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.
Getty
Show Hide image

The private renting sector enables racist landlords like Fergus Wilson

A Kent landlord tried to ban "coloured people" from his properties. 

Fergus Wilson, a landlord in Kent, has made headlines after The Sun published his email to a letting agent which included the line: "No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy."

When confronted, the 70-year-old property owner only responded with the claim "we're getting overloaded with coloured people". The letting agents said they would not carry out his orders, which were illegal. 

The combination of blatant racism, a tired stereotype and the outdated language may make Wilson seem suspiciously like a Time Landlord who has somehow slipped in from 1974. But unfortunately he is more modern than he seems.

Back in 2013, a BBC undercover investigation found 10 letting agent firms willing to discriminate against black tenants at the landlord's request. One manager was filmed saying: "99% of my landlords don't want Afro-Caribbeans."

Under the Equality Act 2010, this is illegal. But the conditions of the private renting sector allow discrimination to flourish like mould on a damp wall. 

First, discrimination is common in flat shares. While housemates or live-in landlords cannot turn away a prospective tenant because of their race, they can express preferences of gender and ethnicity. There can be logical reasons for this - but it also provides useful cover for bigots. When one flat hunter in London protested about being asked "where do your parents come from?", the landlord claimed he just wanted to know whether she was Christian.

Second, the private rental sector is about as transparent as a landlord's tax arrangements. A friend of mine, a young professional Indian immigrant, enthusiastically replied to house share ads in the hope of meeting people from other cultures. After a month of responding to three or four room ads a day, he'd had just six responses. He ended up sharing with other Indian immigrants.

My friend suspected he'd been discriminated against, but he had no way of proving it. There is no centrally held data on who flatshares with who (the closest proxy is SpareRoom, but its data is limited to room ads). 

Third, the current private renting trends suggest discrimination will increase, rather than decrease. Landlords hiked rents by 2.1 per cent in the 12 months to February 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics, an indication of high demand. SpareRoom has recorded as many as 22 flat hunters chasing a single room. In this frenzy, it only becomes harder for prospective tenants to question the assertion "it's already taken". 

Alongside this demand, the government has introduced legislation which requires landlords to check that tenants can legitimately stay in the UK. A report this year by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that half of landlords were less likely to rent to foreign nationals as a result of the scheme. This also provides handy cover for the BTL bigot - when a black British tenant without a passport asked about a room, 58 per cent of landlords ignored the request or turned it down

Of course, plenty of landlords are open-minded, unbiased and unlikely to make a tabloid headline anytime soon. They most likely outnumber the Fergus Wilsons of this world. But without any way of monitoring discrimination in the private rental sector, it's impossible to know for sure. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.