How do we quantify the worst in dictators? Do we measure it in terms of death and depravity looking to Hitler’s concentration camps and Pol Pot’s killing fields? Do we gauge it by the ruthlessness with which power is secured as in Stalin’s purges of the ‘counter-revolutionaries’? Is it in the disdain with which the people are neglected as in the terrible famines during Mao’s ‘great leap forward’? Or is there a benchmark that is even darker, that steals the very hope from the hearts of those oppressed?
The Tibetans are a faithful people, from birth they are taught that the Dalai Lama will protect them. When the Communist forces invaded, many Tibetans were happy to lay down their lives to protect the young Dalai Lama and ensure his passage to safety. Hundreds of thousands made the treacherous journey through the Himalayas to be with the one they hope will save them from oppression.
Yet, for many Tibetans, including those who risked their lives to protect him, the real suffering began when they came under the Dalai Lama’s ‘care’. The suffering inflicted upon them by the Chinese they could understand and they could resist. As Jampel Yeshe says: ‘Our fathers and our mothers died, the Chinese killed them. Though this was terrible it didn’t strike our innermost being. This ban however stabs us right in our hearts.’
For Shugden practitioners, their devotion to their deity is like their heart. When the Dalai Lama summarily banned these prayers it was like he commanded them to tear out their hearts. Their persecution by their spiritual figurehead leaves them as lost as a devout child molested by a paedophile priest. How to make sense of one’s refuge becoming one’s abuser? Through these inexplicable acts the Dalai Lama extinguished the hopes in their hearts.
Tibetan monk, Geshe Phuntsog Tsultrim, says: ‘I deeply regret that I could not have died a few years ago before this ban.’ Fellow monk Geshe Lobsang Donden says: ‘On the one hand we cannot speak with the Dalai Lama, on the other hand we have no choice but to act against his words. I keep thinking if only I were already dead.’
No Shugden practitioner has been convicted of any crimes, and yet for years now the Dalai Lama has pursued a campaign of persecution throughout the world, using virtually every major speaking opportunity to stokes the fires of intolerance. He has sent his representatives to each settlement in India, throughout Tibetan communities in the west and even on missions into Tibet to run signature campaigns insisting people pledge their allegiance to him by vowing to ostracize Shugden practitioners.
Mao’s communist forces stole their country, destroyed their monasteries and homes, killed many of their family members, and subjected many of them to torture… but they could not crush their spirit. The Dalai Lama is determined to do more: he wants to take away their faith and their hope.