Thanks to Bill Schwartz for his guest post. For my commentary on this controversial topic check SLAPP threats to Buddhist Bloggers.
Three months ago I decided I wanted to write a blog for my publisher, Elephant Journal, on the subject of Kunzang Palyul Choling, a Tibetan Buddhist franchise founded by a controversial Palyul lineage tulku. I’m a 2010 Blogisattva Honorable Mention for Political and Opinion blogging by a Buddhist. As a journalist I thought it would make it an interesting column.
Unfortunately, before I was able to even finish my blog I was notified by Waylon Lewis, publisher of Elephant Journal, that he had received threatening phone calls from Kunzang Palyul Choling. Even a law suit without merit could put his magazine out of business. This was no idle threat. So advised, I was in the process of finishing my blog when Waylon notified me that he had received a cease and desist letter from KPC’s lawyer.
This is not a squabble between Buddhists. It is a threat against our fundamental right to a free press. Fortunately for Kunzang Palyul Choling, Buddhists don’t care about free speech. KPC can threaten to put a publisher out of business to block the publication of a blog about them with impunity. I wouldn’t have believed this to be so, but this has been the response from Buddhists to date.
The Palyul lineage (of which KPC is a nominal affiliate because its founder was recognized by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche as a tulku and enthroned as such) can do nothing even if it were so inclined. As a Buddhist franchise, KPC does not accept the authority of the present head of the Palyul lineage, His Holiness Karma Kuchen. The founder of KPC does not answer to HHKK.
When Travis May published a blog on Buddhadharma about the KPC SLAPP Scandal the editor removed it. Was KPC threatened? No, it wasn’t threatened. Worse, it simply doesn’t care. Why? It doesn’t care because Buddhists don’t care. None of the glossy Buddhist magazines is willing to cover this story. Buddhists don’t believe in a free press.
But surely Buddhist bloggers care? Nope. One Buddhist blogger informed me he wasn’t interested. It would be too much work. It’s much easier to write about wisdom and compassion instead. His audience will just eat that up and ask for more. There is no upside to a Buddhist blogger in harshing the mellow of his audience over something of such little or no interest to Buddhists as a free press seems to be.
The response of individual Buddhists has been even worse—unsolicited dharma advice on Tonglen, sending and receiving. We are to exchange our attachment to our right to free speech for the peace of mind that comes with caring only about ourselves. I kid you not. That’s what Shantideva taught. This is the path of the bodhisattva. The Buddhist response has been that it’s perfectly acceptable what KPC has done.
We are two weeks into this scandal. I thank John Pappas for providing me the opportunity to share with you this breaking story. This is but the beginning. Until the Palyul lineage issues a public statement in support of press freedom, until Buddhist bloggers step up and make their voices heard on this subject, and until Buddhists consider the slippery moral slope we now find ourselves upon, I have only yet begun to fight.