Do you support the separation of church and state?

Yes, I believe that the separation of Dharma and politics in a reconstituted Tibet is of the utmost importance. I appreciate that you also agree with this. This mixing of religion and politics causes so many problems, I understand this very clearly. The problem surrounding the worship of Dorje Shugden is due to mixing of religion and politics. The Dorje Shugden issue is a religious issue, but the Dalai Lama is using his political power to try to destroy this practice. This is the source of the problem. I clearly understand that although the Dalai Lama may say he supports a separation of Church and State, the reality is far different. Otherwise why is he still holding on to both these positions, that of religious leader and political leader of the Tibetan community in exile?

The issue of the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama is in reality a religious issue, likewise the reincarnation of the Karmapa. Why is the Tibetan political leader involved in these things? Why does he not leave these matters to the disciples of these two religious leaders? I don’t believe that the Dalai Lama is interested in a separation of Dharma and politics. If he were really interested in changing to a more democratic society, he would have already begun the transition from a feudal autocracy to a free society within the Tibetan communities in India. This has manifestly not happened. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, talk.religion.buddhism, 18 November 1997)

I think that it is a serious error to have a political leader who is at the same time a spiritual leader. Politics and religion are two different things and to mix them gives rise to many political and religious problems. Often they use religious methods, such as devotion to the spiritual guide, to attain political objectives. It is very problematic. To me it is unacceptable that the government-in-exile forces all of us to take the Dalai Lama as our spiritual guide or guru. In Buddhism there is complete freedom; no one can force you to choose someone as your spiritual master, this is something that each of us has to choose with complete freedom. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Is the Dalai Lama a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?Más Allá de la Ciencia, No. 103, September 1997)

In comparison with Tibetan politics, the politics of democratic countries is very clear and honest. In countries such as the UK and US people don’t follow their leaders with blind faith. They elect their leaders only after careful checking, and always investigate whether they are acting correctly or not. People have freedom of speech to publicly criticize if they feel their leader is not doing his or her job correctly. None of this happens in Tibetan society. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, talk.religion.buddhism, 19 December 1997)