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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Jeremy Corbyn supporters should stop excusing Labour’s anti-immigration drift

The Labour leader is a passionate defender of migrants’ rights – Brexit shouldn’t distract the new left movement from that.

Something strange is happening on the British left – a kind of deliberate collective amnesia. During the EU referendum, the overwhelming majority of the left backed Remain.

Contrary to a common myth, both Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him put their weight into a campaign that argued forcefully for internationalism, migrants’ rights and regulatory protections.

And yet now, as Labour’s policy on Brexit hardens, swathes of the left appear to be embracing Lexit, and a set of arguments which they would have laughed off stage barely a year ago.

The example of free movement is glaring and obvious, but worth rehashing. When Labour went into the 2017 general election promising to end free movement with the EU, it did so with a wider election campaign whose tone was more pro-migrant than any before it.

Nonetheless, the policy itself, along with restricting migrants’ access to public funds, stood in a long tradition of Labour triangulating to the right on immigration for electorally calculated reasons. When Ed Miliband promised “tough controls on immigration”, the left rightly attacked him.  

The result of this contradiction is that those on the left who want to agree unequivocally with the leadership must find left-wing reasons for doing so. And so, activists who have spent years declaring their solidarity with migrants and calling for a borderless world can now be found contemplating ways for the biggest expansion of border controls in recent British history – which is what the end of free movement would mean – to seem progressive, or like an opportunity.

The idea that giving ground to migrant-bashing narratives or being harsher on Poles might make life easier for non-EU migrants was rightly dismissed by most left-wing activists during the referendum.

Now, some are going quiet or altering course.

On the Single Market, too, neo-Lexit is making a comeback. Having argued passionately in favour of membership, both the Labour leadership and a wider layer of its supporters now argue – to some extent or another – that only by leaving the Single Market could Labour implement a manifesto.

This is simply wrong: there is very little in Labour’s manifesto that does not have an already-existing precedent in continental Europe. In fact, the levers of the EU are a key tool for clamping down on the power of big capital.

In recent speeches, Corbyn has spoken about the Posted Workers’ Directive – but this accounts for about 0.17 per cent of the workforce, and is about to be radically reformed by the European Parliament.

The dangers of this position are serious. If Labour’s leadership takes the path of least resistance on immigration policy and international integration, and its support base rationalises these compromises uncritically, then the logic of the Brexit vote – its borders, its affirmation of anti-migrant narratives, its rising nationalist sentiment – will be mainlined into Labour Party policy.

Socialism in One Country and a return to the nation state cannot work for the left, but they are being championed by the neo-Lexiteers. In one widely shared blogpost on Novara Media, one commentator even goes as far as alluding to Britain’s Road to Socialism – the official programme of the orthodox Communist Party.

The muted and supportive reaction of Labour’s left to the leadership’s compromises on migration and Brexit owes much to the inept positioning of the Labour right. Centrists may gain personal profile and factional capital when the weaponising the issue, but the consequences have been dire.

Around 80 per cent of Labour members still want a second referendum, and making himself the “stop Brexit” candidate could in a parallel universe have been Owen Smith’s path to victory in the second leadership election.

But it meant that in the summer of 2016, when the mass base of Corbynism hardened its factional resolve, it did so under siege not just from rebelling MPs, but from the “Remoaners” as well.

At every juncture, the strategy of the centrist Labour and media establishment has made Brexit more likely. Every time a veteran of the New Labour era – many of whom have appalling records on, for instance, migrants’ rights – tells Labour members to fight Brexit, party members run a mile.

If Tony Blair’s messiah complex was accurate, he would have saved us all a long time ago – by shutting up and going away. The atmosphere of subterfuge and siege from MPs and the liberal press has, by necessity, created a culture of loyalty and intellectual conformity on the left.

But with its position in the party unassailable, and a radical Labour government within touching distance of Downing Street, the last thing the Labour leadership now needs is a wave of Corbynite loyalty-hipsters hailing its every word.

As the history of every attempt to form a radical government shows, what we desperately need is a movement with its own internal democratic life, and an activist army that can push its leaders as well as deliver leaflets for them.

Lexit is no more possible now than it was during the EU referendum, and the support base of the Labour left and the wider party is overwhelmingly in favour of free movement and EU membership.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are passionate, principled advocates for migrants’ rights and internationalism. By showing leadership, Labour can once again change what is electorally possible.