Dalai Lama’s UK visit met with Buddhist sect protests

Protestors demonstrate as the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama speaks with the former Bishop of Canterbury Lord Williams during a dialogue session at Magdalene College in Cambridge, Britain September 16, 2015. © Darren Staples
Spiritual figurehead of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, was greeted by protesters in Cambridge on Wednesday from a sect of the faith that says he discriminates against them.

Demonstrators from the International Shugden Community (ISC) organized a protest against his visit to the historic university town in south east England, with hundreds thought to be attending over the two-day lobby.

A representative from the ISC, Rachel Jeffrey, told Cambridge News online the organization would stage a “loud and disruptive” protest.

“We are going to have hundreds of people together with our Tibetan spokesperson, and they will be shouting incredibly loudly.
“It may well disrupt the traffic and the activities at Magdalene College,” she added.

Shugden Buddhists are a minority of around four million across the globe. The ISC describes itself as an umbrella organization, which fights for the rights of the Shugden followers.

It asserts the Dalai Lama has banned its members from worshipping. The organization is calling for the religious leader to write to all Tibetan communities to “completely stop all discrimination against the practice of Shugden and its practitioners.”

Author and Asian religions specialist Dr John Powers explained the emergence of the Shugden faith. He said it was founded on the belief in Dorje Shugdan, a vengeful spirit, as a protector of the Gelug school of Buddhism.

“It is associated with sectarianism and is viewed as a malevolent force by members of the other orders,” Powers said. “Because of its associations with sectarianism and in light of the need for unity among the Tibetan refugee community, the current Dalai Lama has urged Tibetans to cease propitiating Shugden,” Powers told the International Business Times UK.

A Shugden spokesperson said the Dalai Lama spread “religious hatred,” and added that followers of the religion felt “absolutely excluded and ostracized” by his actions.

However, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) insists the group’s agenda is political.

The sect’s actions are part of “a political agenda which is clearly unsuccessful given the Dalai Lama’s global popularity and influence,” said Kate Saunders, from the ICT.

“The very vocal protests by this group, which compares the Dalai Lama to Hitler, creates distress among many Tibetans and British people who are turning out to give His Holiness a warm welcome this week in the UK,” she added.