Shouts with a call: “Stop lying”
Response (by the crowd): “Dalai Lama”
What are some human tendencies in responding to conflict?
While walking this morning along the streets of
I will soon post here some pictures from the event. I didn’t end up getting a picture of the Dalai Lama, but I did get a lot of conversations that were perhaps even more valuable.
I assumed the shouting were either from Tibetans protesting
So I went back and forth between the different groups in the crowd in order to get a better understanding of what was happening. I have captured the conversations that came from it, and I think you will it interesting how people reason and make sense of the situation.
The situation itself is interesting, but the conversations around the protest is what I am more interested in discussing and hearing your thoughts about. They surprised me in some ways, and helped me understand a little more how people deal with conflict: always questioning the motivations of others (especially repelled by any sign of hypocrisy), making quick judgments based upon assuming negative motivations, asking so few questions (and usually only the kinds of questions which help them justify their previous opinions), and then giving labels for the people they feel are opposed to them.
Conversation #1 (To a person with a Tibetan flag)
Who are the protesters, and what is their concern?
“They are all just a bunch of communists.”
Conversation #2 (Walking over to a protester who hands me a pamphlet)
What are you protesting? What do you think the Dalai Lama is lying about?
“He is lying because he says he is hypocritical saying he supports human rights, but he suppresses them amongst his own people. He has outlawed people from being able to practice something called Dorje Shugden (a prayer to a certain Buddhist deity) – said there was an evil spirit in it – and if people do practice it then they have had their houses burned down, and some people have even been killed.”
Why do you think he outlawed the practice?
“For political reasons. He wants to unite Buddhists, and while politically that might make sense, spiritually it is very destructive.”
Oh, someone told me that you were communist protesters
“Yeah – they don’t really know what they are talking about.”
Conversation #3 (Walking back to someone with a Tibetan flag draped around them)
What do you think they are protesting about?
“Oh, they are angry that about the practice of a certain kind of prayer that the Dalai Lama has spoken against. It is a complicated split in Tibetan Buddhism. But they don’t even know what they are talking about. Go over there and ask them, and most of them are just westerners and don’t even know why they are protesting. They don’t even know what they are talking about. You don’t see any Tibetans over there, do you?
The Dalai Lama just said that he wasn’t going to practice the Dorje Shugden anymore, but he does allow religious freedom to people, but just asked if they follow him not to practice the Dorje Shugden as well. He doesn’t say that they can not practice it, just that he finds an evil spirit about it.
You don’t see any Tibetans over there, or hardly any. They don’t even have any intelligent chants. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were paid to come together. You know that happens. Paid mob.”
[And she handed me a statement from the Tibetan government describing their view on what had happened.]
Conversation #4 (Walking again over to a different protester)
What do you think the Dalai Lama is lying about?
“He has suppressed the practice of Dorje Shugden – even though his spiritual leaders practiced it. In Buddhism, you are supposed to follow your spiritual leaders. Now, people in the Tibetan communities of
Why did he think the Dorje Shugden was an evil practice?
“Oh, it was just some dream he says he had. Stupid. Really he is both a spiritual and political leader, and so he makes certain decisions for political reasons that are devastating spiritually. Westerners understand that you can not do this, that it is unhealthy and wrong, and so we are speaking up to try and get his attention. We do not hate him, we love him, we have peace in us, and we cheer at the end of each chant to show it is a peaceful rally. But we just want him to listen and he is not even open to dialogue. It is not democratic at all, but more like medieval ages in the west when the rulers made spiritual decisions for political reasons and then forced them on people. That is the problem when someone is both the spiritual and political leader. In the west we know that is wrong, but that is where they are stuck. It is not a democracy at all, he won’t even discuss it with people. Western media is just so nice to the Dalai Lama, not recognizing the hypocrisy – but we are trying to change that with demonstrations like this.”
Why do you think there are not more Buddhists protesting?
“There is a couple, but they are putting their life at risk by being here. The Dalai Lama has a group that will find him out and punish him if they can. All the ones over there feel they need to be submissive to him no matter what, they think that he can’t be wrong because he is their spiritual leader, and the Buddha. [He did a mock bowing motion]. Crazy. In the west we know that is not right.”
Conversation #5 (To the Tibetian on the protester side)
Why are you protesting?
“I went into the monastery when I was 12. I was there for 40 years, but because I did not want to agree and so I was cleared out. After 40 years! That was my home. If I had a family in
Why do you think that the Dalai Lama felt this Dorje Shugden was evil?
“There are four branches of Buddhism in
Why do you think more Tibetans don’t stand up to this?
“They just don’t understand.”
Conversation #6 (Then talking to a couple of Chinese representatives who gave me a pamphlet about how beautiful
Why are you here?
“We just want
Why do you think
“I really don’t know.”
What percent of people in
“I don’t think there are many left in
What do you think the Dalai Lama wants?
“I think they were just in power before
They say that you might be getting paid to be here. Is that true?
“No! We are just here. That is not the reason we are here! Just look at the flag – we don’t even have enough money to buy a good flag.”
What do you think about the recent talks between Chinese government and the Dalai Lama?
“We support them. It is a good thing, and we hope it continues. The Dalai Lama just keeps speaking the same things – and there is no progress. We want to see things improve.”
Conversation #7 (Walking once again to the Tibetan side and talking to a caucasian woman holding a Tibetan flag)
Why do you think the people over there are protesting?
“I can’t imagine!”
Why do they say that the Dalai Lama is lying?
“They’re just horrible people! They are shouting horrible things! I’m Roman Catholic, but I know the Dalai Lama stands for peace! I don’t know why they would do such a horrible thing!”
“I would want to be free from them! They’re barbarians – they murder their own students. They are just horrible barbarians.”
Conversation #8 (To a Tibetan man holding a Tibetan flag)
“The Chinese do not allow any religious freedom. They make it so that we can not pray and practice as we would like to.”
Why do you think the people are protesting?
“They are upset about some direction that the Dalai Lama gave on changing something. But it was even his own practice, and he recognized that he needed to change too.”
And then I had to get back to the conference…
I’m sure there a lot of nuances in the actual conflict which I am not aware of. But I don’t want to discuss the conflict itself – I am more interested in discussing the approach to the conflict that was taken by people on different sides of the argument.
First let me say that I am aware that people frequently can have less-than-the-best of intentions – and so it makes sense that as humans we are always questioning the motives of others.
My questions for you:
- At the same time, doesn’t this tendency to quickly label the intent and intelligence of others frequently lead to unnecessary labels/judgments and miscommunication?
- Do you agree/disagree – or see anything else in these conversations?
- Any suggestions for how to get around skepticism, quick labeling, and the resulting miscommunication?
What a fun post! I’ve always been intrigued with protesters… and find it funny that most don’t even really know why they are there! How cool that you documented so many conversations. The response from the white lady wrapped in the flag was my favorite!
I’ve got to be vague so I don’t feel guilty sharing this =o): I have regular meetings with a particular leader where I am one of the group. This leader and I go to other meetings with a different organization where I represent the first group and we all collaborate and plan together. There have been multiple occasions where this leader discusses the same issues with the 2 separate groups, and I’ve been surprised to hear a different twist in the leader’s presentation of the issues, depending on the audience. The significance in how things are phrased would undoubtedly be taken poorly by the group not present in its misrepresentation of their attitudes and intent! I am the lucky in-between person who has tried to smooth over the differences how one group is represented to the other, and the resulting image one group could develop about the other. (It’s not recognizable to anyone else because I’m the only one who has directly seen, heard and participated in discussion with both groups. Is this making sense in my vagueness?!)
In this, and a few other experiences, I’ve learned the value of a few things (which I have not yet mastered…), including: 1) ONLY saying things that you would say in the presence of the absent party, 2) being willing to give people the benefit of the doubt before criticizing their motives, especially if you learn of their opinion second-hand!, and 3) Realize that until you’ve asked some good questions and discussed with the party in person, you don’t have enough information to talk about what they are thinking or motivated by!
It seems to me that motivation behind this kind of action is the desire to please and appease the people we’re with, and the unwillingness to take responsibility personally when something isn’t perfect–it’s easier to pass blame off onto someone not present.
I am surprised how many conflicts I see in my work as well as other places that are based on miscommunication, quick judgments based on limited information, or a downright unwillingness to listen or give someone else the benefit of the doubt. Or unwillingness to be the party who is wrong.
If you are right, there is no need to become angry. If you are wrong, you can’t afford to!
Neat experience, Clint. Thanks for sharing =o) I’ve read the Dalai Lama’s words, and seen him speak. He sure says a lot of things parallel to Pres. Hinckley just in different terms. I think he’s great!
Isn’t live full of quirks, turns and roundabouts? HH as the target of serious allegations. Well this is a free world and we do enjoy it for all its entertaining value.
As for the Dorje Shugden worship ban;
As head of the Tibetan Buddhist faith, one can imagine that the Dalai Lama’s judgement should be accepted by those following his tradition, and he obviously feels that this particular worship is no in keeping with the teachings.
Buddhism is not about deities or the worship of any object, personality or idea, in fact it is the exact opposite, the discarding of all such follies and distractions.
If the Dalai Lama has decreed that such pagan worship of a deity is not compatible with Buddhism in the Tibetan tradition then that is his prerogative to keep the teachings pure.
Worship of anything at all is anathema to Buddhism.
Any sect, group or faction doing so cannot claim to be Buddhist, for in the very act of doing so have ‘violated’ the fundamental teachings that one must abandon all referential thinking.
So the grievances this group has with the Dalai Lama is a delusion, for they’re not even remotely of the Buddhist school. Some soul-searching on their part might be more appropriate than taking to the streets and protest, making themselves the laughing stock of the planet.
For the Tibetan cause these links will suffice to shed light on their issues, as well as on the Chinese’s fervour for Patriotism and their unfettered love of their “Motherland”.
Why are we so quick to classify the intentions of our adversaries as evil? Locus of control. It’s human to excuse one’s own motives as altruist even when they bring about adverse consequences, while second guessing others’ motives, especially when we disagree with their actions.
How can we overcome this? Follow Heinlein’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
While calling those with whom we disagree “stupid” is not where we want to end up, moving from “you’re eeev-eeel!” to “you’re incompetent” is an important step to understanding, perspective, and empathy.
Thanks for your comments!
Each of them offered a different perspective that I think is useful (and in Jeremy’s case, also entertaining – which always deserves extra points).
For some reason, reading each of the comments just now made me wonder why the natural tendency of humans, when encountering something different, is often to be defensive – quickly labeling the other thing as either mad (i.e. stupid) or bad (i.e. evil)?
It made question this as well:
Why is it usually such a difficult thing for each of us to admit when we either don’t know something, or thought we did but we were wrong?
Admitting ignorance or fault seems like such a useful thing – as the starting point for real humility, learning and growth – and at the same time seems like such a difficult task for most of us. If it is so valuable, why is it so elusive?
Hi – I have been involved in similar protests against the Dalai Lama’s ban and suppression of religious freedom – I was a bit shocked by Cardono’s comment that we are the laughing stock of the planet..for standing up for human rights? Tibetan Buddhism is complex but this is a simple issue of human rights and religious freedom. All these responses show clearly what we are up against. I have noticed that when people don’t want to find out more about the issue it’s because they are holding tightly to their own views and don’t like to be challenged. Protest campaigns down the years have always faced these kinds of difficulties – it will be interesting to see to what extent the hidden truths we are trying to expose do come to light in the end and how long this process will take.
AMENDED Hi – I have been involved in similar protests against the Dalai Lama’s ban and suppression of religious freedom – I was a bit shocked by Cardono’s comment that we are the laughing stock of the planet..for standing up for human rights? Tibetan Buddhism is complex but this is a simple issue of human rights and religious freedom. All these responses in Oxford show clearly what we are up against. I have noticed that when people don’t want to find out more about the issue it’s because they are holding tightly to their own views and don’t like to be challenged. Protest campaigns down the years have always faced these kinds of difficulties – it will be interesting to see to what extent the hidden truths we are trying to expose do come to light in the end and how long this process will take.
“As head of the Tibetan Buddhist faith”
He isn’t. He is the political leader and is an important monk in the Gelug school.
There are three other schools who are different to Gelugs.
The theory is that he has done a deal to curb the power of the Gelugs in return for which the three other schools allow him to create a new united Tibetan political and spiritual organisation.
Understandable from a pragmatic point of view. But upsets traditionalists which many of the lamas tend to be.
He has also upset senior Kagyu lamas see:
where HH Shamar Rinpoche says:
“If His Holiness is merely using his immense popularity in the Himalayas, in India , and around the world in an attempt to usurp control over the Karmapa Labrang, then I must respectfully reject his opinion about Rumtek. I realize that HH Dalai Lama wants to unite the Tibetan people to work for their freedom. But that is no reason to trample on the human rights and religious freedom of Buddhist believers. As our cause is just, so we should respect human rights in all situations, not only when it is convenient for us to do so.
All leaders, no matter how virtuous, must have limits on their power. Many popular, charismatic leaders in the past have used popularity and prestige to set themselves up as dictators. Perhaps these leaders had good intentions and hoped that by increasing their own power they could accomplish more good in the world. But in the end, absolute rule has always led to suffering. “
I was wondering how long it would be before someone challenged earlier comments.
My original question (“how to get around skepticism, quick labeling, and the resulting miscommunication?”) I think is partially answered through iterative dialogs like this one – where people can express their thoughts, hear alternative points of view, take time to think and respond again, etc…
I suppose it is also true that the less defensiveness that exists, the better for actually listening to each other.
Cardano – after reading the last two comments, do you think any differently?
“Worship of anything at all is anathema to Buddhism.
Any sect, group or faction doing so cannot claim to be Buddhist, for in the very act of doing so have ‘violated’ the fundamental teachings that one must abandon all referential thinking.”
I’m afraid this is incorrect. ‘worship’ in this context is making prayers and requests for help from enlightened beings. The reason why someone becomes enlightened is to liberate all living beings from suffering. Enlightened consciousness is omnipresent and we make requests to enlightened beings for help. The Dalai Lama himself worships, but he doesn’t worship Dorje Shugden, he worships other Deities – ie, offers praises and requests for help. It’s not true that worship is not an aspect of Buddhism
Now this Dorje Shugden deity controversy is marked with all the intrigues and underhand tactics worthy of a high power play political thriller.
One wonders if these street protesters actually are aware of the whole background to their perceived grievances they so vocally scream out in servitude to their masters.
Do they ever question the motivation behind the rhetoric, the origin to the murky, unsubstantiated allegations or the methods used in their leader’s ‘war’ against the Tibetan people?
These Shugden warriors have sadly become to be the naïve puppets of a much wider power play by the very masters of Deception and Propaganda-Lies, and occupiers of the Tibetan homeland; the CCP.
These unwitting propaganda soldiers are carrying out one of the most despicable and depraved smear campaigns against the Tibetans, the CTA, and particularly the Dalai Lama in order to eliminate their legitimacy to represent the Tibetans and their just cause.
Divide and rule; sow dissent and reap power over a divided society, so the CCP’s motives.
While the CCP is busy handing out grants to monks and funding monasteries if they are a hotbed of Shugden worship inside Tibet, they foment this rift in the Tibetan society inside and outside Tibet in order to destroy any unity and opposition to their oppressive rule over Tibet.
Expatriot Tibetan monks of the Shugden persuasion are frequent and welcome visitors to Chinese run, and tightly controlled Shugden monasteries inside Tibet, and carry the seed of dissent and disharmony back to the exiled Tibetan communities.
One only has to look at the methods used by the Kadampa cabal and their servile propaganda warriors carrying placards with their vitriolic slogans to get an idea of what their credentials really are:
Calling press conferences that attract world wide media including, of course, the CCP’s mouth piece Xinhua etc.
Where they decry the Dalai Lama with vitriolic venom copied straight from the CCP’s own Propaganda-Lies Unit.
Court action in Indian Courts against the CTA, the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan people by proxy.
The release of rancorous press releases with copies sent to the President and Prime Minister of India and Government Ministers to undermine the very tenuous existence the homeless refugee Tibetans manage to cling to.
The dissemination of anonymous pamphlets full of lies, in a smear campaign more like it is coming straight from the CCP’s own Propaganda-Lies Unit.
Propaganda foot soldiers taking to the streets with their bizarre accusations to publicly vilify and embarrass the Dalai Lama , which, by any examination, has no basis in fact whatsoever. And which these marionettes don’t really seem to comprehend.
Just ask, are these the actions of true Buddhists, who by virtue of even just simply claiming to be ‘Buddhists’ would refrain from any of these actions?
Are these the deeds of anyone having even a seed of compassion, concern, or just the least bit of consideration for the effects of their activities, and for the implications to the Tibetan cause?
Or are they so bereft of any morals or ethics, or the slightest bit of insight into the wider issue that they’re incapable of questioning their own motives and actions, and are immune to any pangs of conscience?
Perhaps it is in the nature of their cult, and or the worship of this Shugden guy which has taken hold of their moral compass and blinded them completely from seeking the facts and truth.
Their actions, behaviour and pronunciations are clearly that of a cult in the true sense, complete with servile, perfunctory mob behaviour, slogan shouting and recitation of prescribed propaganda lines and also the sole acceptance of the one “truth”, authority and Guru.
And anyone who’s not exactly of the same belief, mind or school is a non-believer, deviant and a heretic.
The Dalai Lama now has taken on this role in their corrupted minds, so they can project their non-Buddhist venom, emotions and feelings against this perceived “villain”.
They’ve become so entangled in their referential, circulatory and delusionary thinking, and strayed so far from the path of Dharma, that they’re truly in need of help and compassion.
The sad thing is that probably they’ve started out with sincere motives, wanting to become true Buddhists and serve all sentient beings through their practise of the tenets and ideals of Buddhism.
They’ve been led astray by amoral leaders pursuing their unholy vendetta and aims, and in the process their beliefs have become an insidious meme.
And once such a pernicious meme has gotten hold of a feeble mind, it is but a puppet on a string at the command of the puppeteer, with the puppet unaware of the surreptitious manipulation.
To complete the picture, they’re completely afraid of even investigating the issue and questioning their leader’s motives for fear of having their beliefs shaken and loosing that soother of a meme.
By the sweetest irony of all, they, the Shugden cult themselves are the ultimate rationale and attestation for the Dalai Lama’s advice to refrain form propitiating this Shugden deity.
By their very inappropriate, inconsiderate, deplorable, and downright un-Buddhist actions they’ve demonstrated just the very point; the objectionable disharmony, sectarianisms and split they’ve wreaked on the Tibetan society at a time they just don’t need any such externally incited torment.
But that’s just the CCP’s game-plan; the Shugden puppets have taken the bait, hook, line and sinker and even gone to extraordinary lengths to serve the CCP’s heinous purpose.
1:0 to the CCP, and an irreparable setback to the Tibetan cause!
Well done Shugdeneers!
More background information about this cult:
There’s been much criticism about the WSS protests “not being very Buddhist!”
Recently we see in the news (see link below) Tens of thousands of South Korean Buddhists peacefully demonstrating waving placards and fists, chanting
“Oppose religious discrimination” against their country’s leader and government.
Are they not Buddhists too?
‘The dissemination of anonymous pamphlets full of lies, in a smear campaign more like it is coming straight from the CCP’s own Propaganda-Lies Unit.’
Sadly they aren’t lies – I know it’s convenient to brand the protestors as Tibet bashing cult foot soldiers but please do us a favour..
‘Propaganda foot soldiers taking to the streets with their bizarre accusations to publicly vilify and embarrass the Dalai Lama , which, by any examination, has no basis in fact whatsoever.’
There is so much evidence now of religious persecution against the Tibetan people by the Dalai Lama and his government..what about justice for them? Is that irrelevant?
‘Ask, are these the actions of true Buddhists, who by virtue of just simply claiming to be ‘Buddhists’ would refrain from any of these actions?’
Who has decreed that Buddhists cannot engage in strong actions in order to help others?
‘Are these the deeds of anyone having even a seed of compassion, concern, or just the least bit of consideration for the effects of their activities, and for the implications to the Tibetan cause?’
The implications for the Tibetan cause coming from this unlawful policy of Buddhist apartheid are horrific. How wonderful for everyone affected if the Dalai Lama can reverse this disastrous policy or at least agree to some dialogue.
I know it’s inconvenient but please check this out – we are not against Tibet, we are not pro China, this issue has two sides and we wouldn’t be protesting without good reason. Thanks…