Friday, July 31, 2015

Homicide, Forced Suicide, Vengeance and the Ghost

Andrea Mantegna's St. Sebastian, c. 1455-60

"It will have blood: they say blood will have blood.   
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak.
... ... ... I am in blood 
stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, 
returning were as tedious as go o'er."
Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 4.

I’ve been reading an interesting new master’s thesis. Wait a minute, does that sound like a normal sentence to you?  Well, anyway, it surely is an interesting work that put my mind to thinking after I finished shuddering. Think of it as Macbeth and St. Sebastian with more than a touch of Silence of the Lambs. If you are OK with that, you might be ready to read on.

The thesis, by Sara Conrad, is about the Sakya Bagmo (ས་སྐྱ་འབག་མོ་), often called “witches” in English —  the weird sisters of Macbeth? — since anyway some of the things they have done were quite ghoulish to say the least, and time after time they needed to be brought under control by the Sakya hierarchs. These women are actual flesh-and-blood women possessed by a kind of spirit (for this reason they are sometimes referred to as söndré - གསོན་འདྲེ་ or living ghosts). The real meaning of the name Bagmo is mask (with the mo just a regular feminine ending).

When reading this account of the origins of the Sakya Bagmo, I was struck by the recurrence of a theme (or complex if you prefer) in Tibetan culture, one that has its various manifestations in most or all of the different sects, not just in the Sakya. Without getting too structuralistic about it, let’s pare it down to the basic formula.

A, B and C are good friends of X.  At some point X gets in the way of his three (or four or more) friends’ plans for the future. A new plan is made to get him out of the way, a plot in which they all participate in some way. X is killed or, which is practically the same thing, cornered into an impossible position from which the only escape is suicide. The unjustly killed person cries out for revenge from the grave. The guilty parties, and their wider organization, engage in acts of propitiation, meant to turn X into a protector rather than an antagonist. Time and again, X requires reminding not to slip back into vengeance mode, which anyway X threatens to do with some regularity, just as the guilt of A, B, and C keeps flaring up from time to time, generation after generation. Is it the guilt or is it the ghost that gets propitiated? The rituals can’t tell and perhaps don’t even know the difference.

Of course this skeletal scenario was constructed by myself just this moment, and one thing you need to remember is that not every single facet of it has to be repeated in every instance of the story. The larger structural parallels are what I want to point out, not the architectural details.

Here is an account of how the Sakya Bagmo originated somewhere around the 16th century. The Rabjampa Sönam Özer (རབ་འབྱམས་པ་བསོད་ནམས་འོད་ཟེར་) was captured by a group of three political figures (sde-pa) named Lhakhangpa, Lhasa Dzongpa, and Kyetrangpa (their motives not clarified). They tied him to a pillar next to the long stairway of the Great Temple of Sakya. Then they shot arrows at his chest and killed him.

“According to the oral historical tradition, when the Rabjampa was killed he said these prayers with great intention: ‘As I pass from this lifetime, may I be born as the empowered one of one third of the world.’  But due to the fact that his consciousness was vengeful and angry, he said, ‘as I pass from this lifetime, may I be born as devourer of one third of the world.’ ” (Conrad, p. 11)

By the power of his negative intentions (however justified by the unjustness of his death) he was born as the first Sakya Bagmo. Her name was Namkha Drölma (ནམ་མཁའ་སྒྲོལ་མ་). It fell upon a Sakya leader by the name of Drachen Tutob Wangchug to try and subdue her, but try as he did methods both peaceful and wrathful they were to no avail, so he took the next best step and married her, or as the text says, took her as a [f.] Seal (ཕྱག་རྒྱ་མ་). In any case, they were in cohabitation when she died. Then Drachen peeled off her skin, tanned it and made from it a mask. This he used in a ritual to coerce the spirit to become a protector of the Sakya school. This mask was kept in a special box and taken out once a year for ritual purposes.

Well, I did warn you about the parallels with Silence of the Lambs. Still... if you are still with me... What else does this story in general remind me of?  For one thing the account of Shugden. If you want to read more about it, the quickest and best way is to send you over to another blog by another blogger. You will find the link below under “Dreyfus,” so I’m not going to go into this much better known story right now.

Less well known is the account of a once-vengeful ghost turned protector spirit of the Bön school. Some will surely be surprised to learn that Bönpos turned a high incarnation of the Karma Kagyü school into a protector of their own school. How did that happen?

The Tibetan-language sources are widely scattered and are not especially clear. The one summary I know of is by Samten Karmay, who says that when the 10th Red Hat Karmapa died unexpectedly in Nepal during the Tibeto-Nepalese wars in 1792, the Tibetan government forbade recognition of his reincarnation.* Later on his ghost manifested as a spirit. Then the abbot of Menri Monastery named Sherab Gonggyel (1784-1835) made him into a protector of Bon religion, giving the spirit protector a name that is identical to the name of the First Red Hat Karmapa: Dragpa Gyaltsen (1283-1349). Although it is true that the Bön protector figure is the most recent one to develop, it is still a curiousity that his name Dragpa Gyaltsen is often prefaced with a set of epithets that mean Fierce, Forceful, and Great King. The second of these three, Forceful, translates Shugden (Shugs-ldan).*
(*More about the Tenth Red Hat Karmapa here.   **I located another source that adds a fourth epithet: Wealth God [Nor-lha].  YTKC, p. 932: drag po shugs ldan rgyal chen nor lha grags pa seng ge'i mchod bstod /  YTKC is a very lengthy catalog of Bon scriptures. Look here.)
Baumer (p. 170) says that the 10th Red Hat Karmapa’s death was what could be called a forced suicide: “[He] is supposed, for political reasons, to have incited the Nepalese Gurkhas to undertake their military campaign of 1788-1791 against Tibet. [He], having failed, committed suicide, but was unable to release his soul from the earthly realm of existence and became a wandering evil spirit. The abbot of the Bön monastery of Menri, however, recognized that this tulku was originally the son of the demon king Khyapa and the daughter of Shenrab. He tamed him and forced him to become a protective deity of Bön.”

If there is a single historical figure behind all these guilt-tripping unjustified death cults, it would have to be this one: Dranka Pelgi Yönten (བྲན་ཀ་དཔལ་གྱི་ཡོན་ཏན་), the first signatory of the Tibetan-Chinese peace treaty of 820-821 CE.

Dranka, a royal minister, was falsely accused of having an illicit affair with the royal consort Ngangtsulma (ངང་ཚུལ་མ་). This is likely to sound familiar if you’ve ever heard the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.  But his rivalry with one of his fellow ministers started already in their childhood days, according to a remarkable and lengthy story we don’t have time for at the moment. The false accusation has a deeper background, so it seems it cannot be so simply reduced to a religiously motivated argument between the pro- and anti-Buddhist forces. Perhaps that, too.

The Deyu history says that when the pregnant queen Ngangtsulma heard the news of the minister Dranka's murder she became physically ill, slashed open her own stomach with an obsidian knife and said, “If you want to know if the minister and I did or did not have an affair, have a look at this!” Everyone could see that inside her stomach was a child with a full set of conch-like teeth as well as eyebrows of turquoise color. These they knew to be unequivocal marks that the child was of royal blood. The king himself confessed his mistake and as part of his penance erected a sacred icon-volume of the Perfection of Wisdom scripture.* The ghost of Dranka went on to be credited with everything terrible that happened in the post-imperial period, including the civilian worker uprisings (ཁེང་ལོག), and the looting of the royal tombs. To follow Dranka’s curse, the end of the imperial line itself may be credited to him: “May the azure sky turn bluer, the tawny earth turn to red.  May the lords and civilians revolt and the royal line be cut off.”** 
(*This volume was called the Red Abridgement**Deyu history, p. 361.)
It may be that Dranka's death set the precedent for the others. I’ll just put that forward as a hypothesis that might gain or lose strength with further investigation and reflection. The Dranka story may itself have precedents. Anyway, all of these stories regardless of their chronological coordinates can be traced back to the same unhealthy psycho-social complex.

I have to say that today’s blog doesn’t exactly portray Tibetan Buddhism in the best of lights or its finest of moments, much like our contemporary Shugden controversies. To judge from what I’ve seen on the internet, they seem to bring out the worst in people. If you are thinking that way you aren’t alone. I know a number of modern-day Tibetan Buddhists will agree: It would be just as well if these vicious cycles of guilt, vengefulness and propitiation could find resolution in a new way. 
My recommendation? (Not that anyone asked me...)

Confess, apologize and try to make amends for the incidents of cruel and unusual injustice that underly them, and admit that these cultural complexes are from beginning to end about political power and sectarian allegiance, not religion. I have no doubt Buddhism will fare better without these particular practices that keep raising up the ghosts of guilt. As we all know, guilt  is, along with martyrdom, one of the specialties of the three main monotheistic religions, and as far as I’m concerned they can keep their corner on the market. Buddhists ought to be aspiring to attain Enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings without getting sidetracked.

§  §  §


Christoph Baumer, Tibet's Ancient Religion Bön, Orchid Press (Bangkok 2002).

Sara Marie Conrad, Oral Accounts of the Sa-skya 'bag-mo: Past and Present Voices of the Terrifying Witches of Sa-skya,  master’s thesis, Department of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University (Bloomington, June 2012). Look here and here.

Brandon Dotson, “At the Behest of the Mountain: Gods, Clans and Political Topography in Post-Imperial Tibet,” contained in: Cristina Sherrer-Schaub, ed., Old Tibetan Studies, Brill (Leiden 2012), pp. 159-204. This paper is much recommended for its close reading of the classic versions of the Dranka story.

Georges Dreyfus, “The Shuk-den Affair: History and Nature of a Quarrel,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 21, no. 2 (1998), pp. 227-270.  This page links to the more academic publications on the Shugden issues, with Dreyfus’ article at the top of the list, as it must be. I prefer not to supply links to all those other Shugden-connected sites, since they are so numerous and you can find them with ease. If I wanted to link to anything so dreadfully uninspiring I’d sooner link to Xinhua editorials, to tell the truth. Here is a recent statement on the Dalai Lama’s own webpage on the issues raised by the protesters that seem to pop up everywhere He goes these days. 
Elena de Rossi Filibeck, La malizia delle donne e l'innocenza maschile: il tema della moglie di Potifarre in Tibet, Rivista degli Studi Orientali, vol. 80, nos. 1-4 (2007), pp. 41-49. This is the best and most recent writing on the Potiphar’s wife type of story in Tibet.
Samten Karmay, The Arrow and the Spindle [vol. 1], Mandala Book Point (Kathmandu 1998). 

Mountain Phoenix, “The Spirit that I Called: Dorje Shugden and the Unresolved Political History of the Gelugpas” (September 15 2014). For being so well spoken, and for its even-headed and independently-arrived-at assessment of the situation, I place this essay in a class by itself.  For a related but earlier (October 4, 2008) essay by the same author, look here.

Roberto Vitali, “Sa-skya and the mNga'-ris skor gsum Legacy: The Case of Rin-chen-bzang-po's Flying Mask,” Lungta, vol. 14 (Spring 2001), pp. 5-44.  This is in a special issue of Lungta (a publication of Amnye Machen Institute, McLeod Ganj) entitled Aspects of Tibetan History, guest edited by Roberto Vitali.


Dranka we ought to emphasize was a very important political figure during the first two decades of the 9th century, and his name appears carved in stone more than once in old Tibetan inscriptions. His historical existence isn’t likely to be doubted by anyone.

Conrad names the one who subdued the Sakya Bagmo as Sgra-chen Mthu-stobs-dbang-phyug (སྒྲ་ཆེན་མཐུ་སྟོབས་དབང་ཕྱུག), born in the 10th rab-byung cycle, the Water Dragon Year (1592 CE). Since he was the eldest brother of the much more famous A-myes-zhabs (ཨ་མྱེས་ཞབས་,1597-1659 or 1660), his identity is not in much doubt.  But the TBRC spells his name in the form 'Jam-dbyangs-mthu-stobs-dbang-phyug, འཇམ་དབྱངས་མཐུ་སྟོབས་དབང་ཕྱུག, giving him the dates 1588-1637. The specifier Sgra-chen (སྒྲ་ཆེན་) would suggest that he was a great grammarian, however another source known to me calls him Sgar-chen (སྒར་ཆེན་), connecting him to a ‘great encampment.’* Neither of these two epithets/specifiers is used in the brief entry in this biographical dictionary: Ko-zhul Grags-pa-'byung-gnas and Rgyal-ba-blo-bzang-mkhas-grub, Gangs-can Mkhas-grub Rim-byon Ming-mdzod, Kan-su'u Mi-rigs Dpe-skrun-khang (Lanzhou 1992), pp. 638-639, and nothing is said about the Sakya Bagmo. It does say he was born in 1588, and here his name takes the longer form འཇམ་དབྱངས་མཐུ་སྟོབས་དབང་ཕྱུག་གྲགས་པ་རྒྱལ་མཚན.

(*This other source is Khetsun Sangpo's Biographical Dictionary of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, vol. 3, p. 790; I just double-checked it. It very certainly refers to the same person, since A-myes-zhabs is mentioned immediately after him.)
— — —
“Stones have been known to move and trees to speak.”
I imagine Shakespeare meant for us to find a mantic element in this mysterious phrase of his. The speech of tree and stone is found in Homer’s Odyssey, and in Plato's Phaedrus, and even long before these Greeks in an Ugaritic text. For the evidence, look at this essay fresh off the press: Alexander S.W. Forte, “Speech from Tree and Rock: Recovery of a Bronze Age Metaphor,” American Journal of Philology, vol. 136, no. 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 1-35.* We are supposed to imagine some kind of ghostly imprecation, as if the blood were crying out from the ground, as if stones were ominously moving (crashing rocks = crashing thunder), or trees prophesying future vengeance. To quote pp. 30-31 on the phrase speech from tree and/or rock:
“In the Iliad, the phrase has connotations of persuasion in a context of courtship; in the Odyssey, it is generative and prophetic; and in the Theogony, it occurs in a transparently prophetic context within a larger work concerned with the creation of the universe. 
“Each Greek phrase is likely an idiomatic reflex of a phrase which is well-preserved and artfully represented in the Ugaritic text, in which lightning and thunder represent divine speech as a prophetic utterance and are representative of the mingling of heaven and earth.”
I know that Tibetan translations of two of Shakespeare's plays — Romeo and Juliette and Hamlet — have been available for over a decade now. I've been on the lookout for a translation of Macbeth, since someone once told me there was one, but so far no good luck with my luck. I just thought it would be fun to supply a Tibetan version of the quote at the front of the blog. For an entertaining thing about translating Shakespeare into Tibetan, go to Adam Pearcey's website, “More Shakespeare in Tibetan.” Tibetanists should pay good attention to the alternative verse translations in the comments section to that page!
(*I should add to this a quite significant discussion in Ann Jeffers, Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria, E.J. Brill (Leiden 1996), pp. 181-185. She supplies this translation of the Ugaritic words of Baal:  “For I have a word which I want to speak to you/ a message which I want to communicate to you, / a word of trees and a whisper of stone.”)
A Word of Trees and a Whisper of Stone. That really says it.

༓   ༓   ༓

Postscript:  The following comment was sent to me by email from Sara Conrad, the author of the master’s thesis that got me started on this topic.  This is what she had to say about her difficulties researching the topic of the Sakya Bagmo (October 2, 2015):

“I had a lot of problems collecting interviews on this topic. No women would talk to me about the Bag mo, even though I interviewed a high ranking female member of the Sakya pa - she would not go on record. Since you brought up Silence of the Lambs, I will bring up Poltergeist - where they were afraid of talking about it because they were afraid it would come true or something would happen. I also felt (and this was said to me as well) that people did not want to talk about violence in Buddhism. The only interviewee really excited to talk about this topic was the Nyingma pa Rinpoche.”


  1. The recurrent theme you describe makes me think of the French anthropologist René Girard (Violence and the sacred, La route antique des hommes pervers, Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair…) and his theory of scapegoating. For him a scapegoat is a broken idol, someone who was once idolised, fell in disgrace and became a scapegoat.

    In Je vois Satan tomber comme un éclair, he writes about the making of a myth and how a person portrayed as a monster, sacrified, becomes later an idol to be worshiped. The sacrificial victim is divinised. As an the example of this process and of a myth in making, he presents the miraculous stoning of Appolonius of Tyan, told by Philostratus. ( According to Girard, this is a myth in the making, because it isn’t finished. Usually the victim undergoes two transfigurations: first they have to be demonised in order to be killed/sacrificed by collective violence, after which they are transformed into an idol or an object of worship. For Girard this a universal phenomenon, not limited to a single culture.

    The beggar in the story of Appolonius of Tyan is stoned in front of the Averted god (Heracles). Rabjampa Sönam Özer was sacrified tied to a pillar next to the Great Temple of Sakya. A “victim” that is directly or indirectly sacrificed to a god, seems to become “sacred” by the same act. But somehow the new god keeps his double status of a god and a demon. He will be as bloodthirsty as the god he himself was sacrificed to. One seems to become a god in a similar way one becomes a vampire…

    I could imagine that his skin (Rabjampa Sönam Özer), is used as a reminder for him, of his own wretched demon past, like telling him “Remember where you came from. You have not always been a god. We know your dirty secret!”

  2. Hi H.A.,

    It's kind of a relief the first comment comes from you and not from "Atisha's cook." Do you think the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil will get made into a lion god? There would be some analogical logic if that were to happen, I think.

    I'm more familiar with Maurice Bloch (Prey into Hunter) than I am with Girard, but it seems as if he's strongly under the spell of Freud's 'primal scene' (in which the junior males collectively murder the senior male in order to get access to his females, and in their guilt make up religious acts like the eucharist where they share bits of the ancestor's body in commemoration of the original pact they made with each other).

    I know both Bloch & Girard regard violence as the most important stimulus for religious ritual in general, and have their own evidence and reasonings. For Bloch at least the retold myths are really all about legitimating continuing acts of domination and violence (and for this reason must be dispensed with by us moderns...).

    I don't think they are right enough about this to make general theories about the origins of religions. I'm not a Freudian, or a social scientist. I see other human emotions at work in religions and their rituals besides murderous hatred. OK, I have no problem seeing violent hatred as having to do with particular strains detectable in religious ritual, but there, too, isn't it a crucially important question what the ritual is meant to do with it: commemorating, celebrating, countering, mitigating or transmuting it?

    I'll have to go back and reread part of Conrad's thesis, but I think Rabjampa Sönam Özer was executed by arrow firing squad inside the Great Temple, beside a stairway, but even so there is no sign of 'sacral' or sacrificial motives on the part of the three political-types who did the shooting. It is just because that part of the story is so unclear, especially in the important matter of motives, that I think we have to be very cautious about placing thoughts inside their heads unless we have good evidence they were in there.

    Another 'problem' with a historical understanding of these stories is that they can be coopted to one side or the other in the very act of retelling them, foisting 'responsibility' off one side onto the other. In short, a blame game (assigning guilt instead of actually assuaging it). We must tread warily in these polemical battlefields.

    I don't think the 'scapegoat' complex, quintessentially Middle Eastern, is involved here, and neither is the 'sacrificed savior.' These Tibetan stories assuage collective guilt. They don't promise any banishment of sin (by displacing it onto an innocent creature that is bound to get lost), or redemption from sin (thanks to someone else's blood).

    I've long been contemplating a blog about the scapegoat complex in Tibetan culture, too, and I believe it is a different one that needs to be discussed on its own terms. A 'pagan' banishing rite, it has more to do with the annual agricultural cycle, and I believe it very likely connected from its birth with the Iranian New Year rituals involving counter-kingship (after all, part of a sacral kingship complex). Shades of the golden bough, but let's talk about that another time. I'll go read about the stoned beggar now. Thanks for your thinking.


  3. Hi Dan,

    I think you’re right about the influence of Freud’s primal scene, but Girard focuses on the importance of mimetism. Once the first stone is thrown, the rest of the mob follows automatically, almost mindlessly. That’s in the case of a stoning, but the « first stone » could be anything justifying (sacred) violence. I think the mob lynching scene is the most dramatic and literal way of presenting the phenomenon, but the main idea is there.

    You may be right that Bloch’s and Girard’s theories are too general and that not all rituals are derived from violence, but when I think of many Tibetan rituals (on the top of my mind abhicāra, destructive magic, summoning to action etc. but also specific tormas) the link seems quite obvious, the violence is hardly hidden, but… it’s for a good reason the public opinion can find itself in (common denominator: “enemy of the Dharma”). Coming to think of it, except for impulsive actions, isn’t violence always for a good reason in the mind of the perpetrator? In order to repair some injustice from his point of view, to set something straight that is crooked. Isn’t that sense of justice somehow sacred?

    What I find interesting in the case of Rabjampa is the way it is done, and that points towards sacred violence, or which the perpetrators want to connect to the sacred. Sure, nowadays we’d rather talk about political murder, state interests, lobbying etc. But as I see it, the sacred has always been mixed up with politics. Even more so if the violence was carried out in the great Temple, a public place. They could have slit Rabjampa’s throat in an ambush, or strangle him discretely, make it look like an accident etc. but didn’t. Were they perhaps inspired by dPal gyi rdo rje for their use of arrows, and did they want to somehow associate their act with the (by that time) “generally approved” (if we try to avoid sacred) killing of Langdarma? Wouldn’t that be a way of ritualising the murder and showing it was of the same nature? I haven’t seen the details of the background. Apparently, the murderers were expelled, not judged and/or executed, except that “the Lha khang chen mo of the See was handed over”. Was that the normal way of dealing with murder in Tibet? A genuine question, not rhetorical. E.g. I read somewhere that murderers were expelled in ancient Indian times for a period of twelve years, before being readmitted to society?

    BTW I wasn’t referring to the Middle-Eastern scapegoat or redemption rituals, but rather thinking along the terms of Girard’s mimetism and the first stone, that removes the bolt from any moral consideration and gives free way to violent action. Of course, there is a secular (mi sde) and a religious (lha sde) side to that sort of justice, and the religious side (God, karma etc.) is never in the hands of humans. As for the “displacement of sin”, I do think some form of it can be found in Tibetan rituals, in its use of effigies, to which negativity can be transferred before the destruction of the effigy. Is that a Buddhist idea? Probably not, the rituals are likely to go way back, to some primal scene :-). On the other hand, if merit can be displaced in Buddhism, logically demerit ought to be transferrable too, but it isn’t in orthodox Buddhism (if that exists…).

    Looking forward to your blog on the Tibetan scapegoat and it’s links to Iranian New Year rituals.

    I have been a bit longwinding and don’t want to take up all the space. If you like we can do this privately.


  4. Dear HA, Freud's primal scene is a scenario made up by himself, although not from whole cloth. He took bites from myths to use in it. And of course Catholics detest this part of Freud, feeling with probable justice that it is aimed in their direction since he implicates a ritual that looks so much like the mass.

    I loved the scene in the movie Habemus Papam, where the priest says to the psychoanalyst, "You can have an unconscious, or you can have a soul... but you can't have both!"

    There are civilizing processes at work in a number of Tibetan Buddhist practices (not just rituals). They make use of the raw materials of human nature. I personally believe they result in better human beings overall (there are exceptions). And I think in many cases the goodness goes quite deep. I don't need to tell you, but a lot of Tibetans have very clear ideas about what they are up to when they do these practices and don't need people like Freud or Bloch or whoever coming along treating their religious culture as if there were huge blanks there that would require their help filling them in.

    Yours, D

  5. Just checking in. Are you okay?

  6. Dear S.P.,

    It's like you have ESP. I can always count on you to check up on me, can't I? To tell the truth, I haven't been feeling all that great, let alone inspired enough to blog. A death in the family can do that to a person. It could have to do with the not very inspiring blog you see above, on such a horrendous topic I should have saved for Halloween. You may not believe me, but a vampire sent in a comment. I would have posted it, except that they included a phone number for people who might want to be initiated into (vampire type) immortality. Even if it's real vampire business, which I very much doubt, I'm not going to supply anyone with a business contact number or address in the comments section, as part of the general policy of keeping the blog non-commercial.
    I do want to get back to Padampa. Today I had a few bad signs on my way to the postoffice (a black cat, and a poster with Buddha's image laying on the sidewalk that had been torn in two; I did pick it up and put it in a more respectful place), but they were entirely counteracted by the good sign of receiving in the mail a new translation of Padampa's Tingrian Couplets.

  7. The Ole Man strikes again ... with nothing but a small medicine bag and a blanket!

    Always glad to hear when things are going well (and always looking forward to more about Padampa),

    Best regards from the Short Person

  8. It's interesting to note that already in December, apparently in reaction to a Reuters exposé ("China Co-opts a Buddhist Sect in Global Effort to Smear Dalai Lama," Dec. 21, 2015) of the Chinese hand sustaining it over the years, the international Shugden movement that sponsored all those demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama essentially closed shop, shut down (it became official on March 10, 2016 when even their website was taken off the internet; I did check and it's really, really not there, not even in the Wayback Machine). I hope they have learned their lessons, and will now aim their ire at fundamentalist and exclusivist adherents of threatening spirits everywhere. With all that goes on in that area today we have no chance to breathe a sigh of relief even if one seems justified in this case. We'll end with an aspiration prayer for tolerance, reconciliation, and peace.

  9. I just had to share an interesting thing I noticed on the internet. I saw that Dharamsala just released a brief video about the Shugden controversies, and wanted to see it, so I did a video search for the title, "Shugden Protesters: Allegations vs Facts." I got three hits, all of them leading to videos of that exact same title with the identical length of 12 minutes and 57 seconds. Only one hit led me to the Dharamsala video. Two of the search results led instead to a pro-Shugden video posted by previously nonexistent Youtube accounts with the names "Michael Brown" and "Vera Liebowitz." You can check this out for yourself, I just thought it remarkable how quickly this counterfeit video could be produced and posted, and just how eager the Shugdenites are to counteract and contradict Dharamsala. Evidently that Shugden Geshe is still laboring under the delusion that he can leverage a hostile takeover of the Gelugpa school with the help of Beijing (as we noted above, Reuters published proof of Beijing's support).


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