BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Len Foley owns a business in Los Angeles, has a wife and a baby, and flies around the country protesting the Dalai Lama.
He’s on his way to Birmingham this weekend for the Dalai Lama’s visit here and will be protesting wherever the Tibetan spiritual leader speaks on Saturday and Sunday. He expects several hundred others to protest with him. Read more…
Tibetan monks who follow the traditional Buddhist practice of Dorje Shugden, having been outcast once from their homeland Tibet, now find themselves outcast once more - from their own exiled community.
Since 1996, exiled Tibetan monasteries in India have been split by the Dalai Lama’s ban on their Deity. Religious persecution by their own government, which the Dalai Lama himself ordered and continues to support, has destroyed these monks’ religious freedom, their livelihood and their community. They live in fear of their lives - exiles in exile.
Find out more, and support their struggle to regain their religious freedom, at https://www.facebook.com/dalailamatruth
“Calls upon all States in accordance with their national legislation to exert utmost efforts to ensure that religious places and shrines are fully respected and protected”
Article 7, Elimination Of All Forms Of Religious Intolerance, United Nations Resolution 48/128 (1993)
Immediately following the Dalai Lama’s 1996 decree, his supporters including government officials and associated NGO Officers began destroying statues of Dorje Shugden and shrines dedicated to his worship.
The accompanying videos give evidence, including testimony from the culprits, of some of these acts of desecration. What is clear from this testimony is that these acts were carried out on the direct orders of the Dalai Lama.
Monks are sent from Dharamsala to enforce the destruction of images and shrines throughout the Tibetan Settlements and even as far afield as Ladakh. As Dr Martin Mills notes:
‘The primary focus of reform in the region was the destruction of shrines, statues and images of Dorje Shugden. In the case of statues, this involved grinding them down in the nearest available river.[…] In Spituk near Leh, monks recounted how the deity’s presence had been systematically removed from the monastery by visiting monks from Dharamsala under the auspices of Bakula Rinpoche: the consecrated paintings of the deity in the main prayer hall were physically dug out with pickaxes and spades.’
It should be noted that, as in many areas inside and outside Tibet, in Ladakh, ‘ceremonial dependence on the deity as a key monastic protector deity was almost universal within the dominant Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism until 1996’. Dr Mills notes that ‘particularly in the period between 1996-7, there was a strong hope by many that “the ban would not come here”’.
The Dalai Lama sent representatives into Tibet to encourage the ban of Shugden worship and the destruction of holy images there. Radio Free Asia reports:
‘Khenpaluk monastery was the first religious establishment in the area to ban the practice. Tsering, a layman, had joined together with at least eight monks of Chamdo’s Khenpaluk monastery in 2008 to destroy the deity Shugden’s statue after the Dalai Lama urged Tibetans to abandon its worship.’8
Commenting on the lack of religious freedom in China, Human Rights Watch says:
‘A key problem is the Chinese government’s definition of freedom of religion as the right to private belief, rather than accepting freedom of religion in the broader context set forth in a key U.N. resolution called the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.’9
In the Tibetan Exile Community Shugden Buddhists have to hide their devotion and their statues from others or risk ostracism, public humiliation and even violent attacks.
“Many of the covert practices now pertaining to images of Shugden amongst Tibetan Buddhist communities outside Chinese-occupied Tibet mirror uncannily those used by many Tibetans to hide images of the Dalai Lama within it.”
- Dr Martin Mills, University of Aberdeen
Video interviews with Tibetans who broke into temples and destroyed Shugden statues on the Dalai Lama’s orders.
An angry mob of Tibetans attack a Shugden shrine and the monks tending to it. They are only stopped by the Indian police using tear gas and firing warning shots.
“No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or person on grounds of religion or other beliefs.”
Article 2.1, Declaration On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Intolerance And Of Discrimination Based On Religion Or Belief, United Nations Resolution 36/55 (1981)
Throughout the Tibetan Exile Community, both in India and overseas, Tibetans have been required take public oaths not only to abandon worshipping Shugden but even to not associate with those who continue to do so.
Commonly the oaths pledge ‘never to have any relation on material or other levels’ with those who worship Shugden. Thus shops and restaurants routinely refuse service to Shugden Buddhists. Public institutions such as Hospitals, clinics and libraries carry signs warning Shugden Buddhists that they are not welcome.
Should a family be suspected of continuing their worship they are publicly denounced and a boycott of their shops etc. is called for. The only way to avoid this persecution is to publicly pledge to abandon Shugden worship.
The issuing of travel documentation is made conditional on receiving evidence of having taken the oath to abandon Shugden practice.
The videos and photos below provide evidence of these blatant abuses of human rights. Many independent observers describe the ‘massed anti-Shugden signature campaigns that sought to identify and ostracise Shugden practitioners’7.
“Dharamshala officials were now going around Tibetan communities making people sign pledges that they would completely ostracise Shugden devotees, not share a meal with them or have anything to do with them in any way.”
- Jamyang Norbu, Founding Member of the Tibetan Youth Congress
Shugden practitioners describle their experience of osctracism by Tibetan exile community.
Video evidence of the segregation within the exiled Tibetan Community.
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.”
Article 12, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations (1948)
The worship of Shugden involves the recitation of brief prayers designed to help promote compassion and wisdom.
In 1996, the Dalai Lama said the worship of Shugden ‘does great harm to the cause of Tibet. It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama.’5
Although it is absurd to think that simple prayers could have these consequences, it was inevitable, in the highly charged atmosphere of a refugee community, that these words would lead to violence.
Scapegoating Shugden worshippers for their failure to return to Tibet, and vilifying them as a danger to the life of the Dalai Lama led to a frenzied witch-hunt. On multiple occasions large mobs of Tibetans attacked Shugden Buddhists, harassment and intimidation has been common place.
Direct orders for violence from the Tibetan Government
On 24 December 2010, the then Prime Minister, Samdhong Rinpoche said on Radio Free Asia: ‘without fear and hesitation, we, Tibetans, must fight and destroy Shugden followers.’6
Hatred consumes a community
On 12 September 2000, an angry mob of 3000 Tibetans descended on Shugden monks at Dhokhang Khangtsen of Ganden Shartse monastery.
Throwing stones and bricks, they smashed windows, caused extensive damage to property and hospitalised 30 Shugden monks.
Only by using tear gas and firing warning shots were the Indian police able to disperse the mob.
“The Tibetan government […]has produced and distributed literature and videos demonizing Shugden worshippers. It has furthermore made no effort to discourage or condemn attacks on Shugden groups.”
- Jamyang Norbu, Founding Member of the Tibetan Youth Congress
The Dalai Lama refuses to ask his followers not to harm Shugden practitioners when challenged to do so by a journalist, and then denies that there have been any acts of violence against them.
This is followed by personal accounts of violent attacks on Shugden practitioners.
Footage of the Dalai Lama directly threatening Shugden practitioners.
Extensive evidence and personal accounts of threats and intimidation towards Shugden practitioners.
“No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.”
Article 1.2, Declaration On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Intolerance And Of Discrimination Based On Religion Or Belief, United Nations Resolution 36/55 (1981)
Forced Conversions & Expulsions from Monasteries
On 21 March 1996, at a public teaching, the Dalai Lama declared that he was banning the worship of Dorje Shugden1. His Private Office wrote letters communicating the ban (with a tape of the Dalai Lama’s words) to government offices, monasteries, associations, etc. The letter demands ‘total implementation of this decree by each and everyone.’2
Many Shugden worshippers were coerced into submitting to the Dalai Lama’s ban through monastic expulsions, the destruction of statues and shrines devoted to Shugden, and the fear of public humiliation and osctracism.
1996 - The start of the expulsions
In July 1996, Shugden monks peacefully demonstrated against the ban on their practice. Eleven monks are expelled from their monasteries simply for participating in these peaceful protests.
These expulsions are in direct contravention of basic human rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Between 1996 and 2008 many monasteries vigorously implement the Dalai Lama’s ban, some monasteries try to delay implementing the ban or only partially implement it.
2008 - A Massive Escalation
Unsatisfied with this, in January 2008, the Dalai Lama insists that all monks who continue to worship Shugden must be expelled from their monasteries.
Under supervision of government officials, all monks are required to declare an oath abandoning their faith in Shugden. Any monk who refuses to submit to these forced conversions is expelled from their monastery, rendered destitute and homeless.
In one month alone, February 2008, 900 monks were expelled from their monasteries, simply for not being willing to abandon their faith in Shugden.
A failure to defend human rights
Amnesty International was informed about the monastic expulsions and other human rights abuses but declined to investigate.3
Although the International League for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International cite monastic expulsions in Tibet as human rights abuses4, so far they have failed to defend the rights of Tibetans in exile.
Dr Martin Mills, senior lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen has commented on the hypocrisy of this.
“Amnesty [includes] the expulsion of monks from Tibetan monasteries by Chinese officials as an example of ‘grave violations of human rights’ in the region; similar events in exile, […] are deemed less grave, despite their identical consequences”
- Dr Martin Mills, University of Aberdeen
Under the watchful eye of government officials all the monks of Ganden Shartse Monastery, Mundgod, India must read out an oath to abandon worshipping Dorje Shugden.
The Dalai Lama takes personal responsibility for the expulsion of hundreds of monks from their monasteries.
Discrimination between human beings on grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 3, Declaration On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Intolerance And Of Discrimination Based On Religion Or Belief, United Nations Resolution 36/55 (1981)
A Summary of Human Rights Abuses Instigated by the Dalai Lama
Since 1996, at the instigation of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile has pursued a policy of persecution against Shugden Buddhists with the aim of removing them entirely from the Tibetan Community.
Within the monastic community, Shugden monks and nuns have been subjected to forced conversions - ordered to sign oaths to abandon their faith in Shugden - or be expelled from their monasteries and thus rendered homeless and destitute.
Repeated incitements to hatred have led to numerous acts of violence towards Shugden Buddhists. Flare ups in violent attacks against Shugden practitioners usually occur in the wake of speeches by the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan community.
Government officials and associated NGO officers have compelled exile Tibetans to pledge their allegiance to the Dalai Lama and the Exile Government by signing oaths to ‘not associate spiritually or materially’ with Shugden Buddhists or anyone who does associate with them, thus completely ostracising them from their own community.
This ostracism has lead to Shugden Buddhists being denied service in shops, restaurants and even denied medical attention in blatant disregard of their right of equal access to public service.
Changes to the Tibetan Constitution have taken away their right to hold public office and to take part in their government.
All of these human rights abuses can be shown to stem directly from the 14th Dalai Lama. He, and he alone, is in a position to rectify this crisis within the Tibetan exile community.