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Dalai Lama greeted by protesters in Manhattan

The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama  
May 3, 1998
Web posted at: 7:49 p.m. EDT (2349 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Nearly 130 worshippers of a Buddhist deity protested Sunday against the Dalai Lama during his visit to midtown Manhattan.

Worshippers of the Dorje Shugden, a 350-year-old Buddhist deity, accuse the Dalai Lama of instigating a ban against the worship of the deity, which they say is one of the most revered in the Buddhist religion.

A spokesman for an international coalition to lift the ban says worshippers are being discriminated against in many Buddhist regions of Asia. The group says the Dalai Lama is oppressing human rights.

"He is using his speech as a powerful political weapon to destroy the spiritual lives of millions of Dorje Shugden practitioners," said Kelsang Dekyoug of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition.

CNN's Cynthia Tornquist reports
icon 2 min. VXtreme video

But Robert Thurman, president of Tibet House in New York, says the Dalai Lama has not enforced a ban at all, but has said that people who wish to worship Dorje Shugden should not associate themselves with the Dalai Lama. He says this group does not represent most Buddhists.

"He (the Dalai Lama) found the impact of the people who worshipped it to be negative in the community because they are very exclusivist," Thurman said.

Protesters await the Dalai Lama  

The protesters are made up of nuns, monks and Buddhist lay persons who have traveled to New York from India, Europe and parts of the United States. They have gathered 15,000 signatures from Dorje Shugden worshipers worldwide in an attempt to "peacefully ask the Dalai Lama to lift the ban."

The protests come at a time when the Dalai Lama and his efforts to attain freedom in his native Tibet have drawn increasing attention and support in the United States.

The Dalai Lama has been conducting "wisdom teachings" to 2,000 people a day in New York as part of his current 15-day U.S. visit. He is also scheduled to travel to New Jersey, Boston, Georgia and Wisconsin.

The protests apparently will continue, as Dorje Shugden supporters say they will follow the Dalai Lama on his U.S. tour until he gives them the religious freedom they say they are being denied.

Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist contributed to this report.


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