It’s fair to say that across the Western world the Dalai Lama has a very positive public image. His talks and conferences are always well attended, his books become bestsellers and his appeal to Holywood celebrities is legendary.
In the nineties there was even something of a ‘Tibet boom’ with a massive ‘Free Tibet’ concert/rally in 1996 featuring amongst others the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, several films released focusing on Tibet & the Dalai Lama (Little Buddha, Kundun, 7 years in Tibet, etc.) and Steven Seagal was recognised as a reincarnation of a past Buddhist master (a tulku).
In recent years however another more critical response towards the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism has become increasingly common and it is emanating largely from amongst the atheist and the skeptical communities. Since I’m involved in both communities and have spent quite alot of time looking into Tibet & Tibetan Buddhism I thought I might take a look at these criticisms in more detail and examine just how justified they are.
Leading this charge has been, the ever vocal, Christopher Hitchens whose main criticisms of the Dalai Lama are laid out in this article. Hitchens is one of the most vocal critics but he is certainly not alone.