Bickering Buddhists

Midwest Enclave, Beset By Factional Strife, Braces for the Arrival of the Dalai Lama

Beyond claiming that Dorje Shugden worship risks sending Buddhism on a downward spiral into base spirit worship, and does both him and the cause of Tibetan freedom harm, the Dalai Lama hasn't provided much in the way of a practical explanation for his antipathy to Dorje Shugden. Reportedly, however, some of his more spirited followers have committed acts of violence against Shugden monks, and Shugden monks have responded in kind. In a development straight out of a spy novel, Shugden elements last year were rumored to be working with Chinese agents to assassinate HH.

Canada was present at the Tibetan Cultural Center when the Dalai Lama visited here in 1996. "He didn't say anything about Dorje Shugden when he was here, but I started hearing more about the ban from people all over the world, so I drove everyone crazy researching what it was all about for the next nine months," Canada says. While he's come to believe that the ban is rooted in an arcane scriptural murder-mystery that few outside Tibetan Buddhism can began to fathom, Canada says he's more concerned with doing his part to ensure the safety and lineage of Shugden worshippers and monks (who, intriguingly, include the men who planned and executed HH's escape from Tibet in 1959).

In a brief interview with Norbu and his son Jigme, both dismissed the Shugden issue as overblown, drawing parallels between Buddhist and Christian sects to underscore their contention that all faiths are welcome at the Kalachakra— an 11-day, $2 million affair featuring a 5000-capacity air-conditioned tent, vendors, a film festival, and, of course, celebrities. While not appearing pleased at the mention of the local Shugden monastery and taking pains to emphasize their total lack of connection to it, they nonetheless seemed surprised that Canada and others would not feel welcome. However, given that the sign in front of the center reads, in part, "Grounds Closed, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted" and "Guard Dogs on Premises," one can't help but question just how open and democratic Tibetan Buddhism is today.

For information on the Bloomington Kalachakra (August 17­27), call (812) 334-4156 or visit

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