Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Does the Dalai Lama condone human sacrifice?

Disclaimer: After extensive research on this claim I have found no evidence of human sacrifice practiced or condoned by the current Dalai Lama. However, this claim was used in an attempt to convince me that Tibet is better off because of Chinese rule. The image to the right appeared in this week's issue of Nature, and reminded me of a debate I once had and all the memories of this most grueling disagreement came flooding back.

This article speaks of the Dalai Lama's desire and enthusiasm for interaction between Buddhists and scientists. Proponents of this type of scientific/spiritual collaboration make the point that, unlike western religions, Buddhism is unencumbered by an anthropomorphic deity in the sky and actually embraces empiricism over blind faith. An argument is made; in order to accomplish the "greatest good" an alleviation of human suffering is needed, a goal which Buddhism and science share.

The argument that I had surrounding the motives of the current Dalai Lama, the content of his character, and the nature of his religion began in part because of my blindly fervent defense of this man and the religion for which he stands. This argument is pertinent to the Dalai Lama's apparent interest in science because it took place inside a laboratory. My antagonist consistently claimed that the people of Tibet are wholly better off because of the occupation and that Chinese rule had made the more barbaric practices of “lamaism” (as he called Tibetan Buddhism) illegal. He went so far as to claim that the lamas (the high priests that surround the Dali Lama) had practiced human sacrifice up until the 1950’s.

Before I begin the explanation of the conclusions that followed I would like to preface the discussion with the introduction to Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason.

"I put the following work under your protection. It contains my opinion upon religion. You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall."

-Thomas Paine

Understanding why my friend held the opinion he did about the Dalai Lama required that I listen intensely to what he had to say precisely because it was so different than my own. The argument between he and I remained civil but lasted for 3 months after he had sent me an e-mail (I found the text on the web here) with the claims of human sacrifice backed by scholarly references. One such claim specifically accuses one of the high priests of Tibetan Buddhism or Gelug lama of making a large loaf of bread called a "torma" out of the following ingredients.

Torma (cake) made of buckwheat and blood;
1.) Five different sorts of meat, including human flesh;
2.) The skull of a child of an incestuous relationship, filled with blood and mustard seeds;
3.) The skin of a boy;
4.) A bowl of human brain in blood;
5.) A lamp filled with human fat with a wick made of human hair;
6.) And a dough like mixture of gall, brain, blood and human entrails.
In the same text it accuses the lamas of sacrificing their own subjects as recently as 1950.

"In AD1950 summer the Gelug lama made a huge torma of roughly three-yard high, claiming that the powerful demon Kshetrapala was invocated and sealed in it. They burnt it outside Lhasa town and bluffed Tibetans into believing that the demon as well as his accomplices was released to destroy the deity behind PLA, which was claimed to be a 'nine-headed Chinese demon'."

My initial instinct was to laugh at these accusations as Chinese propaganda, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible in the investigation. I inter-library loaned these references. Some came from obscure private libraries at Harvard. The only evidence I could find in all my research was reference to ancient Tibetan texts describing human sacrifice as part of the old "bon" mongolian traditions that mixed with Buddhism in the 1300s (de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Rene: Oracles and demons of Tibet, the cult and Iconography of the Tibetan protective deities, Katmandu 1993). I found no modern evidence for human sacrifice in Tibetan Buddhism anytime close to 1950. My mentor stuck to his ideas though and we agreed to disagree, but I did learn that Tibet was not the Shangri-La that it is normally portrayed as in western media. However, the Dalai Lama has demonstrated that he is setting an example for the other religious leaders of the world both by appearing in this week's issue of Nature with a pipette in his hand and by being quoted as saying "Should science prove some Buddhist concept wrong, then Buddhism will have to change." Reestablishing the tarnished reputation of science will help our world emerge from the land of make-believe it seems to be now inhabiting.


Ash Eugene mac Eáchern said...

Speaking as a pagan and Druid, I see the Dalai Lama as a very dangerous hierophant. By endorsing belief in reincarnation, he is empowering nuns and monks throughout his country to take extreme measures (including but not limited to self-immolation) to protect his own precarious ecclesiarchy. I believe we have but one life to live. He has hypnotized an entire culture and pulls them like puppets on strings. Using my own necromantic powers, I work nightly on the astral plane to cut those strings. In my mind, the Dalai Lama does not merely condone human sacrifice... he throws nuns and monks on the pyre and lights the match. I fully support the Chinese government in toppling his tower of bone and flesh.

Ash Eugene mac Eáchern said...

Moreover, the Dalai Lama is merely arguing with himself, for he does not believe in science: science is predicated on concepts and Buddhism is predicated on "aconceptuality"... no display of scientific prowess will ever prove Buddhism wrong... not unless we use an atom bomb to wipe the whole country off the map. I hope this is not necessary, however, which is why I have been consulting with the nastiest demons in hell, preparing some "shock and awe" tactics of my own.

Ash Eugene mac Eáchern said...

Welcome to Vajra Hell, Mr. Dalai Lama.

Anonymous said...

The ignorant and asinine comments delineated above are disgusting to me. It is hateful sciolism like yours that causes the world to exist as it is today, full of intolerance and conflict.
If only we could all accept each other, irrespective of differences in ideologies. It is my firm idea that each human being is entitled to believe what they wish, so long as it does no harm to their fellow human beings or impinge on the freedoms of others.

I accept you as a person of opinion. I cannot, however, accept your ideas of "atom bombs" and mass murder. What exactly would that prove? Your idea of annihilating those that you disagree with shows inability to face challenges to your own beliefs, a stubborn nescience.

And you call yourself a counselor?? That scares me.

Anonymous said...

So be good for goodness sake? :-)

Ash Eugene mac Eáchern said...

Counseling is how I sustain myself on the physical plane, but I identify primarily as a necromancer. If you, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, knew how to read, you would have noticed that I said "I hope" it is not necessary and that I am preparing my own tactics. Most people know about the four planes: earth, air, fire, and water. Others know about the plane of aether, the fifth element. Very few know about the void, the sixth element and scaffolding upon which the other five elements are built. Only the enlightened understand that there is no earth, no ground, no sky, only you and I. And who are you, sir or madam, and who am I? Jesus or Judas... it's up to you. Blessed be. -Ash-

Ash Eugene mac Eáchern said...

And if Tom Paine's kind ghost had ever read Strunk and White, he would know it is: "Be good for goodness' sake." The question becomes... who has the power to judge good or ill? Even the very wise cannot see all ends.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom Paine's Ghost said...

Edifying edits welcome. :)

Tom Paine's Ghost said...

That being said I find myself torn on the matter of appropriate writing style in this forum. Should I emulate the colloquial tone of Ben Franklin or the more anal retentive slant of the fans of Eats, Shoots & Leaves? The beauty is that it does not matter in the end. Unlike ink and paper the form of this medium is fluid, and therefore more in keeping with what I think is a more appropriate conduit for the "spirit" of democracy. Meaning within thought communicated through breath being more malleable and ethereal than the dogma inherent in the dye-cast serifs of typeface swinging on the hammers of history's typewriters. So I think I will stick with a conscious defiance of grammatical dogma. After all, when singing the Christmas classic the extra "ez" in "good-ness-ez sake" just doesn't match the beat. I was thinking that the title of the blog might be grammatically incorrect as well, but I decided to stick with it , because if you think about it long enough you find yourself in an infinite loop trying to decipher if I mean that the blog is a ghost that Thomas Paine possesses or once possessed, or is it the actual ghost of the man, some remnant of his soul. If "Think different" worked for Steve Jobs, I think I can use "Tom Paine's Ghost" without hesitation.
on the goodness' apostrophe I will relent and change. Even Fox news got this one right.,2933,450445,00.html

Ash Eugene mac Eáchern said...

Guarding good grammar is a cruel old Harvardian trick for keeping ego in check... I'm glad you took it in good graces.

I understand that you use "Tom Paine's Ghost" in a figurative sense, but as a person who communes with undead spirits and runs in necromantic circles, I believe that the *intention* to resuscitate the "spirit" of Tom Paine's thoughts has actually invited Tom Paine's undead soul to inspirit, to some degree, your own thoughts and actions. I hope that might simultaneously humble, inspire, and vivify your mission here.

The ad campaign you mention reminds me of one of my favorite quotations by one of my all-time favorite human beings, C.S. Lewis:
"Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can't really get rid of it." The question of morality has been variously amplified and simplified in numberless ways but just won't go away... which is why, I believe, we must resort to the metaphysical or "spiritual" level... questions of conscience necessarily give way to questions of some shared, undying spirit, inherited from our pre-human ancestors, from which the very possibility of self and identity arise.

Anonymous said...

Ash Eugene mac Eáchern, you are completely asinine and obviously don't understand the first thing about Buddhism.
First of all, in Buddhism there is no belief in reincarnation - it is the cycle of rebirth. There is no soul that reincarnates.
Secondly, your ignorance is made apparent by daring to say that the Dalai Lama would ever encourage such things! Non-violence plays a very important role in Buddhist thought. Encouraging others to harm themselves is just as bad as harming the person yourself! A brief intro to Buddhism could've told you that much.

Anonymous said...

I hazaed this likelihood: The Chinese perception of human sacrfice by Tibetan lamas is encouraged by misrepresentation of ritual items, such as skull-drums and skull-cups, as being derived from human sacrifice. That a skull is used in ritual does not mean its original possessor died of anything other than natural causes. Similar misrepresentation is made of sky burial, the practice of leaving corpses outside to be picked clean by vultures.

Anonymous said...

... I suggest we not aruge with Ash Eugene... Somebody who claims that he is a necromancer is not exaclty going to have shared values or premises with which to argue on. Instead I would like to ask about the allegations by the Chinese, although many of them are likely to be exaggerated, isn't it still true that China's modernization helped to improve living standards in Tibet?