One of the problem with the Westernised media, particularly coming from the Americas is that there is a strong tendency to apply their own world view of how things should be to the rest of the world. This is called ethnocentrisms. Thus it does not get any better when the American/Western media continuously portray the Dalai Lama like he is the sole authority of the Buddhist world, the equivalent of the pope in Catholicism. Of course, the popularity of the Dalai Lama have, in part, a lot to do with the fact that Tibet was taken over by China, and there are good political agenda and interests to use that fact against China, by some government agencies to negotiable deals and force China to obey Western rules. So sometimes it hard to tell when the Dalai Lama is a Western government’s tool of against China or when its really for the concern of the people in Tibet.
I don’t really blame them for being ignorant, but what is worst is that some Buddhists themselves seems to take Dalai Lama’s words as fully authoritative for all Buddhists and that some of his views of Buddhism IS the only Buddhist view. That I am puzzled. What have they been learning?
So for the record, the Dalai Lama is not the Pope of Buddhism. Buddhism does not have a Pope. Neither are he views nor practices on Buddhism necessarily reflective or representative of all Buddhists views and practices. Basically, Buddhism, as of currently, can be divided into 4 main traditions (or practices).
All these traditions point to a different way of achieving the same thing: elightenment.
You have the Theravada, popular in Sri Lanka and most parts of Indo-China like Thailand and Laos. Next is a whole class of practice under Mahayana, which springs 2 more different practices: Zen and Tibetan Buddhism.
Each tradition have their own authorities and there are no sole authority for each tradition neither. Take for example Zen tradition in Korea, Japan, Vietname and other parts of the world have different authorities.
Now, the Dalai Lama belongs to the Tibetan Buddhism traditions. Within that tradition, there are currently four major sects, each with its own head and authority. The Dalai Lama is not the head of any of these sects. But he is considered a political head of Tibet. His spiritual authority, thus, is only derived from students who has taken him as a guru or those who see him as a teacher, and the rest of the “feel-good” junkies. I am not saying that the Dalai Lama is fake and that his teachings is not worth it. On the contrary, there are a lot of insight and wisdom in his teachings. I am talking about those “Michael Jackson/Madonna”-like fans who put the Dalai Lama up in a heavenly and untouchable pedestral.
So its really frustrating that whenever the DL says that gay sex is a sexual misconduct in Buddhism, (homophobic) Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike then claim that Buddism is, thus, homophobic and use it to no ends to condemn gay people with it. What he should be saying is that gay sex is a sexual misconduct only within the form and tradition of Buddhism that he knows and practices. What this means that if you are not a Tibetan Buddhist nor is he your guru or beloved teacher, you can safely ignore that part of his message. If you fall under his purview, then you might be a bit screwed if you believe what he said to be dogmatic truth without using your own brains. Sorry, but I really have no sympathy for such brainless devoution.
The other day, someone posted a reply by Ajahn Brahm to the Dalai Lama’s comments in heartland, which I thought would help of those out there confused by the DL’s message:
Ajahn Brahm today has written to the West Australian newspaper in response to an article published last week in which the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying that homosexuality was immoral. This article was first brought to the attention of Ajahn Brahm – the elected head of the Australian Sangha Association – by members of the BSWA’s Armadale Meditation Group who felt that the Dalai Lama’s comments were not in line with the Buddhist ethos. In his response Ajahn Brahm explains why, as follows….
The Dalai Lama was out of line when he said (according to your article in the West, April 15, Page 7) “if you are a Buddhist, homosexuality is wrong. Full stop.” The Dalai Lama is not the ‘Pope’ of Buddhism and, charming as he often is, he sometimes gets it wrong. He is only the head of one of the four main sects of Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism) and he speaks only for his group.
The greater majority of Buddhists throughout the modern world are inspired to learn that the Buddha certainly did not discriminate against homosexuality. The core teachings of original Buddhism clearly show that it is not whether one is heterosexual, homosexual or celibate that is
good or bad, but it is how a person uses their sexual orientation that makes for good or bad karma. For example a gay man in a committed, loving and joyful relationship with a male partner is definitely morally superior to a straight married guy who is unfaithful to his wife. Homosexuality is not wrong per se. However, it is bad karma to condemn homosexuality out of hand!
The Dalai Lama’s error is to look for his guidance in dodgy scriptures composed many centuries after the time of the Buddha. So the fact is that the Buddha, and therefore Buddhism, embraces gays and lesbians and transsexuals with equity and respect. Too long has religious bigotry caused suffering to minority groups in our society. All religions should be more loving. Full stop!*