On the brisk morning of April 22, 2008, I gathered with a few dozen Buddhist monks & nuns from the Kadampa Meditation Center of New York on the grounds of Colgate University to protest the Dalai Lama who had come to speak to an audience of about 5,000 people. Yes, you read that passage correctly.
At that time, I had been a student of the Kadampa Foundation Program for about a year, attending regular classes at their magnificent temple in Glen Spey, just above Port Jervis on the Delaware River. I had always been drawn to what little I knew about the practice of Buddhism and I needed to learn more. I had been carrying a newspaper clipping on Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong who at the time was the Spiritual Director of Kadampa US, and I finally attended a Prayers for World Peace Service.
Kadampa Buddhism was founded by the Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso; a Tibetan who, ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of 8, followed the same lineage as the present Dalai Lama. Geshe Kelsang has since retired, is now well over 80 years old and remains quite active…last I heard. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I have been blessed by him through the community of Sangha (Practitioners/Teachers) his love and devotion created. Sangha are the third Jewel of Buddhism. Buddha and Dharma are the 1st and 2nd. Dharma is the actual teachings of Buddha.
This brings us to the morning of April 22 on the Colgate Campus. The Buddhists believe that all human suffering is due to attachments, harmful actions and negative thought among other things. A virtuous mind trained and focused on Dharma is a way to break the cycle of suffering and attain enlightenment. There are many Buddha’s, Bodhisattvas and Deities who have attained enlightenment over the eons. One such Deity is Dorje Shugden. If you’ve ever been to a Buddhist temple, you have seen many beautiful jeweled statues and figures adorning the alters and shrines. Your gaze was probably drawn, as was mine, to the menacingly fierce warrior-like figure of one in particular. That would be Dorje Shugden. He looks the way he does because he has one of the most important roles in Buddhism…Dorje Shugden is a Dharma Protector!
Oh yes, April 22nd…sorry. We gathered at Colgate to defend Religious Freedom you see. According to Gen La, the Dalai Lama had a dream in which he felt his life was threatened by the Diety Dorje Shugden. And while there had been some “Shugden-debate” in the Buddhist community going back to the 70’s, he decided to outlaw all Dorje Shugden practice and exile any and all practitioners who refused to obey his edict from this moment forward. This sent shock waves through the Buddhist community too profound to explain here. Let me give you the Readers Digest version…what the Dalai Lama claimed as motive, is impossible. So what was it then?
Who is to say that any threat to Dharma would be restricted to the Buddhist realms alone? I believe that energy is the basic underlying essence of all things. We assign shapes and sizes, colors and sounds as the creation of our minds. How different is the energy of a class of 8 year olds in Queens PS 52 from a class of 8 year olds in a remote Tibetan village?
I find it fascinating that the so-called controversy around the Protector of Teachings began shortly after the unionization of the recently merged NEA (Nat’l Education Association) & ATA (American Teachers Assoc.) in the late sixties, early seventies! Crazy as it sounds; when we strip away the outer layers of the different shapes and sizes, colors and sounds…we are left with unprotected teachings and the energy of elitism, suppression and oppression! Why? Who would benefit from such energy?
I can tell you this for certain. If this President is somehow re-elected, he will owe everything we have lost to the Dharma Thieves.