The deity banned by Dalai Lama

Meindert Gorter talks about Dorje Shugden, a Buddhist deity whose worship has been banned by the Dal

I am a Dutch student of Kundeling Rimpoche, one of the Dalai Lama’s major critics in the Gelugpa tradition. I’ll try to give an explanation of the Dorje Shugden controversy that is both understandable for those who are not initiated in the Mahayana-Vajrayana Buddhist tradition and still explains the very crux of the problem.

When I met Kundeling Rimpoche in 1995 I was interested in Buddhism and thought he might teach me more then the zen-meditation class I kept falling asleep in. I was apprehensive with the idea of following a guru. However I attended some of his lectures and was especially impressed by the search for purity his form of Buddhism stands for, this together with the examining attitude towards the functioning of thoughts gave me the enthusiasm to meet up with him in 1996 again. ‘Tame your mind’, and ‘mind is always stronger then matter’ are two things that were very appealing to me then.

Buddhism is not about faith but about examining your present circumstance. Being in a fragile body that can break down at any moment, how do you make your life meaningful? You shape your own destiny and if you want to grow towards enlightenment like the Buddha himself did, you can make progress towards that goal.

This was the first time I heard a Protector Deity existed, a sort of helper on this path to enlightenment. In fact it is nothing more then a powerful thought, helpful in keeping the mind focussed on the goal which is the enlightenment one chooses to pursue. A protector helps to create the right circumstances to study Buddhist dharma, and is said to give his life to protect the serious Buddhist practitioner that relies on him.

However as I said before it was just a thought. However as thoughts seem to be more important then matter, it really does make a difference if one has the backup of a fierce thought! Then I heard that the name of my teacher's protector deity was Dorje Shugden and that the Dalai Lama had banned this specific deity from the pantheon of protector deities that exist. The Dalai’s explanation was that this specific deity caused hindrances in solving the Tibetan diaspora and was bad for his health. Supposedly people who relied on this deity were just after money instead of Buddhism, so the deity seemed to be out of order.

My understanding at the time was such that I had no shame to ask Kundeling why he did not just choose another deity to protect him. In the end this deity-reliance is just a powerful thought, its just about faith and if you put your faith in another deity why wouldn't this work just as good or maybe even better then Dorje Shugden, surely the Dalai Lama will know won’t he?

Meindert Gorter is a student of Kundeling Rimpoche, a major critic of the Dalai Lama’s ban on the deity Dorje Shugden. He lives in the Netherlands with his wife and two children.
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Copeland must be Labour's final warning

Unison's general secretary says Jeremy Corbyn is a friend - but must also take responsibility for turning the party's prospects around. 

No one objective could argue that last night’s by-election results were good for Labour.

Whilst it was undoubtedly pleasing to see serial fibber Paul Nuttall and his Trumpian politics put in their place in Stoke, this was never a seat where the result should have been in doubt. 

But to lose Copeland – held by Labour for 83 years – to a party that has inflicted seven years of painful spending cuts on our country, and is damaging the NHS, is disastrous.

Last autumn, I said that Labour had never been farther from government in my lifetime. Five months on the party hasn’t moved an inch closer to Downing Street.

These results do not imply a party headed for victory. Copeland is indicative of a party sliding towards irrelevance. Worse still, Labour faces an irrelevance felt most keenly by those it was founded to represent.

There will be those who seek to place sole blame for this calamity at the door of Jeremy Corbyn. They would be wrong to do so. 

The problems that Labour has in working-class communities across the country did not start with Corbyn’s leadership. They have existed for decades, with successive governments failing to support them or even hear their calls for change. Now these communities are increasingly finding outlets for their understandable discontent.

During the 2015 election, I knocked on doors on a large council estate in Edmonton – similar to the one I grew up on. Most people were surprised to see us. The last time they’d seen Labour canvassers was back in 1997. Perhaps less surprisingly, the most common response was why would any of them bother voting Labour.

As a party we have forgotten our roots, and have arrogantly assumed that our core support would stay loyal because it has nowhere else to go. The party is now paying the price for that complacency. It can no longer ignore what it’s being told on the doorstep, in workplaces, at ballot boxes and in opinion polls.

Unison backed Corbyn in two successive leadership elections because our members believed – and I believe – he can offer a meaningful and positive change in our politics, challenging the austerity that has ravaged our public services. He is a friend of mine, and a friend of our union. He has our support, because his agenda is our agenda.

Yet friendship and support should never stand in the way of candour. True friends don’t let friends lose lifelong Labour seats and pretend everything is OK. Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party, so while he should not be held solely responsible for Labour’s downturn, he must now take responsibility for turning things around.

That means working with the best talents from across the party to rebuild Labour in our communities and in Parliament. That means striving for real unity – not just the absence of open dissent. That means less debate about rule changes and more action on real changes in our economy and our society.

Our public servants and public services need an end to spending cuts, a change that can only be delivered by a Labour government. 

For too many in the Labour party the aim is to win the debate and seize the perceived moral high ground – none of which appears to be winning the party public support. 

But elections aren’t won by telling people they’re ignorant, muddle-headed or naive. Those at the sharp end – in particular the millions of public service employees losing their jobs or facing repeated real-terms pay cuts – cannot afford for the party to be so aloof.

Because if you’re a homecare worker earning less than the minimum wage with no respite in sight, you need an end to austerity and a Labour government.

If you’re a nurse working in a hospital that’s constantly trying to do more with less, you need an end to austerity and a Labour government.

And if you’re a teaching assistant, social worker or local government administrator you desperately need an end to austerity, and an end to this divisive government.

That can only happen through a Labour party that’s winning elections. That has always been the position of the union movement, and the Labour party as its parliamentary wing. 

While there are many ways in which we can change society and our communities for the better, the only way to make lasting change is to win elections, and seize power for working people.

That is, and must always be, the Labour party’s cause. Let Copeland be our final warning, not the latest signpost on the road to decline.

Dave Prentis is Unison's general secretary.