Dalai Lama promulgates the “no true Muslim” fallacy

Here are a few of the Dalai Lama’s remarks to the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which he visited on Thursday. As you see, he claims that any religious person, not just Muslims, cannot be a “true believer” if they commit terrorism. This, of course, is a meaningless and tautological statement, like saying that no true cat would eat cucumbers.

Among religious leaders, Tenzin Gyatso is among the least offensive and most amiable. But he’s not immune to mouthing pious inanities like the above. Try telling the members of ISIS that they’re “not genuine Muslims”.

Gyatso is a long way from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but one more thing bothers me about him. He’s characterized as science friendly, and he’s even said this:

“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”\

Yet, as far as I know, he believes not only in karma, which is a supernatural concept, but in reincarnation, part of the karma trope. Now we can’t really prove these “false”, but the evidence is against them, since if there were reincarnation the population of animals on the planet would be constant (unless, of course, microbes are silently disappearing as they wend their way to mammals).  But you can’t claim that the Dalai Lama is fully down with naturalism.



  1. Serena Martin
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    My mother had a cat who would eat cucumbers. Qute neatly too, just leaving the seeds. Also brought home chickens from a nearby farmer

    • Posted September 18, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      I was, of course, referring to Toncho, the 20-year-old Siamese cat who loves cucumbers and, famously, nommed them in a video on this site. See here: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/sofia-the-last-supper/

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Apropos of almost nothing, I planted 4 varieties of heirloom cukes in my garden this year. The fruits were all very seedy. I don’t have a cat (extremely allergic child in house) but my kids would not eat them.

      • Achrachno
        Posted September 18, 2016 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        You harvested them too late, that’s all. You have to pick them while the seeds are still immature/soft. Any cucumber will be seedy if left on the vine too long. Try again next year?

        • steve
          Posted September 19, 2016 at 5:26 am | Permalink

          Or quarter them length-wise and run a knife parallel to the counter top along the bottom of the seeds along each length to get rid of the seeds. The remainder of the cucumber sans centre is perfect.

  2. jimroberts
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Did he take lessons from Karen Armstrong, or, perhaps more likely, she from him?

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Mister Dalai Lamas

    People wanna bomb us
    More people gotta scatter and run from us
    You can blame it on Zeus and Apollo and Adonis

    — Citizen Cope, Between a Bullet and a Target

  4. nicky
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Of course the Dalai Lama is amongst the least offensive of religious figures, I can fully agree, a bit like Desmond Tutu (for a SA’n flavour), but he’s still delusional. Obviously.
    Reincarnation poses great problems, if Gyatso (or Jerry for that matter) is incarnated in a child (it is typically in children between 5 and 10), where did that child go?
    Talk about dualism.

    • Xogenisis
      Posted September 19, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      You do not understand what reincarnation is according to those with you wish find fault. According to Buddhist teaching all sentient beings have issued to them a substrate consciousness at conception/birth (not quite clear). It is the seat of your awareness, gender-less, non-discursive, not even human. Your personality develops around an illusory sense of me and mine we call ego. This deeper seat of awareness, the substrate does not pass away with you. It passes from being to being. We are wholly within the realm of the substrate when in deep dreamless sleep where we know from experience we are cognizant as we can be aroused. So criticize this rather than asking to where the displaced soul is thrust because some interloper has taken over your child.
      And while you are at it answer to the belief western science espouses that life is created from some random combinations we will certainly prove someday. Life is nothing but… is science’s creation theory that should be answered instead with – “I don’t know. What a mystery” This is where the religious feel most threatened. Their beliefs opposed by science’s beliefs while science claims to deal solely in evidence based knowledge.

      • Posted September 19, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        As I said, my “testing” of reincarnation was meant as a joke.(Did you read the other comments before you waded in?) But your own conception of it is also supernaturalistic, and so is in conflict with science. And the rest of your post is gibberish, I fear. What do you mean “answer to the belief western science espouses. . . “?

  5. Brujo Feo
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I saw the video early this morning, and made the following remarks on Facebook:

    Wow. Could this clown be any more full of shit?

    “Because it is a Muslim teaching that once you are involved in bloodshed you are no longer a genuine practitioner of Islam.”

    Yeah, sure it is. That *is* “a” Muslim teaching. And you can find that teaching buried under the mountain of bloodthirsty exhortations to murder in the Qu’ran.

    “All major world religious traditions carry the same message: the message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment.”

    Sounds like he’s never read the Wholly Babble. If he had, he’d know that Islam has nothing over Judeo-Christianity in terms of blood lust.

    But then, His Lordship the Dalai Fruitbat, AKA Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, né Lhamo Thondup, is no stranger to violence himself. Here are a few facts about the Dalai Lama:

    He claims to be a “hereditary king appointed by heaven itself,” well-reflected in his one-man rule over Dharmsala and its 150,000 Tibetan refugees. Other reasons: the Dalai Lama’s acceptance of “45 million rupees, or about 170 million yen” from Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult which released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo Subway system; the Dalai Lama’s proclamation that Hollywood actor Steven Seagal was a tulku and a reincarnated lama of Tibetan Buddhism (which really pissed off Richard Gere, who aspired to the same recognition); the persecution of followers of the Dorje Shugden deity, threatened with violence and ostracism and even death following the Dalai Lama’s abrupt prohibition of this once-venerated godhead; the Dalai Lama’s specified sexual norms, which ban masturbation, oral and anal sex, and explain the proper way to pay for prostitution; and, most importantly, the Dalai Lama’s support of India’s Pokhran-II thermonuclear tests.

    I don’t think that we’ll be letting this lunatic lecture us about what is “true” Islam. Or Buddhism. Or anything else.

    • lanicarroll
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      “The Dalai Lama’s proclamation that Hollywood actor Steven Seagal was a tulku and a reincarnated lama of Tibetan Buddhism (which really pissed off Richard Gere, who aspired to the same recognition” — I’d be interested to know what your source is for this.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted September 18, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink


        It looks like I may have gotten that one wrong. I had heard it ascribed to Christopher Hitchens (which is where the other information was from), but after reading your question, I looked for the original source material. It’s here: http://www.salon.com/1998/07/13/news_79/.

        Hitchens correctly notes that it was a different Buddhist luminary, Penor Rinpoche, supreme head of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, who recognized Seagal’s quasi-divinity.

        So unless and until I find some other source that implicates the Dalai Lama more directly, I’ll have to withdraw that statement.

        Thanks for catching the error–mea culpa.

        • lanicarroll
          Posted September 18, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Brujo. Yes, it was Penor Rinpoche.

          Oh, Hitchens. Don’t get me started. Everything he said about the Dalai Lama was so distorted. In God Is Not Great he implied that as a fiendishly ambitious two-year-old, the Dalai Lama ruthlessly managed to get himself elected ruler of Tibet. How even the most Machiavellian of two-year-olds could pull this off he doesn’t explain. And, yeah, he rules over the Tibetans in exile–it’s his job, and a job the poor man didn’t choose (unless he somehow really did figure out how to pull this off as a two-year-old).

          I was surprised by how poorly Hitchens seems to have sourced some of his stuff (that Salon article–ugh). He apparently ran into some Dorje Shugden people and took anything they told him at face value without investigating. Dorje Shugden is an extremely messy and complicated situation (but interesting, involving a vengeful monk who died hundreds of years ago), but I would say the Dalai Lama’s handling of a very nasty, very difficult situation has been impeccable. The whole brouhaha is rumored to be financed by China in an attempt to embarrass and discredit him (a very upsetting situations for Tibetans, who support him and are furious and hurt that there are Westerners promoting the Dorje Shugden nonsense).

          And, yep, I think he years ago unwisely said some impolitic things about the very medieval traditional Tibetan sex regulations. He’s much better at being blandly anodyne now—hence statements like today’s.

          You’ve got me with the nuclear testing—I know nothing about that.

          If I could whine for a moment, I wish people wouldn’t make pronouncements about things they don’t know much about. If Tibetans read the statements here today—well, suffice it to say, this kind of thing is rather unkind. And if anyone is interested in the Dalai Lama’s real opinions on reincarnation, the book Waking, Dreaming, Being is interesting. (Spoiler alert: he believes consciousness may require a physical basis.)

          Thanks again, Brujo.

    • somer
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      There is nothing violent about the Dalai Lama. He has always been completely committed to his people and as religions go – he’s the mildest and the most open to humane intervention. One doesn’t have to agree with religion to see the positive effect he’s had on Tibetans (if you know any or have met any in Nepal or Darjeeling)- there haven’t been any decent atheist movements to inspire oppressed people in that part of the world.

      He has long agreed with Tibetans in exile that there should be a democracy if a free Tibet were to be reestablished. He has behaved with great dignity in the face of huge provocation – although sometimes he might be somewhat otherworldly about self defence – in reality it isn’t an option in Tibet anyhow and I imagine the mining resource and especially the status of Tibet as that source of a number of great rivers – not to mention the strategic position for a greater china is just too important to the Chinese made nervous in the modern global era.

      Dalai Lama is more or less a titular head of Tibetan buddhism – there are many important lamas in it with different sects leading at different periods in Tibetan history – but each Lama still being powerful. The lama system in the past was somewhat feudal but it conditioned formerly very violent mongol nomads to a peaceful life and offered them a better existence. The Chinese before the more recent Manchu period had nothing to do with Tibet. Please don’t accept Chines propaganda or for that matter everything on Salon.

      The Tibetans in their homeland continue to be brutally treated by China and China have long sponsored a rival Lama who is a fake. China have tried every conceivable means to demonise this man – no politician of any stature can meet with him abroad without their getting threatening.

      • Posted September 20, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        “…There haven’t been any decent atheist movements to inspire oppressed people in that part of the world.”

        I’d say the same about other parts of the world. In Ottoman times, Bulgarians found support in Christianity, and our national revolutionaries made their oath over a Bible and a gun. There were indeed atheist revolutionaries as well, but they were few and far between.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    You get the idea the guy has never read either the bible or the koran.

    • somer
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      If he has he read or interpreted it incredibly selectively

  7. Posted September 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    “no true cat would eat cucumbers”

    I love that example.

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Brujo Feo’s already said what my comment was going to be, so I’ll make it a hash tag:


  9. Ariel Karlinsky
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    “since if there were reincarnation the population of animals on the planet would be constant”

    this is BRILLIANT. I never thought about this. maybe it’s because I never really gave reincarnation too much thought… but this argument is so spot. I love it!

    • Ariel Karlinsky
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      so spot on. why can’t I edit comments?😦

    • Posted September 18, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Obviously, you’ve never read anything about anything. The “Well of Souls” (there are SF books that discuss this and have that name in the title) is infinite, according to some traditions.

      Some traditions don’t require that you always reincarnate on the same planet.

      And of course, when the multiverse comes into the picture, all bets are off:

      “And who will search through the wide infinities of space to count the universes side by side, each containing its Brahma, its Vishnu, its Shiva? Who can count the Indras in them all–those Indras side by side, who reign at once in all the innumerable worlds; those others who passed away before them; or even the Indras who succeed each other in any given line, ascending to godly kingship, one by one, and, one by one, passing away?” Brahma Vaivarta Purana, (c. 1000 AD)

      • Posted September 18, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Well, saijanal, you’re extremely rude. My remark about reincarnation was a joke, but you’ve responded with arrogance and pedantry.
        Go find yourself another place to flaunt your superiority.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    … he believes … in karma, which is a supernatural concept …

    Of all forms of superstition, I found “karma” the hardest to abandon — the idea that what-goes-around-comes-around, that there will come a day of reckoning, a balancing of the books of good-and-evil. (That may not be “karma” in the Buddhist sense, strictly speaking, but it’s the way I thought of it.)

    I finally just converted it to a personal heuristic in the here-and-now, no woo required, thinking of it as a bank account where, if you ever wanna draw down on goodwill, you gotta make an occasional deposit, too — one it’s best to keep a small rainy-day balance in. When I break down and volunteer to do something decent — especially if it’s something at an ungodly hour like a breakfast line — it’s the fear of an “insufficient funds” notice that drives me out of bed, into a pair of shoes, and out the door.

    • Flemur
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Of all forms of superstition, I found “karma” the hardest to abandon

      I enjoy believing that leaving my car windows down will make it rain.

    • Posted September 19, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes I think that karma is amongst the most awful of doctrines in the religions that hold it. Why? Because it seems to be the ultimate in victim blaming. Someone I care for very much is a member of Soka Gakkai International (though not as active as some). They were great for my friend in terms of community support, listening and being with someone in a time of trouble for her. However, they would also say things like when things get bad for you it is just karma from a previous incarnation “catching up” and that sort of thing.

      • somer
        Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Yes its fatalistic and would go well with a caste system – you deserve this life because of something that was presumably “you” presumably did in a “past life”, but the people oppressing you are fine – they must have done the right thing in the past. Though the stoic Christian versions of sin and virtue can disproportionately burden disadvantaged/oppressed groups saying their oppression is an opportunity to earn virtue in heaven aka Mother Teresa or the idea that oppression is virtuous when it coincides with the norms of the religion (e.g. women in a traditionalist society, working class/peasants in pre democratic religious society where the ruling classes uphold the religion). However the latter is a tendency not a fixed thing – sometimes stoicism and a sense of sin is for social justice in the progressive sense. On the face of it Karma is worse except I think there are different interpretations of Karma – reborn to a good life in material terms or reborn to one enabling a better subsequent life towards nirvana through works as well as thoughts although this would not be the usual interpretation. Then there is the sexism – birth as a man is better than birth as a woman. So I’d have to agree karma ultimately is probably the most problematic when taken within a framework of reincarnation.

  11. GBJames
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m waiting for Mr. Lama to let us all know which variety of Christianity is the one true faith.

  12. Ken Phelps
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Offensiveness in religious leaders is generally offered up in inverse proportion to their actual power.

    • somer
      Posted September 19, 2016 at 3:14 am | Permalink

      So the Ayatollah Khomeini is powerless?

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted September 19, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        That was thought, if not typed, as “inoffensiveness”.

        • somer
          Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:16 am | Permalink

          Apologies then! 😊

  13. Achrachno
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Woo is true! If there’s not a mystical power controlling the universe, how could it have happened that I got in my car a few minutes ago, flipped on the radio, and heard a voice I recognized — it was our host on an old Radio Lab show! What are the chances of that? His “forthcoming” book WEIT was mentioned. And then I came here and here’s Jerry again, with printed words on my screen. Can’t possibly be pure chance. Someone wants, no demands, that I ponder the words of Jerry.

  14. somer
    Posted September 19, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Buddhism doesnt have the aggressive evangelism or the militarism of most other organised religions (at least not overtly) but it does reduce all real problems to metaphysics – mind – equanimity of mind obtained through certain mental exercises and beliefs supposedly fixes everything. And people are supposed to support a class of priests. That said the Noble Eightfold path of moral precepts that runs alongside this is a pretty good moral plan, and the karma idea would reinforce that. Buddhists aren’t obsessed with maximising reproduction, but they obviously have their set of sexual taboos, and the Buddha appears to have relegated women to a secondary role (also nuns are very subordinate to monks) – probably not as emphatically as the other organised religions. Buddhists also believe in a (I think temporary) hell for those who keep misbehaving in each life.
    The only sense to the reincarnation idea is that the ingredients of life are recycled in nature and conceivably a many of our molecules and atoms could wind up in some animal – but not so that we would of course be reborn as that animal or even a human – but of course mixed up with organic content of numerous other atoms and molecules from inanimate materials and deceased living things.

    • Posted September 19, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Not all Buddhist sects are non-evangelizing. A friend of mine from years ago visited Seoul, and was accosted by several religious proselytizers, including Buddhists. That said, they are much *less* so than many Christians or Muslims.

      • somer
        Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:37 am | Permalink

        I think there’s a reason though why it is relatively uncommon demographically speaking (the Japanese are as much or more Shinto than Buddhist). It does not insist on any military propagation or document religious genocide in its scriptures (like the Abrahamic religions or even Hinduism). And it is not so obsessed with brainwashing adherents as many other religions (Islam has a regimen of observance with onerous and time consuming rituals from a young age and punishment for non conformity that to my mind amounts to brainwashing)

  15. jay
    Posted September 19, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    One of my wing nut relatives wrote a book on the after life and somehow got Gyatso to write a blurb for his book. Probably never read it.

  16. Peter Simpkin
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    No true Scotsman.

    “No true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.[1] When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group).”

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