Since 1949, over 6,000 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and shrines have been destroyed, and literally hundreds of thousands of monastics slaughtered: by 1978, only 8 monasteries and 970 monks and nuns remained. Nevertheless, after initially attempting to destroy Tibetan Buddhism, it soon became clear that the Chinese had realized that the best way to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans and allay the widespread fear that they were intent on destroying this most important aspect of Tibetan culture was to make Tibetan Buddhism their own. There was a brief period of liberalization and rebuilding by Tibetans themselves during the 80s, but in the late 80s and overtly in the 90s, Tibetan Buddhism was again treated as seditious, since it involved devotion and loyalty to the Dalai Lama and the kidnapped Panchen Lama. Most recently the Chinese government made another policy reversal and decided they could use the Shugden-based, anti-Dalai-Lama movement to drive a wedge between the majority Gelugpa order followers and the Dalai Lama.
Thus it was that at the 17th Communist Party of China National Congress in 2007, former President Hu Jintao openly referred to the implementation of a new policy of so-called “soft power”, a policy which emphasized the strategic importance of including Buddhism in the development of Chinese power. Within the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpa order in Tibet, nowhere has this policy been more evident than in the CPC’s forced implementation of the divisive practice of the propitiation of Dolgyal Shugden.
In March 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Chinese Government was destroying within Tibet mainstream Buddhist temples and statues of Tibet’s patron saint and symbol of the spirit of ecumenicism, Padmasambhava, while simultaneously dedicating large amounts of Government funds to the rebuilding of monasteries and temples featuring the propitiation of Shugden. This policy continues to be openly implemented right down to the present, despite its obvious manipulative and divisive intent.Again, it is known that monks in Tibet who wish to travel to India to study in the great monastic universities there can only get permission if they are devotees of Dolgyal Shugden. In a 2005 paper by Hillman on monastic politics in Tibet, he noted that of 12 monks who applied for permission to travel and received it, 11 openly declared themselves to be Shugden worshipers.
This policy of directing a flow of pro Shugden monastics into Tibetan monasteries in India is clearly designed to create conflict within the exile community monastics and produce a win-win situation for the Chinese authorities in both short and long term, both within and outside of Tibet.
Outside of Tibet and in the short term, in the monastic colleges of India it produces a steady flow of divisive influence, an influence which poisons the atmosphere of peace, tranquility and shared goals that should pervade such institutions. Within Tibet, in the long term, it produces an educated elite, the overwhelming number of whom are anti-Dalai-Lama hence pro-Chinese-occupation, Shugden practitioners, while at the same time producing a lesser educated underclass, the majority of whom are pro-Dalai-Lama and anti-Chinese-occupation. The intended effect on the future shape of both Tibetan monasticism and religion, inside and outside Tibet is quite obvious.
The policy of manipulating Tibetan Buddhism for the purposes of political gain is again manifest in the controversy surrounding the appointment of the 11th Panchen Lama. After the death of the 10th Panchen Lama, a dispute between the Chinese leadership and the exiled 14th Dalai Lama resulted in two competing candidates. When the Dalai Lama publically announced his selection of the 6 year old Gedun Choekyi Nyima, the leadership in China spirited Nyima away to prevent his being taken to India by the Dalai Lama’s supporters; the child has never been seen again.
The Chinese replaced Gedun Choekyi Nyima with Gyaincain Norbu, the son of 2 CPC members, who currently fulfills the duties of the Panchen Lama in China. Soon afterwards, Gyainchain Norbu, widely referred to among Tibetans as the ‘Panchen Zuma’ [‘False Panchen’] began to appear across the web in a very obviously photo-shopped, ‘ official’ image of him seated beneath an image of Dolgyal Shugden. The ‘False’ Panchen Lama’s entourage, including all of his teachers, are members of the Shugden movement.
The reasons behind the Chinese authorities’ decision to replace the Dalai Lama’s chosen candidate with their own are not difficult to fathom. Historically, the Dalai Lamas have been responsible for choosing incoming Panchen Lamas and, importantly, vice versa. The decision to enthrone their own candidate then, coupled with the implementation of a recent law which requires all reincarnates to be State-approved, is an attempt to dominate the process of choosing the next Dalai Lama.
One frequent, notable member of the False Panchen’s entourage is the well known ‘overseas patriotic Tibetan’ [as the CPC refers to Tibetan quislings] Italy-based Gangchen Lama. Gangchen was instrumental in the recognition of China’s Panchen, and participated in his enthronement in China. He is also a known associate of the Delhi-based Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society, the group implicated in the grisly 1997 murders of three anti Shugden activist lamas in Dharamsala India, and whose offices are the Indian base for NKT-organized, pro Shugden ‘front organizations’.
In 1997, Gangchen visited a monastery in Shigatse, Tibet and instructed monks there to worship Shugden. The monks rejected his instruction but were later visited by government officials who stated that those who refused to comply would be investigated for ‘crimes against the nation’.
Elsewhere, in 2005, Gangchen offered to fund the building of a new dormitory at a monastery in Gansu province and made generous donations to monastic funds. His offer was conditional however; it depended on the monks allowing a new Shugden shrine in their monastery. The monks refused, despite pressure from government officials, and the offer was withdrawn.
Gangchen at least had the courtesy to seek the approval of the local monastic community. At a teaching in Mundgod in 2008, the Dalai Lama revealed news, along with photographic evidence, of a small lay community who had erected a 10 meter image of Guru Rinpoche on a mountainside near their village at Darchen being forcibly evacuated from their homes while Chinese troops systematically dynamited the statue of Tibet’s patron saint.
Elsewhere, in Nangchen, an archway straddling a pathway in a narrow ravine has been carved with an image of Dolgyal Shugden. The pathway is essential for locals, who must otherwise travel a lengthy, circuitous route around the mountains for many hours to reach the next village; the same journey via the archway, takes around 45 minutes.
The intention of the authorities who granted permission for the image to be carved is obvious. For Tibetans, to pass beneath any image is to show respect for, and seek its blessings. Thus, the strategic positioning of the Shugden image forces travelers, many of whom are affiliates of other sects historically opposed to the spirit, to show reverence to Shugden.
All of these instances combine to create an ominous image of a future Tibetan Buddhism, a Buddhism crafted by the hands of PR/propaganda artisans in Beijing. This, so called ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, will have at its head a Chinese Dalai Lama who bears no relation to his antecedents and who will have been chosen, not by methods from the Tibetan tradition, but rather by politically correct ones sanctioned by CPC cadres in China. Central to the practices of this new ‘ Tibetan Buddhism’ will no longer be the worship and reverence of Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, whose manifestation has been a central motif of the religious devotions of all Tibetans of whatever order.
Rather, at its very heart will be the propitiation of the malignant spirit, Dolgyal Shugden, guiding the intensely religious people of Chinese-controlled Tibet. Forgotten will be the more than one and a half million Tibetans slaughtered by Chinese communist authorities since their arrival in Tibet over a half a century ago, people whose human rights and religious freedoms have received not one single mention in the Shugden devotees’ campaign for the ‘religious freedom’ of Tibetans. That the protesters do not speak out on this truly serious violation, despite their pretended concern for religious freedom and human rights, is not surprising, given their alignment with the aims of the CPC.
In mid 2008, in an obvious attempt to distract the world from mounting civil unrest in Tibet in the run up to Beijing Olympics, State media agency Xinhua reported that the Dalai Lama had “started slaughtering the members of New Kadampa Tradition who dare accuse him.” Thus it was that in the demonstrations during the visit of the Dalai Lama to Nottingham in June 2008, dozens of concerned Chinese students stood shoulder to shoulder with WSS/NKT followers. These joint demonstrations were a public relations disaster for the NKT’s Shugden followers, for they clearly revealed the group’s true allegiances.
Perhaps the two stood together because they shared a common vision of a new, Chinese-imposed, ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, a Buddhism to be practiced in China, in Tibet, among the ex-patriate communities of both nations and even, eventually, among Western adherents of the faith. For this ongoing campaign to promote Shugden worship within Tibet is not one designed solely to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans within Tibet. Ultimately, it is designed to win over Tibetans and Buddhists worldwide, to affirm China’s righteousness and the Dalai Lama’s ruthless and oppressive, dictatorial nature.
- Sowing dissent and undermining the Dalai Lama
- Shugden in Kham
- Allegiance to the Dalai Lama and those who “become rich by opposing splittism”
- “3/14″, the new TAR party secretary, a “last ditch-struggle” and “the heads of monks and nuns”
- Monastic Politics and the Local State in China: Authority and Autonomy in an Ethnically Tibetan Prefecture
- PHAYUL: Organisations accuse Dhoegyal Society of undermining Tibetan freedom struggle
- ICT: Rare protest as Tibetans attempt to save Buddhist statue from demolition