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December 2014 Interview

Raimondo Bultrini interviewed the Dalai Lama in Italy.

"Q: A group of dissidents who previously belonged to your own religious tradition are opposing you because you hold a view different from theirs of the spirit called Gyalpo Shugden. They regularly hold demonstrations against you, and may do so again during your coming visit to Rome. Not many people will fully understand what this conflict is about. Can you explain what it’s about without having to go into the complex cultural and religious background?

HHDL: Out of ignorance, from 1951 until 1970, I too propitiated this spirit. Then I discovered that the 5th Dalai Lama, who had a thorough knowledge of it, had said that it was an entity born from distorted prayers, that brings harm to sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha. The 13th Dalai Lama also made efforts to contain it. I felt this was serious and that I had a responsibility to inform other people about it, although how they chose to respond was up to them.

To make a mistake out of ignorance is understandable, but to act knowingly is another matter. There are those in the USA and Europe who publicly demonstrate against me over this. They call me an enemy of Buddhism and of the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa that I belong to. In this connection I quote an adage if the Tibetan Muslim sage Khache Phalu: ‘I have given my heart’s advice to you, you can pay heed to me or not as you wish.

Q: Is there is any room for dialogue with these people, or differences between you too wide?

HHDL: These demonstrators shout, bang drums and wave banners. Their faces are contorted in aggressive expressions. Their slogan is ‘Stop lying’, but the question is who really is lying. Due to ignorance and distorted information, the followers of this practice are completely confused. In India, they have their own monasteries where they can do what they want. Kelsang Gyatso, one of their teachers once told a reporter in England that the 14th Dalai Lama had done nothing beneficial for the cause of Tibet. Isn’t that something of a lie?

Worship of this spirit goes hand in hand with sectarianism and restrictions on religious freedom. The 5th Dalai Lama and the 13th Dalai Lama strongly opposed it. Having realized that continuing the practice was a mistake, I felt it was my responsibility to let other people know. How they choose to act on the basis of that knowledge is up to them. It’s good that these demonstrators draw attention to the issue and encourage people to clarify what it’s about.

Q: You have referred to their attitude as fundamentalist and fanatic, and as you have said elsewhere, it’s very difficult to engage in dialogue with people who have become very emotional. Can we compare this conflict in a small section of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition with the problems faced by other religious communities who are afflicted by all sorts of extremists?

HHDL: As I already mentioned the 5th and 13th Dalai Lamas placed restrictions on the practice of Dolgyal because it shattered the spiritual bond between master and disciple. Ecumenism, non-sectarianism, is important and the great Tibetan masters practised it. Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, for example, have long been of benefit to their adherents. Those of us who belong to these traditions should respect each other.If you investigate the four century history of this spirit you can find out its nature. Out of ignorance I propitiated it 1951-70, but once I understood there were drawbacks to it I researched its origins at the time of the 5th Dalai Lama and I stopped. A monastery turned to me for help when it faced unusual difficulties and it emerged that propitiating this spirit was at the root of it. Right from the start I have tried to be transparent about this and have tried to make things clear. Whether other people listen to what I say is up to them. The people demonstrating on the streets where I speak don’t seem to be properly informed. They are ignorant of the facts of the case. The point I want to make here is that I haven’t banned the practice they are talking about, and the monasteries associated with Shugden in South India are evidence of this. My duty is to make the situation clear, no more than that. Whether other people pay attention is up to them. I wave to them when I see them, and sometimes they wave back.

I feel sorry for these demonstrators, because they are misinformed. For example, recently in Hamburg they displayed pictures of me wearing a taqiyah, a Muslim skull-cap. They want to pretend that I’m a Muslim instead of a Buddhist. I’m not worried, the truth will out. Some of the demonstrators are Tibetans. These protestors are mistaken and full of ignorance, I feel sorry for them, but I don’t feel angry towards them.

My precept master, Kyabje Ling Dorje Chang, the master from whom I received my bhikshu - fully ordained monk’s - vows, was not at all pleased about the practice of this spirit, but because Trijang Rinpoche, my Junior Tutor, practised it strongly, he refrained from criticising it openly. However, he instructed his close disciples not to do the practice. When I became suspicious of the practice and investigated its history, I came to know about the controversy connected with it. When I told him I’d stopped the Dolgyal practice, he was very pleased. He said: “That’s excellent”. I also told Trijang Rinpoche that I’d stopped doing it and explained to him the steps I’d taken to investigate the issue. He concurred that those procedures were infallible and stated that there was no error in what I had done.

The Buddha advised those who follow him not to take refuge in ordinary deities and spirits. This is a basic Buddhist principle. The Shugden followers as good as seek refuge in this spirit that arose in the 17th century at the time of the 5th Dalai Lama. One of its harmful aspects is a strident sectarianism, whereas I am committed to an inclusive non-sectarianism.

A spiritual bond is formed between a teacher and disciple and I have asked that if people want to worship this spirit they don’t take teachings from me. This is what they are calling a ban. They chant “Stop lying,’ but I think you should ask who is lying here. I also used to propitiate this spirit, so I have experience of the ignorance they are labouring under. When I realized there was something wrong with it, I stopped doing it. More and more people came to know that and asked about it. It was necessary to tell the truth; it is my responsibility to tell the truth, to explain the reasons why I stopped that practice. Whether people listen or pay heed to what I say is up to them.

Q: You have said. “We are all equal; we are all born the same way. But sometimes we forget the sameness of humanity and talk of divisions. In terms of them and us … We need sense of oneness among seven billion people of the world”. How can this principle be applied to people who repeatedly accusing you of telling lies?

HHDL: Normally we would expect a spirit of this sort to be protecting people, but in this case there are people trying to protect the spirit. They shout: “Stop lying,” but I don’t know what they think anyone is lying about. My duty is only to let people know what I have found out."



Editors Note:

To extremist Shugdenites, Tibetan Buddhism needs to be extremist, ie Shugden based, and since it is not, Kesang Gyatso employs modern media (Internet, social web sites, twitter, face book, word press, marketing psackage), slick marketing and protest rallies to bolster the largest sectarian assault that ever occurred against Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. What had little support inside Tibet is now orchestrated by a large political organization, NKT, to gain large attention and unwitting participation. Now, NKT is the largest Shugden group to surface in 400 years.

The 2013 416-page book by Raimondo Bultrini, The Dalai Lama and the King Demon, distills the state of affairs.

"A triple homicide committed a few hundreds yard away from the residence in exile of the Dalai Lama opens the doors to an unknown universe for Superintendent Rajeev Kumar Singh of the Indian Police. With his deputy, Amitabha, he goes over every step of the crime and identifies its perpetrators as members of an exclusive cult dedicated to a demonic spirit with fearsome earthly powers.

The chief suspects include the leading figures of a society devoted to the cult of Gyalpo Shugden...

(2008) Interpol has issued wanted notices for two followers of a Tibetan sect accused of the ritualistic killing of one of the Dalai Lama's closest associates a decade ago. The attack, in which two students were also killed, was apparently in revenge for the Nobel Peace Laureate's decision to ban the group after more than three centuries of mystic controversy.

The investigation takes us back to the beginnings of the cult in the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, and the death of one of his contemporaries in inexplicable circumstances in the great monastery of Drepung...

The present Dalai Lama discovered as an adult that his tutors and religious instructors were part of a network of power based on the cult of Gyalpo Shugden that had existed since the time of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.

The links between renegade lamas and the Communist regime are becoming stronger, laying the foundation for an alliance aimed at removing all traces of the Dalai Lama's lineage from Tibet's future. This conflict will involve generations of Tibetans and Chinese together with Westerners interested in the secrets of Asian civilization.

There seems to be a general consensus from all sides that the Dolgyal/Shugden king demon arose from the death of the reincarnate Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen in the mid-seventeenth century.

Gyalpo Shugden became the bonding element of a barely concealed pact among the most orthodox Gelukpas...determined to hinder the policy of opening up and modernizing Tibet, desired by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.

But while the Fourteenth Dalai Lama strove to strengthen unity and received teachings from masters of various schools, the orthodox Shugden devotees mounted a blatant sabotage of his ecumenical efforts.

In his autobiography, the Fifth Dalai Lama writes that Drakpa Gyaltsen's death resulted from an attack by a demon, and "because of his distorted prayers," he was himself transformed to an evil spirit.

In one of his most popular books, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso - who now ranks along with Ganchen Tulku as one of the leading opponents of the Dalai Lama - specifically explained his reasons for seeking support from the spirit.

The remarkable growth of Kelsang Gyatso's Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre seems to demonstrate that Shugden very satisfactorily has completed the task assigned by the geshe.

The NKT's school for aspiring Buddhist masters turns out teachers as if by means of an assembly line, using precise, unbreakable, didactic rules.

The operation undertaken to separate his center from all other Gelukpa associations connected to the Dalai Lama had considerable financial implications. The Guardian article listed the many ways the Manjushri Centre financed itself, at least in the beginning, including selling objects and special prayers for those desiring to accumulate "merit," and demanding nonrepayable "loans" from disciples."

Raimondo Bultrini is an investigative journalist with more than 35 years of experience. He has worked for La Repubblica, the leading newspaper in Italy, as well as for magazines including L'Espresso, Il Venerdi, Limes, and Repubblica delle Donne. He also spent years traveling all over South and East Asia as correspondent for one of the bigger Italian editorial groups, La Repubblica/L'Espresso. After becoming interested in Asian philosophy, he became the director of Oriente and Merigar Letter, magazines focused on Asian politics and Buddhism.

According to the publisher, Hay House...

"Raimondo Bultrini, an investigative journalist, decides to open a new trail by reconstructing the mystical aspect of the events. The Dalai Lama himself, determined to combat the sectarian outlook fostered in the name of the “king demon” by a group within the clergy of the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, reveals to Bultrini hitherto secret religious and historical details regarding the impact of the cult. Recent events and developments seem to bear out his perspective, since many Gyalpo Shugden followers have found common ground with the Chinese authorities. The links between these renegade lamas and the Communist regime are becoming stronger, creating an alliance aimed at removing all traces of the Dalai Lama’s lineage from Tibet’s future. This is the first major exposé of this intriguing struggle at the heart of the mysticism and politics surrounding the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan quest for freedom."

His findings may not be all lies as Kelsang Gyatso would allege. I assume correct NKT's denial of any direct involvement with the murders.

One thing is certain. This analysis is only a small part of the available information about Kelsang Gyatso and NKT.