Pseudo-Buddhism: China’s Incoherent Game

Possibly more egregious than the abduction of children recognized as tulkus and more absurd than an atheistic government claiming authority over reincarnation, the People’s Republic of China perpetrates a clumsy game of bait and switch using a menagerie of con-men, disenchanted Tibetans looking for material gain, and the naïve who believe China has changed their ways even as over 138 Tibetans have immolated themselves to refute this point.

Let’s go over some of the notable inconsistencies [this list may be updated]:

Hijacking the Legacy of Uninvolved Buddhist Masters:

The most prominent Shugden groups make a point to load excessive emphasis on their relationship with deceased Buddhist masters. This is done to give an appearance of authenticity to the group without the complications that would arise if the teacher was able to voice their objections.

In the case of the late Zong Rinpoche, it is clear from the accounts of his actual students that the respected Rinpoche rejected the sectarian practice of shugden after a heartfelt discussion with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and advised his students to end their supplications to the vow breaking spirit as well. Despite this, some people have exaggerated their extremely brief involvement with the late Buddhist master, hijacked his legacy, and, in the absence of Zong Rinpoche’s actual students, have convinced others they are following the Buddhist master’s instructions faithfully with historical fiction of their own design. The thieving of images, re-purposed and falsely claimed by shugden groups with no genuine affiliation with Zong Rinpoche, has become such a widespread problem that Zong’s students have been advised to watermark or add the name of the photographer to all photos before placing online. More than one person has had web hosts remove images of Zong, which they personally took, because of complaints by shugden groups which, after publishing the photos on their own websites, claimed to hold the copyright.

Rejecting the Core Tradition to Promote the Extraneous:

Excepting the enlightened deities explicitly introduced by the tantras, protector practices are not unique to or fundamental to any form of unadulterated Buddhism. Protector practices in Buddhism are, in fact, extraneous and often contingent upon a given spirit, ghost, demon, god, or, dare I say, human’s fulfillment of the vows they have made. The argument for shugden, or rather for the sectarian practice aimed at eliminating all other forms of Buddhism, or, even further still, for the believability of China’s agenda as per rhetoric that an inherently non-Buddhist practice is a reason for supposed Buddhists to attack Buddhist teachers, monastics, and monasteries, is incoherent.

We are expected to believe disputes over shugden are genuine grievances by Buddhists, but the idea that a Buddhist, let alone a Vajrayanist, would reject the living masters of their lineage, that supplied them with their empowerments and transmissions, and separate themselves from their monasteries out of devotion to a mere protector practice is preposterous.

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