(TibetanReview.net, Jul01, 2015) – Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has said that he had gone to China in 1954 with trepidation, but returned to Tibet the next year filled with hope and confidence on assurances given by top Chinese leaders, but was forced to flee his homeland in 1959 to become a refugee. Speaking in an interview Jun 30 with Emily Maitlis of the BBC’s Newsnight programme just before visiting a Nepalese Buddhist centre in the British army town of Aldershot in Hampshire, he said Chinese hardliners, especially the generation that came after Chairman Mao, were Han chauvinists. He has also said worshippers of the 17th century Tibetan spirit called Dolgyal or Shugden who were protesting against him during his overseas visits had no understanding of the issue they were protesting about.
Speaking about his meeting with Mao Zedong and other leaders in 1954-55, he said they led him to develop great hope that with the help of Chinese communists Tibet could be modernized. He has spoken of having told a Chinese army general who he had met on the road while returning to Tibet, “I came through here last year full of fear and apprehension, but I am returning instead full of hope and confidence.”
However, in 1956 things got worse in Tibet after the Chinese invasion and he became a refugee in 1959. Speaking on this development, he has said, “Although Mao had experience, the generations that followed him had only been brought up on propaganda. They failed to understand that the people of Tibet and Sinkiang are, like the Han people, proud of their own culture, their language and literature. These hardliners thought only their values and way of life had any worth.”
The Dalai Lama also felt that Mao Zedong’s original motivation had been good; but gaining power spoiled it. He has pointed out that before 1949 Mao had considered Tibet a foreign country. However, that changed and between1956 and 1959, by some estimates, 300,000 Tibetans were killed. He has described those nine years in Tibet, up to 1959, as very difficult.
Asked to explain about the protestors who now dogged his travels wherever he went, calling for the lifting of an alleged ban on the propitiation of Dolgyal or Shugden, the Dalai Lama has said:
“There is no ban on their practice. If you go to South India you’ll find people who propitiate this spirit Dolgyal or Shugden have their own monastery beside the larger Tibetan monasteries. This matter has been controversial for almost four centuries. Over the last 80 years since the passing away of the 13th Dalai Lama it has flared up and is strongly associated with sectarianism.
“Until the early ‘70s I propitiated this spirit, but one of the results was that my right to receive teachings from other traditions was restricted because of fear of what this Shugden spirit might do. I decided to investigate, reading particularly the 5th Dalai Lama’s biography and other writings. When I gave up the practice I became free to explore other Buddhist teachings; while I still did it I had no such freedom. The 5th Dalai Lama called Dolgyal an evil spirit, so I consider it my duty to tell others of this reality. Whether they listen to me or not is up to them. These young people in monastic robes shout, ‘Stop lying’, but they don’t know the full history of the issue. They should do more research on its effects.”
Following the interview, the Dalai Lama visited the Tashi Dongak Choeling Monastery, the new Buddhist Community Centre established by the Nepalese Buddhist community. He inaugurated the centre and also inaugurated and consecrated a chörten or stupa and statue of the Buddha there.
Invited to address the gathering by the President of the Centre, Kaji Sherpa, he emphasized the importance of focusing on exercising intelligence and gaining knowledge for being a good Buddhist. He stressed the importance of maintaining harmony amongst religious traditions, noting that the pro-Shugden protestors, whose raucous presence on the street outside everyone was aware of, would remove the photographs of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the Karmapa that he could see on the wall.
“They shout, ‘Stop lying’, but I’m confused what it is they think I’m lying about. This tradition is very sectarian and it was only after I disassociated myself from it that I was able to take teachings from masters like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Chopgye Trichen Rinpoche. So I complain that while I did this practice I had no religious freedom,” he concluded.
Following lunch at the Aldershot Football Club, the Dalai Lama shared stage at the football ground with several other religious representatives to address a fathering of about 6,000 people. The Mayor of Rushmoor also welcomed them all to Aldershot.
The event ended with a reading of a financial statement and it was explained that the balance of funds raised for the event would be used for charitable purposes, especially in Nepal.
The noisy pro-Shugden protests persisted throughout the day, even during the moment of silence in memory of the victims of the recent earthquakes in Nepal and the playing of the national anthems of Nepal and Great Britain. And alliance of 10 UK Buddhist organizations had earlier issued a statement, saying they were “very concerned about the protesters’ aggressive, misleading and unethical behaviour”.
On Jul 4, 2015 morning, the Office of HH the Dalai Lama Lama issued the following correction:
Please note that the e-mailed report “His Holiness the Dalai Lama Inaugurates Buddhist Community Centre in Aldershot” June 30th 2015 contains a factual error.
The final sentence reads -
‘In connection with the noisy pro-Shugden protests that persisted throughout the day, even during the moment of silence and the observance of the national anthems, Buddhist Organisations in the UK have issued a statement that can be read by following this link:’
This has been amended on the dalailama.com website version to read ‘even during the observance of the national anthems,’ which is definitive and correct.
The relevant content of the above report, which is based on it, stand corrected and clarified accordingly. –Editorial Team.