The Dalai Lama will make a special appearance at the Glastonbury on Sunday, but 150 miles away in London, 500 Buddhists of the Shugden community are planning to demonstrate against claims of his religious persecution and human rights abuses.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has been accused of “creating an atmosphere of hatred” towards members of the Shugden community, a small 300-year-old Buddhist sect that worships the Dorje Shugden deity.
The group is associated with the same Gelug branch of Buddhism as the Dalai Lama, but tensions have arisen over claims by the International Shugden Community (ISC) that they have been excluded and marginalised in exiled Tibetan communities, with examples of shops and medical practices refusing to serve or treat them.
In the South Indian town of Bylakuppe, home to a Tibetan settlement, 37 of the 40 shops contain signs telling Shugden worshippers they are not welcome, according to the ISC.
Shugden Buddhists blame their persecution directly on the Dalai Lama, pointing to the declaration on his website that “strongly discourages” Tibetan Buddhists from worshiping the “fierce spirit” of Shugden.
However, representatives of the Dalai Lama insist that his words are advice to Buddhists and not a law.
“Some individuals may have put those posters up but His Holiness has not encouraged those practices, nor has he condoned them,” a spokesman said.
“His Holiness cannot be responsible for actions of individual Tibetans.”
ISC supporters plan to stage a protest at King's Cross station tomorrow and to confront the Dalai Lama when he addresses the public at Aldershot Football Club in Surrey on Monday.
Meanwhile, in a Somerset field, the Dalai Lama will take the opportunity to “spread his message of harmony to the predominantly young audience of Glastonbury”.
His representatives have confirmed he will be attending to deliver his message of “compassion, non-violence and the oneness of humanity”.
The festival's co-organiser, Emily Eavis, said his appearance marked a “special moment” for Glastonbury.The Independent