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.

Shoko Asahara and the Dalai Lama

shoko asahara and the dalai lamaOn the morning of 20th March 1995, members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult took part in a devastating sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. Timed to inflict maximum casualties it resulted in the deaths of 13 commuters and injured thousands more. As of December 2009, a total of 5,259 people have identified themselves as victims of the attack.

The event catapulted the leader of the cult, Shoko Asahara, onto the world stage. It was later revealed that he had ties to the Dalai Lama which had enabled him to position the Aum Shinrikyo cult as a respectable religious movement prior to the attack.

This event is relevant to the Dalai Lama / Dorje Shugden controversy in that it shows how proponents of the Dalai Lama will go to any lengths to avoid admitting he has any involvement or responsibility for such acts.

For example, academics such as Dr Robert Barnett, of Columbia University, and Dr Nathan Hill, of the SOAS University, both admit that Shugden Buddhists are discriminated against in the Tibetan exile community. They agree that the source of this discrimination is the Dalai Lama's strong opposition to their practice of Dorje Shugden, yet they stop short of admitting the Dalai Lama is responsible for, or involved in promoting, this discrimination.

Dr Barnett even goes so far as to admit there is a ban in "certain quarters" of the exile community, such as the Dalai Lama's government, yet seeks to absolve him of any involvement in it.

This is similar to the way in which proponents of the Dalai Lama sought to distance him from Shoko Asahara after the sarin gas attacks. They have variously claimed that the Dalai Lama only met with him briefly, as a courtesy, and nothing more. Likewise the Dalai Lama's officials have said that since he meets with so many people then nothing more should be read into the situation.

Their approach is to downplay the relationship between the Dalai Lama and Shoko Asahara in the same way they try to downplay his involvement with the discrimination and persecution of Shugden Buddhists. The characteristic trait of downplaying the situation is always to ignore key evidence.

In relation to the Dalai Lama's persecution of Shugden Buddhists his supporters ignore the testimony of exile Tibetans. They try to rationalise signs in shops refusing service to Shugden Buddhists. They even attempt to justify religious segregation by claiming it isn't illegal in India.

There is a concerted attempt to promote a false narrative that discrimination is acceptable because it is based on advice from the Dalai Lama, the very same person who nets millions of dollars tax-free whilst travelling the world on a ticket of promoting religious harmony.

It doesn't matter whether religious segregation and discrimination are legal or not in India. What matters is that the Dalai Lama publicly promotes a message of religious tolerance whilst persecuting exile Tibetans who don't follow his "advice". That's hypocritical and makes him somewhat of a charlatan.

Downplaying the Terrorist Links

sarin attack tokyoOne of the Dalai Lama's most prominent critics was the late writer Christopher Hitchens who sought to expose the truth behind the media façade of the perfect monk. He alleged the Dalai Lama had received substantial donations from Shoko Asahara and as a result had given him his full support.

The Dalai Lama denied this, claiming that he had no special relationship with Asahara and that he was just one of the many hundreds of people with whom he had met during the year. The mechanism for downplaying their relationship was to promote this lie through several Tibetologists and scholars dependent on the support of, or aligned with, the Dalai Lama.

Thus the false narrative spread. The Dalai Lama had simply met with Asahara as a courtesy because that was the appropriate thing to do. He had no idea he would go on to commit mass murder and the Dalai Lama has absolutely no connection to him beyond a simple meeting.

Asahara's recollection of their relationship is however vastly different. He claims that he meditated with the Dalai Lama in his private meditation room and received specific instructions from him to promote Buddhism in Japan. He claims the Dalai Lama met with him on several occasions, each time taking a keen interest in his work in Japan and encouraging him.

Naturally it's easy to discount the word of Asahara since he masterminded the Tokyo subway attack. In the eyes of the public there's the word of the Dalai Lama versus that of a convicted mass murderer.

As an interesting aside this is the same technique the Dalai Lama's government presently use to try and discredit Shugden Buddhists to the media. They claim they are responsible for a triple murder that took place in Dharamsala, India in 1997. Therefore they are all murderers and not to be trusted.

Aside from the fact that the evidence surrounding this claim is somewhat unsubstantiated, no one has been caught, prosecuted or convicted for the crime. Furthermore it took place in 1997, so it would follow that for the past 18 years no Shugden Buddhists have committed murder, which would seem to undermine the Dalai Lama's claim that they are a violent, dangerous group.

Going back to Asahara versus the Dalai Lama the immediate conclusion is that Asahara is lying and the Dalai Lama is telling the truth. Why? Because Asahara is a mass murderer and the Dalai Lama never lies, quod erat demonstrandum, case closed.

That is, unless you take a closer look at the evidence.


A Closer Look

On 7th April 1995, just 18 days after the sarin gas attack, the Dalai Lama spoke to the Japanese Kyodo News Service. He described Asahara to them as his, "friend, though not necessarily a perfect one".

In an article entitled, "Cults: Unholy Guarantee" (18th September 1995) Focus magazine revealed the Dalai Lama had met with Asahara at least 5 times since 1987. They showed he was also instrumental in helping him gain credibility in Japan and to establish his Aum Shinrikyo group as a religious charity.

The Dalai Lama wrote to Asahara on 26th May 1989. In the letter he stated that Asahara's Aum Shinrikyo group were promoting Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism and that they, "encouraged public awareness through religious and social activities".

The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama also issued a document on 25th May 1989 which praised Asahara as a, "competent religious teacher", and an, "experienced meditation practitioner". They further stated that, "the Dalai Lama had advised them on "ethical exercises" contained in the Aum seminars".

Asahara used both the Dalai Lama's personal letter and the document from the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to prove to the authorities in Japan that Aum Shinrikyo was an authentic Buddhist group that carried the endorsement of the Dalai Lama. Within 9 weeks the Japanese authorities officially recognised Aum Shinrikyo and awarded them charitable status on the strength of these documents.

Prior to the Dalai Lama's intervention Asahara had tried unsuccessfully for years to qualify for charitable status. Now with his direct help the Aum Shinrikyo cult was quickly officially recognised and exempted from paying taxes. He was now highly reputable, and with the photographs of him alongside the Dalai Lama, as well as the letter of endorsement, Asahara was able to attract a far greater number of followers than ever before.

In fact it can be argued that had Asahara not received a personal letter of recommendation from the Dalai Lama, along with an official document from his office testifying to his credentials, that he would not have been as successful as he was in amassing his following. Had the Dalai Lama not intervened on his behalf Asahara may not have been in a position to stage the sarin gas attack in 1995.

His direct involvement with both Asahara and the Aum Shinrikyo group goes far beyond the narrative the Dalai Lama and his supporters promote. They claim it was just a one off meeting amongst many hundreds of others, but the facts don't support this.


And Nothing But The Truth

In Asahara's book, "Supreme Initiation: An Empirical Spiritual Science for the Supreme Truth", he claims that he was initiated into Mahayana Buddhism by the Dalai Lama. He also states that the Dalai Lama was critical of Buddhism in Japan, telling him that it had descended into meaningless ritual and empty ceremonies. Asahara was to re-invigorate Buddhism in Japan with the Dalai Lama's blessings.

To what degree this is true is impossible to state categorically. Certainly Asahara was prone to overstating his position and there was great kudos to be had in presenting himself as a Buddhist envoy of the Dalai Lama. However, the Dalai Lama's claims that he had no special relationship with Asahara aren't truthful.

The fact that there were at least 5 meetings between them, along with Dalai Lama's personal letter of recommendation for him strongly indicates that at least some of what Asahara is saying is the truth.

If the Dalai Lama had not taken Asahara on as his student and had not advised him about the content of Aum seminars then he must have issued the letter and document simply because he had received money from Asahara to do so. Either Asahara was a student of the Dalai Lama's or simply gave him enough money to say he was.

Which is worse I wonder? That the Dalai Lama had a student and friend who committed mass murder in Tokyo or that he will issue a personal letter of recommendation for a fee?



The methods used to try and protect the Dalai Lama from responsibility or involvement in the Asahara incident and the persecution of Shugden Buddhists are strikingly similar. Surrounding both controversies there are essential facts that cannot be denied, so they are simply downplayed. The conclusion is the same in both situations: the Dalai Lama always tells the truth and everyone else is lying.

During his recent visit to Japan the media practically ignored him. Once more the Dalai Lama's people blamed China, their 'go-to' excuse. But the reality is that the veneer of perfection the Dalai Lama relies upon has cracked.

Like all illusions and confidence tricks it only works when disbelief is suspended. As soon as one begins to question, to dig, and to challenge, the sleight of hand is easily revealed.

Whereas it was much easier to get away with lying to the media in the 1990's it is no longer the case. It's easier than ever before to research the Dalai Lama's claims and to discover they simply don't add up.

What he fails to realise is that the more he lies, the more his veneer of respectability cracks and reveals a man who will happily be your friend or say whatever you want if you pay him enough. But if you are an exile Tibetan and you don't follow his "advice" then you should expect to face his wrath.

Meanwhile academics living in comfort in the West help to try and cover up what's really going on. They use the trust afforded to them courtesy of their academic status to misinform and misdirect the media.

Whilst they admit there is something very wrong in the exile Tibetan community that has arisen directly from the Dalai Lama's views and instructions about Shugden Buddhists they seem unwilling to apportion any blame to him.

It is as if the Dalai Lama is the Teflon Monk, but just like John Gotti his time will soon come. It's just a shame that Christopher Hitchens won't be there to watch.


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