This week, the Dalai Lama is performing the Kalachakra ceremony in Washington, DC, drawing great interest from the US national media.
What exactly is the Kalachakra, and what is the significance of this?
Kalachakra is a practice belonging to Buddha’s teachings called Highest Yoga Tantra. Tantric teachings were taught to help ripen our inner Buddha nature quickly, and so they are known as the quick path to enlightenment. For this reason these teachings are incredibly precious.
In order to enter into a Tantric practice such as Kalachakra, one receives an empowerment or initiation. However these teachings and practices can easily be corrupted if done with a selfish motivation, so the empowering teacher explains the importance of practicing for the purpose of benefiting others. Without a pure, compassionate motivation, an ignorant practitioner of Highest Yoga Tantra could easily misuse the teachings to increase their own enjoyment, reputation, and worldly success. But with a motivation of universal compassion and loving-kindness, practitioners gain a powerful tool to enhance their spiritual practice and train their mind. But what happens when the Tantric master is a head of state?
Tantra & Public Approval
Though the Dalai Lama has officially relinquished his political duties, he remains the de facto leader of Tibet. How is this? His opinions and pronouncements are taken as unquestionable dictates. Thus the spiritual leader retains his political authority.
By granting the Tantric empowerment of Kalachakra, the Dalai Lama takes on the role of the Vajra Master. When entering the practices of Highest Yoga Tantra, practitioners develop a special, inner relationship with the Spiritual Guide granting the empowerment. To speed up their spiritual progress, they learn to view their Spiritual Guide, who appears as an ordinary being, as a Buddha, a fully enlightened being. This helps practitioners take the teachings to heart and overcome their mental difficulties quickly, and they carry this commitment (samaya) with them into their daily lives.
When the Dalai Lama finished giving a Tantric empowerment, he doesn’t go off and continue to focus on pure spiritual activities – he takes up the political cause of Tibet. As it says in A Great Deception, “The consequences of mixing Dharma with politics will always be at best bad, at worst catastrophic.”
The consequence of this is that when the Dalai Lama gives a speech on foreign policy, his followers view it as an enlightened being’s foreign policy. When the Dalai Lama advocated for the freedom of Tibet, his followers view this as an enlightened being’s support of Tibetan independence. When the Dalai Lama issues a reform, his followers view it as an enlightened being’s reform. When the Dalai Lama ostracizes an entire segment of Buddhist society, his followers view it as an enlightened being’s indictment.
Using Tantra to Harm
So we can see the problem. By giving Kalachakra empowerment so many times publicly and simultaneously continuing his political activities, the Dalai Lama has actual used Buddha’s precious Tantric teachings to increase his political power and eliminate opposition. This is incredibly shameful.
The Dalai Lama has been able to hide behind this commitment for his followers to view him as a Buddha. He has been able to use Tantric samaya to quash opposition to his pronouncements. He has been able to use his robed Asian mystique to spark unquestioning admiration in Westerners. As a result, the 14th Dalai Lama has pursued an unprecedented consolidation of political and spiritual authority.
This pursuit of power has resulted in substantial damage to all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He severely damaged the Nyingma tradition by defaming the popular Dudjom Rinpoche in the 1960s, accusing him of spying for the Chinese, leading to his arrest. This is still a popular accusation used to hinder the Dalai Lama’s opponents! He divided the Kagyu tradition by throwing his weight into the Karmapa controversy, supporting Communist China’s candidate and denying Shamar Rinpoche’s selection. This division resulted in pitched battles at Rumtek Monastery, the seat of the Karmapas. Rumtek is now closed off to both candidates and the Kagyu tradition remains deeply divided. He disparaged his own root Gurus of the Gelug tradition by saying they were wrong about their Dharma Protector practice, and subsequently banning this practice of Dorje Shugden, destroying the religious freedom of Gelugpas around the world. Those continuing to practice Dorje Shugden are ostracized. They are verbally and physically assaulted because of the Dalai Lama’s political pronouncements under the aegis of his Tantric samaya.
The Dalai Lama has said that the Kalachakra will bring world peace. This depends on the intention of the Vajra Master and the disciples. Unfortunately, the Dalai Lama has been unable to separate Buddha’s teachings from the political cause of Tibet. What’s worse, is that he hasn’t been able to separate this clearly for his disciples. Thus the most recognized face of Buddhism misuses Tantra for his personal gain. He uses Tantra to increase support for his ban on Dorje Shugden practice; and as he performed the Kalachakra in Washington, DC, he has even pushed the ban on American soil:
This a tragic misuse of Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings. How can an enlightened being use pure view to enforce harming living beings? How can this be a pure intention?