Friday, October 14, 2016

Power Struggle Amongst Tibetan Buddhists (教派权利斗争)

The rise and fall of a religion has something to do with the supporting political body of that time. For example: When Ganges Khan came to power and formed the Yuan Dynasty in China, the Sakya School supported by Yuan was in power and flourished. Following the destruction of Yuan Dynasty, the political influence and power of Sakya also faded. When the Qing Emperor supported the Geluk School, this school came into power. But the transmissions of Tibetan Buddhism at that time mostly limited to Imperial Palace and amongst nobles at that time. It was not until 18th century that when the English government colonised India continent, clerical personnel were sent to Tibet through Sichuan and India to learn about Tibetan Buddhism; and subsequently brought the teachings to the West. It was not until after 1920 that Tibetan Buddhist teachings became popular with the open trade between Tibet and China.

Following these new developments, the influence of Geluk and other schools was able to expand to the rest of the world. The legacy of old Qing Dynasty was preserved: Dalai Lama remained as the head of all Tibetan Buddhism.

At first, power struggle amongst various Tibetan Buddhist schools were limited to Tibet alone. After the Chinese entered Tibet, with the escape of Dalai Lama to India; the centre of struggle has shifted to India and then to the West. Amongst all of these Tibetan Buddhist schools, I think the most noticeable power struggle happened between the Geluk School and Jonang School at first; and later with the fairly recent New Kadam School.

The reason of this attention I would guess to be that since the beginning of Qing Dynasty (and now), the Geluk was endowed with the power to rule over all Buddhist Schools of that time. During Qing Dynasty, the Geluk tradition was in charge of political and religious power of Tibet. Naturally, as the ruling religious body; the Geluk wanted to iron out its differences with other Buddhist Schools.

During that time, the Geluk tradition was advocating the Kalachakra Tantra; so was the Jonang tradition. However, both with very distinct aims. Naturally arguments as to who possessed the ‘ultimate truth’ surfaced. At that time, the Jonang school has a longer and more established tradition. Naturally the Geluk must defend its system and attack other’s weaknesses. So Tsongkapa in his work ‘Stages Of Tantric Buddhism’ (密宗道次第广论) criticized the Jonang Kalachakra transmission to be erroneous up to a stage that even the empowerment process is wrong. From the above example it is possible for us to feel the heat of such arguments of those days.

In order to show theoretical supremacy of Geluk over Jonang, the Geluk dubbed Jonang as ‘other emptiness’ (他空) which is inferior than the Geluk’s emptiness view, Prasangika School (应成中观). However, after both schools fought for over a hundred years or so, when Dalai Lama V came into power, he detained Jonang’s leader when he visited Tibet. Dalai Lama V subsequently forced his arch rival and the whole of Jonang School to convert to Geluk. The Jonang School was once thought to be extinct until the rediscovery of this tradition quite recently.

Now we hear the attack of New Kadampa on Dalai Lama citing Dorje Shuden as the centre of dispute. I would guess that the intention of New Kadampa is very obvious: since both of the schools have almost similar practices; it is not over exaggeration to say the least that New Kadampa wanted to take over the Gelukpa. Of course, now the battlefield has switched from Tibet to the West. Instead of Tibetan monks, now this burden is shouldered by followers in the West.

Would this New Kadampa win the battle this time? Maybe it is a little too late for them provided there is another very strong political and financial body willing to back this movement.

Naturally, during any power struggles; there are casualties. Perhaps I should say: “While Buddha is compassionate, humans are not!”

Maybe if we all care to read about history of all religions, then we would have a second thought about religions of the world...

No comments:

Post a Comment