His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, will visit Princeton University to discuss the importance of compassion and kindness in academic life.
But not all those who intend to greet him at the campus Tuesday will be there to support him.
Every faith has its internal divisions, and Buddhism is no different. The people planning to protest against the Dalai Lama belong to an orthodox splinter group called the Shugden movement. The Dalai Lama rejected Shugden teachings years ago because of what he called their divisive, sectarian nature.
Shugden’s narrow interpretation of Buddhism doesn’t mesh with the Dalai Lama’s goal of finding common ground among all religions, said Doug Duckworth, a professor of religion at Temple University.
“Maybe a parallel would be Joseph Smith and the Mormons — if his message was to propagate Mormonism, and exclusively Mormonism, as the only, one, right interpretation of Christianity,” he explained.
Duckworth says many if not most Shugden followers practice their religion in good faith.
But the movement is also deeply entangled in the internal politics of Tibet, with numerous reports alleging that the Chinese government has backed Shugden in order to undermine Tibetan unity.
The International Shugden Community, which is organizing Tuesday’s protest, insists that it gets no support from China. And it wants the Dalai Lama to call for the end to any discrimination against its members.