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.

Who's Behind the Protests?

15th June 2015

Sunday 14th June wasn't a fantastic day for journalism in the UK, in fact it was a remarkably low point for two UK broadsheets.

Both the Observer and the Sunday Times managed to somehow run with stories that were in the most part fictitious. Neither had been anywhere near a fact checker, or if they had then the checkers were either drunk or blind.

Both newspapers ran articles that were nothing more than government propaganda - the Sunday Times for the UK government and The Observer for the Tibetan exile government. It would seem that Sunday broadsheets are keen to turn journalism into native advertising for governments in the same way the Sunday tabloids main staple are cocaine fulled Nazi sex parties. Neither are particularly close to reality, but they do grab the readers attention.

Writing for The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald gives a scathing response to the Sunday Times which you can read here.

The Observer piece was lovingly copied and pasted together by Jamie Doward who also has some previous for publishing attention grabbing articles, sans facts. Entitled, "'Extremist' sect threatens protests against the Dalai Lama during UK visit", it is written as if the Buddhist version of ISIS is set to unleash untold terrors on the UK when the Dalai Lama visits.

Lock up your children, barricade the doors, and above all avoid Twitter in case any of their tweets cause you offence. The "evil spirit" worshiping Buddhists are set to inflict "madness and death" on their enemies. Quick, run for the hills.

Perhaps Mr Doward missed the extensive coverage of the protests in Bloomberg, Reuters, The Associated Press, BBC World Service, Sky News, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, or the myriad other outlets. Perhaps he also missed the Guardian's own coverage a few days before his wonderfully creative piece? If he did then he can catch up here.

I seem to have missed the 'extremists' because in all the coverage I saw it was a fairly normal looking bunch of people peacefully protesting. There were no riots, petrol bombs or tear gas. The most violent thing I saw was a protester with a tambourine, not very armed or dangerous.

I doubt very much that Mr Doward didn't check any of the previous coverage of the protests. He knew very well that his article was filled with lies and he chose to convince his sub-editor it was accurate.

The main function of the article is to present the UK public with a false narrative that the protests are completely unjustified. It's a case of ridiculing the oppressed for standing up and speaking out. It's also a continuation of the Dalai Lama's tactic to destroy the reputation of a Buddhist tradition.

The main lie that Mr Doward wants the public to believe is that the protests are organised by the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and that they are dangerous and evil. This is simply because the Dalai Lama has been trying to punish its founder for daring to speak out against his ban. For this reason I will focus just on Mr Doward's main lie rather than being sidetracked by the many other inaccuracies.


The Protest Organisers

The third paragraph of the article begins:

"The UK protests are being organised by the New Kadampa Tradition, which emerged in the 1990s and now has nearly 50 centres in the UK promoting Shugden practices."

This is immediately after a paragraph that explains the protests are planned by the International Shugden Community (ISC). So is Mr Doward confused or is he intentionally conflating the ISC with the NKT?

The article continues to refer to the ISC as the organisers of the protests yet finishes with the following line:

"The New Kadampa Tradition did not respond to requests for comment."

Mr Doward's intention is clear, he wants the readers to understand that the International Shugden Community and the New Kadampa Tradition are the same thing. To Mr Doward they are synonymous.

Why don't we compare his theory to statements from the UK religious research group INFORM, an organisation the Dalai Lama's representatives seem to hold in high esteem.

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."

They conclude, "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."


What is the ISC?

The International Shugden Community is a non-profit set up to organise protests against the Dalai Lama's religious ban. Members of the ISC come from several different organisations, as INFORM already stated.

The reason groups establish a non-profit to organise protests is usually due to many factors. For instance when members come from several different organisations it makes sense to create a separate legal entity to represent the protest movement. This ensures the movement isn't under the sole control of just one group of its members.

Another reason can be due to legal restrictions on the member groups. For instance in the case of the ISC its members come from several different religious charities. Most religious charities are barred from participating in protest movements that can be seen as politically active. To avoid breaking the law individuals can set up a separate legal entity which is allowed to participate in protests.

Yet another reason is due to the logistics of organising protests. The days of grabbing a few friends and some cardboard signs at the last minute are long gone. These days protests fall within strict legal controls under public order/civil disobedience legislation. You only have to recall the protests arising from Fergusson to realise how things can spiral out of control if they aren't well planned.

Local governments and police authorities are more likely to approve protest applications that come from registered legal entities. If anything goes wrong they have a single organisation to hold to account that represents all of the various participants rather than just one segment of them.


Who Organised Previous Protests?

The very first protests that took place in 1996 were organised by the New Kadampa Tradition. In 1998 the NKT stated that they were no longer organising any protests.

In 2008 a group called the Western Shugden Society (WSS) was established to organise protests to take place that year. Like the ISC, the WSS included members from several different Buddhist traditions. The WSS ceased to organise any protests beyond 2008.

In 2014 a group called the International Shugden Community was established to again organise protests. The ISC continues to organise the present protests.


Why the Different Groups?

Like any co-operative or collective its members change over time. This is especially true for protests against the Dalai Lama's ban because it needs to be understood within the context of Tibetan society.

Prior to the Chinese invasion and illegal occupation of Tibet its society was quite draconian. To speak out against the Dalai Lama was considered deeply heretic and could result in severe punishment or even death. Tibetan society had a notoriously brutal justice system.

Whilst the past 5 decades have seen an improvement in the modernisation of Tibetans attitudes it is still considered a heinous crime to publicly oppose the Dalai Lama. Even Western journalists aren't immune. Michael Backman received death threats for writing this article in 2007 questioning the media portrayal of the Dalai Lama.

In 2014 the Dalai Lama's government (CTA) issued public lists of over 30 Tibetans who were members of the ISC. The list included their name, photograph and in one case a woman's address. These were published on the CTA's official government website and widely circulated throughout the exile community.

Within that context it is understandable that the protest movement will change over the 6 years between 2008 and 2014. As such the Western Shugden Society no longer adequately represented the members of the protest group, so it was deemed quicker and easier to establish a new legal entity, hence the ISC.


Why say the NKT are Organising the Protests?

The Dalai Lama's representatives have engaged in a long and bitter battle against the NKT since they organised the very first protests in 1996. Huge amounts of time and effort have gone into trying to destroy the public reputation of the NKT.

There has been a concerted campaign to smear them in the media to punish them for challenging the Dalai Lama's authority. If the NKT's reputation is damaged or destroyed then other Tibetan teachers will be very wary of speaking out.

Recently another Tibetan lama has taken a public stance on the issue of Dorje Shugden practice. Tsem Rinpoche is a reincarnated lama recognised and ordained by the Dalai Lama. His root guru, or main teacher, gave him the practice of Dorje Shugden and he too has spoken out against the ban.

Unsurprisingly Tsem Rinpoche's tradition is also being targeted in a smear campaign that seeks to brand it as a cult and destroy its reputation.

Tsem Rinpoche has also received numerous threats, as have many other Shugden Buddhists who speak out on the issue. The Dalai Lama's message is crystal clear - challenge me and there will be consequences.

The only really truthful aspect of Mr Doward's article is that it shows exactly how the Dalai Lama moves against those who question his authority. It's so easy to present the Dalai Lama as a laughing jovial monk and so easy to present those who oppose him as extremist evil spirit worshipers.

If you take a closer look and examine the facts though the real truth comes shining through.

Why did Mr Doward say that the ISC is the NKT when INFORM, "stress that there is not a direct or official institutional connection" between them?

Why did Mr Doward describe the protesters as some kind of terrifying, extremist, evil Buddhists when the police authorities that deal with the ISC praise them as role models for peaceful protests?

Take a look at how the majority of the worlds media report on the protest movement and see how that compares to Mr Doward's presentation of them. Then ask yourself where is he getting his information from and why is it so wrong?



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