Problems of Adoption & Cross-Cultural Confusion

Factual and Analytical Information

Monk studying in Namling Monastery - East TibetMonk studying in Namling Monastery - East Tibet.   © Olaf Schubert


Tibetan Buddhism

Tulkus In The West

Violence and (Tibetan) Buddhism

Mount KailashMount Kailash   © Olaf Schubert

The Dalai Lamas


Imagining Tibet: Correcting Misrepresentations

Christian Missionaries in Tibet

Tibet 2010: Chiu Gompa Choerten - TibetTibet 2010: Chiu Gompa Choerten - Tibet.   © Olaf Schubert

The Dorje Shugden Controversy

Dorje Shugden – A Distant and Critical Perspective

»Nazi-Tibet connection« and »Shoko Asahara – Dalai Lama«

Tibet, CIA, Tibetan Guerrillas, and the Dalai Lama

Tibet 2007: Nomad with fox hat.Tibet 2007: Nomad with fox hat.   © Olaf Schubert

Kalachakra and Shambala Myth

Rimé Movement

Buddhist Organisations | Buddhist Teachers | Controversies

Western Buddhism: Problems, Presentations & Debates

Rebirth Debate

Research Papers and Essays

FWBO was renamed in Triratna Buddhist Order (TBO/FTBO)

Thich Thien Son, Zen Master and Abbot of Pagode Phat Hue (Frankfurt) and »Buddhas Weg« (Odenwald), was expelled from the »German Vinaya Sangha Association« (DBO) on the 24th of December 2010. The expulsion was made after a thorough investigation. The DBO had received five affidavits by former students of Thich Thien Son which clearly demonstrate that he had had inappropriate sexual relationships with several of his students.

Lama Gangchen

Kundeling Lama – Atisha Charitable Trust

Prof. Robert Jay Lifton gave the following answer in »From Mysticism To Murder – Lawrence Shainberg interviews Robert Jay Lifton on Aum Shinrikyo« (Winter 1997, p. 57):

Shainberg: He [Shoko Asahara] met with the Dalai Lama?

Lifton: The Dalai Lama received him courteously, probably even warmly, and probably said things to him that he wishes he didn’t say. Asahara had pictures taken, and then quoted the Dalai Lama as saying, »What I’ve done for Buddhism in Tibet, you will do for Buddhism in Japan.« The Dalai Lama was asked about it later on and denied having said these things and said he just received him in a hospitable way. Asahara also visited religious leaders in Sri Lanka and other places, had his picture taken with them, and claimed they received him as a great spiritual master. But the Japanese press followed up his visits and interviewed a number of the people he’d described as having acclaimed him. One of them said, »We had a meeting and then he came back to me a week or two later and said he had achieved final enlightenment. I thought that was rather surprising because it usually takes close to a lifetime to achieve enlightenment.« But the act was convincing to his followers. And, in some way, it was convincing to himself. There’s a strange psychology with some people that enables them to believe in their own version of events and simultaneously maintain a whole manipulative, con man side. The combination can be persuasive.

The Dalai Lamas

»The Dalai Lamas are held by their followers to be advanced Mahayana bodhisattvas that is compassionate beings who so to speak have postponed their own entry into nirvana to help suffering humanity. Thus they are thought to be well on the way to Buddhahood, developing perfection in wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. It is this that justifies doctrinally the socio-political involvement of the Dalai Lamas, as an expression of a bodhisattva's compassionate wish to help others.«

»We should note here two things a Dalai Lama is not. First, he is not in any simple sense a ›god-king‹. He may be a sort of king, but he is not for Buddhism a god. Second, the Dalai Lama is not the ›head of Tibetan Buddhism‹, let alone of Buddhism as a whole. There are many traditions of Buddhism. Some have nominated ›Heads‹; some do not. Within Tibet too there are a number of traditions. The Head of the Geluk tradtion is whoever is abbot of Ganden monastery, in succession to Tsong kha pa, the fourteenth/fifteenth century Geluk founder.«

Paul Williams, »Dalai Lama«, in
Clarke, P. B., Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements
(New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 136.

The Dalai Lama in
Global Perspective

»Westerners who study the system of reincarnating lamas are often understandably skeptical about it, but it seems clear that somehow the Tibetans who choose the Dalai Lamas have managed to find a remarkable succession of unusually gifted people. Even given the profound devotion that Tibetans feel for their Dalai Lamas, it would be difficult to disguise an incarnation who was stupid, arrogant, greedy, or belligerent. Those Dalai Lamas who attained maturity, however, have consistently distinguished themselves in their teaching, writing, and their personal examples. The present Dalai Lama is a testament to the success of the system through which Dalai Lamas are found, and it is improbable that his remarkable Accomplishments are merely due to good training. Many monks follow the same basic training as the Dalai Lamas, but somehow the Dalai Lamas tend to rise above others of their generation in terms of scholarship, personal meditative attainments, and teaching abilities. It is true that they receive the best training, and they also have the finest teachers, but these facts alone fail to account for their accomplishments. In Western countries, many students enroll in the finest colleges, study with the best teachers, and still fail to rise above mediocrity because they are lacking in intellectual gifts.«

»There are obviously problems with the system, particularly the problem of lapses of leadership while newly recognized Dalai Lamas reach maturity. The system worked well enough in the past when Tibet was not beset by hostile neighbors, but it is difficult to imagine any country in the present age being able to endure periods of eighteen years or more without a true leader. It is not surprising, therefore, that the present Dalai Lama has expressed doubts about the continuing viability of the institution of the Dalai Lamas and has indicated that he may not choose to reincarnate. He has also proposed that the office of Dalai Lama become an elected position, with the Tibetan people voting for their spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama appears to recognize the flaws in the present system and apparently hopes that the institution will be adapted to changing times.«

John Powers, »Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism«,
Snow Lion Publications, 1995, pp. 186-87

The Fifth Dalai Lama,
Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso

The Great Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso

»The 5th Dalai Lama, known to Tibetan history simply as the ›Great Fifth,‹ is renowned as the leader under whom Tibet was unified in 1642 in the wake of bitter civil war. The era of the 5th Dalai Lama—roughly the period from his enthronement as leader of Tibet in 1642 to the dawn of the 18th century, when his government began to lose control—was the formative moment in the creation of a Tibetan national identity, an identity centered in large part upon the Dalai Lama, the Potala Palace of the Dalai Lamas, and the holy temples of Lhasa. During this era the Dalai Lama was transformed from an ordinary incarnation among the many associated with particular Buddhist schools into the protector of the country. In 1646 one writer could say that, due to the good works of the 5th Dalai Lama, the whole of Tibet was now centered under a white parasol of benevolent protection. And in 1698 another writer could say that the Dalai Lama's government serves Tibet just as a bodhisattva—that saintly hero of Mahayana Buddhism—serves all of humanity.«

Kurtis R. Schaeffer, »The Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lopsang Gyatso«, in
The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History, Serinda Publications,
Edited by Martin Brauen, 2005, p. 65

The Fifth Dalai Lama:
Opinion on His Rule

»By most accounts the [5th] Dalai Lama was by the standards of his age a reasonably tolerant and benevolent ruler.«

Paul Williams, »Dalai Lama«, in
(Clarke, 2006, p. 136)

»The fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Losang Gyatso (1617-1682), popularly referred to as ›The Great Fifth,‹ was the most dynamic and influential of the early Dalai Lamas. He was a great teacher, an accomplished tantric yogin, and a prodigious writer. His literary output surpasses the combined total of all the other Dalai Lamas. In addition to his scholastic achievements, he proved to be an able statesman, and he united the three provinces of Tibet (the Central, South, and West) for the first time since the assassination of king Lang Darma in the mid-ninth century.«

»Although he was rather heavy-handed with the Jonangpas and the Karmapas, his treatment of other orders was often generous. He was particularly supportive of Nyingma, and he himself was an ardent practitioner of several Nyingma tantric lineages. Snellgrove and Richardson contend that on the whole his actions proved to be beneficial and stabilizing, despite the obvious hard feelings they engendered among his opponents:

The older orders may preserve some bitter memories of the fifth Dalai Lama, for no one likes a diminution of wealth and power, but there is no doubt that without his moderating and controlling hand, their lot might have been very much worse. It must also be said that at that time, despite their new political interests and responsibilities, the dGe-lugs-pas remained the freshest and most zealous of the Tibetan religious orders.« (Snellgrove & Richardson, A Cultural History of Tibet, p.197)

(Powers 1995: 145,146-47)

The Thirteenth Dalai Lama,
Thubten Gyatso

The Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso

»The other Dalai Lama who was particularly important was the Thirteenth (1876-1933). A strong ruler he tried, generally unsuccessfully, to modernize Tibet. The ›Great Thirteenth‹ also took advantage of weakening Chinese influence in the wake of the 1911 imperial collapse to reassert de facto what Tibetans have always considered to be truly the case, the complete independence of Tibet as a nation from China.«

Paul Williams, »Dalai Lama«, in
(Clarke, 2006, p. 137)

»Some may ask how the Dalai Lama's rule compared with that of rulers in European or American countries. But such a comparison would not be fair, unless applied to the Europe of several hundred years ago, when it was still in the same stage of feudal development that Tibet is in at the present day. Certain it is that Tibetans would not be happy if they were governed as people are in England; and it is probable that they are on the whole happier than are people in Europe or America under their own governments. Great changes will come in time; but unless they come slowly, when the people are ready to assimilate them, they will cause great unhappiness. Meanwhile, the general administration in Tibet is more orderly than the administration in China; the Tibetan standard of living is higher than the standard in China or India; and the status of women in Tibet is higher than their status in either of those two large countries.«

Sir Charles Bell, »Portrait of a Dalai Lama:
The Life and Times of the Great Thirteenth«,
WIsdom Publications, 1987, pp. 443-444

The Thirteenth Dalai Lama:
Opinion on His Rule

»Was the Dalai Lama on the whole a good ruler? We may safely say that he was, on the spiritual as well as the secular side. As for the former, he had studied the complicated structure of Tibetan Buddhism with exceptional energy when a boy, and had become exceptionally learned in it. He improved the standard of the monks, made them keep up their studies, checked greed, laziness and bribery among them, and diminished their interference in politics. He took care of the innumerable religious buildings as far as possible. On the whole it must certainly be said that he increased the spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism.

On the secular side he improved law and order, increased his own contact with his people, introduced more merciful standards into the administration of justice and, as stated above, lessened monastic domination in secular affairs. In the hope of preventing Chinese invasions he built up an army in the face of opposition from the monasteries; prior to his rule there was practically no army at all. In view of the extreme stringency of Tibetan finance, the intense monastic opposition and other difficulties, he could have gone no farther than he did.

During his reign the Dalai Lama abolished Chinese domination entirely throughout the large part of Tibet governed by him, excluding Chinese officials and soldiers. That portion of Tibet became a completely independent kingdom, and remained independent during the last twenty years of his life.«

Sir Charles Bell in (Bell 1987: 444)

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama,
Tenzin Gyatso

His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

»The current Fourteenth Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) was born in 1935. The Chinese invaded Tibet in the early 1950s and the Dalai Lama left Tibet in 1959. He now lives as a refugee in Dharamsala, North India, where he presides over the Tibetan Government in Exile. A learned and charismatic figure, he has been active in promoting the cause of his country's independence from China. He also promulgates Buddhism, world peace, and research into Buddhism and science, through his frequent travels, teaching, and books. Advocating ›universal responsibility and a good heart‹, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.«

Paul Williams, »Dalai Lama«, in
(Clarke, 2006, p. 137)

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama:
His Accomplishments

»When one considers the origins of the present Dalai Lama, his successes are remarkable. Born in a remote village in eastern Tibet, driven from his country by an invading army and forced to start over in exile, he is today a Nobel Prize laureate and one of the world's most revered religious leaders. When one considers the odds against randomly choosing a young child from a remote Tibetan village, educating him in a traditional Tibetan monastic curriculum, and his later winning the Nobel Peace Prize, his successes might give skeptics pause. As Glenn Mullin remarks of the fourteenth Dalai Lama,

the depth of his learning, wisdom and profound insight into the nature of human existence has won him hundreds of thousands of friends around the world. His humor, warmth and compassionate energy stand as living evidence of the strength and efficacy of Tibetan Buddhism, and of its value to human society.« (Mullin, Glenn, Selected Works of the Dalai Lama II, 1982, p.220)

(Powers 1995: 187)


Dalai Lama & More

About the Dalai Lamas

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»Ironically, as Tibetan Buddhism is being systematically destroyed in its native land, it is having an unprecedented impact in other countries.

The Tibetan diaspora has forced thousands of eminent lamas to leave their country, with the result that many have met and influenced people in other cultures. Their knowledge of the philosophy and meditative practices of Buddhism—as well as their personalities, which often demonstrate the positive effects of years of training in wisdom and compassion—have attracted large numbers of followers.

Thus the national catastrophe of Tibet has had at least some positive results, although this fact in no way diminishes the tragedy of the Chinese invasion, nor does it diminish the shared suffering of the Tibetan people.«

John Powers, The Australian National University

The Construction Of 'The Alien'

»This always starts from a dichotomy, distinguishing between the home group, the us-group, and the others, the foreigners.

The home group had a highly developed state and likewise a highly developed society, culture and religion—these were called ‘civilised’—while the others managed without all this and were primitive and little developed.«

Martin Brauen, Anthropologist

The Construction Of 'The Paradise'

»Despite supposed perfection and a life of plenty, Western man has constantly felt and still feels his existence to be unsatisfactory.

The discrepancy between claim and reality is too obvious.

Therefore he posits a place somewhere where all ideals are actually realised—an earthly paradise.

Such paradise ideas reflect the central values not current (any longer) in the relevant society, for the paradise is the storehouse of the characteristic supreme values and people, the high civilisation in absolute perfection.«

Martin Brauen, Anthropologist

»In Tibet as in many a country, in addition to genuine religious teachers there were also a host of dubious mendicants, madmen, and charlatans who plied their trade among the faithful, and life within the big monasteries witnessed the full range of human personalities, from saintly to coldly calculating.«

David Jackson, Hamburg University

»The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an inner voice, but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with his own heart … And if the sheer force of his own self-confidence communicates to itself to other people and gives them the impression that he really is a saint, such a man can wreck a whole city or a religious order or even a nation. The world is covered with scars that have been left in its flesh by visionaries like these.«

Thomas Merton

Advice from a Kadampa master

»What is the difference between Dharma and non-Dharma?« the teacher Drom[tönpa] was asked by Potowa.

»If something is in opposition to fettering passions, it is Dharma. If it is not, it is not Dharma. If it does not accord with worldly people, it is Dharma. If it does accord, it is not Dharma. If it accords with the teachings of Buddha, it is Dharma. If it does not accord, it is not Dharma. If good follows, it is Dharma. If bad follows, it is not Dharma.«

Tsunba Jegom, Precepts Collected from Here and There (Kadam Thorbu)