Thursday, 12 June 2014

What do people in The West know about Buddhism, the Kadampa and the Dharma Protector?

Picture at left from here. 

Buddhism often seems to be portrayed as a peaceful tradition of sweetness and light.  The first thing to remember is that Buddhists - even the greatest teachers among them - are humans like the rest of us with all the positives and negatives that humanity embodies. As well, there is little widespread understanding of the many "denominations" within the Buddhist stream.  Even Tibetan Buddhism - which is most often recognised through the Dalai Lama - has many groupings.

Kadampa Meditation Centre, near Monbulk, in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria

I knew something from my academic studies in religion of the great variety within Buddhism.  However, I knew nothing of the Kadampa tradition until I visited the Kadampa Meditation Centre in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, with a friend who had a connection there.  It was there I got to hear about the Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden.

I was told about the Dharma Protector.  I was invited to an afternoon service and there I saw the representations of the Dharma Protector.  I was told by my friend's connection of the disloyalty of the Dalai Lama and the expression of the telling was, I felt, one of burning hatred for the Dalai Lama.  I was given a book to take home about the Kadampa and in this were pictures of demonstrations against the Dalai Lama by Kadampa across the world.

My feelings?  I hope the description of how I felt informed (as I was and continue to be) by my Christian sensibilities will not give offence.  I was stunned at the level of negativity to the Dalai Lama expressed to me.  I can only describe it as 'burning' or 'incandescent'.

The people I met at the Centre were fortyish and younger white Australians.  Christians, in the main, believe (and there may be exceptions in some parts of the world) that we have cast off animistic beliefs.  There is also a sort of "Christian animism". To see wooden representations of the Dharma Protector on an altar and having plates of food presented to them was, to me, stunning.  If this had been within the context of an indigenous culture, I think my reaction would have been different.  To see this in the context of modern Australia and modern white Australians was a shock and something I could not get my head around.

Huffington Post has published a review of a book referencing this dispute, The Dalai Lama and the King Demon by Raimondo Bultrini. Some comments by the Dalai Lama can be found here.

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