A couple hundred people are following the Dalai Lama's tour through Southern California to protest his ban on Buddhists worshiping the 500-year-old deity called Dorje Shugden.
Among those protesters was Len Foley, a Buddhist who is also a Shugden practitioner. He was in Santa Clara on Monday morning along with others protesting the Dalai Lama for "abusing basic human rights."
"The Dalai Lama is posing as a man of peace and a man of wanting to unify different cultures, but in reality he's creating vast divisions throughout the Tibetan community," Foley said.
The Dalai Lama spoke this morning about compassion and business at the Leavey Event Center Santa Clara University. He himself was a Shugden practicer, but has since banned the practice from his formal religious teachings.
The Dalai Lama has stated the Shugden spirit "arose out of hostility to the great Fifth Dalai Lama and his government," according to advice posted on his website. The post also outlines the Dalai Lama's concerns that worship of the deity could create sectarianism among Tibetan Buddhists and devolve the practice into a kind of "spirit worship."
"It is not at all on the basis of a change of mind arising from a new thought that I have restricted the practice of Dolgyal Shugden," the Dalai Lama stated in a March 2006 speech to a Tibetan-dominated audience. "... Gradually I came to have many major doubts about the external, internal and secret aspects of it and about developments concerning it. Finally I looked up the works of the previous Dalai Lamas and for the first time came to realize the error in practicing Dolgyal; as a result I stopped it."
The Dalai Lama's website (warning: post contains graphic images) attributes murders and violence to some Shugden practitioners, but Foley says the practice is one of simplicity where practitioners offer prayer to Dorje Shugden, a buddha for wisdom.
Foley says the Dalai Lama's statements have caused the Shugden community to be ostracized around the world. In India, restaurants have signs stating that Shugden followers are not welcome there, he said.
Foley and other protesters are heading to Los Angeles, where the Dalai Lama will speak Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. about non-violence and the effects of compassion at the Forum in Inglewood. The event is organized by The Lourdes Foundation.