WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Close to 700 people demonstrated outside the National Cathedral Friday morning. The man at the center of the protest - the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness The Dalai Lama scheduled to speak about religion and ethics at the National Cathedral.
A Buddhist community divided in spiritually and physically: Students of the Dalai Lama on one side of Wisconsin Avenue, NW; followers of a centuries old and what His Holiness calls a sectarian form of Buddhism on the other. Rebecca Foley represents the Shugden community, which is 4 million strong around the world.
"Dorje Shugdenis a prayer and it's ludicrous to say this prayer hurts him, the Tibetan people, or the cause in any way," said Foley.
The Dalai Lama himself practiced Shugden for 40 years until further research when he denounced the following calling it divisive and a cult.
Protestors, chanting "Dalai Lama – stop lying" and banging on drums, say their fight is for religious freedom. They claim the Dalai Lama has banned their practice and exiled them from the community.
"A mother goes out to buy food for her children and are turned away from the store because she practices Dorje Shugden. People are thrown out of hospitals," said Foley.
"The Dalai Lama hasn't banned their practice. He doesn't have the power to ban," countered Bhuchung Tsering, "Unfortunately, they are not dealing with reality or facts. If you want to talk about the real denial of religious freedom it is by the Chinese Government."