellite group of Jamyang London [UK company no. 08825845]

Jamyang Leeds [UK charity no. 1109242]

Jamyang London [UK charity no. 1106802]

Jamyang Liverpool - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Jamyang Mindroling, Coventry - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Jamyang Salisbury - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Kagyu Dechen Dzong, Yorkshire - part of the Kagyu Dechen organisation

Kagyu Ling, Manchester - part of the Kagyu Dechen organisation

Kagyu Samye Dzong, London - part of the Rokpa Trust

Kum Nye UK - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Land of Joy, Northumberland [UK charity no. 1138826]

Lelung Dharma Centre, London [UK charity no. 1079844]

Lam Rim Bristol - part of Lam Rim Wales

Lam Rim Wales [UK charity no. 326675]

Lam Rim Wilts & Glos- part of Lam Rim Wales

Palpung Changchub Dargyeling, Wales - not a UK registered charity or business

Pundarika UK - not a UK registered charity or business

Rigpa UK - part of Rigpa Fellowship [UK charity no. 279315]

Sakya Dechen Ling, London - part of the Kagyu Dechen organisation

Sakya Thinley Rinchen Ling, Bristol - part of the Kagyu Dechen organisation

Sakya Thubten Ling, Bournemouth - part of the Kagyu Dechen organisation

Saraswati Study Group, Somerset - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Togme Sangpo Study Group, Scotland - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Vajra Kalyana Mitrata UK - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

White Tara Meditation Group, Oxford - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address

Yeshe Study Group, Cumbria - not a UK registered charity or business, no UK address


Tenzin Peljor is one of the names used by Michael Jäckel, a monk who works for the Central Tibetan Authority (CTA). For more details see here.

In 2006 Michael was ordained by the Dalai Lama in India and soon afterwards he began to work for the CTA on their campaign to undermine the protests and attack the NKT. Michael was particularly useful in that he used to work in the security services in East Germany and had spent some time as a member of the NKT.

Michael uses several different false identities and runs numerous websites which all seek to undermine the protests against the Dalai Lama.

In January 2015 Michael worked at the CTA's main offices in Dharamsala as they redesigned some of his websites. All but one of the websites that the Dalai Lama's representatives refer journalists to regarding this controversy have been developed by Michael.



He has a long history of trying to influence INFORM's research on the NKT. When asked about their relationship with him in early 2015 INFORM stated:


"We are aware that he works towards the [sic] promoting the Dalai Lama's position on various issues.

We were not aware that he was currently working at the Central Tibetan Authority's main offices in Dharamsala. However, it is clear from his many public websites that Tenzin Peljor works actively in ways that support the agenda of the CTA." Dr Suzanne Newcombe, INFORM


Michael also uses the names, Losang Tashi, York Johns, Tenpel, Mick Jackman.

One of the biggest difficulties facing journalists researching this subject is the issue of biased academics. It is impossible to find a single Tibetan academic who is independent for the simple reason that they rely heavily upon the Dalai Lama's exile organisations for their research.

Academics who study Tibetan culture require the continued co-operation of the Central Tibetan Authority. If that co-operation is rescinded they no longer have access to the exile communities or the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India.

One such academic, Stephanie Roemer, who wrote the most detailed modern account of Tibetan exile politics, "The Tibetan Government-in-Exile" stated:


"The center of the empirical analysis is the exile Tibetan community in India because India serves as host country for the majority of the exile Tibetans and the Tibetan government-in-exile itself.

In general, the Tibetans in exile were willing to support me with the details and data for which I was looking.

For instance, I was given the chance to take part in the exile Tibetan parliamentary sessions, to study daily with the support of the librarians in the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, which contains a large collection of Tibetan and foreign language references on Tibet related topics, or to get without significant problems an appointment for interviews." Extract from "The Tibetan Government-in-Exile"


Whilst some Tibetan academics will admit that the discrimination of Shugden Buddhists exists within the exile community they are reluctant to attribute any blame or responsibility for it to the Dalai Lama, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Should any Tibetologist attribute blame, or be in any way critical of the Dalai Lama they would quickly find that their career was over. All members of the exile leadership would refuse to co-operate with them and they would no longer be given any access to the exile community in India.

Those academics wishing to gain greater access to the exile community are often given this access on the basis of their promotion of the Central Tibetan Authorities (CTA) official line on the protests to the western media.

For example in early March 2015 Professor Carol McGranahan of the University of Colorado held meetings with senior officials of the CTA at their main offices in Dharamsala. They discussed the issue of the protests with Professor McGranhan and reached agreement on the information she would provide to the media in Colorado ahead of the Dalai Lama's visit there in October 2015.

For the US media who are unaware of this meeting, or Professor McGranahan's relationship with the CTA, she simply appears to them as an independent academic who is an expert on Tibetan culture.

Professor McGranahan also promotes the work of her students to the media which is critical of the protest movement, such as a paper from Ben Joffe called, "Angry White Buddhists and the Dalai Lama". Mr Joffe studied for his PhD with Professor McGranahan and his paper was heavily influenced by her to promote the CTA narrative that the protests are the work of westerners with no knowledge of Tibetan culture.

In this way the CTA can influence the media narrative regarding the protests by using western academics to whitewash their human rights violations in the exile community.



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