After reading graduate student, Ben Joffe’s recent Tricycle blog on Shugden, am seriously beginning to wonder if the Tibetology department at the University of Colorado is a breeding ground for pseudo intellectual, post colonial nonsense of the worst kind. Comments have been disabled on the blog, and not surprisingly too. As one person said, it is ‘utter tripe.’
Apart from the fact Joffe fails to see the irony of himself, a white, western educated man criticising other white westerners of ‘cultural appropriation’ and racism, his assertions are factually incorrect on every count. Much as I loathe the Shugden cult myself, that’s no excuse for peddling racist, inaccurate generalisations.
In addition, Joffe quotes the Facebook post of another US grad student, Tenzin Dorjee (a Tibetan activist with Students for a Free Tibet’) as ‘objective’ support for his wild and inaccurate assertions:
”The Ultimate Insult: After 300 years of colonizing, plundering and devastating the East, the White man in the West now claims they’re the victims of a homeless refugee monk who has no army nor police nor an inch of territory on which to set up a tent? If these people feel oppressed by the Dalai Lama, all they have to do is take off their robes and walk away, back to their edifice of European privilege built largely from the bricks of former colonies.”
While I have a more sympathy and understanding for Tenzin Dorjee, such delusionary statements are worthy of challenge and derision.
First, both these men seriously need to check the history and facts. What the heck is ‘the East’, ‘the white man’ and ‘the West’ here? Talk about simplistic, gross and racist generalisations. Not all countries in ‘the East’ were colonised by Europeans, some were plundered by their fellow men and Muslims. And some, like Tibet, were colonised by the ‘yellow man’.
Second, Europe is not one country, culture or language. White people come from a variety of countries and cultures, many of whom have no history of colonisation.
Third, Shugden was not created by ‘white Buddhists’ but in Tibet by Tibetans. It goes right back to the 17th Century. The leader of the Shugden group is Tibetan. No ‘cultural appropriation’ going on here at all.
Fourth, the Dalai Lama is not homeless or penniless, he has a place to live in India, as do many other Tibetans. He also has territory in India, that was given to him by the Indian government. Many Tibetan monasteries and settlements have been built on this territory.
Fifth, Buddha Dharma is not bound by race, culture or nation. It is for everyone. If any nation/race could be accused of ‘appropriating’ Dharma it is Tibetans from the Indians (and Chinese).
Tragically, getting a very expensive western education in the US is no guarantee of intelligence, objectivity or rationality. What are their American professors teaching them? With so called ‘educated’ people flippantly making such inflammatory, false, divisive race-baiting statements, it is not surprising that Tibet is still not free and shows no sign of improvement.