United Colors of Spirituality
One morning, I received a teaching from my Guru, His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche on “Why we want to become Vajrayogini” by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. After watching the profound teaching that was delivered in an extremely easy to understand manner, the first thought that came into my mind was:
It is such a pity that because of the Dorje Shugden ban, people like me get distracted from knowing this Dharma master beyond the controversy. It is a great loss that his insightful and generous teachings conveyed in a relatable manner are lost in the fight between pro-Dorje Shugden and pro-Dalai Lama groups.
Expanding on this thought, I realized how many good lessons in life we miss because we focus on the negative aspects of life that blind us from the hope that still shines before us everyday. The wider impact of this “little ban” is significant because it reveals how we permit things to be despite knowing it is completely wrong and that it destroys all the civil progress that our forefathers fought for. It is like shutting one eye and walking away from a situation where help is desperately needed.
This is why Rinpoche is so adamant that the ban must be lifted. Besides relieving Dorje Shugden practitioners from unnecessary suffering caused by discrimination, suppression and threats to life and security, this ban deprives global citizens who seek wisdom, goodness and peace of Dharma teachings that offer solutions. This in turn means that religious bans and breaches of religious freedoms like in the case of Dorje Shugden’s practice keep us in this vicious cycle of fear that leads to anger, selfishness and ignorance.
The incredible danger of the Dorje Shugden ban is that it is an “enemy” that is spreading the poison from within. Dorje Shugden practitioners are ostracized, threatened, shunned and jeered at by the very people they grew up with and with whom they shared a common aspiration to benefit others. In a precise illustration of “biting the hand that feeds them”, students are putting down their teachers who practice Dorje Shugden, despite having received tremendous Dharma knowledge from them.
I grew up in a country where we take pride in the multi-racial and multi-cultural society that forms the “Malaysia, Truly Asia” persona of this land I call home. Hence, living in harmony with fellow Malaysians who are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian etc. is a norm. In fact, having lived in this colorful and vibrant environment, I almost took harmony in diversity for granted and did not cherish it through deeper understanding. It is from Rinpoche’s teaching on mantras being the sound manifestation of the Buddha that I now interpret and appreciate the reading of the Quran to be a method through which the local Muslim community blesses the environment with positive sound energy. I am not saying that the reading of the Quran is intended to be such, but as a member of the community, I am able to develop a sincere appreciation for it, which in turn creates respect for others’ practice and culture.
Reflecting on this in relations to fellow Malaysians with whom I share this beautiful country, I realize that THIS is Dharma: a practice of equanimity, which is offering the same attitude towards everyone regardless of their race, background or faith. Equanimity is the ability to identify and embrace the beauty of diversity. It is Tsem Rinpoche, a Dorje Shugden Lama whom the Central Tibetan Administration accuses of being sectarian, who taught this spiritual lesson of tolerance to me.
To me, actions speak louder than words. And through their actions, the Central Tibetan Administration is a much more accurate reflection of sectarianism. Solely on the basis that they practice Dorje Shugden, lamas and practitioners have been discriminated against and deprived of some of the most fundamental needs such as medical attention, education and food supplies. Monks who renounced all material possessions and relations with the secular world because of their faith in the Three Jewels were expelled from their monasteries, leaving them with nothing and no one to turn to. A decision to cause such consequences is beyond sectarian, it is inhuman. How can we, informed global citizens of the 21st Century, permit representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, an icon of peace and tolerance, to get away with such severe crimes against humanity?
This is just one example of how Dorje Shugden practitioners are shunned and ostracized. This is how pro-Dalai Lama supporters treat their fellow countrymen who chose a different belief. Why would people spend time and effort to propagate such wrong actions? I believe that for most, it is the desire to conform, to continue to be accepted in their society because this dog-eat-dog world is too lonely and difficult to bear alone. I do not believe that anyone who aspires to gain realizations, attainments, Bodhicitta and wisdom would want their spiritual journey to be tainted with politics, criticism and discrimination of their fellow human beings. It is individuals or groups like the Central Tibetan Administration who identified this need and habit to conform and took advantage of their upper hand to inflict separation and disharmony for personal gain using a vehicle (Buddhism) that is intended to be a way out of samsara.
I am grateful whenever Rinpoche sends us spiritual lessons in any form or manner, as there is always something beneficial that will uplift the level of our thinking and attitude. Rinpoche often shares profound teachings from other spiritual masters, good examples of other faiths and religions as well as exemplary celebrities so that we practice humanity, live consciously with fellow sentient beings and make sustainable decisions in consideration of our merit bank and karma composition.
The human race has progressed significantly and we are now able to call ourselves a civilization by the blood, sweat and tears of previous generations. Today, children of various racial, religious and social backgrounds have the equal opportunity to share a classroom in most parts of the world. It is impossible for anyone to turn a blind eye on Dorje Shugden practitioners who are being ostracized by their very own people who share the same land, traditions, dreams and leadership. The ban must end for the sake of humanity.
We are in the age of the United Colors of Spirituality, a time of acceptance, and every time we turn away from those in need, we shed a layer of our potential to fulfill our spiritual awakening.
For the benefit of those who do not know about Dorje Shugden and the ban, or the dire consequences that have arisen from the spiritual division created by the ban, in a nutshell:
- Dorje Shugden is an enlightened Dharma Protector who manifested about 400 years ago from a lineage of erudite masters like Mahasiddha Biwawa, Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen, Panchen Sonam Drakpa and Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen who are recognized emanations of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom.
- There were inauspicious events when Dorje Shugden first arose because a divine play was staged through the wisdom of the Gods that resulted in the murder of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen. After several unmistakable signs, Dorje Shugden was enthroned as a Dharma Protector by the Sakya Trizin and recognized by the 5th Dalai Lama who wrote a praise to this Enlightened Protector, crafted a Dorje Shugden image with his own hands and built a chapel, Trode Khangsar, for Dorje Shugden.
- From the time Dorje Shugden was enthroned, his practice spread far and wide through the tireless efforts of renowned Dorje Shugden masters like H.H. Pabongka Rinpoche, H.H. Trijang Rinpoche, H.H. Zong Rinpoche, H.E. Rabten Rinpoche and H.E. Domo Geshe Rinpoche, just to name a few.
- The ban came in the form of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s “advice” directing all subjects of the Central Tibetan Administration to give up their practice of Dorje Shugden. Failure to comply would lead to expulsion, segregation and threats. The implementation of this “advice” ranged from the infamous red/yellow stick referendum on Dorje Shugden to social pressure on households and businesses to turn away from individuals who chose to continue their practice.
The video below highlights various announcements of the ban and the granting of permission to use harsh methods to enforce it, including the expulsion of Dorje Shugden monks.
Those who chose to discontinue spiritual and material relations with Dorje Shugden followers would pick the yellow colored voting stick while those who chose to continue their practice would pick the red stick.
- The consequences… ugly. Tibetans, lay and ordained, turned against each other. Brothers and sisters from the Land of Snows rained hostility, aggression and violence on each other. A nation is not ruined when they lose the land they call home but when they lose the bond that holds the people together to a common vision. Holy images like Dorje Shugden statues and H.H. Trijang Rinpoche’s photos were removed from monasteries and nunneries. Monks were beaten, clubbed and stabbed; walls were built between monasteries that practice Dorje Shugden and those that do not. These are just some of the results of the Dorje Shugden ban.
- Current news of hope… International media has created increased exposure and awareness of the plight of Dorje Shugden practitioners in the world, where breaches of human rights and religious freedom is not tolerated. The Tibetan leadership is being questioned and this encourages young Tibetans to stand up and have their voices heard. Never before has the Central Tibetan Administration been answerable to its people. This is the time of change and like the saying goes, strike while the iron is still hot: the ban must end now for humanity, for hope and for a future.
For more information about Dorje Shugden:
Please support us so that we can continue to bring you more Dharma:
If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible. ~ the tsemrinpoche.com blog team