Whoa, Dalai! Problems with the Lama

By Eric Mathison

There are certain things that, regardless of their results in practice, should be condemned in theory. A discussion of the Dalai Lama should treat both the theory and the practice, as it is a combination of what he stands for in principle, as well as the specifics of his leadership that together deserve criticism. That criticism should be sufficient to give pause to the West’s veneration of the Dalai Lama.

Any good PR team knows that their ultimate goal is to get good publicity for the sake of getting good publicity. Long before the fame for fame’s sake that made the likes of Mother Theresa famous and launched Barack Obama to stardom before he had done anything, the West’s treatment of all things East made the achievement of celebrity status guaranteed for Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

From the outset, monarchical rule is always wrong. It is an evil that robs people of governing themselves while providing the double insult of insinuating they couldn’t handle it in the first place. To claim, as the Dalai Lama does, that he keeps inheriting the position of spiritual leader following every reincarnation, is worse than a monarchy — it adds the untestable to convince followers of his right to rule. To see the ills of any monarchy one need not look outside of Tibet itself — the recorded evils that took place in Tibet before China’s occupation were egregious. If we are to take him at his word, the Dalai Lama’s failure in past lives to recognize such harm is more evidence that his theology is false.

No one should find it sufficient that the Dalai Lama seeks reform by amending the Tibetan constitution, which will dissolve his position should two-thirds of the population vote for it. Indoctrinating people to believe you are their spiritual leader makes it as probable that the clergy of Vatican City will seek to get rid of the Pope.

The tenant of karma, whereby all actions in past lives are punished in the present, is as wicked as the reincarnation myth necessary to substantiate it. His Holiness himself has stated that children born with disabilities are being punished for past immoral behaviour. Less dramatic outcomes are still wrong for the same reason, though, and to propagate such a vile belief on faith — especially to children — takes a special kind of blindness.

What other obvious violations of reason exist in the Dalai Lama’s teachings? There is no hypocrisy like the hypocrisy of the faith-based, and the persecution of Dorje Shugden followers at the behest of a man who preaches religious acceptance is as bad as it gets. The very need to ask why His Holiness would publicly call for the banishment of a minority sect of Buddhism from the temples of Tibet amounts to a conviction. After all, what he claims for everyone else should apply to him also. The result was threats, public humiliation and pariah-status for a peaceful group of people. Other Lamas have suggested this persecution violates the U.N. Charter of Human Rights.

The advocacy of non-resistance promoted by the Dalai Lama is wrong in theory, and made worse by the specific case of Tibet. The utility of letting an aggressor take over a small country without struggle seems only justifiable if one believes in the faith claim of reincarnation or a reward in heaven. If the goal is defense I wouldn’t normally have cause to object to the CIA paying $1.7 million a year in the 1960s to support a resistance movement in Tibet. The further discovery that there were training camps in Colorado preparing fighters to quell the Chinese occupation seems justifiable, if not something to be encouraged. But it is strange that it didn’t bother the Dalai Lama, who otherwise suggested Tibetans would come out the better for not putting up a fight. Hypocrisy, alas, seems not enough to negate a Nobel Peace Prize.

No religion — which despite the “way of life” arguments by some, Buddhism remains — would be complete without strict teachings on sexuality forming a central pillar. In the case of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama teaches the predictable bans against masturbation, anal sex and oral sex. In fact, he goes so far as to suggest conjugal relationships always lead to trouble. Nothing about this is original, of course: it’s the same old bigotry for the same reasons. Sure, he says homosexuality is only wrong for Buddhists, and not other people, but with no reason for why this is so, his case is over before it starts.

Every person has the responsibility to assess people based on their actions, not their position of authority. The Dalai Lama’s saint-status is unfounded, and it’s made all the worse by people failing to know the wrongs he has done, and continues to stand for.

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