T.A. McMahon Who is the Dalai Lama and what is he all about? And why should TBC even consider this Tibetan Buddhist "holy man," whom Time magazine selected to top its list of the 100 most-influential people in the world today? Well, he is a religious figure who has captured the interest-and in many cases the hearts-of millions of people, including multitudes who profess to be evangelicals. It is the latter group’s involvement that is most disturbing and adds impetus to our need to examine his beliefs. An attraction to religious "celebrities" with false beliefs is not something new among evangelicals, especially as we see apostasy growing exponentially and ecumenical developments taking place that will eventually usher in the one-world religion of the Antichrist (Revelation 13:8). Here are a few recent examples.
When we addressed our concerns about Mother Teresa in past TBC articles and columns, we received numerous letters objecting to our "attacking such a godly woman who loves Jesus." Simply put, the Jesus whom Mother Teresa professed to love is not the biblical Jesus. John MacArthur discerned that clearly when he visited her in Calcutta. Surrounded by images of Hindu deities hanging on the walls of her facility for ministering to the sick and dying, she signed a Bible for MacArthur that reflected her deep yet erroneous Catholic beliefs: "May you enter into the heart of Jesus through the Virgin Mary…."
The Catholic Virgin Mary is the doorway to the Catholic Jesus. This "Jesus" is reduced to an infant when appearing in Marian apparitions, a Jesus who did not pay the full penalty for the sins of mankind, who continues to be sacrificed daily upon millions of Catholic altars, whose body, soul, and divinity are transubstantiated into a piece of bread (which is then ingested by more than a billion Catholic faithful in order for them to grow in holiness and merit heaven), a Jesus who is worshiped as a fragment of bread at Eucharistic Holy Hour ceremonies. These are only a few of the teachings that characterize the Jesus of the Church of Rome as clearly "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:4). Mother Teresa’s beliefs also reject the words of the biblical Jesus, who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). On the contrary, she said:
If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are….What God is in your mind you must accept. (Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, p. 156)
It came as no surprise that Christianity Today applauded her future sainthood.
Pope John Paul II was also a spiritual icon for many evangelicals. The accolades that poured forth from conservative Christian individuals, ministries, and organizations were stunning (see "Death of a Pope," TBC 5/05). It was as though no thought was given to the gospel, or, more pointedly, the fallacious gospel that the pope championed. Of course, many evangelical leaders over the past three decades have worked overtime to diffuse and confuse the critical differences between Rome’s false salvation and belief in the biblical gospel, without which no one can be saved.
For example, Pat Robertson, in paying homage to the deceased pontiff, said that "the most beloved religious leader of our age [has passed] from this world to his much deserved eternal reward." On what basis? Certainly not by the religious system of works that he headed up. The names and organizations (which we have documented over the years) involved in this subversion of biblical truth in favor of Roman Catholicism are a shameful evangelical Who’s Who list: Charles Colson, J. I. Packer, Rick Warren, John Hagee, Hank Hanegraaff, Bill Bright, Richard Land, Timothy George, Richard Foster, Wheaton College, InterVarsity Fellowship, NavPress, Zondervan, Campus Crusade, Charisma magazine, and Christian Research Journal. The list goes on.
Billy Graham had nothing but praise for his long-time friend John Paul II and in particular for "his strong Catholic faith." Furthermore, he declared that there were no essential disagreements between them theologically. One of the "essentials" of the pope’s life was his total dedication to "Mary, the Queen of Heaven," in whom he put his hope for salvation. Graham was certainly aware of his friend’s vain commitment to Mary. Even more puzzling, however, is the fact that early in his ministry Graham denounced Catholicism along with Communism and Islam as three of the world’s greatest evils. What changed? Certainly not Roman Catholicism. Yet, in a shocking turnaround, Graham’s crusades began to be promoted and financially supported by the Catholic Church-including being staffed by nuns and priests as counselors, a practice that still continues today. Christianity Today, which Graham founded, has been without doubt the most persuasive vehicle in undermining critical doctrinal differences between evangelicals and Catholics, as it has long fostered the mutual acceptance of one another as "brothers and sisters in Christ."
What, then, of today’s most honored religious figure, Tenzin Gyatso, the proclaimed reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama (meaning "oceans of wisdom"), who preceded him? Pope John Paul II gave him center stage in 1986 when he gathered world religious leaders to Assisi, Italy, to pray for world peace. Astonishing many Catholics, the pope allowed the Dalai Lama and his monks to perform their prayer ritual before a statue of Buddha placed upon the altar at the church of St. Peter at Assisi. It certainly confused those who understood that Tibetan Buddhists do not believe in God. So to whom was the Dalai Lama praying? We’ll get to that momentarily.
We’re told that Tibetan Buddhism may be beyond the ability of the Western mind to understand. That’s an understatement: its utter complexity, contradictions, and confusion have no geographical boundaries. Nevertheless, Tibetan Buddhism contains a number of beliefs that correlate with false religions in the West. Its ancient history involves shades of Darwinism. Frescoes in the oldest monastery and throughout the country illustrate the belief still held by many today that the origin of the Tibetan people resulted from the mating of a god-like ape with an ogress, a female monster. The simian offspring of that union eventually evolved into the ancient Tibetans.
Tibetan Buddhism itself is a complicated mixture of Bon, which consists of animist and shamanic beliefs and practices, and Buddhism. Fusing the two defies any sense of congruity, and rationalizations vary widely depending upon one’s bias toward spirit-driven Bon beliefs or the more philosophical concepts of Buddhism. For example, the Dalai Lama once remarked to a Catholic priest that the chief difference between their beliefs was that he as a Buddhist did not believe in a personal God. On the other hand, as a Tibetan Buddhist, he believes in personal deities and spirits-and lots of them. This is more than evident as he travels the world inducting hundreds of thousands (including thousands in U.S. cities) into the Kalachakra Tantra Initiation.
Kalachakra is both a Tantric deity and a meditation practice; the former is a manifestation of Buddha, who is called upon to lead the initiate into becoming a bodhisattva, or enlightened god, a status claimed for the Dalai Lama. Note what takes place in this 12-day Kalachakra Initiation ceremony. Monks create a sand mandala seven feet in diameter, which becomes home to 722 gods and goddesses during the ritual. From his throne, the Dalai Lama, as the master of the initiation, asks permission to begin the ritual from Tenma, the supreme earth spirit who rules over the local spirits. Not all the spirits want to cooperate and must be placated by the monks through chanting, dancing, and the sounds of bells, gongs, and horns. The Dalai Lama then makes an offering to the spirits to thank them for their assistance. On the tenth day, he invokes the god Kalachakra to open the eyes of the initiates, who have taken vows never to reveal the secret teachings. The experience is described as being "reborn" as the participants enter into Kalachakra’s universe of enlightenment. At the closing, the Dalai conveys his gratitude to the gods and goddesses for their participation and bids them return to their sacred homes.1
This man with the winning smile is a shaman. He refers to himself as a simple monk, although we’re told he is a god-king, and he, like the pope, is to be addressed as "His Holiness." He mediates between humans and spirit beings, of which there are a multitude of varieties, from those who are considered helpful, to those who are unspeakably evil and malicious. The life of the average Tibetan is one of continually seeking rituals of appeasement directed at these nonphysical beings who play havoc with them by bringing about sickness, poverty, crop failure, livestock deaths, ignorance, possession, insanity, and so forth. No matter what philosophical or psychological spin the Dalai Lama puts on his theology and practices for his American audiences, the Bible clearly teaches that he is trafficking with demons and "the god of this world," Satan himself (2 Corinthians 4:4).
As with his fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Mother Teresa (TBC, 3/87; 7/90; 5/94;5/95), closer scrutiny of his life shatters what most people naïvely presume about his beliefs and practices. Candid interviews with Tibetans now living under a repressive Communist regime acknowledge that they nevertheless have more freedom and opportunities now than when they were under the theocratic feudal system controlled by the god-kings and their monks and priests. Critics of the Dalai Lama have raised substantial questions, implying that what he is communicating to the West is at great odds with his traditional religion. This religion includes urging holy wars between Buddhists and non-Buddhists; regarding Christianity, Judaism, and particularly Islam as enemies of Tibetan Buddhism; the establishment of a global Buddhist theocracy under a world ruler; and the sexual abuse of young women in tantric rituals.2
The Dalai Lama appears to be oblivious to all of the above. He is also highly selective regarding what he will share with different audiences about his spiritual teachings, e.g., his religious instruction to achieve enlightenment through tantric meditation and his shamanic rituals for invoking help from deities and keeping demons at bay.
Recently in Seattle, at the five-day Seeds of Compassion Conference, he taught audiences how to become more compassionate. Billed as an educational event for instructing children and supported by insights from child psychologists, his message was simple: people must change their thinking and actions and cultivate inner strength. Could it be that the self-help approach works better in the West than this shaman’s usual rituals invoking help from the spirit realm? The event drew nearly 150,000 people (including 15,000 school children), many of whom no doubt were so enamored with the global religious figure that they will likely pursue the Dalai’s deeper religious teachings for achieving the virtue of compassion. He is the number one evangelist for Buddhism in the world today, and he’s gaining support from professing Christian leaders worldwide, including conference participants Archbishop (and arch-heretic) Desmond Tutu and Emerging Church leaders Doug Pagitt and Rob Bell. This ecumenism is consistent with liberal theology and with the pervasive emergent doctrine that we can learn much from other religions about Christ and the gospel.
As stated at the beginning of this article, the apostate church and religion that will be led by the Antichrist is in full development. It will accommodate every religious belief system in the world other than biblical Christianity. Though some religions appear to be quite different from others, upon closer inspection they often reveal similarities that will help draw them together. We previously noted the shared characteristics between Catholicism and Islam (see "Catholicism and Islam: Ties That Bind," 11/02). Tibetan Buddhism and Roman Catholicism also have much in common. They each have clerical hierarchies, they have celibate priests and nuns, they both pray to dead entities (spirits, deities, or saints) for assistance, they use prayer beads and offer repetitious prayers, and both employ relics of the dead and sacred rituals as a key for achieving spiritual goals. Most striking, however, is the extremely popular goddess of Tibetan Buddhism, Tara. She is described in various Buddhist teachings in terms much akin to the Catholic Mary: she is the Mother of the Buddhas, she is a saviouress, she hears the cries of those in misery and is a more approachable deity to whom the laity have direct access, she guards her devotees as she leads them to enlightenment, and she also appears to them in apparitions. Tara is a bodhisattva, a supreme goddess, whose principal attribute is compassion and who is the primary resource in imparting that virtue to humans. One might wonder why "His Holiness" failed to recommend his chief "deity of Compassion" to assist his audiences at the Seeds of Compassion Conference.
Yet considering their many differences, all the religions of the world (excepting biblical Christianity, which is not a religion) share a very foundational principle: salvation (or its equivalent, e.g., nirvana, paradise, moksha, the higher afterlife, etc.) is attained through human achievement. This is apparent in all the varied attempts to satisfy, placate, appease, mollify, become one with, or reach God, Brahman, Allah, the gods, the goddesses, the Queen of Heaven, the Force, the Universal Mind, etc.
The various endeavors for attaining salvation include sacrifices, following karmic laws, yoga meditation, church attendance, obeying rules or keeping commandments, observing sacraments, secret rituals, liturgies, being a good person by doing more good than evil, and so forth. None of these pursuits can add one iota to obtaining a person’s salvation, according to the Bible. Furthermore, they all reject the absolute truth that Jesus Christ alone provided salvation to all mankind by doing what only the perfect, sinless God-Man could accomplish. He satisfied God’s perfect justice by paying the complete penalty for every sin of mankind. There is nothing anyone can do for salvation except receive our Savior’s unfathomable gift of eternal life with Him by grace, through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8,9).
As Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, declared: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Pray that those attracted to the smiling monk will heed Peter’s sober warning.