Tsem Rinpoche and China
Dear friends around the world,
I thought I would share some thoughts about the ‘association’ with China people make with people of my faith. My interest in China is not borne out of political motivations or objectives. Long before the Sino-Tibetan conflict, and even before China arose as a global super-power, from a very young age I had already liked and admired China for her tremendous contributions to the world in the sciences, arts, culture, philosophies, religion, astronomy and for her rich cultural history. My admiration of Chinese culture is no different to some other people’s fondness for the Greek or Aztec culture which is to say, it is a matter of intellectual interest and it has never been a political move.
Actually, my family hails from regions that are now parts of China and to this day, I still have relatives there, particularly in Xinjiang and also Tibet. And my connection with the Chinese people has also grown because it is the Malaysian people of Chinese descent who have been assisting me all this time, in building a Dharma centre to spread the Buddha’s teachings. These are historical facts and truths that cannot simply be brushed aside simply because in 1996 the Tibetan leadership made an issue out any relationships with China.
So, today it is common for Dorje Shugden people to be accused of being Chinese agents or political sympathisers of China against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The truth is, there is no historical fact to support this wrong accusation and in fact, it defies simple common sense. The Shugden practice began in the 17th century, long before any kind of geopolitical conflicts and since that time, there has not been any connection between this Protector practice and Chinese politics. In fact, there was no so-called connection until the Tibetan leadership started talking about it almost 400 years after the practice began!
In some quarters in the West, this false accusation has found some support among those who are ambivalent about China’s rise that threatens the status quo, and among those who favour these Western powers. For this reason, and also people’s general lack of awareness for Chinese culture, the accusation against Dorje Shugden has been able to prevail. But if you consider the situation objectively, free from any kind of bias for one side or another, it is just not logical to say that all Shugden people are bad, and all Chinese people are bad. To make such a sweeping statement is irresponsible and illogical, because it manipulates the emotions of the Tibetan people who feel very strongly about their political troubles. But these sweeping statements are not supported at all by evidence or facts. Logically speaking, there are good and undesirable people in China. There are also good and undesirable people in the West, and in the Tibetan government and even within the ranks of Dorje Shugden practitioners. I am not unreasonable and unrealistic to ignore this. But, and I repeat myself, to accuse all Shugden practitioners of having a connection to China simply because of their faith is a mass generalisation that has no basis, evidence, proof or facts.
I do have connections with China. I will continue to have connections with China. These connections are my relatives in China (Tibet/Xinjiang), my friends, monasteries associated with my Buddhist lineage and also my heritage that comes from China. My heritage is my father who comes from Tibet and is ethnically Tibetan, and my mother who comes from Xinjiang and is ethnically Mongol. I will continue to contact my relatives and friends, and visit them also and there is nothing political about that. I am connected to China also because of my race and my admiration of their immensely rich culture since four decades. There is nothing wrong with being connected to China. I am doing nothing wrong with these connections. No one has the right to criticise my connections to China as it’s my personal affair. I have no connections politically to China or the government of this powerful country and if I did, there is nothing wrong and it’s no one’s business. I do not engage in politics. At the same time, I am a Dorje Shugden practitioner now and will always be till the end of my life for strictly spiritual reasons. People may degrade me for it, but that does not deter me one bit because in life whatever you do, there will be criticism in one way or another. It’s part and parcel of life.
I believe all human beings have the right to choose the religion of their choice. No political or spiritual leader may criticise and override this basic human right. All civilised countries allow their citizens to practise the path of their choice. No spiritual or political leader of these civilised countries would condemn and enforce or ‘gently’ advise against any spiritual path. It is undemocratic and archaic, and would not reflect well on the leader. No leader of these countries would goad their citizens to admonish, segregate or condemn any religion or their followers because it is against human rights. No spiritual leader should ever advise against anyone’s spiritual practice for any reasons as this is the freedom enshrined for every citizen. Whether my religious choice of practice, gods, God and path will bring me to heaven or hell is not anyone’s business. Some people say spiritual leaders can advise or direct us from wrong to correct paths. But where do we draw the line? It is my choice. So if a spiritual leader’s speech in ‘advising’ against a practice as in this case Dorje Shugden, brings segregation, attacks, disharmony and hatred, he or she should not advise and desist. I hope to have greater connections to China for spiritual reasons and for reasons of my relatives and friends. I will connect with any country, be friends with anyone and practise what religion I like and I will share my religion with those interested and that is my choice. I respect China greatly as I do my homeland Tibet and Xinjiang. I wish the people there happiness, prosperity and peace.
So to say that Dorje Shugden practitioners have a Chinese connection that is politically motivated, and therefore they are bad, and to repeat this over and over again without any facts is actually racism because it is implying that to be Chinese or connected to the Chinese, is somehow bad. Hence we see in the Dorje Shugden debacle how a good religion has been smeared with politics by the intent of the Tibetan leadership. And this mix has never been good or beneficial.
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/PoliticsRacism.flv
When I was younger, growing up in New Jersey, I experienced heavy racism in school from the Caucasian kids that were there, and it was almost a daily affair for some time. It wasn’t throughout my school years but it was around the 7th and early 8th grade, more the 7th grade. They would have a lot of racist names like ‘chink’ and they’d make fun of your eyes and your name, and they would do it almost every day and sometimes it would become violent. To the people there who are quite ignorant, everybody who is Asian is just Chinese. It’s like saying that everybody who is Caucasian is just English. Due to their ignorance, they would just call everybody and anybody who is Asian a ‘chink’, and it was very demoralising and demeaning. So after a while, I kind of connected with Asians, I connected with other Asians and Asian people because well, they’re not going to say things like that to you, are they?
So as we grew older, I’ve always wanted to live in the East, and since a very young age, you know, coincidentally I’ve always been interested in Chinese culture, Chinese royalty, Chinese archaeology and architecture, and generally the country. I used to think that China was a very old and ancient, sophisticated culture. When I was growing up, China was quite poverty-stricken or not doing very well, but these days China has risen to the top, and so in a way when China rises to the top, to some people in the West who are ignorant, they think that everybody’s Chinese, and it kind of raises the status quo of Asians in those ignorant people’s eyes, not that that matters at all, because all people are equal no matter what. So, I personally don’t have any connection to China, or anything in China. I would love to have a connection to China because I admire the culture, just like some people admire Greek culture, some people admire Aztec culture, Egyptian culture. I admire Chinese culture and I don’t think there is anything wrong. For most of my adult life, I’ve had the fortune to live in Malaysia where part of the population is Chinese. They don’t have anything to do with China because they are Malaysian Chinese, and they’ve been very kind in assisting me in helping to build, to learn Dharma, to propagate the Dharma, and do all kinds of activities: fundraise, study, meditate and do practices, so I am quite indebted to the Chinese people of Malaysia who don’t have anything to do with China, but in general I’m very enamoured with Chinese culture and I relate to it. Well, my relatives, my father’s side relatives live in Tibet, which is now a part of China. Whether people like it or not, that’s just how it is now. I’m not saying I agree or don’t agree, but that’s just a fact. My mother’s side of the family are in Xinjiang, which is a part of China too. So all of my relatives, mother and father’s sides are all in China, and I would love to connect with them and visit China to visit my blood relatives there.
Now, when I received the Dorje Shugden initiation and practice 30 years ago, there was no talk about China, there was no talk about being connected with China, or that being connected with China was bad, or was politically sensitive or negative; China’s just China, I am who I am. But since 1996, the Tibetan leadership has made a consistent effort to categorise people who practise Dorje Shugden as people related to China, or working for China or receiving China’s funds, which I find very silly and illogical because there are tens of thousands of Dorje Shugden practitioners now, and before the 1996 ban created by the Tibetan leadership. And also for the last 400 years, people have been practising Dorje Shugden since the time of the His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama and well, they had nothing to do with China, they’re just practising it for their own spiritual reasons as given to them by their Guru. That’s what I am doing, I practise Dorje Shugden because it was given to me by my Guru, and it has nothing to do with China. So when the Tibetan leadership likes to label people that everyone and anyone who practises Dorje Shugden, EVERYONE and ANYONE who practises Dorje Shugden is a paid agent of China is ridiculous. It’s like saying all Tibetans follow the Middle Way, and they’re not into independence or Rangzen, which is not true. There are factions of Tibetans who are pro-Rangzen and Tibetan independence from China, and there are factions of Tibetans who are Middle Way, and just because you are Tibetan, it doesn’t mean you follow the Middle Way.
Similarly, just because you practise Dorje Shugden, it doesn’t mean you have connections with China. And if you do have connections with China, it doesn’t mean you are paid by China or you are part of the Chinese system of whatever people perceive them to be doing to Tibet. Therefore, Tibetans who practise Dorje Shugden are immediately categorised as agents of the Chinese, which is ridiculous because there’s so many of us, and there have been tens of thousands of us, and it’s been for 400 years and we couldn’t have been agents. The reason we were categorised as agents of the Chinese is that it appeals to the West who have ambivalent feelings about China’s rise to power, wealth and prosperity. Not all, but some people in the West are ambivalent because some of the Western countries along with Japan have been #1, #2, #3. And now, when China’s kind of taking over, some people can be ambivalent or perhaps little uncomfortable with it, and some people are comfortable. So by Tibetan leadership saying that Dorje Shugden practitioners are practising Dorje Shugden and they are siding with China, it kind of wins over the Western ambivalence towards China and it kind of matches their scheme of things to suppress Dorje Shugden practitioners and have them treated unfairly.
So therefore throughout history, politics has always been mixed with religion, and religion has been mixed with politics, and that’s not very good. When religion is mixed with politics, religion becomes impure and politics become something that can be used to harm. Throughout history, there’s always some sort of labelling that leaders are divine, infallible, and that they are ordained by God, or incarnations of a god or whatever, and then people go along with that. So what happens is this is, my point is that Dorje Shugden practitioners…maybe there are some, one or two or three who are pro-China, maybe there are Dorje Shugden practitioners who are not pro-China. For me, I like China, I’ve liked China, I’ve respected and admired China since I was a child and that’s been going on 40 years. I admire them as a race, and I admire them as an ancient, sophisticated, intelligent and very powerful race of people who have contributed greatly to world development, just like many other races on this planet. My admiration of China has nothing to do with politics because I’ve never ever been involved in politics and I never will be. So therefore my practice of Dorje Shugden has nothing to do with China, it never had anything to do with China, and it will never have anything to do with China. China and Dorje Shugden are different. China is a country that I admire – just like some people admire Greece, Brazil, the Aztecs, some people admire the USA, whatever it is – and my spiritual practice is Dorje Shugden and these are completely two different things. And the reason why the Tibetan leadership likes to do that is perhaps for the last 50 plus years they have not done very well in securing the independence of Tibet and negotiating with China for the Middle Way and autonomy, they have not succeeded. It’s very, very typical of the Tibetan leadership for hundreds of years to blame it on the gods, to blame it on the lamas, to blame it on the protectors, and to generally find a scapegoat. So Dorje Shugden is an easy scapegoat to say – and they used to say this – that we won’t get independence for Tibet because Dorje Shugden is disrupting it. Nuns and monks disrobe because of Dorje Shugden’s evil blessings. Lamas won’t live long because of Dorje Shugden’s wrath.
Since the Dorje Shugden ban in 1996 till now, Dorje Shugden hasn’t punished, hurt, damaged or killed any lamas, any monks or any geshes. There are quite a few monks, lamas and geshes who have criticised Dorje Shugden and have campaigned against him, but you don’t see them harmed or hurt in any way, which proves to you over time that Dorje Shugden harms nobody, as Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche has already said, that he is Manjushri. Therefore, he is basically a scapegoat, and there are many other people and situations in Tibetan society that the West will not know about that are made into scapegoats. But we Tibetans on the inside, who speak Tibetan, will hear about these scapegoats, will hear about these intrigues, problems and difficulties. So the point of my talking and saying all these is not to defame the Tibetan government because there are people in the Tibetan government who are good – there are – and there are people who are not and who use their positions for personal gain and money. There are good people in China who really want prosperity and wealth for the country to grow and to do better, just like any citizen of their country. There are people in the West who are very good, and there are people in the West who are ambivalent or perhaps even uncomfortable with the rise of China in the world global power table. There are Dorje Shugden practitioners who are very good, and there are Dorje Shugden practitioners who are perhaps not doing their best. There are non-Dorje Shugden practitioners who are not very good, and there are non-Dorje Shugden practitioners who are very good, so we don’t generalise people because of their race, their colour, or their religion or their background, that’s very, very wrong. So I practise Dorje Shugden because my Guru gave him to me, and I will never contradict the advice of my Guru. It doesn’t matter to me what other lamas and other high-ranking teachers or famous teachers say. For me, my teacher is my teacher and I will only follow his advice and my mind will never stir from my personal teacher’s advice because he gave me the advice from his heart, for his love for me, and for him observing what I need in this life to practice.
So if other people want to label me a Chinese spy, a Chinese agent, a Chinese employee and put me down, well the simple thing is this – prove it! Prove that I am with paperwork, with documents, with bank statements. If you cannot prove it and you simply say it over and over and over, it may make me look bad and many other Dorje Shugden practitioners look bad at the beginning, but over time, the accusers themselves will look silly, illogical, hateful and maybe just following some sort of propaganda that, over time, they will abandon because it makes them look ridiculous. I practice Dorje Shugden because my Guru, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche gave it to me, and no one on this planet in the ten directions, in the three planes of existence can ever deter my willpower to follow my Guru’s instructions. No one may override that in my mind. No one. I will never abandon my Guru, I will never think negative thoughts about my Guru, I will never abandon any practice my Guru has given me. I will never defy my Guru, or show disrespect to my Guru, or show wrong body actions, or show wrong attitude to my Guru. I will never do that. My enlightenment and my attainment of higher realisations depend on the blessings of my Guru.
Number two, I admire and I always look up to China, and I am happy with their rise and prosperity of their country. Any country that does better, I rejoice. My admiration of Chinese culture, language, history, background, court etiquette, their royalty, their dance, their music, their cuisines, their inventions, their incredible amount of resilience and entrepreneurship is an example to the world, and has nothing to do with any political views. I am grateful to the Chinese people in Malaysia, to Malaysia and all of Malaysia for having to host me and my “success”, whatever that is in people’s views and my life. I just wanted to kind of say this because I had a thought that growing up, I had to experience heavy racism and being called a ‘chink’, and now as an adult, because of my religion, I am called racist remarks that I support China and I’m against the Tibetan Dalai Lama and all that, and that’s not true. I am not against the Dalai Lama, I love the Dalai Lama; I respect him. So, remarks like these don’t move me or move any Dorje Shugden practitioner or anyone, but they serve to contribute to prejudice, hatred, anger and segregation of people. Whatever religion and colour we are, underneath we are all the same. We should promote harmony, we should promote love, we should promote care; we should promote equality among all people regardless of religion, regardless. This is very important.
For more interesting information:
- The Dorje Shugden category on my blog
- What you must know about China
- The Importance of Tibet Befriending China
- Reuters Investigation on Dorje Shugden Inaccurate?
- China officially supports Dorje Shugden
- China’s official stance on Dorje Shugden
- Malaysia and China friendship
- Panchen Lama meets Chinese President
- Stephon Marbury embraces China
- Why is Buddha Amitabha So Prevalent in China?
- Vajravarahi Caves in China
- China’s HUGE Buddha Statues!!!!
- Dalai Lama, China & Dorje Shugden
- All About Manjushri / 关于文殊菩萨
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