Part I - Tibetan Voices
One of the main aims of this book is to give Tibetans a voice, since they cannot speak out in their own communities without facing serious consequences, intense social pressure, threats of violence, slander, and ostracism. In this part of the book are documented the experiences of Tibetans affected by the Dorje Shugden ban. They are excerpts from many informal conversations and formal interviews I conducted mostly from October 1997 to May 1998 in the areas in India and Nepal where Tibetans live in large numbers: Delhi, Dharamsala, sPiti, Kinnaur, Mysore, Mundgod, Goa, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and in Nepal's Kathmandu valley.
In what might be called an ethno-phenomenological approach, I collected additional oral testimony about the conflict from Tibetans and other Buddhists in different parts of the world from May 1996 till the present. For the most part, I have included those parts of the conversations that are representative of many other voices. This is by no means an exhaustive study. Most of the Buddhists who were deeply affected by the ban of their protector practice were too afraid to expose their names to the world. So I am including only some names. Others have been changed or left out altogether. Sometimes I have left out the name of the place for reasons of confidentiality. Each conversation partner told me much about his or her social, religious, political, and family background. I have included some of that information to give the reader an idea of how pervasive the practice was through all levels of Tibetan society and how far-reaching is the despair about the conflict.
I tried to include voices from a cross-section of Tibetan society. However, the religious and intellectual elite most qualified to explain the reasons for the conflict to the world is not represented directly by interviews. It is not even clear at the moment how many of the leading Gelugpas still rely on Dorje Shugden. In the emotional atmosphere of the "war of words," they were accused of cowardice and their silence interpreted as betrayal. I have good reasons to believe it was out of respect for His Holiness and religious concerns. With their silence they resisted participating in the split created by the ban and refused to disgrace the Buddha Dharma they are trying to preserve for future generations.
Since my Tibetan is not adequate to conduct lengthy and detailed conversations such as these, I had to rely on translators. Many exile Tibetans who know English do not know Tibetan well enough to understand the intricacies of the language, the religious terms or the language of official documents. My concern was that a translator should master the Tibetan language rather than have flawless English. Both of my main translators were well educated in Tibetan and also knew English quite well. But since the English needed editing, I often used my own terms For example, in India, where Hindus worship many gods and deities, the Tibetan word "chos.skyong bsten.mkhan," (literally, someone who relies on Dorje Shugden) is usually translated with "devotee" or "worshiper." This is common in India, where many gods are worshiped and their followers are called devotees. To a Western, especially a non-religious, person that common Hindu usage has very different connotations from what is meant by Buddhists. The Indian usage in a Western context easily gives the mistaken impression of a separate cult, or a tradition based solely on the Dharmapala, which is not at all the case here. and expressions for words not precise enough in the original. For this reason the truly authentic Tibetan voice comes through only sketchily, a common problem when working with translation. I noted whenever the discussion was originally in English.
I would like to provide a glimpse of the complexities of Tibetan culture in its mixture of religion and politics and how many-sided is the issue that brought the uniquely Tibetan identity crisis into focus for the rest of the world and the many different levels on which it gets played out. I intentionally did not order the content of the interviews around categories of my choosing in the hope that the authenticity of the Tibetans' concerns comes through more clearly this way.
I would like to point out to the reader unfamiliar with Tibetan culture that Tibetans do not complain in public. It is very difficult to get them to express their thoughts and feelings to begin with, especially to a stranger from another country. It simply is not done in Tibetan culture. So whatever deeply troubles them is expressed in a most understated and indirect way. The following testimony, even though a barometer for the Tibetan exile society's feelings about the current identity crisis, has to be seen in the context of this type of extreme understatement of the inner turmoil that is tearing people apart in that community.
Tibetans do not answer specific questions, I learned. They almost never answer with a straight "yes" or "no." This is culturally determined. Whatever I asked concerning the subject of Dorje Shugden, the answer came as a long story or as a great deal of accumulated reflections and doubts. After a while I gave up trying to elicit responses to specific questions. I was trying to document the conflict and what Tibetans most directly affected felt about it. They needed to talk. On more than one occasion people broke into tears sobbing that they had no one to whom to tell their story. To see old monks cry like that, especially those who had safeguarded His Holiness out of Tibet in 1959, was more than disconcerting.
I talked to hundreds of people and became aware of their exaggerated fears that contradict the media image of happy Tibetans. One of these fears, I discovered, was of their beloved leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This greatly surprised me. Why would Tibetans be so afraid of someone they believe so literally to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion? This became one of the most puzzling questions that led me to uncover many contradictions in the Tibetan exile society.
Aside from their intense fears, what also struck me was that almost all of the people I talked to were upright, strong people -- good citizens, we would say -- who had served either the exile government or the Tibetan community at large for decades on a day-to-day basis with hard work, devotion, loyalty, and innovations. The older Tibetans had been the backbone of the exile community in the sixties and seventies and many of them had put together its social infrastructure in the first place. They are for the most part capable, hard working people with many community leaders other Tibetans turn to for help in times of need. It is literally unbelievable that now they all allegedly receive money from China for spying and creating conflict in the Tibetan community. To anyone who knows these people and their demonstrated loyalty to the Dalai Lama, it seems pathetic, even silly, to allege they have become a security risk intent on harming the life of the Dalai Lama -- the most devastating accusation for any Tibetan.
My aim in this section is to document how Tibetans feel about the identity crisis occurring in their communities in exile not establish the truth about the ontological status of Dorje Shugden. That would be beyond the scope of all but a handful of realized, spiritual masters. Religious truth cannot be legislated or established by a general survey, by voting, giving opinions, or by recounting one's personal experiences. It is not a political subject. Whom we choose to believe as acting solely on religious grounds is up to each individual, the reader as well as those whose feelings and statements are recorded here.
In order to familiarize the reader with the political status of exile Tibetans in India and the administrative system they have constructed, the first interview presented is with Samdhong Rinpoche, advisor to the Dalai Lama and senior most government official since 1991. It touches on the subject of the relationship between religion and politics in the Tibetan exile government and starts this section to aid the reader in following with greater ease the grievances voiced by Tibetans affected by the ban. At the end of this section I include the views of two non-Tibetans whose close affiliations with the culture and language qualify them to add their own unique perspective. Since their presentations might be more systematic, the reader would perhaps benefit from reading them first. However, I have included them at the end since this section is meant to give voice to Tibetans.
From Conversations and Interviews
Interview in English with Samdhong Rinpoche, Chairman of the Assembly since 1991 and co-drafter of the Charter for the Tibetan exile government. For more than twenty years he has also been the Director of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, which is affiliated with Sanskrit University at Varanasi, India. He has consistently been devoted and loyal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Sarnath, January 12, 1998:
Q: How can a government that mixes religion and politics actually become democratic? Is the Tibetan exile government at the moment more interested in preserving the Ganden Potang government The government established by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1642 uniting religion and politics and under which he united greater Tibet as a country along the lines of the old empire that fell apart in the tenth century with the end of the Yarlung royal dynasty. or in democratizing and trying to find an appropriate government for, one hopes, a future free Tibet. Can you say something about that?
A: As far as the Tibetan government in exile is concerned, the direction in which it is moving is quite transparent. And there is no room for any confusion. The Charter for the Tibetans in exile which was drafted by His Holiness and placed before the 11th Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies was of a secular character. His Holiness clearly mentioned that the nature of the polity of the Tibetans in exile would be secular. When it was put before the Assembly to be adopted, the Assembly was divided and there was less reasoning and more emotions. The people were carried away by emotion and we were not able to adopt it. That was in 1991, when the Charter was presented for the first time. I was not able to convince the people to adopt the word "secular" [in the Preamble] because they understood secular to mean anti-religion or opposite of religion. Particularly the English word "secular" translated into Hindi gives it a sense of indifferent attitude towards religion. So that was not really pleasant. And therefore we lost by two or three votes; 22 were in favor of secularism and 24 against. So we removed the word "secular" and substituted it with the combination of Dharma and politics as we used to in Tibet: chos.srid zung.'drel. Thus, chos.srid zung.'drel was reinstated. Then it went to His Holiness for his consent. He did not insist upon restoring the word "secular" because he sensed the emotion of the members of the Assembly and he respected that. At the moment in the first article the nature of polity is given as a combination of Dharma and politics, but the composition or constitution of the charter is a completely secular one. However, in August 1998, a Committee for Protection of Tibetan Religious and Political Affairs (bod kyi bsren.sring srung.skyob las 'gul tshogs.chung) was formed in Dharamsala with all the powerful Tibetan regional and social organizations such as Ü-Tsang Cholka (Province), Domeh Cholka, Dodeh Cholka, Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association as constituents under the direction of Tashi Wangdu, a capable and well-respected Kalon (bka'.blon) or Cabinet member of the Tibetan exile government for many terms. This Committee is concerned with removing any perceived threat to the Ganden Potang government's union of church and state since of which the institution of Dalai Lama is the essence or central pillar. And we are now working under that charter. Since we have a combination of Dharma and politics I now have to defend the religious polity. This is not a big problem since the rest of the charter is a secular one. And the words "combining religion and politics" do not cause any particular problem in carrying out its mandate. His Holiness has a very clear vision that a future Tibet must have a secular kind of governance. That is not because he is against religious tradition but because he thinks it is appropriate for the people and the rest of the world. The entire world is now in the fashion of secularism. The world at large may not understand the religious polity and it may be misused by irreligious people in the name of religion, if you have a combination of religion and politics. On the other hand, the religious institutions might become more powerful and overshadow state affairs as we have experienced in the past. I personally believe very strongly that religion and politics can never be combined properly.
Q: Do you feel it is never appropriate or just not in this particular historical period?
A: Actually it is only a lack of information and education among the people. Otherwise I personally feel that a secular government can serve and preserve more appropriately and more powerfully religious traditions. I think that a secular government was never meant to be an anti-religious government and a secular government can do a lot of things for the preservation of cultural and religious traditions. I am a very firm believer, and His Holiness too, that Tibet's identity is inseparable from its religious tradition. That is the essence of Tibetness: it is our culture and our religion. The preservation of culture and religion is the first and foremost responsibility of the Tibetan government in exile or the Tibetan government in Tibet, whatever it may be. His Holiness gives political sovereignty secondary importance to the preservation of religion and cultural heritage, because our religious tradition and our religiosity, our religious mind and the culture, which is a manifestation of our religious mind, are very, very important for the entirety of humanity. It does not belong to the Tibetans alone, it belongs to the universe and we have a sense of universal responsibility to preserve it. For that purpose His Holiness is ready to give up the demand for complete independence. He is more concerned with the preservation of religious tradition and culture and for that purpose a secular government can work more effectively and more appropriately.
Now I am coming back to the combination of religion and politics and how it works in the government in exile. Our policies are based on religious mind or on the basic principle of religion and that does not mean it is Buddhism or Hinduism or any -ism. We say the eternal Dharma. The eternal Dharma subscribes to truth, non-violence and equality. Truth and non-violence and equality is the essence of the eternal Dharma and that is the commitment of our polity. The Tibetan polity's first and foremost commitment is to the truth, non-violence, and equality. For "equality" we sometimes use the word "democracy" and sometimes we use the word "equality, Interestingly, the Tibetan word for democracy was changed in 1993-4, upon Samdhong Rinpoche's suggestion, from mang.tso (dmangs.gtso), (as listed in The New Light English-Tibetan Dictionary, T.G. Dongthog, Dharamsala, 1973)to mang.tso (mang.gtso), meaning majority. Samdhong Rinpoche had argued at the time that the Communists were using the former word for "the people," and since the deputies in the exile society were elected by majority, the system should become known as "majority." Mechanisms for protecting minority viewpoints are difficult to find in theory or practice. according to the context. These three are the basic structure of our polity. This has been the essence of eternal Dharma. Dharma and polity become one and the religious mind is governing the provision of our polity. And here you should not understand that the religious institutions have something to do with politics. No religious institution has anything to do with politics. The religious institution is an institution, not a religion. We only refer to the religiosity of the religion, not the organization of the religion. So this is my summary.
There is a second thing which many people question and many people argue: if you have a polity governed by religiosity, how it can be a popular democracy? In that matter I am very clear that a proper democracy is only possible if the polity comes out of religiosity, a religious mind. Otherwise, if your polity is based on negative emotions or negative thoughts which are based on a kind of selfish motivation or competition or very strong nationalism, which can go to any extent to preserve and promote its self-interest, that is not a proper democracy. That democracy can become very corrupt, which is what we are witnessing in Pakistan and India and elsewhere. In the name of democracy all kinds of corruption and atrocities are going on. We don't want that kind of democracy. A genuine democracy can only be established if the people of the community or the country by and large are religious-minded and pure-minded.
Q: In the present form of the exile government, what in your view are the checks and balances on power? What is the relationship between India and the exile government and its legal basis, since on the one hand India does not accept the exile government as a government, so to speak, yet, at the same time, India is very accepting?
A: That problem we cannot solve as long as we are based in India. The Indian government is so tolerant and helpful just to ignore the existence of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Otherwise, legally and politically we cannot exist in India. The Indian government does not recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and yet this is just a bluff. Within the working relationship, they recognize everything.
Q: They recognize your institutions and they give your government the responsibility for taking care of the Tibetans?
A: Yes, yes, yes, yes. In other countries, for example, this would be very difficult. In India we use our own letterheads with the name of the government-in-exile. On these letterheads we correspond with the government of India. The government of India accepts them and responds, only not addressing us as "government-in-exile." They do not recognize any institutions. They only recognize the institution of Dalai Lama and his representative. On that basis we are working the entire administration of the government-in-exile, everything which the government of India supposedly does not know. So we say the government of India shuts one eye and opens one eye as far as Tibetan affairs are concerned. They are so tolerant.
As far as checks and balances are concerned, I have to make certain clarifications. Tibetans in exile in India have to abide by Indian civil law as well by Indian criminal law. We are not above the law. We are not outside the law. Whosoever is in India has to abide by Indian law and there cannot be a separate legal system within the legal system of India; that is very clear. Therefore the government in exile cannot have an independent judiciary system. Because that judiciary might legally clash with Indian law, we don't have an independent judiciary system as such. We have one only insofar as it fits into Indian law of arbitration.
As refugees, the Tibetans in India are legally protected by an executive order alone. India is not signatory to the International Convention of Refugees and the country itself does not have any laws concerning refugees. If the government policy changes, our position is very weak. If one day a government takes the decision not to accept Tibetans as political refugees then we cannot go to the court of law because there is no legal protection.
The Tibetans or any other refugees which are accepted by the government of India legally have all the fundamental human rights which are enshrined in the Indian constitution, except the political rights of voting and standing for election. This is clarified by a Supreme Court order. When Prime Minister Li Peng was visiting India about 50 Tibetan demonstrators were imprisoned by the police on the charge they were doing some demonstration and burning the Chinese flag and so on. On this charge they were detained. Some people went to the Supreme Court and it gave the order that the Tibetan refugees living in India have all the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Indian constitution and laws except the political rights. Under that order they had to release immediately all detainees and that order still stands and is one of the legal protections. Therefore freedom of press, of religion, and of association, which are also enshrined in our charter, are protected in India by Indian laws; that is one of the guarantees. And anyone who thinks there is a violation of these rights can go to the Indian courts of law and seek redress and remedy for that.
Coming back to checks and balances in the exile government, certain disputes cannot be taken to an Indian court of law. For example, political discrimination or decisions of our government cannot because they don't recognize the exile government. Therefore, in lieu of the independent judiciary we have a Justice Commission provided in the Charter. For its jurisdiction, we had to find some room in Indian law which we found under the provision of arbitration. Arbitrators can be appointed by anyone and they have the power to maintain judgments. Those judgments can be challenged in an Indian court. But unless challenged in an appropriate court, their orders will be held as good as an order of a court of law. If looked at from the Indian point of view it is arbitration within the Indian provision of law, and from our side it is an independent judiciary to protect the provisions of the Charter for the Tibetans in exile. If any interpretation of our charter is disputed we can go to the Justice Commission and we can debate it there. Three Justice Commissioners serve on the Justice Commission. They are not really judges, Samdhong Rinpoche pointed out. At the time of this interview, the background of the Chief Justice, for example, was having served in the Assembly but with no special training in law. The three Commissioners make decisions in consultation with three permanent juries who work in an advisory capacity, according to Samdhong Rinpoche. The legal aspect of the government-in-exile is greatly complicated by the fact that Tibetans are subject to the Indian legal system.
Q: What about criminal cases?
A: Yes, criminal cases would have to go to Indian courts. No criminal case can be dealt with by the Justice Commission, only civil disputes and especially disputes within the Tibetan administration and in the interpretation of the Charter.
So the rest of the checks and balances are in our Constitution. The constitution for a future free Tibet was drafted in the first years of exile. The charter is only valid for life in exile. Our Charter is neither a presidential nor parliamentary system. It is in-between. There is a second handicap and we don't have political parties at the moment.
Q: You can't really talk about democracy unless you have opposition parties. This is a fundamental aspect of democracy.
A: Yes, that may be, but we have to interpret it in a different way. The opposition parties are necessary but not indispensable. The Assembly in exile is the highest decision-making body. It is represented by the provinces and the religious traditions and some other people. It is an elected body of forty-six members which really represents and is answerable to the people. At the moment, that decision-making body has the role to act as the ruling party and the rest as opposition party. Both of these roles have to be performed by the same representatives. As a ruling party the assembly has to make all the policies and programs for the government and they are binding on the government. The Kashag [Cabinet] is elected by the Assembly and it stays in office as long as it enjoys the confidence of the Assembly. The members of the Kashag have the right to sit and speak in the Assembly, but they don't have the right to vote. The executive [the Dalai Lama] The executive as an unelected branch of government is meant only for the period in exile, as is the Charter as a whole. The Dalai Lama has stated that he would not play any role in the future government of Tibet. The traditional political position of Dalai Lama he maintains only in exile until Tibet is free, he has said. Then, "I will most likely remain a public figure who may be called on to offer advice or resolve some particularly significant and difficult problems which could not be overcome by the existing government of political mechanisms." Tibet's Parliament in Exile, Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre (TPPRC) in co-operation with Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, New Delhi, 1996, p. 30. For the duration of exile, however, the Charter cannot be changed. This provision of the Charter I take to mean that, in principle, the system cannot be changed, although it contains provisions for amending it. A Council of Regency, also a provision in the Charter, will take over the executive functions should the Dalai Lama pass away in exile. and the Kashag are answerable, accountable and responsible to the Assembly, which has the power to dissolve the Kashag at any time or to replace any particular Kalon [minister] at any time by majority vote. The legislative is more powerful than the executive body and the executive does not have any kind of veto power. Whatever decisions the legislative makes are binding on the executive.
Q: In practice, does it work that way?
A: Yes, exactly in that way, exactly in that way. Three months before this interview, Samdhong Rinpoche had characterized the workings of the Tibetan exile government in a very different way. In an interview with the Tibetan language newspaper Tibetan Times, Dharamsala, in October 1997, circulated widely on audio tape in the exile community, he explained the de facto workings of the Assembly as ineffective, giving his reasons for this obliquely, in typical Tibetan manner. He said that the last six years of his tenure as the head and speaker of the Assembly have been ineffective and nothing but a power struggle without achieving any aims. People do not vote on issues but only look at who is presenting them. This is just a continuation of the old way without any change. Once representatives are in the assembly, "it seems to be very difficult to continue to be honest, and if you are against the prevailing winds or flow of the river you lose your seat." Their independent judgment becomes undermined and they are subject to a strong force from behind, "like cement or concrete," he said.
Q: What is His Holiness' structural place in this?
A: He holds two very important positions, one is the head of state and the other is the head of the government. And as the head of state all executive decisions and their implementations are done in his name on behalf of him. He is working on the advice of the Kashag (Cabinet) which he can accept or not. But His Holiness answers to the Assembly, his advice is not binding. If his actions are contrary to the Assembly's decisions then they will not recognize them. He cannot do that.
Q: And you said he does not have veto power?
A: He has veto power in a sense. Any decision, any resolution that is adopted by the Assembly is sent to him for his assent. Unless he gives his assent, it cannot become a law. He can voice his disagreement with a piece of legislation within two weeks and send it back to the Assembly with his reasons and comments for reconsideration. And for that he can address the parliament in person or he can send a message through the speaker or in writing to the parliament. If the Assembly agrees with his suggestions it may amend the legislation. If it does not agree with his suggestions, it can send the same decision back again to His Holiness. At that time he has only two options, either he accepts it or declares a referendum. That is the final measure. The result of a referendum would be binding on the Assembly as well as His Holiness. None of the institutions are above the referendum.
Q: And have you had a case in which His Holiness did not accept a decision twice?
A: Not yet, it is only a provision in the charter. We have not used it.
Q: Do you think it will ever happen?
A: His Holiness is by nature very democratic. He always goes by the majority Here is an example of where Samdhong Rinpoche's understanding of the notion of democracy is essentially rule by majority. See note # 46 (???? check) above. consensus of the Assembly. I don't expect during this present Dalai Lama to be any confrontation between him and the Assembly, because he is very flexible. He always goes by reason and his reasons are powerful and that can convince the Assembly, and otherwise he will be reconciled with the Assembly's decision.
So even without opposition parties, the entire Assembly is performing the role of the opposition. It has been quite effective and powerful, because the Kashag [Cabinet] and the executive have no power in the Assembly. When the entire parliament stands for some issue, there cannot be a division. On the other hand, with a multi-party system, whether the party members consciously agree or do not agree they have to follow the party whip and that is also one kind of repression. We do not recognize it as such, but it is one form of repression. I agree with Jaiprakash Narain who, in his later age, recommends a party-less democracy. It is one of the most powerful ideas of democracy and I am very much convinced by it. For quite some time I used to argue that without a multi-party system there cannot be a proper democracy. But now I am more experienced with the nature of people in India and also with the Tibetan community. The multi-party system may not be very suitable for us. In India it is the greatest failure. For the 50 years since independence at any time the ruling party did not get more than 22% of the votes. And recently, party discipline mostly goes against the conscience of the people. The party as a whole makes other decisions and its members have foregone their right to speak and act. They have to agree to party discipline. That is one kind of repression. Also, the power-seekers are not principled to stay with one party but change parties like an overcoat. This has caused kinds of instability. In our case there is no such struggle because we have a party-less democracy. My objection to the multi-party systems in the US and England, for example, is that public opinions are not generated by the public. Public opinions are enforced by the party, and powerful propaganda and advertising brainwash the people. Therefore the basic right of the people's conscience is always damaged. We are very much against the Communist system of brainwashing. I personally feel that brainwashing is one of the most insufferable crimes against humanity, against basic dignity and basic individual freedom. But in the so-called-multi-party democratic countries the brainwashing takes place in a different way. It always goes on. It goes on through education, through workshops, through governments, through electronic media, through print media and Internet and what not, all kind of bombardment of advertisement makes you almost mad and reduces you to a helpless creature. You have to surrender your own power of thinking and guide it or abide by one of the powerful media. That is the worst result of multi-party democratic systems and market-oriented economies. They have taken away basic human values and human individual freedom which they are never able to protect.
An interview in English with Geshe Cheme Tsering. He received an Acarya degree from Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sanskrit University, Sarnath, where he studied in the Nyingma Division and a Lharampa Geshe A Geshe degree culminates Buddhist philosophical and doctrinal studies in a Gelugpa monastic university. It is roughly a Buddhist equivalent to the Christian doctor of divinity. Lharampa is the most advanced of the Geshe degrees awarded each year to very few monks. degree from Ganden Shartse, 1996. Delhi, October 22, 1997:
Q: What has the ban of Dorje Shugden done to you personally, to your life?
A: It is interesting how reality shatters your imagined perception. My perception of the inside workings of the Tibetan exile government has completely changed. My experience of this ban also has changed my perception of how His Holiness works within Tibetan society. It also changed my perception about how Western Buddhist centers and supporters of Tibet receive and give and gather information.
The Tibetan exile government is now perceived as experimenting with a democratic form of government. The long term aim is to transform Tibet itself into a democratic country. But when it gets challenged to test the democratic principles, it does not stand up to the challenge at all. This was demonstrated by how they handled the ban. Usually in democratic countries issues are introduced through the parliamentary process and then taken up by the upper house and then the President. In this case and in many other cases it was brought up unilaterally by the Dalai Lama himself. In 1995 the oracles (mediums) advised him that continued worship of Dorje Shugden is not constructive for the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan government's work towards freedom. On March 10th and 21st, 1996, he publicized these oracular prophecies in a public teaching. Neither the Assembly, the Cabinet nor the heads of the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions, not even the head of the Gelugpas were consulted. After the announcement was made, it was endorsed by the Cabinet and the Assembly and became policy. That is how the Tibetan government works. Before we did not know these things, because we were not inside the problem. Now we are. So this is not theoretical to us.
When His Holiness first proclaimed the ban, he took the oracles as reference. "There is indication that it is harmful to me and Tibetan society, a negative effect for Tibetan society, if Dorje Shugden worship is continued." That is how he first put it in 1996. This theme was immediately taken up by the Tibetan government and its various branches around the world. When His Holiness was asked by an Indian journalist, the reason for the ban he said was, "Buddhism is a very profound religion and the worship of Dorje Shugden is denigrating Buddhism to the level of spirit worship." He also said that, "Worshipers of Dorje Shugden have been sectarian throughout history," when asked by a Western journalist about the reason for the ban. Here he opted for ecumenical unity between different Tibetan traditions: "The worship of Dorje Shugden is against the ecumenic spirit." On more than one occasion in the US and in Switzerland he even prohibited Western Buddhists [who rely on Dorje Shugden] from attending his initiations and teachings. From this and many other observations we have made one can say that whenever he makes announcements and gives reasons, they are more based on the expediency of the moment than a solid foundation applicable in the West and East both. First he said worship of the deity in Tibetan society is not good. If that is so, then why prohibit Westerners from worshiping Dorje Shugden? Going through all these reasons, His Holiness has given different ones everywhere. He has not given reasons that hold ground or have meaning everywhere. This has changed my perception about His Holiness.
Outside, His Holiness projects a picture of a very compassionate society and since he is a winner of the Nobel peace prize, people embrace that view of Tibetan society. But in reality I now find that what His Holiness tells the world about the need for compassion and loving kindness bears no relation to the actual way in which he treats his own critics in Tibetan society. Some of the Tibetan public in Dharamsala is clearly showing that they do not want to be a part of this ban anymore, since they have seen its destructive effect among Tibetans. If we look to the private observations of lower ranking Tibetan government employees, this much is evident. I tried to get documentation to back up these statements. I talked to quite a few people who held the same views, but especially those living in Dharamsala did not want to go on record to corroborate them publically. When confronted, lower ranking government officials stated that since it was a religious issue, they did not know enough about it to give an opinion. See, for example, Part II, February 15, 1999. The Dalai Lama on the other hand has taken every opportunity, such as ordination of monks, public teachings in Dharamsala and those like his recent Kalachakra initiation near Darjeeling, to keep public indignation against devotees of Dorje Shugden at the boiling point. He misses no opportunity in these and other Tibetan gatherings to express openly that he is against the worship of Dorje Shugden. Unlike other politicians, this has very serious repercussions in Tibetan society. Once the Dalai Lama expresses his displeasure at someone, no matter who he is or however great his or her contribution to Tibetan society has been in the past, that person becomes a pariah overnight in Tibetan society. The key Tibetan policy makers know this very clearly. Front-ranking Tibetan intellectuals fought against this trend but have now come to the conclusion that at least in this generation the Dalai Lama has absolute hold over the Tibetan public and honest disagreement or dissension stand absolutely no chance. This is one of the reasons why my perception of His Holiness' actions outside and inside Tibetan society has changed.
Those in the Western world that are sympathetic to Tibet but have no exposure to Tibetan society at the family, government, or monastic level, do not have this understanding. Unlike any democratic society, the exile Tibetan community is a unique entity in itself. At the top level you have a handful of Tibetans who are intimately aware of shifts in international politics. This is mainly represented by the Private Office of the Dalai Lama. Below these people and far less powerful is the Tibetan exile government. In this government also, the key policy decisions are more often made on direction by the Private Office of the Dalai Lama rather than through parliamentary procedures or the wishes of the people. Below the government are sixty percent of Tibetans who are older -- monks and lay people alike -- largely unexposed to modern education, their mind frame stuck in ancient Tibet. This proportion of Tibetan people demonstrate no personal initiative to explore new ideas or methods or policies regarding the future of Tibet. Individually they are very efficient in meeting their personal necessities. They have almost blind faith in the Dalai Lama. This faith retains complete reliance on the Dalai Lama. When very carefully examined, this exposes two fundamental defects: (1). As far as the future of Tibet is concerned, at a subconscious level, they do not want to take any initiative or personal responsibility. (2). This lack of personal confidence breeds a hollow but inescapable blind trust that if they rely on the Dalai Lama, everything will be fine. Given these factors this mass of Tibetan people is an ideal and willing tool to propagate whatever policy or pronouncement the Tibetan government deems fit. The remaining 30 or 40% of Tibetans are the younger ones, most of whom are not well acquainted with or sufficiently grounded in their mother culture. So they really do not have a reference point to evaluate a modern society, outside society. Those who have sufficient knowledge of Tibetan society and the outside world have no voice in the Tibetan government to bring in fresh air. Some of these enterprising Tibetans started Tibetan political parties, but they became the target of intense public indignation and had to abandon their efforts. Others tried to express their view through the written media. They were either beaten by the mob or threatened within an inch of their lives. A few others started a newspaper of their own. It was so successful that it brought down the circulation of other Tibetan newspapers. However, a public rebuke by the Dalai Lama of this newspaper during a teaching in Dharamsala forced its closure. This is where the Tibetan exile community stands more than four and a half decades after they lost their independence to China.
Q: But how did the ban affect you personally?
A: Ever since 1962, when I joined the Tibetan school in Shimla in northern India until my graduation as Geshe Lharampa from Ganden Shartse in southern India in 1996, I have been an exemplary student. I always obtained A grades. Especially in south India I made more than my share of contribution towards the cause of Tibet and development of the monastic college. The Tibetan exile government is well aware of all these. I was even being considered for the post of official translator for the Dalai Lama at that time. I have never had any connections with China or Taiwan. This fact can be easily verified by anyone. After I voiced my disagreement against this ban in April 1996, however, the Tibetan exile administration in Dharamsala has used every conceivable method to destroy my credibility. For example, the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, Samdhong Rinpoche, in June 1996 spread the word in south India that I was holding two different passports. In New Delhi the Head of the Foreigners Registration Office tried to summon me twice, through notices, in an effort to revoke my permit to stay in India. The Bureau of the Dalai Lama in Delhi expressly sent its liaison officer more than once and told the concerned officers in the external affairs office of India that they must not renew my identity certificate [the yellow book issued to Tibetans in lieu of a passport]. None of these however succeeded. Most recently I have learned that the local foreigners registration office in Mundgod has been petitioned by front organizations of the Tibetan government in Dharamsala that they must not renew my RC [Registration Certificate]. This was in July 1997. This is just one part of the harassment that Dharamsala is subjecting me to. If I were to go to Dharamsala on my own, chances are that I would meet not only with public hostility but quite possibly I may be manhandled and beaten without mercy. But Dharamsala is not any exception in this respect. In any other Tibetan settlement in India, I am a marked man. If I were attacked in any of these settlements, no Tibetan would come to my defense -- would dare to come to my defense.
An abbot of a Gelugpa monastery, an incarnate Lama, a Geshe, well educated, in his seventies, very gentle, soft spoken, kind and warm. He did not know me and I had no introduction. I did not really know who he was when I met him in a public place of the monastery until I found out his name later on. We talked in Tibetan and after just a few minutes he took me into another room where we could speak in private. He trusted me that quickly with a subject everyone was afraid to talk about openly. The monastery has given up performing Dorje Shugden rituals officially or in groups, but many of the monks still continue privately. He did not want his name to be used publicly; October 6, 1997:
Q: How has the ban affected you?
A: It has caused us great difficulties. We are at crossroads. The dilemma is whether to follow His Holiness and throw away our commitments to our root Gurus or to keep that commitment and displease His Holiness. This dilemma has caused untold inner turmoil. We lost our peace of mind. Often I cannot sleep; my mind is always on this subject. The inner turmoil prevents any kind of deep Dharma contemplation for which the mind has to be calm.
Those of us who live in India have considered escaping the difficulties created by the conflict. For example, if we want to attend His Holiness' teachings, he says those who rely on Dorje Shugden cannot come. This is a source of deep hurt and stigma. If we went back to Tibet, we could not be sure that our freedom of religion would be upheld there. If we went to other countries, we could not be sure that we could continue to practice the same way as now because of so many different circumstances. So the ban has created many complications. It has even caused madness.
Q: How will this affect the future of the Gelug tradition?
A: It will weaken it because there is no trust among Gelugpas anymore. Some will follow the Dalai Lama and some their root Guru. Naturally there will be some fighting and hence more mistrust. In one way or another, everyone within the Gelug tradition will break their damtsig, Tib.: dam.tshig which cannot easily be translated. This term covers commitment, word of honor, vow, promise, pledge. For the traditional Buddhist relationship between master and disciple, see Tsong Khapa: The Fulfillment of All Hopes, Guru Devotion in Tibetan Buddhism, translated by Gareth Sparham, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1999. Damtsig is understood on different levels. The strength of keeping or breaking it determines a relationship and the success of joint endeavors. Perhaps some 19th century Europeans of a certain group, ready to die for honor and their word, would still have understood something of its meaning. Tibetans believe damtsig carries their good fortune even across many life times and the word keeps recurring throughout the Dorje Shugden affair as one of its main components. I am including the following explanation by the first Panchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen's of damtsig between master and disciple to give the reader an idea about how central it is in Tibetan Buddhism and how severe are believed to be the results of breaking it. The passage deals with the relationship between the Fifth Dalai Lama and his Guru, the First Panchen Lama, when the Ganden Potang government confiscated land belonging to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery founded by Gendundrup later retrospectively called the First Dalai Lama. "In order for the Fifth Dalai Lama's activities to flourish more vastly, he was invited to Tashi Lhunpo. At the time I had the extraordinary wish to offer all my possessions, inner and outer, completely. Some, overwhelmed by desire, said, 'The ocean, mountains, and earth are not mine, but whoever has not repaid kindness, those are my great burden.' Then they took over the estate [of Tashi Lhunpo] taking it as their due and evicted us who were innocent of accusations. At that time I was seeing supplicants at Shigatse. Some who were impartial, upon hearing this, quoted from Sakya Pandita, 'Some who are beyond shame in their hearts make much of their own bad speech. Some of the lesser ornamented of Kanzi beat the victory drum for the murder of their father.' I, myself, felt no malice, disturbance, unhappiness or resentment. Yet since it was such a great breach of samaya (dam.tshig), I felt compassion and some trepidation for them. That is because, as it says in the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion in which the meaning of tantra is summarized, 'Never disturb the mind of your master! If a fool does so, he will definitely suffer hells. Whatever hell sufferings are explained, like those of Avici [the worst], whoever abuses his master will abide there,' it is said correctly. Even the mahasiddha Jigme Lingpa, one with control over the arising of psychic energy and so forth, as soon as he heard he was amidst two people who had been present at a breach of the fifth commitment (dam.tshig) at the ganachakra ritual, he left to go elsewhere, teeth chattering. The great mahasiddha of Oddiana [Padmasambhava] as well, when going toward the sector of hell for the sake of sentient beings a follower of Chag Lotsawa, who had broken damtsig with his master, came for audience he [Padmasambhava] criticized him and would not meet him. Approaching that person's village the precious mahasiddha [Padmasambhava] said, 'If unable to bear even seeing someone with broken damtsig what need to mention meeting and talking to them. To avoid seeing their village on the way, veil your eyes! Do not meet or talk for even a moment with any yogi who has broken damtsig! Act in accordance with all of this!' This comes from his [Padmasambhava] biography. Thus, those previous great mahasiddhas exhibited great fear at even meeting those who had breached damtsig with other Lamas. That is why (I felt as I did)." The Autobiography of the First Panchen Lama, Blo-bzang Chos-kyi rGyal-mtshan, (chos.smr.ba'i dge.slong blo.bzang chos.kyi rgyal.mtshan gyi spyod.tshul gsal.bar ston.pa nor.bu'i phreng.ba zhes.bya.ba bzhugs.so), People's Library of Tibet, (bod ljongs mi.dmangs dpe.skrun.khang), 1990, p. 163-4. their sacred word and commitments. Conflict arises between parents and children, husband and wife, Ganden Jangtse and Shartse, which were so close before and had good relations. They now oppose each other and so much conflict has sprung up between them. Jangtse and Shartse are the two main colleges of Ganden Monastery. For example, Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche A Lama from Ganden who earlier strongly relied on Dorje Shugden but already in the 1980's, when he was religious advisor to His Holiness and after the Dalai Lama had started to restrict Dorje Shugden practice, changed to become one of the strongest anti-Dorje Shugden advocates. Serkong Tsenshab was the son of the great adept Serkong Dorje Chang, a famous Gelugpa Lama from the last century who, during that incarnation disrobed and engaged in consort practice -- legitimately, everyone seems to agree. told many people not to rely on Dorje Shugden. Now these people say instead of offering tormas Ritual cakes to the protector, we offer him shit. This kind of hatred creates so much bad karma. Serkong Rinpoche and his father (the great adept, Serkong Dorje Chang) had a falling out over this issue and separated. Up in sPiti, they now call Serkong Tsenshab by the name of his father, Serkong Dorje Chang. sPiti, one area in India's present day Himachal Pradesh, where many people relied on Dorje Shugden, is where Serkong Tsenshab went on a virtual crusade to get people to stop relying on this protector. Serkong Dorje Chang was widely considered one of the most highly realized Gelugpa Lamas. For those who know the different levels, it is unthinkable to call the son by the name of the father. This is how the Gelugpa tradition is changing. These days we have to be like the Gelugpas during the Kagyu wars, In the early 17th century just before the Fifth Dalai Lama took control of Tibet the ruler of Tsang, a follower of the Kagyu tradition attacked Gelugpa monasteries. This was one of his reasons for the Fifth Dalai Lama's political take-over. See for example, Warren W. Smith, Jr.: Tibetan Nation, Westview Press, Boulder, 1996, chapter five, especially pp. 105-8. when Geshes wore hats that were red on the outside with the yellow hidden on the inside. When they were caught wearing yellow hats, they would be punished. During that time, many Gelugpas went far east to Kham and caused the tradition to flourish there. It is still a Gelugpa stronghold today.
Today, the situation is like this: Dorje Shugden followers say bad things about the Dalai Lama and this creates more conflict and more discrimination against Dorje Shugden followers. This becomes a cycle of ever larger and deeper conflicts. Like two stones hitting one another -- one needs to worry about fire. Neither side is willing to change. Personally, I am worried that the conflict will escalate into a larger one, since both sides are dug in. They will die for their positions. In future, this might split the Tibetan community. Dharamsala Dharamsala has become synonymous with the Tibetan government in exile. Tibetans usually refer to Dharamsala when they talk about the people in power. This does not necessarily seem to refer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama directly, even though it is his administration that is under discussion. Tibetans try to avoid blaming the Dalai Lama at all cost. Thus, criticism is usually aimed at "Dharamsala." It is a generic term for the Tibetan power structure. says there are just a few Dorje Shugden followers, but this is not true. There are so many, about one third of all Buddhists who really practice (not of the general population) rely on Dorje Shugden. Because Tibetans don't have the freedom, they are afraid to speak out.
The exile Tibetans are supposed to be democratic, but they are not. For example, in the monasteries, if someone goes against the abbot, he is suspended. The Tibetan government acts the same way. Their structure and actions are the same as that of a monastery. A monastery is by definition structured hierarchically. It is strictly based on seniority and the authority of the elders, and membership is voluntary. He is saying that this is the wrong model for the structure of a government, particularly on that claims to be democratic and to represent all people. The Tibetan government is not true, not honest. They have democracy on their tongue but do not act on it. I am only saying this because I am really fed up with their actions and all of these conflicts they have created. I am speaking from my heart, not merely complaining. We lost our leader and we have no others. Everyone is too scared.
Jamphel Yeshe, sixty-year-old President of the Dorje Shugden Society, summarized and wrote down his life's contributions upon request from a Dorje Shugden support group. What follows is an extract from the translation of an unpublished biographical statement.
From September 1997, the Tibetan community has been circulating my dossier (one among ten others) published by the Security Bureau of the Tibetan exile government. Like a "wanted poster," it was put up repeatedly on walls of Tibetan settlements around India and Nepal. This poster gives basic information about my whereabouts and that of my family. It also gives defamatory, wrong information about my person, falsely accusing me of working for the Chinese government, the worst possible disgrace for a Tibetan in exile. This and other defamatory acts that aim at ostracizing me and my family from society have been very painful and changed my life radically. Even worse than the death threats against me were the threats against my wife, who had to leave as a result. I had to send the children abroad for safety reasons. When my six-year-old daughter playfully answered the telephone, anonymous callers told her, "We will kill your Daddy." This traumatized her so severely that she would check on me constantly, try to close all the doors, and prevent me from going outside. We have all been separated from each other for quite some time now, mother and father from children, husband and wife from each other. In addition, my business is boycotted by Tibetans who believe the distortions of the exile government, and my economic base is disappearing. I am alone and isolated from others in my already isolated exile society.
I am listing here my small contribution to social and public life since coming into exile, in order to set the record straight. Soon after I escaped from Tibet in the middle of 1959, I served as a group leader in Dalhousie for several years. Under my care were about eighty old people who were part of a temporary settlement of five hundred Tibetans. At the same time I was in charge of the Dalhousie branch of Ganden Shartse monastery. I acted as its treasurer for several years. After that, I served the Dalhousie branch of the Cholsum Organization, the largest umbrella of all Tibetan regional and social welfare organizations.
While studying in Varanasi at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, I contributed to many activities of the Institute. I was also an active member of the freedom movement from its inception at Varanasi. This organization became part of the backbone of the Tibetan exile administration. I served this organization in various capacities also in Dharamsala and Delhi. From 1975, I served the Gelugpa Cultural Society as a representative of Ganden Shartse and was active in exploring the possibility for a joint Mönlam Festival The Great Prayer Festival was instituted by Je Tsong Khapa in the fourteenth century to commemorate the great miraculous deeds of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. It was traditionally a Gelugpa-dominated occasion and took place in Lhasa the first month of the Tibetan year. of all Buddhist traditions. In 1979 the Great Prayer Festival was celebrated by monasteries belonging to the Gelug, Sakya, Nyingma, and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, presided over by the two Tutors of His Holiness, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche as well as many abbots, tulkus, monks, scholars and prominent lay people. This was the most special event in the history of the Gelugpa Cultural Society. While in Tibet the Great Prayer Festival, originated by Je Tsong Khapa in the fifteenth century, traditionally included everyone, today there are several such festivals organized under the same name and in the same style by different religious groups in the exile community and at different times of the year. With the split in the Gelug tradition forced by the exile government, there are now also separate Gelugpa Mönlam Festivals. In addition, Tibet House in New York, for example, calls its yearly fund raising event, held around the traditional Tibetan new year, also Mönlam Chenmo Festival, while in the year 2000 The Great Prayer Festival will be celebrated in Washington D.C. at the time of the Dalai Lama's birthday with a million visitors expected to participate in the festivities.
During my long stay in Delhi, I have tried to perform social services for different kinds of Tibetans according to my capacity. My personal name, Jamphel Yeshe or Chatreng Yeshe, is well known for my contribution in the Tibetan community. I have made continued efforts to request members of my own community and other countries to support Tibetans in need and the Tibetan cause in general. I received a medal of appreciation from Amdo Jamyang, the camp leader at the time of Majnuka Tilla in Delhi, for helping raise fund for the Tibetan school at that camp. My own regional group, the Chatreng Association, has acknowledged my contribution to developing its organization and helping its members. I also tried to find a way to build a residence for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Delhi, since he does not have a place of his own to stay on his many visits to and through the Indian capital on his way abroad. But since I am merely an individual without means, I made an impassioned appeal and detailed proposal to the Tibetan Women's Association. But the plan never materialized. His Holiness still has to stay in hotels when he comes to Delhi.
For all my life in exile, I have had the welfare of Tibetans and the idea of freedom constantly on my mind. As is well known in the Tibetan community, I worked towards that end in many different ways. All of this is destroyed now by the defamation campaign against me and my family. Because of death threats, I cannot go anywhere alone. I have to live in constant fear of losing my life, my family, my community, my access to religion, my livelihood, -- in short, everything that is dear to me and makes my life worth living.
From an interview with Jamphel Yeshe, Delhi, October 1997: When we first escaped to India, it was because of our religious faith. We also had the strong hope to return to a free Tibet. For more than thirty years we held the hope we will get freedom for our country. But that has changed completely now and not only because the Chinese are so intransigent. Even the hope for future freedom has been dashed because of the exile administration's more recent policy. With the five-point peace plan delivered in Washington, D.C., in 1987 and incorporated into the Strasbourg Proposal delivered to the European Parliament in Strasbourg 1988 the Dalai Lama outlined a strategy for a Tibet under Chinese suzerainty. Today this plan is formulated as "the Middle Way approach" to the political status of Tibet asking for cultural autonomy rather than political. The conclusion, the goal of Tibetan independence has been sacrificed in the process but this was not entirely clear to Tibetans until the 1990's. Tibetans believed in the 1980's that the Dalai Lama's long term strategy was independence and the Strasbourg proposal was just a temporary solution.
Q: How has the ban affected you personally?
A: Since the ban we have endless inner turmoil, day and night. My situation is not exceptional. Each and every Tibetan Buddhist who is not able to relinquish faith in his or her I am using "his or her" because the Tibetan was not gender specific as it would seem if I used only "his." Guru is in the same situation. Since the ban was imposed by the Tibetan exile government, families have broken down in every Tibetan community. Children broke relations with their parents and teachers and students have stopped speaking with each other. These things happened because the Tibetan exile government started a signature campaign against our faith. We were asked to sign a list swearing that we will give up our reliance on the Dharmapala (Dorje Shugden) for this and all future lives. These lists were passed around very publically so everyone could see who signed and who not. When the government stopped the Women's Association and Youth Congress continued to push people to sign. Through the public nature of this campaign we have been completely marginalized. As the president of the Dorje Shugden Society, it was my duty to inform all Tibetans about the situation.
If a Tibetan speaks out, the automatic reaction now is to find out whether or not he relies on Dorje Shugden. If he does, then as a Tibetan I should not have any contact with him, according to the Tibetan exile government. Because of the atmosphere of distrust created this way, I have lost many of my former friends and business contacts. They all know I rely on Dorje Shugden. It has become a trend within the Tibetan exile community for people to declare openly that they want to go after me and finish me. Threats are also made openly against my colleagues in the Society and we experience this prevailing atmosphere of fear and distrust as a great burden.
I am a family man, I have three children. My oldest son is twelve years old, the second son nine years, and my daughter is six years old. The two older children were in school at the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) in Dharamsala. I and my family received many explicit death threats. I found out through reliable sources -- I can't tell you who -- that an ex-military man and a member of the Tibetan parliament from Rajpur was discussing my two sons and their whereabouts in school in Dharamsala and my involvement with the Dorje Shugden Society with other Tibetans from a military background. Many Tibetans have joined the Indian army as part of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police after the CIA supported Khampa resistance ceased to be active. They have their own units, their own uniforms with their symbols but do not wear them publically. Suitable in high altitudes, they had hopes of helping free Tibet. They were used in the Bangladeshi war, in the front lines, according to Tibetans. They are trained in the Dehradun-Rajpur area, the foothills of the Himalayas of U.P. in India. See, for example, A. Tom Grunfeld: The Making of Modern Tibet, p. 162. He said they were well trained and that he and his colleagues would do whatever was necessary and whatever the Tibetan exile government wanted them to do against the Dorje Shugden people. For Tibetans who firmly believe that the Dalai Lama's life is threatened by those who rely on Dorje Shugden, these sentiments, and the willingness to act on them, are completely credible. So I took my children out of the school in Dharamsala and sent them to a safe place in another country. The perception was that anyone who wanted to attack us was free to do so. The threat letters I received included statements like, "We will not spare your wife and children." One such letter says (in translation): "To Tashi Dolma [Jamphel Yeshe's wife], from D.P. Gyatso. According to what I heard, your president husband, Chatreng Yeshe, has engaged in many plans regarding the Dalai Lama. Moreover, it is also said that you are going on a film shooting about the Dalai Lama, [Seven Years in Tibet] This being the case you are not permitted to participate in this filming. If you go, I will not spare you easily. We are youths of Darjeeling Voluntary Youth. If you don't believe it, you can come to Darjeeling anytime. Do you understand, slut. Secretary of Youth Group, Darjeeling, Kalimpong. P.S. Some of us are now in Delhi. You have to inform Chatreng Yeshi."
My wife and I received many threatening phone calls, and even our six year old daughter. When asked for a name, the answer was only "I am a man." Once, when they called, the child answered the telephone, as she often did, and the person on the other end told her, "There are fifteen of us here in Delhi and we will kill you and we will kill your father. We will destroy you." My daughter was very upset. She went to close all the doors and told me to stay inside. Early in the morning she would come to my bed and touch me. When I moved, she shouted, overjoyed, "Daddy is still alive."
Mrs. Pema is the wife of the retired schoolteacher Dr. Thubten. It is not clear why people call him doctor. He had been a monk earlier and holds a Geshe Lharampa degree from Ganden Shartse (1958). He escaped from Tibet in 1959 and joined the teacher training program in Dharamsala. From 1963 he worked for the Indian government for 29 years in the Central Tibetan School system in Mussoorie, in South India, in Dalhousie and Shimla. In 1991 the family bought a small piece of land in the Clementown Tibetan settlement near Dehradun and built a house there. They have a daughter age twenty-two. Mrs. Pema says she was introduced to the Dorje Shugden practice by her husband but has become a strong believer herself now. She is crying as soon as she starts to talk and intermittently breaks into uncontrollable sobs. She is clearly still traumatized from the events which happened a year ago and again several months ago. I talked to Mrs. Pema's nephew, a monk at Ganden, independently at another time. He had been locked inside the house during the arson attempt and confirmed her story. I met Mrs. Pema unexpectedly in Delhi in October 1997; her husband was somewhere in Delhi in an undisclosed place, so I could not interview him.
Mrs. Pema: My husband knows much about Dorje Shugden because he is a Geshe Lharampa and earlier had studied the subject extensively. He explained the history to people who had not even heard about Dorje Shugden before and were told all kinds of misinformation. So after that people were saying he is not obeying the Dalai Lama. October last year (1996) we came to Delhi for religious observances and left our daughter and nephew in the house [in Clementown near Dehradun]. On November 7, 1996, a group of people came and locked the house from the outside with the children inside and then threw stones at it and tried to set the house on fire. Luckily only the curtains caught fire through the open windows, the house did not burn because it is made of concrete. The children were able to stop the fire from spreading inside but men with masks had poured kerosene over the front door before they ignited it. For two hours they pelted the house with stones and shouted obscenities, including references to Dorje Shugden in Amdo dialect. Kalsang, my daughter, was finally able to open the door from the inside with a hairpin. She called us in Delhi. When we went to talk to the police, they told us that they could not protect us and that we should leave for a while because our lives were in danger there. They assured us that the house would be under police protection. So we left for Delhi.
On June 29, 1997, our house in the Clementown settlement was attacked again. We got a call saying that if we wanted to save any of our possessions we better come back immediately. When we got there, we went to the police station for help. They accompanied us and left two policemen with us while we looked through the house to see what could be salvaged. We found the door had been broken down and everything was destroyed with broken china everywhere. Thirty years of hard work went into this house. Fifteen to twenty minutes after the other policemen had left, a group of seventy to ninety Tibetans came and bombarded the house with stones again for two hours. The two policemen left for our security ran away. After some time twenty to twenty-five different policemen, some with two or three stars, came from Dehradun. A journalist took pictures. The crowd took his camera and injured his hand. This is documented in a number of different articles in the local Hindi language press. See Part II, Nov. 8-9, 1996. Two or three women held back a policeman while the Tibetan men kept attacking the house. Leading officers finally told us to take our possessions and to leave since the crowd would kill us and they would not take any responsibility. I told them I did not want to leave the house. If I cannot have religious freedom, I will die for it.
We asked the police for a written statement saying that they could not protect us, but they refused. They only said that if we did not leave, the mob would kill us. Then a policeman came with a truck and took us away for protection. We were kept in police custody for five hours. A friend and the driver who had brought us from Delhi were hurt and did not receive medical attention. Then the local police brought our belongings, saying that we had to vacate the house. They did this as a favor to us since the mob was threatening to burn down everything. Since most of the things were broken, like the TV and refrigerator, we told them they are of no use anymore, that they should have left them to burn.
Q: Why did you not initiate legal action?
A: We don't know anything about Indian law and if we try to complain or file a case, there is a bribery system. We don't have any money. A complaint will take a long time. Besides, the Clementown police were bribed by Tibetans. The truck the police had loaded our things on and sent us away from the settlement was paid for by the police with money they received from the government in exile. They have made our life like hell.
Now we live in Delhi where we have to pay rent. We lost everything and my husband is too old to start over again. The people in Clementown want to kill him. Only because of the religious ban did we have trouble there, after we had lived there peacefully for five years. My daughter did not sign the petitions to give up Dorje Shugden. There were ten to fifteen families in Clementown who relied on Dorje Shugden. We were the only one that did not sign the petition. My husband was a disciple of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and had strong faith in him. So there was no question of giving his signature. My husband taught Tibetan children for thirty years. Many of them now hold office in Dharamsala and they turned against him like this. Everywhere he went he used to get respect from former students -- thousands and thousands. Now everything is destroyed, is finished. We are refugees a second time, once from Tibet and once from India.