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.

Politics, Safe Sex, and China

4:30pm 11th February 2015

In possibly one of the least interesting press conferences I've seen, the Dalai Lama managed to spend over an hour today answering just 5 questions, focussing much of his time, as usual on China. The event only livened up at the very end when a reporter from Radio 24/7 asked about his views on homosexuality which saw him uncharacteristically lost for words.

In what felt very much like a conversation with an aged relative we were treated to the ramblings of the Dalai Lama as he struggled to answer just a handful of questions in over an hour, often spending far too long repeating the same points.

For the first section he once more espoused his views about religious harmony, democracy, and ecology whilst outside Buddhists from the International Shugden Community (ISC) called once more for dialogue with him, a call which he continued to ignore.

Ironically whilst refusing dialogue with the ISC he enthused to the press, "I am Buddhist monk...so we all have certain sort of responsibility to bring harmony amongst the different religious traditions.

"We really need constant effort to bring closer relations with people who have different faith."

So why then has the Dalai Lama continued to refuse to enter into dialogue with the ISC about their claims of discrimination faced by Shugden Buddhists? Are they making up the claims of discrimination and persecution, is that why he refuses to try and resolve their issues?

According to academics who support the Dalai Lama the claims of persecution and discrimination are real. Dr Robert Barnett of Columbia University NY stated in an interview with Public Radio International that the discrimination exists. In comments he made to me afterwards he said:

"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."

Just this week Dr Nathan Hill of the SOAS University, London stated in an interview with Dagbladet Information, "There is no doubt that individuals are discriminated against: they have lost their jobs, have been refused service in restaurants, shops and the like."

So why is the Dalai Lama so keen to promote the principles of dialogue, religious harmony, tolerance, and equality, yet he seems ignorant when it comes to those same issues in his own community?

Citing the example of a meeting he had 6 years ago with several Muslims from the Middle East he said:

"Many years ago I met some group of Muslims, some Shia people were there, some Sunni people as well. I told them now Shia is a minority, so in human history the minority sometimes fear some difficulties. So Muslim brothers and sisters should pay some attention to remove this kind of fear and discrimination."

Yet he fails to translate this advice into any form of meaningful action to address problems which have arisen due to his own words within the Tibetan exile community. Unfortunately the press were again treated to a performance of hypocrisy from one who fails to see the disparity between his words and actions.

We were witness to the usual claims that he had retired from politics in 2011, despite the fact that the Charter of Tibetans in Exile was amended in 2011 to state that he was, "the Supreme Leader". Likewise he claimed to have nothing political to say and then went on to spend at least 40 minutes talking about politics and criticising China.

In one rather cringe-worthy moment, his acting on a par with a soap opera star, he recalled a meeting he had with a farmer from a village in China who recounted tales of oppression at the hands of a local official, saying, "The local officials, their only interest is money, so their power is used for money. In his village area no officials pay attention about their wellbeing. Very sad." Quite how the Dalai Lama happened to have a meeting with a poor Chinese village farmer he didn't explain.

And so the conference continued with the Dalai Lama trotting out his usual agenda intended to tick the boxes of political correctness and rehash the same spiel from countless other press conferences. One example was his praise to journalists where he encourages them to be investigative:

"I am always expressing you media people should have long nose, like elephant nose, must smell everywhere. In front and important thing is smelling behind what's really going on. And then tell public, what is the reality in order to counter corruptions. I think this is something very important."

It is so important for him that the Dalai Lama continually ignores all requests submitted to his office to clarify aspects of this controversy. He feels investigative journalism is so important he simply refuses to co-operate with enquiries about the hacking scandal he was involved with in the US, and with all requests to explain why Shugden Buddhists are discriminated against, especially why the Central Tibetan Authority refuse to employ any of them.

The only time the Dalai Lama was forced from his usual script was due to the impeccable grace of a journalist from Radio 24/7. In the only invigorating moment of the entire event she asked:

"Your Holiness said earlier that certain sexual conducts are considered immoral for Buddhists such as anal sex, masturbation, oral sex and so on. I was just wondering if you have any advice for homosexual people who like to be a good Buddhist but feel the temptation?"

He stumbled, faltered, and flopped around trying to find a way out of answering the question in what made for a very entertaining few minutes. Eventually he managed to surmise that, "Any form of sexual misconduct should not do.

"Then generally homosexual, same sex, basically if you are believer you should follow according to your own tradition, then non-believer up to you. So long safe, otherwise AIDS, there are dangerous. So sexual misconduct it is health viewpoint very dangerous, be careful. That's my view."

In his typical fashion of combining confusion with avoidance when asked a difficult question, everyone was left wondering if he had just said that homosexuals can't be Buddhists.

The other archaic aspect was his view that 'normal sex' was somehow less dangerous than the examples of 'sexual misconduct'. It seemed an appropriate point to end the conference after he had revealed just how out of place he is in modern society.

After that point I had lost all will to ask him anything and instead desperately craved the fresh, cold air of Copenhagen. Fresh, cold air that carried the chants of the ISC calling for religious freedom. A call which he seems as deaf and blind to as the trends and norms of 21st century society.

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