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"Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: waterlily ()
Date: August 05, 2010 04:25AM

Hello I am new here and this is my first post, controversial no doubt and hope it is alright.

I wonder if any here have doubts about the Dalai Lama? I was a practicing Tibetan buddhist from 1988 to 1996 and finally saw the light. It took about 5 or 6 years to find my own ground again, with help from a therapist and my own soul searching, coming to understand I was recreating my family of origin issue with the guru/group mind. In that place, I was continually 'retraumatized' so to speak, and when I dared to speak up, the old tapes from family were mimicked w/in the group that I was wrong, not trusting enough, not developed enough. So I continued to feed the cycle of dysfunction there until it got so crazy, so disruptive to my inner being, that I began to question and ask those questions OUTside the group enough to get the feedback that it wasn't me that was crazy etc...That led to a book: The Guru Papers, which helped enormously.

Interesting that I was practically 'family' with these ppl for all those years and yet the minute I began to question, to even ask questions, I was shunned and abandoned. Says alot about all that 'bodhisattva' and all compassionate 'love' these types say they possess.

But my DH and I had participated in bringing the DL to our hometown back in the mid 90's and I was struggling to get out of my original group-Kagyu, not Gelupa, and in a questioning and watchful place. We had sort of inside contact with the hotel and staff of the DL along with the DL as well, off the stage/persona contact which got me questioning him as well. At that time even tho I was rejecting my group, I held a place for the DL to be above all that. Now not so sure. I'm wondering if anyone else has had doubts about the DL as well and would appreciate input either way. Thanks so much and how great it is to have these forums to have the checks and balances that are glaringly absent w/in many of these groups.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/05/2010 06:55AM by rrmoderator.

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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: August 05, 2010 07:44AM

I don't have doubts about the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, he is undoubtedly accepted as a fine and upstanding example by his flock.
I do think though that his current activities in the west are driven by political motives as much as religious ones and that he has a very very effective publicity machine that has pulled off quite a coup in keeping the Tibetan cause high on the list that wealthy westerners deem worthy.

Which is odd because the Tibetan restoration that he is working for is the restoration of a feudal theocracy, similar in structure to the regime currently in power in Iran, and just as primitive and violent in some ways.

There are some good books available on the history of Tibet and the deposing of monastic power in the 50's, including newly released information on how much influence the US brought to bear on the Tibetans to resist Chinese rule. (---must be some major deposits of mineral wealth in Tibet to engender such interest!)

Understanding the history leads to an understanding of exactly how much power the Dalai Lama and the monastic system wields over the Tibetan people, despite his public persona of a being just a gentle smiling monk.
He is a head of state, in exile, and as such a politician--like all politicians his main concern is power, gaining it, holding on to it, regaining it when it is lost.
I find that difficult to square with the gentle smiling monk persona, someone is pulling a fast one.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/05/2010 07:49AM by Stoic.

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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: OutofTransition ()
Date: August 08, 2010 10:31PM

I too have wondered somewhat about the Dalai Lama. If Tibet had not been invaded by the Chinese and he and his followers forced to flee would he still have achieved the prominence that he enjoys today? Or would he have remained the relatively obscure leader of a relatively obscure brand of Buddhism in a relatively obscure country?

I have not studied Buddhism extensively, but my understanding of it is that it started out as a philosophy much like the Greek philosophers, and only later evolved to become a religion with supernatural elements added, especially in Tibet, where it has changed so much that I wonder if Buddha would even recognize it. So it is strange that someone from that background would emerge to become almost on a par with the Pope, and so quickly. For centuries the Papacy dominated European history and even influenced the dealings Europeans had with non-Europeans; in contrast, the Tibetan lamas, of which the Dalai Lama is just one, were not much known outside their region. I would have expected a world Buddhist leader to emerge from one of the other Buddhist countries.

As a westerner who believes very strongly in democracy and freedom of conscience, I am concerned with the type of Tibet the Dalai Lama wants to restore. Yes, I believe Tibet should be independent. But I do not support a Tibet that wants to turn back the clock and restore theocracy. I get the impression that those that want Tibet to do so are more concerned with their sentimental wants and desires rather than the true needs and wants of the Tibetan people. In other words, to make Tibet a sort of quaint and colorful Buddhist tourist trap. And as long as there are enough pilgrims who can afford to go there, that might not be a bad thing for the Tibetan economy. But what happens when the tourist trade dries up? And more important, what about the Tibetan people themselves?

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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 08, 2010 11:36PM


Or would he have remained the relatively obscure leader of a relatively obscure brand of Buddhism in a relatively obscure country?

It is good to remember that the DL was not always as well known as he is today.

In the second, 1980 edition of his memoir 'The Ochre Robe' Agehananda Bharati, an Austrian born scholar of Sanskrit and Indian religion who became a renunciate monastic in the Bharati Sankara order, wrote this about Syracuse, the university and town where he became a member of the faculty.

Speaking of Syracuse New York as it was back in the late Seventies and up to 1980, Bharati tells us that it was a somewhat incurious and isolated place.

But what is interesting is that there was a time when, outside of major cities, many persons did not know or care who the DL was.



'When HH the Dalai Lama visited this campus two months before the writing of this epilog, I overheard a male student ask a coed whether she planned to listen to the Dalai Lama. After a cautious glance in her interlocutor's direction, she asked, "Is he a rock group?"

(Bharati continues)'The next evening, when I addressed a group of 50 freshmen and sophomores in their dorm about the event, I asked how many had ever heard of the Dalai Lama. Some forty raised their hands and they were the honest ones.

(Bharati makes clear that at this time Syracuse was a small town campus for he stated,
'I must say that this would not have happened on any other campus in the sixties and early seventies when the campuses in the land were, for once, alive with inquiry, with excitement with the quest for distant alternatives and other options.'

A cult of celebrity had not yet attached to his name and image. This was decades before Apple, in its Think Different advertising campaign combined bad grammar with faces of various renowed persons in its adverts--and as part of this campaign selected the portrait of the DL, uising his face to help instill cravings and sell a product.

It violates the Mahayana buddhist precepts (which are part of the tradition upheld by the DL) to 'darken the mind of self and other with intoxicants'

My very strict layman's interpretation demands that we consider advertising to be an intoxicant for it stirs up craving and greed, rather than inviting us to apply insight to understand how cravings arise and how to free ourselves from cravings that do not support waking up, and to identify and become free from cravings that urge us to purchase items we might not actually need.

I want to make clear that HH DL probably did not consent to have his picture used in this manner, but the whole cult of celebrity and eagerness to gain access to a famous person is another sort of intoxicant.

And the burden and care of being a head of state in exile means being involved in Public Relations and politics. A simple monk does not have to deal with this.

Finally, full disclosure. I attended a lecture given on a valuable and difficult topic by the DL and learned a lot. It was as good and tough as anything taught at university level.

However, the process of questions from the audience was not one of free exchange. People wrote out questions on paper and handed them to an attendant. There were many more questions than could be answered.

So only a few were answered, giving the DL and his advisors the luxury of being able to pick and choose which to answer and which no to answer.

Another interesting feature was that the emigre Tibetans in the audience were glad to be there but felt quite able to walk into and out of the auditorium whenever they felt a need to stretch their legs and many availed themselves of the opportunity.

By contrast, I observed a doting glazed eyed awe amongst the Western members of the audience as though they were thrilling to the presence of a rock star.

One lady sat next to me, blonde hair, in Tibean brocaded clothing. At intervals, she hummed.

I thought she was fluent in Tibetan and was murmuring an affirmative to certain points made by the DL during his lecture.

I asked if she knew Tibetan.

'Oh no,' she said sweetly. 'Im taking in his vibrations.'

As one who practices in one of the Mahayana traditions (but not any of the Himalayan ones), I can tell you that one cannot learn the Buddhadharma by absorbing vibrations from someone who is famous and has permitted himself to become the focus of

Met another person there, a professor of theology at a Catholic institution of higher learning. He was beaming and happy as a clam at high tide.

The lecture we had just heard from the DL was radical stuff, it undercut the assumptions behind the core of Catholic doctrine.

I wondered how the professor of theology was doing. I was once a Roman Catholic, had left, and though committed to Buddhadarma and already familiar with the outlines of Nagarjuna, this had been my first exposure to a really systematic discourse on Nagarjuna's middle way and his use of logic.

I asked the professor what his take was.

'Oh, Im just here soaking up the atmosphere' he said, cheerily, as though totally unconcerned at hearing a 2 hour exposition of a belief system that brushed aside 2,000 years of Western theology as irrelevant.

What I found amazing was that people focused on the personality of the DL, something that in Mahayana Buddhism is considered a mere, temporary assembly of components, and one that is temporary.

Even the 'atmosphere' of that event is something meant to be appreciated but then, something to be explored with insight until understood as itself as atmosphere, transient, temporary.

To just 'get off' on the DL is to use him as an intoxicant.

If you want atmosphere without applying party pooper insight to that atmosphere, leave the DL alone.

Instead, get together, go to a jazz club, go to Burning Man or find a place where cannabis is legal and pass a bong around.

The hammer that sounds time for meditation at Soto Zen places has this inscription

Great is the matter of life and death
Time is fleeting,
Gone, gone
Wake up, wake up each one
Do not waste this life!

That is the mood to be in if one is going to listen to any Buddhist teacher, whether it is the DL or someone quietly teaching the same tradition and perhaps teaching it
better, because free from the burdens of fame, celebrity and political leadership.

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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 09, 2010 12:19AM

These events are funny in other ways.

While waiting in line to get in, some people were taking advantage of our large assembled group to pass out pamphlets claiming the DL is a vegetarian and therefore its best to be vegetarian.

In Tibet there are few areas where vegetables can be grown. People if they can afford it, eat meat and everyone uses dairy products.

And in the older texts of Buddhadharma the monks ate whatever was offered them, that is, whatever was placed in their begging bowls.

Some accounts of Buddha's death state he got ill either from mushrooms or a bum dish of pork. His last act after sensing that something was wrong with that pot of stew was to protect his disciples by telling the host that that dish was so good that it should not be served to anyone else but him, and the rest buried or burned as an offering.

That way Buddha avoided hurting his hosts feelings and ensured his companions would not eat that same entree and get ill. Soon after, so the story goes, the Buddha died and his last statements were

*He had already taught all that was needed and had hidden no further teachings. He had nothing esoteric or high level squirrelled away, and already had passed on all that his students needed.

* He didnt want anyone venerating him and told his students cultivate their own practice.

In areas where it is feasible to live healthily as a vegetarian, Buddhists will try to be vegetarian. But in parts of the world where it is not feasible, such as the Himalayas, they'll eat meat or whatever is offered.

I was amused at the attempt to link the DL to whatever someone's pet project was whether it was vegetarianism or Apple's 'Think Different' campaign.


How Many Workstations Has the Pope?by Michael Finley
Copyright © 1998 by Michael Finley
Originally appeared in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Have you noticed Apple's print ads for the past year? Each ad features a photo of someone remarkable, the Apple logo, and the legend "Think different." People pictured include Buzz Aldrin, Muhammad Ali, Thomas Edison, Picasso, Martha Graham, Rosa Parks, Einstein and Gandhi. The message is that Apple, unlike some computer standards, unleashes creativity and individuality.

The one that stopped me in my tracks was a handsome picture of Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, and winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. The ad shows a whimsically smiling Dalai Lama, his hands clasped in traditional greeting.

The Dalai Lama is an interesting choice for the campaign. He comes across as good-humored and non-doctrinaire, the perfect ambassador for a mysterious tradition.

I was privileged to witness the Dalai Lama when he came to Deer Park, Wisconsin ( for a Kalachakra Empowerment ceremony -- the first ever in the West -- in the summer of 1981. I was able to observe him for two days, without actually speaking. He is a man of immense courtesy and, despite the difficulties of a life in exile, separated from the people he is supposed to govern, of obvious joy.

At Deer Park I learned the Tibetan greeting Tashi-deley, meaning, "I honor the greatness within you." Can you imagine paying a stranger a greater compliment, and getting off on a better foot, than that?

The greeting exemplifies why westerners are so charmed by the monk whom Tibetan Buddhists regard as the human embodiment of divine compassion. There is a childlike innocence in the attitude, but also a steely determination to find the beauty and decency in everybody, at whatever cost.

But the idea of the governing head of a world religion, essentially endorsing a commercial product -- is that a good thing? You can't imagine the Pope doing that. Or Apple asking him to.

By coincidence, His Holiness John Paul II was also in the technology news last week. In Rome, he spoke off the cuff about how computers had become a factor in even his life.

"Computers have changed the world quite a bit and certainly my life," the Pope said during a visit to the Luiss University. He may have been referring to the gift of computers he was accepting, to be sent on to African nations. Or he may have been alluding to the Vatican's feature-packed website (

The reason his comment made Reuters is that the Pope, a/k/a Karol Wojtyla, age 78, has been one of the world's last true Luddites in a position of great power. He still writes most of his speeches by hand in Polish. They are later transcribed by aides. His vow of celibacy appears to include never pressing an Enter key.

And this standoffishness to technology has seemed appropriate. We don't want to see the earthly proxy for Christ hawking Compaq desktop systems in magazine foldouts. (Concede this much: if the Pope did have a computer, it would run Windows, right?)

And that is what bothered me about the Apple ad. When Apple says "Think different," and shows us the Dalai Lama, they are implying that the realm an Apple computer transports you to is in some way analogous to the realm the holy lama inhabits -- a place of contemplation, compassion, centeredness, and tremendous spiritual responsibility.

I would submit that no computer -- Apple, Windows, or Unix workstation -- has ever done that for any human being.

You may think of the Pope and the Dalai Lama as the world's last anticommunists, Wojtyla against the Breshnevites that ran Poland from World War II on, and Gyatso against the Maoist who overran Lhasa in the 1950s and converted the lamaseries into army barracks.

John Paul is old enough to remember Stalin's dismissal of Pius XII's influence in Europe: "How many divisions has the Pope?"

In Poland, communism is dead, and in China it is slowly mutating into something else. But both men remain exiles, each in his own way. And each men have had to make peace with capitalism and its perfect symbol, the computer.

Computers may be useful for the structural tasks of spirituality -- Usenet study groups, online Bibles, e-mail evangelism. But for the core work of knowing God, a PC is just another empty box for people to get lost in.

The Vatican today has thousands of computers -- but none is engaged in the core work of the Church.

An inventor like Edison might make great hay with a PC to spur his inventings. A physicist like Einstein could save himself years of blackboard erasing with a digital whiteboard on which to work out his theorems. An astronaut like Buzz Aldrin, bobbing across the sea of Tranquility, could take comfort in the information umbilicum connecting him to mother earth.

But a great mountain of computers, banked higher than the Himalayan shelf, won't bring you an inch closer to enlightenment, or salvation.

The true greatness, the Dalai Lama would say, is within you. Tashi-deley. And shame on Apple, and shame on us, if we think any different.


Corboy note:

Most of us are familiar enough with pronouncements from the Pope to see the Pope as

*An authority figure

*Many see the Pope as not only an authority figure but as an authority figure who
tell us NOT to do things

*The Pope is associated with a code of ethical/moral guidelines that most of us know in detail, even if we have chosen not to follow all or part of that list.

By contrast few persons are familiar enough with the Mahayana Buddhist ethical precepts that are part of the tradition taught by the Dalai Lama (and many others)

So this leaves the illusion of the Dalai Lama as a Friendly Authority Figure who, unlike the Pope, is not associated with warnings to avoid

oppression of the poor and unfortunate
with-holding a fair days wage for a fair days work
conspiring to make the rich richer
ignoring the plight of one's less fortunate neighbors

and more famliar no-nos

premarital sex
unmarried sex
solitary sex
family planning
same sex marriage/marriage equality
refusal to ordain women the deaconate and priesthood

All these especially the last group, are brought to mind when we consider the Pope.

By contrast, we know less about the ethical challenges posed by Buddhism.

So we are free to appropriate the image of Buddha to sell interior decorating schemes, New Age gadgets and feel free to create a craving generating marketing campaign for Apple computers that uses the portrait of the DL whose actual teachings are meant to bring our insight to the origins of craving and greed, and how to be less influenced by advertising....!

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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: August 17, 2010 04:40PM

For some historical background on the ambiguous position that the Dalai Lama currently occupies in the perspective of the west, I found this interesting first person account from a monk involved in the Tibetan diaspora:


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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: August 23, 2010 07:30AM

Here is a current controversy in Tibetan Buddhism that well illustrates the problems that arise from the confusion between the political and religious spheres that the DL straddles. The cultural confusion between a feudal, monastic worldview and a culture aspiring to transparency and accountability is also illustrated in this blog:


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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: warrenz ()
Date: August 27, 2010 07:37PM

I think one should proceed carefully when believing criticisms of the Dalai Lama. Not that I think he is above criticism but there are many vested interests who want to do him down. Most notably:

The Chinese Communist Party

The Murdoch Press (at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party)

Various discontented groups within the Tibetan Community (e.g. Dorje Shugden Society)

Various Western Tibetan Buddhist Groups who disagree with him (Diamondway and NKT to mention two)

Various fundamentalist Christian and Muslim groups (Harun Yaya for example) because he is not a fundamentalist Christian/Muslim

Various right-wing business groups - again hoping to gain influence with the Chinese

The Dalai Lama often has little control over how he is protrayed in the West and this has often not been to his advantage as various “celebrities” jostle to have their picture taken with him. This has often not been to his benefit.

The Dalai Lama is a great spiritual and political leader. He is also human and probably has bad days like the rest of us. Is he a cult leader? – only in Wen Jiabao’s imagination!

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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: August 28, 2010 01:18AM

That the Dalai Lama has vested interests ranged against his own political interests is realpolitik, not a reason to 'proceed carefully' when voicing disquiet over the way he allows himself to be presented to the public at large in the west.
The injunction to 'proceed carefully' sounds to me very close to a "thought stopper"---a warning to not think or voice critical thoughts that might be construed as 'off message' or negative to the forward thrust of the general agenda.
Whose agenda does this serve?

The Dalai Lama has chosen to play with the big boys in the political arena. He is responsible for the way that his publicity machine portrays him. Giving him a pass in the political sphere because he is revered in the religious sphere is the worst kind of double-think.

I happen to think that he is an honest and well-meaning leader of his people. I have enough respect for him as an honest leader to not have to cut him some slack.

He does not need the kind of simple-minded apologia that disallows any critical comment.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/28/2010 01:22AM by Stoic.

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Re: "Doubts about the Dalai Lama"/
Posted by: warrenz ()
Date: August 28, 2010 03:16AM

My post was not in any way to be considered as a "thought stopper" much less a "simple minded apologia". Merely a call to look carefully at the motives of those who claim the Dalai Lama is up to no good. There are many powerful interests groups trying to undermine him - several of them are cults that have been called out on this very forum.

If you have evidence of cultic behaviour on the part of HHDL by all means provide it. But also, be aware that there are those who want to manufacture unfounded accusations about him for their own purposes.

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