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.

Proof of Chinese Involvement?

20th June 2015

For as long as there have been protests against the Dalai Lama's religious ban towards Shugden Buddhists there have been claims made by the Dalai Lama that the protests are the work of the Chinese government.

Prior to April 2015 various organisations under the control or influence of the Dalai Lama made wild accusation against the International Shugden Community (ISC) protest movement. They claimed that the protests were funded by the Chinese government and that protesters were paid a daily rate for participating in them.

These ridiculous claims were supported by members of the Tibetan government, such as Thupten Wangchen and western academics such as Professor Robert Thurman, described as "the Dalai Lama's man in America". They were said to possess irrefutable proof the claims were true.

To date they've presented no evidence to back up these allegations which are simply designed to undermine and discredit the protests. They are aware there's no evidence because it's a lie, which is why they have now switched to stating that the protesters are "aligned" with the Chinese government.

To support these newer claims of alignment the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), a group funded largely by the US government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) presented an internal Chinese government document to the media on April 7th 2015.

They state it is a new directive from the Chinese government who are seeking to use the controversy to discredit the Dalai Lama. You can read the ICT translation of the document here.

The ICT claim the document proves the protesters are aligned with the Chinese authorities because they both promote freedom of religion for Tibetans. According to this logic it would seem that President Obama is also aligned with the Chinese authorities because he spoke to the Indian government recently, encouraging them to protect people's religious freedom.



The only difference in this comparison between President Obama, the Chinese authorities, and the protesters is that the last two criticise the Dalai Lama. Therefore the ICT logic must be that if an organisation is critical of the Dalai Lama they must be aligned with the Chinese authorities.

It's hardly a good standard because all of the media organisations that run critical articles about the Dalai Lama would likewise be proved to be aligned with China. Does this mean that no-one can criticise the Dalai Lama without fear of being accused of supporting the Chinese oppression of Tibetans?

Well, yes. According to the ICT if you criticise the Dalai Lama then you are supporting China.

It's worth noting that the ICT state in their 2012 Annual Report, "We’ve worked with and been guided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama", which may explain their unquestioning support of him.


A Closer Examination

Most journalists I know would take one look at the ICT press releases against the protests and assume they're trustworthy. They wouldn't give the document a closer examination because the ICT presents itself as an independent non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Every single Tibetan NGO has the Dalai Lama as a patron or is in some way affiliated to him, even those that disagree with his "middle way" policy. The ICT is no different, it presents itself as independent, yet it is strongly influenced by the Dalai Lama and his exile leadership.

What we see with the ICT is another front for the Dalai Lama to promote his view about the protests to the media through a channel people may wrongly assume is not under his influence or control. Bearing this in mind the ICT has a vested interest in trying to discredit the protests against his ban.

In their review of the Chinese document the ICT present several assertions that are the same as the Central Tibetan Authority, assertions which have been disproved by independent academic researchers.

For example they claim, "Westerners from the “New Kadampa Tradition” (“NKT”) now operating as the International Shugden Community – have organized strident demonstrations against the Dalai Lama in global capitals where he travels."

This claim has been disproved by a UK religious research charity called INFORM, who are part of the London School of Economics. INFORM stated:

"we stress that there is not a direct or official institutional connection [between the International Shugden Community and the New Kadampa Tradition]".

"Demonstrably, there are also other networks and individuals unconnected with the NKT who participate in the protests." (Read more here)

The ICT state that the protesters claims of a ban on Dorje Shugden practice are untrue, yet Dr Robert Barnett of Columbia University in New York stated that the ban and discrimination both exist. (Read more here)

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) also claim, "A Tibetan prominent in the Western Shugden movement, Gangchen Lama, urged monks to be ‘patriotic’ and to show loyalty to the PRC, on a visit to Gangchen monastery in Shigatse, the Tibet Autonomous Region."

This sounds like definitive proof when considered in a western context but when considered in the context of the Tibetan Autonomous Region it's not so surprising. If you want to be left to get on with your religious practices then showing loyalty to the People's Republic of China (PRC) will help. Above everything else the Chinese authorities are bothered about loyalty to the country, religion is very much secondary to that.

In fact the Dalai Lama's choice for the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, also advises people in the Tibetan Autonomous Region to show loyalty to the PRC. He is approved by the Chinese authorities to teach Buddhism and also has very close ties to senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members.

The ICT has absolutely no problem with the 17th Karmapa though. They even promoted his recent tour of the US.

In 2011 the Guardian reported the Karmapa had been arrested by the Indian authorities after a raid of his residence found over $700,000 in cash, much of it in Chinese currency. The Indians allege the Karmapa is under the influence of the Chinese authorities so that they can gain control over several strategic monasteries along the Sino-Indian border.

Still to this day the Karmapa is under virtual house arrest when he is in Dharamsala although he is allowed to travel overseas as his recent tour of the US demonstrates.

What's the difference between the Karmapa and Gangchen Lama you might ask. Other than over half a million dollars of Chinese cash, one speaks out against the Dalai Lama's ban and one doesn't. I'll leave it to readers to surmise which one is most likely to be in the pay of the Chinese authorities.


What the Chinese Actually Say

When you begin to separate out the ICT's own commentary on the document and examine what it actually says it becomes crystal clear they're trying to sell the media a pup.

True, the document does state that the controversy is an opportunity for the Chinese to try and weaken the Dalai Lama's position, but that is fairly normal. Any half decent government advisor is always looking to capitalise on their opponents faults, that's no surprise.

What is surprising is that the Chinese are seeking to undermine the Dalai Lama by showing Tibetans that they value religious freedom more than he does. The document states:

"The basic principle of our Party’s policy on religion is to respect and protect the public’s freedom of religious belief. Freedom of religious belief is an important policy in Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas, and it is not only an important policy for each individual member of the masses of ordinary believers, but is also an important policy for dealing with the ‘Gyalchen Shugden’ issue.

"With respect to the ‘Gyalchen Shugden’ issue, believing or not-believing is up to each individual member of the masses of believers. For instance, whether the believing community keeps a statue of Buddha Sakyamuni in their homes, or a statue of Avalokitesvara, is the public’s freedom; the Party and government need not interfere, and neither should Party members or officials.

"Our only standard and position, which complements our basic issue, is that they uphold the leadership of the Communist Party, respect socialism with Chinese characteristics, preserve the unity of the Motherland, and respect laws and regulations. With those preconditions in place, the Party’s religious freedom policy must be firmly implemented, respecting, as best as possible, the wishes of the believing masses."

The policy document is making it clear that the most important issue is respect for the country and the Communist Party, not whether someone is a Shugden Buddhist or not. This also shows that the Chinese authorities are deciding to take a strong stance on religious discrimination and by doing so hope to win the support of the Tibetans.

The ICT state that since this document became policy several Tibetans have been arrested for trying to force people to stop practicing their prayers to Dorje Shugden. They cite this as proof that the document is real and that it is being enforced.

However this doesn't prove that the protesters are connected, aligned, or in any way affiliated with the Chinese authorities. Instead it only proves that the Chinese government is refusing to allow the Dalai Lama's discrimination of Shugden Buddhists to go unchallenged in the Tibetan regions they control.

It goes on to state:

"We should not publicize the issue of belief in ‘Gyalchen Shugden,’ not interfere, not politicize, not see belief or nonbelief in black and white terms, and not make belief or nonbelief in ‘Gyalchen Shugden’ as the basis for drawing a clear line with the Dalai Clique.

"Rather, it is those who love the country and love religion, respect regulations and abide by laws, preserve the unity of the Motherland , maintain stability in Tibet, and contribute to Tibet’s development and stability who are good citizens, good members of the public, and good monks/nuns."

I am at a loss to understand why the ICT believe this document to be some sort of 'smoking gun' proof to discredit the protesters. This seems to me like a standard governmental briefing document that explains a policy to win over the local population.

Compared to the UK and US occupying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan this type of policy document is not unusual. It's just explaining a straightforward "hearts and minds" approach.


The ICT Prove the Protesters are not Connected to China

The ICT are very selective about the parts of the document they want to draw people's attention to for good reason. If you take the time to read the translation in full it becomes apparent that it expressly forbids anyone in the Chinese government from supporting the protests against the Dalai Lama's ban.

Specifically it states:

"Thus, first, we must respect the public’s religious freedom and allow the masses to choose for themselves. Secondly, those who, with the confidence of having truth, and wearing the armor of legality, and under the pretext of the ‘Gyalchen Shugden’ issue, instigate deception and cause public gatherings and disturbances, irrespective of whether they represent the believers or non-believers or what banners they carry, should be strictly punished according to law as and when the incidents occur.

"If there is involvement by Party members or officials, they must be strictly dealt with on the basis of disciplinary regulations, so that enemy forces do not get so much as a sesame seed’s chance of an opportunity."

The Chinese authorities are making it clear that anyone involved in the controversy, "whether they represent the believers or non-believers" will be punished. This also applies to Party members.

The International Campaign for Tibet claim that this document is the 'smoking gun' which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the International Shugden Community protesters are aligned with China, whereas in truth it proves the exact opposite.

This proves that the Chinese Communist Party is taking no stance on being pro or anti Shugden and that they will punish any of their members who do take a stance on it.

It is a 'smoking gun' but not in the way the ICT present it to the media. This is a document that proves the Chinese authorities are not in any way involved, aligned, nor connected to the ISC protests because if they were it would give the Dalai Lama, "a sesame seed’s chance of an opportunity" to criticise them about it.

Their opportunity to use this situation against the Dalai Lama rests solely on their approach to allow religious freedom of both believers and non-believers. To side with, or be seen to side with, pro-Shugden Buddhists would destroy this opportunity.

Why then would they risk that by being involved in any way with the ISC protests or in promoting Shugden Buddhism in Tibet in favour of other traditions?

The ICT state the document is real and cite the example of Tibetans convicted for trying to suppress Shugden practice in Tibet as proof it has been enacted. If this is the case then it is unthinkable that the Chinese would throw away their chance to undermine the Dalai Lama by taking sides. Their whole policy to undermine him by using this issue depends entirely on their not taking sides.



The ICT, funded as they are by the US taxpayer, are seeking to promote the propaganda of the Dalai Lama's government despite claiming to be an independent and trustworthy NGO.

They blatantly misrepresent the facts of this document to the media knowing full well that they will usually believe them without checking.

The claims of the ICT are nothing more than a smear campaign to discourage the media from investigating the issues the protests seek to raise. Why the ICT should be so supportive of religious discrimination and segregation is beyond me.

Surely in modern America it's time to stop funding organisations that promote discrimination, even when that discrimination is backed by a media celebrity such as the Dalai Lama.


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