Sometimes I find Buddhists, and by Buddhists I mean American Buddhists, and by American Buddhists I mean white American Buddhists, and by white American Buddhists I mean Jews, smug when it comes to the question of God. Having left behind the angry God of the Torah for the god–free psychology of the Buddha, they look down on us theists as throwbacks to more primitive times. So it is refreshing to find out that Buddhism is as mad as any other religion we humans invent. Case in point the Dalai Lama versus Dorje Shugden.
The Dalai Lama, as you probably know, is the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. The current Dalai Lama is the fourteenth incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva (similar to a saint) who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. I am a fan of the Dalai Lama.
The Dorje Shugden is less well known, and until recently I was largely unaware of him.
There are two views as to whom or what the Dorje Shugden is. One holds that he is a wrathful aspect of Manjushri, a bodhisattva (similar to a Christian saint) of wisdom worshipped as a deity in Tibet. The other holds that he is the angry spirit of a deceased lama. Both views believe that Dorje Shugden is devoted to protecting the Dharma (teachings of the Buddha) and the world. I guess he is angry because both are so threatened.
The current Dalai Lama used to be a fan of Dorje Shugden but changed his mind, now believing Dorje Shugden to be a demonic protector who does not deserve the veneration accorded him. This is not a new battle. The Dalai Lama has taken on Dorje Shugden in at least two other life times (the fifth and thirteenth of this fourteen incarnations). I don’t know what caused the Dalai Lama to take on Dorje Shugden this time around, but I do know it is never a good idea to piss off a god or a demon, especially if they have followers.
Dorje Shugden supporters hound the Dalai Lama and protest at his talks and appearances. They claim that the Dalai Lama is seeking to spiritually cleanse Tibetan Buddhism of Dorje Shugden worship, and is thereby causing millions of Dorje Shugden worshippers needless pain and concern.
The prayer to Dorje Shugden that the Dalai Lama wants to eradicate seems benign enough: “As a devoted practitioner, I request you from my heart to overcome all unfavorable conditions, obstacles, and maras (evils), and increase my life span, merit, resources, good fortune, qualities of scripture and realization, listening, and renown.”
The problem seems to be with Dorje Shugden himself. To the Dalai Lama’s credit, he actually believes that Dorje Shugden worship is demon worship, and wants to end it. To my dismay, the Dalai Lama actually believes in demons. I thought he was all about science and stuff like that. At least that is what his followers, and by his followers I mean his Jewish followers who think they have escaped the irrationality of Judaism by following the Dalai Lama instead, always tell me.
Of course Dorje Shugden isn’t the only angry god on the block. Read the Hebrew Bible; when it comes to wrath Dorje Shugden can’t hold a candle to YHVH. Or read the Christian Book of Revelation where the Prince of Peace is one pissed off deity who makes His Dad look like a wimp.
Anyway, I wish the Dalai Lama well. If he can defeat the angry gods of Buddhism I am going to sponsor a worldwide Jewish tour for His Holiness and see if he can help us out with YHVH as well.