Is the Dalai Lama a ‘religious dictator’?

Ed. Note – While I do not support what this person is saying about the Dalai Lama, I thought the article could spark some interesting discussion and I wanted to see what you readers thought. I’ve heard the Kadampa Sect’s argument over and over (even though they are not mentioned in this article), have even gone to an NKT center and enjoyed the people I met there. But this kind of blind hatred seems to still exist for some reason. Or maybe I don’t know the whole story?

From Spiked – A quiet, middle-class café in Westminster, in the political heart of London, is the last place you would expect to hear someone badmouthing the Dalai Lama. When that someone is a Buddhist nun, dressed in trademark maroon robes and with shorn hair, it seems even more peculiar. ‘The Dalai Lama is a hypocrite and an oppressor’, says Kelsang Pema over a glass of water with ice (what else?), as she fishes from her rucksack ‘stacks of evidence’ to show me why the Dalai Lama ‘cannot be trusted’. A well-to-do blonde-haired woman in a power suit shoots us strange looks from the adjacent table. Slating the Dalai Lama, especially on a crisp, sunny Monday morning as he is due to arrive in Britain for an official visit, is not the done thing in polite circles in London.

Kelsang Pema – birth name: Helen Gradwell, born and brought up in Carlisle, England – is a leading member of the Western Shugden Society, a group of Buddhists who worship the ‘wisdom deity’ Dorje Shugden. Buddhists, especially in Tibet, have been saying the Dorje Shugden prayer for more than 350 years. Pema tells me ‘the prayer becomes your life, your breath’. Buddhists call on Dorje Shugden to ‘help us develop pure qualities’, she says, ‘including love, compassion and patience’. There’s only one problem: the Dalai Lama, head of the Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India and considered by many Buddhists to be a figurehead of their faith, effectively outlawed the worship of Dorje Shugden in 1996 and overnight transformed Shugden-following Buddhists into heretics and untouchables.

In March 1996, the Dalai Lama decreed that the worship of Dorje Shugden was ‘evil’. In what is believed to have been part of an internal power struggle in his fiefdom-in-exile in Dharamsala, northern India, the Dalai Lama ordered all worshippers of Dorje Shugden to leave his temple on 21 March 1996. A week later, on 30 March 1996, the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (the parliament in exile) passed a resolution banning the worship of Dorje Shugden by Tibetan government employees, and the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a formal decree for everyone to stop practising the Dorje Shugden prayer. The New Internationalist reported that the Lama’s office wrote to every monastery in northern India and Tibet demanding that they ‘ensure total implementation of this decree by each and everyone… If there is anyone who continues to worship [Dorje Shugden], make a list of their names, house name, birth place… Keep the original and send us a copy of the list.’ (1)

‘After the Dalai Lama’s decree, anyone who continued to follow Dorje Shugden got it in the neck’, Pema says. By 1998, two years after the Dalai Lama described Dorje Shugden as ‘evil’ and instructed monasteries to collect the names of those disobedient Buddhists who continued worshipping it, an Indian human rights lawyer, PK Dey, had collected 300 statements from Tibetans in exile in India who had been either threatened or attacked for failing to comply with the Dalai Lama’s orders. ‘Those worshipping Shugden are experiencing tremendous harassment’, said Dey. ‘This is not in any particular part of the country but everywhere there are Tibetans.’ (2) In December 1996, one 72-year-old woman, Sonam Bhuti, whose family had worshipped Dorje Shugden for generations, reported to the Office of the Notary in Delhi (a civil law institution) that Tibetan officials had ransacked her and others’ homes, ‘forcibly taking out the idols and paintings [of Dorje Shugden]’ and ‘burning’ and ‘breaking’ them (3).

The Dalai Lama’s officials sought to expel Dorje Shugden worshippers from positions of power and responsibility in both northern India and Tibet. On 18 April 1996, the Tibetan Department of Health wrote to doctors and threatened to sack any who continued worshipping the deity: ‘In case there is anyone who doesn’t abide by the addresses of His Holiness to give up Shugden worship… such persons should submit their resignation.’ (4) On 19 May 1998, the Tibetan Department of Religion and Culture advised welfare and settlement officers of the conditions under which Tibetan monks and nuns could leave Tibet or northern India to travel to other parts of the world. Condition no.3 required ‘attestation from their monastery that neither the host [nor the] invitee is a devotee of Dhogyal [a derogatory name for Dorje Shugden]’ (5). In 1998, the New Internationalist reported that there was little point in Dorje Shugden worshippers protesting against their maltreatment – one group of worshippers was told by Tibetan officials that ‘concepts like democracy and freedom of religion are empty when it comes to the wellbeing of the Dalai Lama’ (6).

Into the 2000s, the Dalai Lama has continued to harry the remaining Shugden followers. The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reported recently that ‘in Tibet, many practise Shugden only “discreetly”, since their practice has been rejected by the Dalai Lama… as evil’ (7). In January this year, the Dalia Lama held a referendum among Tibetan monks to decide whether it is acceptable to worship Dorje Shugden. Yet Pema says it wasn’t a referendum ‘in any democratic sense’. Instead, monks had to choose a red stick or a yellow stick from a basket, publicly and in front of their superiors; they picked the yellow stick if they opposed the worship of Dorje Shugden and the red stick if they supported the right of people to worship the deity. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the Dalai Lama’s decrees against the worship of Dorje Shugden and the public, archaic nature of the referendum, the yellow sticks won (8). ‘In Britain and America, the Dalai Lama is a religious hero. But for many he is a religious dictator’, says Pema.

Some denounce the Dorje Shugden followers as mouthpieces for China. Pema denies it. ‘Anyone who criticises the Dalai Lama is written off as a Chinese puppet’, she says. ‘It’s just another way of shutting down debate. People in the West look upon Tibet as this ideal place, but Tibetans find it hard to have serious debates or to stand up to the Dalai Lama. It’s almost medieval.’ Others have made a similar point about the way the Dalai Lama’s unquestionable status as high representative of the Tibetan people and all things Buddhist stifles the development of Tibetan public life. In her book The Tibetan Independent Movement: Political, Religious and Gandhian Perspectives, Jane Ardley argued that in terms of the development of internal political life in Tibet and Dharamsala, ‘[It] is apparent that it is the Dalai Lama’s role as ultimate spiritual authority that is holding back the political process of democratisation. The assumption that he occupies the correct moral ground from a spiritual perspective means that any challenge to his political authority may be interpreted as anti-religious.’ (9)

Others claim that the ‘Dorje Shugden clique’ is a cult. They do indeed have cultish qualities, devoting their life and love to an archaic Buddhist deity. But then many Buddhist and other religious groups could be described as ‘cultish’. The most striking thing about the Dorje Shugden story is the Western media’s lack of interest in it. Pema has had meetings with British MPs – yet while some ‘were interested’, she says ‘they knew that criticising the Dalai Lama would damage their reputations’. She has held press conferences ‘but they are usually poorly attended’. The media do, however, turn up to the Western Shugden Society’s anti-Dalai Lama protests – such as the one that will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday this week – but usually only so they can publish stories about ‘mad Buddhists attacking the Dalai Lama’, she says.

The state of denial in the West about some of the Dalai Lama’s alleged power-tripping, or at least the unquestioning attitude towards the Dalai Lama and everything that he does, highlights the role that he plays for many Western celebs, commentators and politicians today: he’s a cartoon ‘good guy’, giggling, pure and righteous, who apparently should be unconditionally applauded for standing up to the ‘Evil Chinese’. All of the Dalai Lama’s bad points – his origins in the stifling medievalism of 1930s Tibet; his archaic practices; his disregard for ‘concepts like democracy and freedom of religion’; his backing from the CIA in its Cold War with the Chinese – are simply ignored, as His Holiness is invited to guest-edit French Vogue, attend charity auctions with Sharon ‘Look at My Vagina’ Stone, and rub shoulders with Richard Gere. Pema shows me the Independent on Sunday, published the day before we met, which has a feature about the Dalai Lama ‘charming the West’. There are around 12 photos showing him meeting celebrites and other do-gooders. Yet in two of the photos, it isn’t the Dalai Lama at all; it’s a different Lama. Maybe these Tibetans all look the same to British picture editors.

‘He’s just a photograph and a symbol to many people in the West’, says Pema. ‘But the reality is very different.’

1 New Internationalist, August 1998

2 Now magazine, Delhi, January 1998

3 Now magazine, Delhi, January 1998

4 Dalai Lama ‘a religious dictator’, Brendan O’Neill, LM, November 1998

5 Dalai Lama ‘a religious dictator’, Brendan O’Neill, LM, November 1998

6 New Internationalist, August 1998

7 Stop lying, Suddeutsche Zeitung, 17/18 May 2008

8 See video footage of the referendum here.

9 See Tibetophilia won’t set Tibet free, by Brendan O’Neill


  1. Dalai Lama monks bomb Shugden residence
    Here is a news article from Radio Free Asia:

    ‘Terrorist actions’

    The security official said: “They carried out terrorist actions…If they don’t appeal, they will be taken to Kongpo for imprisonment 10 days after sentencing. None had lodged an appeal by Sept. 30.”

    I got this comment from:

    What makes this particularly horrible is that these terrorists were supposedly Buddhist monks, training in monasteries!

    Moreover, the actions of these monks were clearly motivated by allegiance to the Dalai Lama, the supposed champion of peace and non-violence:

    “No one was hurt in the blasts, three of which occurred at a Chinese military base camp, one at the Markham county office, three at an electric power transmission station, and one at the residence of a Tibetan who worships Shugden, a controversial deity espoused by Beijing but regarded with suspicion by those loyal to the Dalai Lama.”

    The followers of the Dalai Lama cannot blame this one on Chinese sympathizers trying to stir up trouble because three of the bombings were at Chinese military base camps.And although Robert Thurman has falsely accused Shugden practitioners of being the Taliban of Tibetan Buddhism, there is no proof that any Shugden practitioner has ever been engaged in acts of terrorism. However, this is more clear proof that certain followers of the Dalai Lama — and monks at that — are no better than terrorists.

    Thankfully, this time, no one was hurt; but, as Shugden practitioners have been pointing out, they are constantly subject to persecution and violence due to the Dalai Lama’s repressive ban, and it is only a matter of time before one of them is killed.

    The Dalai Lama and his government need to ask themselves some hard questions, including why monks loyal to them are engaged in such acts of pre-meditated violence and how an innocent Dorje Shugden practitioner could come to be the target of such violence.

  2. Hi Lyara,

    Quite the contrary, I think it’s irrational to immediately label those opposing the Dalai Lama as Chinese spies etc. As we have seen, different groups have their own agendas against the Dalai Lama.

    On the other hand, it’s appalling what Kundeling Lama, one of the major Shugdenpas today, is willing say in order to attack the Dalai Lama, especially his apology for the Chinese crimes in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution. I have to admit i was rather surprised to hear that coming from a Tibetan lama. In that light, the fear and suspicion of TGIE is probably not unsubstantiated.

    The “accusation” of Dalai Lama as God-King is a silly move. NKT has been using all sorts of tactics against DL and they don’t know how inconsistent they are. One moment they are saying DL is nothing like the Pope, has totally no say in the Shugden affairs and at another they are saying he is God-King and has too much to say. Well, I used to think when God speaks, the Pope listens…

    Gosh…Make up your mind.

    And the 13th and 14th Dalai Lama are both great reformers. Anybody who knows Tibetan history realize the caricatures do not stick.

    IMHO, i think Tenzin offers a fair assessment of the documentary.

    Yet, these are all distractions from the Shugden issue. The fact is practicing Shugden is wrong for many reasons as we have mentioned.

    We all know democracy is great but when do we need democrary to tell us who is Lucifer or not?

    The NKT’s propaganda has been saying there are “many” great teachers in the past 360 years who practiced Shugden. But they have hardly come up with enough names to call them “many”. And if one really wants to go through the exercise and count all the great masters just from the last century speaking AGAINST Shugden, Shugdenpas will realise the game of “majority rules” is not to their advantage.

    If Pabongkha had listened to the 13th Dalai Lama and stop propagating the sectarian Shugden, the practice would have stopped there.

    And If the current Dalai Lama had been firmer in the 70’s, there will be none of this Shugden bouhaha today.

    In Dalai Lama’s own words:

    “Now, think. I first started placing restrictions on Dholgyal about seventeen or eighteen years ago. If, to begin with, I had been firmer, it is possible that by this time there would not be much problem. To be frank, Kalsang Gyatso was not well established in England at that time. Twenty years ago too, Sera Med’s Gangchen Lama, was not well established either. Now, I am being quite clear about it. Similarly, twenty years ago, Gonsar Rinpoche was yet to put down any roots. Likewise, Yongkyab Rinpoche of Sera Med and Serkong Tritul from Ganden Jangtse. It is they who are presently spearheading (the opposition). So, if we had imposed strict restrictions twenty years ago and implemented them effectively, we would not have these problems now.

    However, since the restrictions we made nearly twenty years ago were ineffective, even though we did try, this whole mess has occurred. But imagine what would happen if yet another ten or twenty years were to pass (without taking action). If this were something that did not need to be restricted to start with, I would not have done so, and if I had I would have been wrong. But it is quite clear that something had to be done, whether you look at it from the point of view of accounts of the past, or the real situation at present, or from personal experiences. Whatever angle you look at it from, something had to be done. Therefore, the restrictions that I started to impose about two years ago actually came a bit late rather than too early. Once something like this has started, it is like a disease. When a large tumour has already grown, it will be painful to cut it out. It won’t be easy. However, if the tumour is not removed, it can threaten your life. Therefore, it is vital that it should be removed.” (OCT 1997)

    I read through some of the speeches and think DL offered a good explanation of why he denounced Shugden and why there will be no reversal of the restrictions. And it confirmed my suspicion that GKG might have lied about certain event in order to protect Shugden’s innocence and many more…



  3. Another video that shows what Dorje Shugden practitioners are up against — indeed, what anyone who opposes the Dalai Lama on any level is up against — can be seen here:

    The Dalai Lama has been in power for 68 years. He is the God King. As the French journalist poins out in the France 24 documentary, it is completely taboo to question him. Anyone who opposes the Dalai Lama, however reasonably, is immediately labelled a Chinese spy or a terrorist.

    However, the truth will always come out eventually and the France 24 footage, many new testimonies and stories from Tibetan practitioners affected personally by the ban, and other evidence is now appearing daily all over the internet. It is almost never-ending, sadly. The Dalai Lama could stop this problem straightaway if he lifted his ban on the worship of Dorje Shugden practitioners and gave his people religious freedom.

  4. Also note on the Spike website, there is a banner listing a campaign of their publication:

    “Beijing 2008: Challenging China Bashing”

    Is it any wonder they would want to publish a piece against the Dalai Lama? It fits perfectly into their very open agenda.

  5. Hi Lee,

    There is no hard evidence of any systematic discrimination against Shugdenpas as exaggerated by the pro-shugden propaganda. But as i have said elsewhere, the accounts should be investigated by a neutral party. Please read the relatively balanced report from TIME.,8599,1824531,00.html

    Well, if various masters had a hard time subduing Shugden, i think no secular court could really put a malevolent spirit like Shugden on trial. As for the murder suspects wanted by the Indian police, they are still at large in China and that’s the reason why they are not arrested and tried.

    If you have read my posts above or elsewhere, the Dalai Lama is the head of Tibetan Buddhism since the Fifth Dalai Lama. And in the history of Gelug the Dalai Lama has more say than the Ganden Tripa about Gelug affairs in practice although the Ganden Tripa is the official head of Gelug. History will tell you that. Nobody except NKT questioned the fact. And one needs to ask why NKT kept saying the Dalai Lama is not the head of Tibetan Buddhism. They need to back up their claims because the burden of proof is on them.

    To put it in a nutshell, the Dalai Lama needs to weed out the Shugden practice to save Gelug from sinking into spirit worship and sectarian fundamentalism abhored by all other sects. So if you ask me why, this is the more plausible political motive. So unless you think the Dalai Lama has no business in Gelug’s reputation, then you should support his denounciation of Shugden.

    And about GKG’s gain by lying about the nature of Shugden and all, to tell you the truth, i really don’t care.

    But anyone can tell what GKG stands to lose if his students are starting to question the legitamacy of Shugden and losing “faith” in Shugden as a result. He himself should know because many students have already left.

    At the core, NKT is nothing but a Shugden franchise. Shugden is Buddha and Shugden is THE dharma protector. Even Vajrayogini practice is “supplemented” with Shugden and all resident teachers are invoking Shugden’s presence anytime, anywhere.

    Shugden is everywhere in NKT. By protecting the Shugden, GKG protects the empire from crumbling.

    Does it make sense?



  6. Shaza,
    While I am sure what you are saying is well intentioned, you are very far off track. All you need to do is check if there is any harm done by Shugden (and before you even mention it, the case brought to public 10 years ago – there was never anyone tried or arrested). Now you should look and see if any harm is done for the Dalai Lama’s actions of preventing people practicing freely (and it is not hard to see many accounts of him doing this). You should also try to understand why the Dalai Lama would want to do such a thing. He is not the head of Buddhism and never has been. He cannot be the head of something which has different beliefs. When this is fully investigated the facts will come out. I do not blame you for your confusion, but you must be very careful for there are many people suffering as a result of the DL’s actions. What benefit does GKG gain from the actions you accuse him of?
    Please be careful of what you say.
    Lee W.

  7. Hi Lyara,

    Shugden practice is:

    1) Dispensable.
    Because it’s a worldly spirit and NOT enlisted by Tshongkhapa or Padmasambhava or any other great masters as our protector. There are quite a handful of wisdom protectors to choose from in Gelug. Shugden is NOT one of them. Gelug history will tell you that;

    2) Harmful and Sectarian.
    This spirit is meant to punish and even kill Gelugpas who “mixed” practices. If you read the Life-entrustment rite composed by Pabhongka and the Yellow Book as told by Trijang, published in the early 70’s, you will know.

    So it is blind faith to believe that Shugden is indispensable, harmless and peace-loving.

    GKG and his followers have the freedom to blindly believe that Shugden is Buddha.
    Likewise, I have the freedom to believe I am a fully enlgihtened Buddha.
    But one will be a fool to believe that I really am.



  8. Please check out for videos of (1) persecution of monks by taking away their water, and (2) the Tibetan mob that shouted and spat at the WSS protestors in NYC last Thursday, causing midtown traffic to be closed down for 20 minute during rush hour. A lot to think about.

    For the record, there are hundreds of thousands of people who find this practice indispensable, beneficial, and promoting of harmony, tolerance and love. And, whatever certain people think of it and the views they hold, they have no right to impose these views on others in the form of a political ban of the practice. This is taking away the religious freedom of others.

  9. Hi Concerned

    i don’t encourage any knee-jerk reactions towards NKT, but you admit Shugden is a spirit and elevating it to Buddha like many Shugdenites do today is really not wise.

    NKTers need to stop practicing it immediately for their own good, cult or no cult. The mistaken practice is dispensible, harmful and sectarian.



  10. It is sad to see people automatically labeling us as a cult…they do not vn research.
    What even more sad is that HHDL is trying to rewrit history.Dorje Shugden was the one who warned him of China’s plans..not his current ‘known spirit’ protector.

  11. Hi Lineageholder,

    I had read Trijang’s book. It’s actually a nice thing that it was made public because people can tell the claim that Shugden is Buddha does not withstand much scrutiny. I will gladly discuss with you about the points if you prefer.

    But if you seriously believe what Trijang says at all, you should also agree that Shugden is a harmful sectarian spirit because it is what he taught in Sok Te.

    It’s not that complicated. Worshipping Shugden is wrong whether or not the Dalai Lama thinks so. As I have said elsewhere, even if the Dalai Lama retracted his denunciation on Shugden, I will still oppose the practice. Simple as that.


    As for DL’s authority, even the very Shamarpa’s own recognition had to be confirmed in 1963 by the Dalai Lama, as requested by the 16th Karmapa. So tell me about the spiritual authority of DL and tell me if he “interferes” with the matter. Many other great teachers were consulted over Karmapa’s recognition but let’s not get into that dispute here. If you want to know more about the story, I recommend Lea Terhune’s book.

    To top it off, the current Dalai Lama earned his respect from other spiritual heads because of his dedication for Tibetan Buddhism, his willingness to learn from other schools and his great respect for them. It’s presumptuous to even imply that he earned the respect of HH 16th Karmapa, HH Dilgo Khyentse, HH Sakya Trizin, and many other great teachers because they fear his power and position.

    “Crushed” and “killed” ? What the heck was that?



  12. Dear shaza,

    Sorry for the late reply. Thank you for adding to the debate, but who is the Dalai Lama to decide what is a Buddha and what is not a Buddha? If you read Trijang’s work you’d see that he gives many logical reasons why Dorje Shugden is a Buddha but all the Dalai Lama has is half of the pronouncements of the 5th Dalai Lama, oracles, doughballs and dreams! Hardly a valid basis for making a decision, is it? Many of the practices he is relying on are not even Buddhist yet he has the audacity to decide who is and who isn’t a Buddhist.

    Also, I’m afraid you are wrong about the Dalai Lama being the ‘Pope’ of Buddhism. His spiritual authority supecedes the actual heads of the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism only because he imposes his will on others. If people disagree with him, they are crushed. There are many people who have been killed because they disagreed with the Dalai Lama. There are also many Tibetans who do not recognise his imposed authority. For example, Shamar Rinpoche complained to the Dalai Lama that he had interfered with the choosing of the 17th Karmapa. The Dalai Lama has split the Kagyu School as well as the Gelugpa school with his divisive actions. His actions are those of a religious dictator, not a compassionate and wise Buddhist leader.

  13. well i will be around to fire a jab or two when I see some wobbly stance.. but one thing about impermance is that you never know..

    in the past month i have been debating the issue quite intensively and i have also learnt alot along the way,..

    anyhow, it was a pleasure talking you


  14. Hi Shaza
    I appreciate your points, I wonder if anyone else has any thoughts, otherwise I can see me and you batting this one over the net forever, I need to do some practice, find my heart and focus on loving others, that sort of thing. I rejoice in your dedication and obvious concern, please lets not make any parting shots, I accept and appreciate your position and maintain mine. I hope that this discussion may be beneficial to others and not distract them from their greater purpose
    We are all one
    With the greatest respect Phelim

  15. Hi Phelim

    Problem being Je Tshongkhapa never enlisted the help of Shugden to protect his pure teachings. It was Pabongkha who went against the wish of the previous Dalai Lama and installed Shugden as Gelug’s major protector. So Shugden was just a thug in the Gelug and don’t be surprise if he shows up one day and ask for a raise because allegedly he’s been looking after your tuft for so long.

    There are many ways to protect Dharma, but killing your fellow Buddhists who are learning teachings from other schools is not one of them.

    If you admired the Dalai Lama’s effort in modernizing his government and monasteries, you should also support his denouncement of Shugden and his wish to break away from that less-than-glorified period of Gelug fundamentalism.

    We are not accountable for what Phabongkha, Trijang, GKG or any other Shugden lamas did and likewise they are not accountable for what we did. But by continuing the Shugden practice, we are just prolonging the nightmare of that part of the history and doing a disservice to Buddhism. No matter how GKG whitewashed the practice, Shugden is still a sectarian spirit with a license to kill at his whims.

    I secretly harbor a wish that all Shugden heads including GKG will come clean one day but our insistence on SUPPORTING the practice actually leave them no options to admit their faults but to charge ahead.

    IMHO, there are three options for DS practitioners:

    1. Heed the advice of Lama Zopa: drop the practice completely w/o criticizing the lama, and continue with other practices. (Some guy I talked to chose to stay silent at the Shugden prayers during the Heart Jewel and Wishfulfilling Jewel practices. Although I admired his courage, I don’t think I will go through that hassle if I were him. And I think his attendance is still a tacit approval of the Shugden worship.)

    2. Practice the old tradition of Gelug that is not “revised” by Pabongkha (learn directly from the Dalai Lama for instance because he holds the traditional lineage. Afterall, Trijang is only one of his many gurus.) Drop the Shugden practice.

    3. Drop the practice, w/o criticizing your lama and move on to other schools and lineages.



  16. HHDL wants to give the modern world a glossy image of Tibet before Chinese assimilation as a tranquil utopia of spiritual tolerance and advancement of compassionate ideals.

    However Tibet under the Dalai Lamas was a feudal society based on the exploitation of the poor, The Dalai Lama was able to tolerate and support this system then, but now stands on a platform of religious tolerance, equality and respect for everyone. He has been able to adapt to the new context he has found himself in. I do not discredit him for this adaptation and I am able to accept him in his present context as I am in his previous context.
    As modern western people the cultural landscape of Tibet before the Chinese invasion would probably be like another planet, as would India at the time of Buddha.

    Dharma on paper is words but the real Dharma is understanding what those words mean and how they are relevant in the current context, a realized teacher is able to illuminate the unchanging meaning of Dharma for the purpose of benefiting others, this is the essence of what makes Buddhism vibrant and relevant.

    Phabongkha’s commentary for the Sok Té of Dorje Shugden written by Venerable Trijang is very interesting, It is not of great relevance to my life but I can live with it, it doesn’t make me go all wobbly at the knees or start getting hysterical or anything, I am sure that pre invasion Tibet was full of such sentiments about the importance of maintaing the purity of Je tsonghapas teachings and that HHDL also shared them.

    We can’t expect the past to be accountable for the sensibilities of the present, but the sentiments remain and are still of relevance to those who maintain this practice.

    Now then, which piece of wood shall I use to stop myself from drowning? There’s never anyone around when you need advice is there,
    Respectfully Phelim

  17. Hi Phelim

    The fact that you are here at all means you are willing to talk and not stubborn.

    I will gladly leave you alone in whatever practices you see fit for yourself.

    But to give you an idea what you are worshipping, please read this:

    ‘In his interlinear notes on Phabongkha’s commentary for the Sok Té of this protector, Trijang wrote,

    “This protector of the doctrine is extremely important for holding Tsongkhapa’s tradition without mixing and corrupting it with confusions due to the great violence and the speed of the force of his actions, which fall like lightning to punish violently all those beings who have wronged the Yellow Hat Tradition, whether they are high or low. This protector is also particularly significant with respect to the fact that many from our own side, monks or lay people, high or low, are not content with Tsongkhapa’s tradition, which is like pure gold, and have mixed and corrupted this tradition with the mistaken views and practices from other schools, which are tenet systems that are reputed to be incredibly profound and amazingly fast but are in reality mistakes among mistakes, faulty, dangerous and misleading paths. In regard to this situation, this protector of the doctrine, this witness, manifests his own form or a variety of unbearable manifestations of terrifying and frightening wrathful and fierce appearances. Due to that, a variety of events, some of them having happened or happening, some of which have been heard or seen, seem to have taken place: some people become unhinged and mad, some have a heart attack and suddenly die, some see through a variety of inauspicious signs their wealth, accumulated possessions and descendants disappear without leaving any trace, like a pond whose feeding river has ceased, whereas some find it difficult to achieve anything in successive lifetimes” ‘

    This is the Shugden in Trijang’s universe, and it is what Trijang “decided” for Shugden.

    Do you accept that? And tell me if it is Buddhism.



  18. Do you really think that? Is Jesus not the son of God for Christians then? Is there not a God at all? Is Brahma not the creator, Is the Messiah not coming to save the Jews, is the object of life not to please Allah Perhaps we ought to start telling everyone and if that doesn’t work perhaps we shouldn’t talk to them out of compassion for their stubbornness.

    The point I was trying to make in my last post is that things mean different things to different people maybe it is possible to learn to cope with the existence of apparently opposing realities without getting too tangled up in how we want everyone else to behave to fit into our solid inflexible intellectual cosmos. At the very least we can try not to smash their houses up or threaten their families.

    The Taliban decided Buddha is a false idol and destroyed his images

    The crusaders decided that Islam was evil and you could get to heaven by killing Muslims

    The settlers in Australia decided that aborigines were not really human beings and could be treated like vermin

    Your view about who my cat is and what my religious practices are is entirely your own business until you decide to kick my cat, destroy my shrines and deny me access to basic resources

    Using positions of political power to oppress religious minorities and enforce points of view goes against my cat’s principles, my principles, the principles of Buddha’s teaching and the public views expressed by H.H.D.L and I would hope that supporting such actions would be beneath someone as obviously well educated, thoughtful and caring as yourself
    Respectfully Phelim

  19. Hi Phelim

    You said,”If I decide my cat is a Buddha, to me he is Buddha and functions as Buddha.”

    So what’s stopping you from taking refuge in Lucifer as Buddha? I am fairly sure Lucifer is also a sentient being and has Buddha nature. One day, if your Geshe-la or some other lamas have decided Lucifer is Buddha, will you change your mind and worship HIM?

    You know, I would gladly engage in idle zen talk with you some other time and possibly share our experiences of how to worship a cat. But then, if you are really serious about zen, you’ll probably have no problem killing your own cat as Master Nansen did in the koan…etc etc.

    Yes, enough of that. I hope you see the fallacy in your argument.

    It’s actually the most common excuse used by DS practitioners to justify their worship when met with opposition. This is what I call the “Shugden Escaping Clause”: Since everything is empty from it’s own side or empty of inherent existence, so it’s OK to worship anything.

    I think Je Tshongkha will be quite astonished if the Gelug understanding of conventional truth has degenerated to this state.

    Thinking your cat can function as fully enlightened Buddha is not Buddhism, this is wishful thinking.

    Shugden was a malevolent spirit and was even meant to be a sectarian one in the writings of Pabongkha and Trijang. We are just showing his true face to those who have been duped into accepting the whitewashed version of him. And if telling the truth that he was a demon is “demonizing” him, then I rest my case.

    The fault of the worship is actually easy to see after some investigations and that’s why I am trying to talk people out of it. If I flinch at such an easy task, what kind of a Buddhist am I?

    Many practitioners have already abandoned the DS worship. It makes one a better Buddhist, not worse. So there’s no good reason why one should cling to this practice at all.



  20. preciousmetal,
    I apoligise again for my unfounded and rude assumption, please forgive me

  21. sorry my entry wasn’t deleted and I found it and realise I made a mistake.
    look I don’t know who is and who is not genuinelly practicing Dharma or what is good religion and what is bad religion, I am not in a position to make such judgements, and I am very wary of anyone who thinks that they are able to see with such clarity what another person is doing in their mind. the people I see who concern themselves with the wrongness of others beleifs don’t generally tend to do so out of compassion,
    To you DS is a spirit, to others he is a Buddha
    There is no contradiction, you already know this
    If I decide my cat is a Buddha, to me he is Buddha
    and functions as Buddha, to you he is my cat
    I think I’m right and you think you are right
    actually we are both right and again there is no contradiction
    it depends on your point of veiw
    this debate cannot be resolved until we can accept that other people inhabit other realities than our own, lets give them all our blessings and respect and be content with what little we can currently know with any certainty about our own reality.
    I am sure that we should not condone or support persecution
    I am sure that the purpose of human life is to advance spiritually
    I am fairly sure that encouraging people to abandon their spiritual practice is a negative thing to do, as is demonizing their objects of veneration
    Are you sure you are in a position to do this or do you occassionally wonder if perhaps you may be missing the point .

  22. Phelim- I have not deleted any posts in this discussion as of yet. I don’t know what happened to your post, but it was not deleted from this end.

    As a matter of fact, a few posts (not yours in particular) have been rather brash, but I have not deleted them. I’m glad to see people discussing this issue and am just sitting back and reading what you all have to say. There is no censorship here UNLESS it is a blatant, irrational attack.

  23. Hi Phelim

    On the contrary, I think many DS practitioners in the West are good natured people and aspiring Buddhists. Many of them genuinely want to learn and practice pure Dharma but unfortunately caught up in such a dilemma. And that’s why I am even more saddened by the lies and the unceasing fanaticism over the Shugden worship.

    Keep insisting on relying on Shugden as Buddha will continue to break one’s refuge vows for one. I am not saying DS practitioners do not try to generate compassion or wisdom in their practice, but they are simply putting roadblocks on their paths by worshipping a spirit.

    So if there is any progress at all, it’ll be one step forward and two steps back at best.

    I’ve no intention to stigmatize anybody but as many have pointed out, it’s a grave mistake not to give up the practice.

    It’s really time to realise that and move on.



  24. Why would you want to get involved with telling people not to call themselves Buddhist, do you genuinelly belive that DS practitioners do not follow Buddhas teachings. Can’t you see what this debate is doing to you. Iyour brain is getting bigger but what on earth is happening to your heart
    respectfully phelim

  25. Hi Lineageholder

    I think you got it all wrong.

    You said: “Yes, but what if the Pope suddenly decides that the Virgin Mary is really Lucifer and bans the veneration to her”

    Well, to further the analogy, it was more like Phabongkha + Trijang had decided one day that LUCIFER is afterall VIRGIN MARY based on some whimsical vision.

    I have read Trijang’s “Music Delighting..” and Trijang has failed to prove that the practice of the Shugden worship was anything more than a minor spirit worship before Pabongkha and him suddenly went berserk and turned Shugden into Buddha.

    It’s unfortunate that Pabongkha willfully ignored the command of the 13th Dalai Lama (the last Dalai Lama) to popularize the heretic practice and continued to do so after the Great 13th passed away.

    So, Shugden was never Virgin Mary to start with.

    The logic is simple. You are free to worship Shugden, just don’t call yourself Buddhist.

    You said: “Also, you have to realize that the Dalai Lama is not the Pope, he only has self-assumed religious authority and that’s where your analogy falls down as well. He’s not the head of any of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and is interfering in matters converning both the Kagyu and Gelugpa schools.”

    You are right about one thing. The 14th Dalai Lama is not the official head of ANY of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Why? Because each school has it’s own spiritual head.

    But sorry to add that the Dalai Lama IS the spiritual leader of ALL OF TIBET, his spiritual authority supersedes all traditions and it’s not “self-assumed” if you know your history well. Tibet has always been a theocratic society and the Dalai Lama is both the political and spirtual leader of Tibet since the Great Fifth whether he wants to be one or not, period.

    And therefore, the Pope analogy applies.

    Only NKT and some Shugden supporters think otherwise and tries to brainwash themselves with these convoluted arguments and trying to convince the press about it.



  26. Shaza wrote:

    While one has the right to worship Lucifer at home, calling themselves Catholics will certainly raise some eyebrows. The Vatican would definitely have something to say about them if the Lucifer worshippers are flourishing under the guise of Catholicism.

    Yes, but what if the Pope suddenly decides that the Virgin Mary is really Lucifer and bans any veneration to her, threatening anyone who goes against his view and denying them travel, food and relationships with their families who have had to swear not to pray to the Virgin Mary or have anything to do with anyone who does? This is more akin to what has happened.

    Also, you have to realize that the Dalai Lama is not the Pope, he only has self-assumed religious authority and that’s where your analogy falls down as well. He’s not the head of any of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and is interfering in matters concerning both the Kagyu and Gelugpa schools. Since he is promoting the Nyingma school’s teachings and harming the others schools, doesn’t that seem like sectarianism to you?
    He has no right to tell people what they can and cannot practice and certainly not to abuse their human rights.

  27. If they are verifiable then please give me the sources so i can do so. Then i have some basis to change my mind.

  28. Verifiable sources from the Tibetan settlements in India came through in March that:

    * Agents of the Dalai Lama are trying to destroy Palgyeling Monastery in Nepal.
    * a small mob supportive of the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden burnt down the house and hotel of Tenzing Choegyal (Zongkar Choede) in New Delhi last Thursday.
    * A doctor who was helping Dorje Shugden practitioners was attacked yesterday at a clinic in a Tibetan settlement (Ooti) that was giving out medicines for tuberculosis.
    * The Dalai Lama’s sister Pema is in Paris starting the forced signature campaign of Tibetans in France.
    * The forced signature campaign is being arranged for Madison, US, in July 2008.

    Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama has been in England talking about tolerance, religious harmony and the need for dialog with one’s enemies. He has still refused every single request to discuss the unlawful ban on the worship of Dorje Shugden.


    Today the entire Tibetan population is being forced to hold an Identity Card, the YELLOW CARD, proving that they took the oath swearing (1) not to worship Dorje Shugden, and (2) not to have any material or spiritual relationship with Dorje Shugden practitioners.

    This segregates and denies the human rights of both monastics and lay families.

    Segregation in the monasteries

    Buddhist monks and nuns who do not swear and are not given the Yellow Card are:

    * Not allowed to eat with others
    * Deprived of food. They are not allowed in any of the monastery’s kitchens. Even if they receive some external help for their survival, they cannot buy food from the monastery’s shop or anywhere in the nearby Tibetan settlements
    * Not allowed to set foot in their main temple,
    * Not allowed to attend the daily monastic gatherings of prayers, rituals and debates
    * Having to be protected by Indian police to attend the sacred yearly Monlam Chenmo Festival, created by their religious founder Je Tsongkapa.
    * Receiving violent threats in the neighbouring Tibetan settlements, cowardly posted during the night

    It is forbidden to talk to them. It is forbidden to walk close to them. If you see one of them, you have to deviate your steps to not cross his or her path.

    Segregation in the lay community

    Lay Tibetans have been made to swear the double oath of not worshipping the Protector Dorje Shugden themselves as well as forsaking all contact with the monastic practitioners.

    Those who do not swear and are not given the Yellow Card:

    * Are not allowed to travel in the same taxicab or rickshaw with other Tibetans.
    * Cannot purchase even the most essential groceries (their children cannot even buy candy)
    * Eat in any restaurant
    * Lose their jobs
    * Have their children expelled from school

    Definition of Segregation from Cornell: 3 -Segregation -1. enforced separation of groups: the practice of keeping ethnic, racial, religious, or gender groups separate, especially by enforcing the use of separate schools, transportation, housing, and other facilities, and usually discriminating against a minority group.
    4 -A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly [.] and the right to equality in public places.
    Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. (Cornell University Law School).]

    Does the Dalai Lama have the right to do this?

    Although the world has been served an image of the Dalai Lama as the religious leader — a Pope of sorts — of all Buddhists, he is not. He does not have any religious authority to do what he is doing. In a general way this is because Buddhism accepts all internal religious beliefs and doesn’t harbor the notion of persecuting heresy, and in particular because there is no level of authority in the Buddhist religion to order or implement a religious persecution.

    Who is responsible for the ban, Yellow Card and resulting penalties for those who disobey?

    Everything going on now is the direct responsibility of the Dalai Lama. He has been campaigning personally to push the abbots and monks to do the referendum and make others take the double oath.

    He is responsible for the persecution because he chose the necessary words to push Tibetans to become the tormentors of their fellow exiles by repeating four calumnies over and over again:

    1-The worshipping of Dorje Shugden endangers his life
    2-It harms the cause of Tibet.
    3-Practitioners assassinated three monks in Dharamsala in the 1990s
    4-Practitioners are working for the Chinese to harm the cause of Tibet

    To measure how deep the crisis goes, consider the following statement by Ngawang Tenpa, Officer of the Cholsum organization, the largest regional group in Tibetan politics:

    “It is possible to think of a time when we will make friends with the Chinese, but with these (Dorje Shugden) people – never.”

  29. Thankyou Dharmapal for your rational and constructive post, I have looked at your link and the Western Shugden Society website and found them very informative and helpful in understanding this issue. I’m still finding it difficult to understand the reactive and defensive stance of many privileged western practitioners who obviously appreciate their own religious freedom and their wish to collude in the denial of that right to others. I think perhaps their idea of their own correctness is dependant on others being incorrect and that their insecurity in their own practice is reflected in their wish to discredit the practice of others.
    It would be great if more people could post in support of religious freedom and tolerance and to support those suffering under the Dalai Lama Dictations

  30. Nice blog…… a party political broadcast – certainly not a piece of independent journalism.

    Why not post a link to the Yellow Book by Zemeney Rinpoche. Trijang certainly had a few copies in his library.

  31. Thank you Phelim and Robert for some very well-considered pieces on here. e.g. your response to that monk’s rather spooky account, talking about the segregation of the Dorje Shugden monks as if it was all fine.

    If you have time to post any of your comments on the blogspot, please do!:
    I think there are many people reading that blog (it is apparently getting a large number of hits) who would love to read your balanced and compassionate posts.

  32. go to e-sangha for advice, they are very resourceful, many former shugdenites are already starting over..

  33. I am leaving this debate, I think it is obvious that people have different veiws on the issue, I am becoming too polorized and this is damaging my practice, It is very difficult for everyone involved and I hope there can be some kind of resolution which allows all parties to maintain integrity, thanks to you all for your responses to my points and your informative posts etc
    All the best Phelim

  34. and my response …

    “Hi Michael,

    In your article “Selling Tibet to the World”, dated June 5, 2008, a couple of explanations ventured for Dalai Lama’s anti-Shugden sentiment are quite erroneous.

    Although some scholars have attempted to explain the political dimension of the Shugden ban, they were more cautious with the facts and did not go into the conspiratorial hyperbole that you do. In fact, your theory that the Dalai Lama wants a merger of all sects because of his non-sectarian stance is merely a theory and totally unsubstantiated.

    When you speak of the Dalai Lama, you say his anti-Shugden stance “seems to derive from his desire to unite the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism – the Nyngma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelugpa. This has always been one of the Dalai Lama’s problems. He is not the head of Buddhism; he is not even the head of Tibetan Buddhism. Traditionally, the Dalai Lamas are from the Gelugpa sect” and you go on to say that for him “[t]o enhance his authority, he has sought to merge the four traditions into one and place himself at its head. But Dorje Shugden presents a roadblock.”

    He is a spiritual and political leader of Tibetans in exile whether he wants to be one or not. And he is the head of Tibetan Buddhism in both senses of the words. The crisis is not whether he is the legitimate spiritual and political leader of the four schools, but whether he could be seen as fair by Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu if he continues to allow the worship of a sectarian spirit denounced by all other sects.

    This is the more plausible political reason behind the Shugden ban.
    Moreover, the Dalai Lama has no intention to merge all lineages into one. On the contrary, he had refused his junior tutor Trijang Rinpoche’s bid to control all schools under the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE) umbrella.

    The previous Trijang Rinpoche, also the fountain head of the modern Shugden cult, had been appointed the task to set up TGIE. It was the young Dalai Lama who had the guts to stamp his teacher’s political ambition and sided with the other schools. And I suspect this is another reason why he earned the respect of the leaders of other schools.

    One could not help after reading your article that you either bought into the pro-shugden propaganda or simply filling in the blanks yourself.



  35. Hi

    DS worship is actually flourishing in Tibetan communities under China’s rule and thanks to nkt, it’s growing day by day in UK and North America as well. But then it really doesn’t matter whether they are the majority or the minority. Heretic is heretic.

    Dressing Lucifer as God doesn’t make him God. If one risks one’s life worshipping him, it just tell me this person is really deluded.

    If one cares to investigate. DS practice WAS a spirit worship a hundred years ago. So history will tell you that. It’s just unfortunate that it went unchecked for so many years.

    Your argument is like since DS practitioners have been kept in the dark about DS controvery and “happily” practicing it for so long, so it’s really ruthless to point out their faults to them.

    Quite the contrary, it would be ruthless NOT to speak up. Because in the past decade or so, many have suffered and have been disappointed by the DS practice.

    Do you seriously want more and more newbies got duped and go through that cycle again? It would be totally against one’s vows of compassion not to speak out when one could see clearly what went wrong. At least, let them make informed choices before jumping on the bandwagon.



  36. Who is it exactly who is in charge of saying who is a Buddhist and who is not, and how does one attain the superiority to dismiss anothers practice of Dharma as spirit worship, devil worship etc, Do you you not think that one of the fundamental tenant sof Buddhism is the freedom to follow your own path. Would you say for instance that someone in the UK with a limited understanding of Dharma is more genuinelly a Buddhist than a highly realized practitioner who stands by their practice even when it means they risk their life. This is not a Judgement we can make. Also the catholic church as an institution is not comparable to The Tibetan community as a a community, An individual can leave the catholic church (as many have) but one cannot leave the Tibetan community, also is it not obvious that DS practitioners are not flourishing under the Dalai Lama and your misunderstanding of this oppressed minority as a threat to some great holy order that exists within the monastries of the Tibetans in exile is very wrong. Is not the way of persecution to demonise and destroy, don’t join in, stop and assess where your veiws are coming from, can’t you use this situation as an oppourtunity to develop some compassion?

    I am tired of this debate and I think everyone here has clearly made their point and nobodys going to move their mind, in the mean time nobody opposed to DS practice is suffering, wheras those practicing DS clearly are, if you are a Buddhist (however you understand that term), where should your heart go ???
    All the best Phelim

  37. it’s a tough call i admit.

    While one has the right to worship Lucifer at home, calling themselves Catholics will certainly raise some eyebrows. The Vatican would definitely have something to say about them if the Lucifer worshippers are flourishing under the guise of Catholicism.


  38. What does religious freedom mean? does it not mean that you should be free as an individual human being to follow whatever religious/ spiritual path that is relevant to you without being oppressed, victimised etc, this is very very simple, it’s not about Kundeling Rinpoche, NKT fundamentalists, Peter and Tharpa and all that other stuff, it’s not about tibetan independance, the existance or otherwize or the the nature of someones percieved object of veneration, move your mind this freedom is fundamental to your wellbeing and to the wellbeing of others why would you want to be involved with supporting this oppression, yes you are pissed off with the NKT now move on please
    respect Phelim

  39. I represented the NKT for 9 years. I was involved in the original protests against the DL in 1996 and i can assure you i am more aware of the whole situation now than then, when i accepted so much on blind faith to GKG. Now i am open minded, then i was an NKT fundamentalist.

    I think i will wait to see the outcome of the lawsuit filed in India by Kundeling Rinpoche I believe. I think it has been postponed for 4 months. I suggest you go and get a copy of the Yellow Book by Zemeney Rinpoche and see what kind of thing you are defending. Do you really think that those that deny religious freedom to others should be defended themselves?

    The whole issue is about religious sectarianism – it a political – and therefore it has everything to do with the NKT – they are involved in a political struggle whilst saying they are not. The WSS has no leader, no registered office and hides behind a proxy server. What have they got to hide? The fact that they are the NKT thats what. The booklet you can download from their website has the name Peter and Tharpa in the metadata. Tharpa – publish only Kelsang Gyatrso’s books.

    Latest statement by Dalai Lama,6570,0,0,1,0

  40. i sent this letter to Spiked in response to the article….

    “Hi Brendan

    It is an interesting piece on Shugden. While it’s easy to sympathize with Shugden’s practitioner like Pema, I think your article got the facts wrong in a number of ways.

    People would like you to believe that the Dalai Lama has a hidden agenda by banning Shugden, otherwise why would a religious leader ban a deity that his teacher & the teacher of his teacher propagated? Why this “sudden change of heart” if the Dalai Lama himself propitiated to Shugden when he was young?

    And those people would also like you to believe that the controversy did not start until the current Dalai Lama stirred it all up.

    But nothing could be further from the truth.

    Shugden had been a controversial deity way before the current Dalai Lama was even born. The feud between the 13th Dalai Lama and the sole Shugden supporter Pabongkha was well documented. Although the previous Dalai Lama did not ban the practice outright, he did advise against the practice partly because it was heretic, and displeased with Pabongkha’s attempt to elevate the status of a MINOR SPIRIT into a major deity. A recent scholar Lindsay McCune summed up the controversy pretty well in her thesis published in 2007. (p.38, “TALES OF INTRIGUE FROM TIBET’S HOLY CITY:

    Yes, Shugden was not a “wisdom deity” as Pema said in your article before Pabongkha turned this spirit into one. But many practitioners are kept in the dark about the history of this controversy because arguably the most prominent Shugden cult leader today, namely Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (hereafter GKG), is the staunch supporter of this heretic worship that came from Pabongkha. Unfortunately, GKG is simply not upfront about the issues with the new students under his care.

    Also, many would also like you to believe that worshipping Shugden is just a “simple and harmless practice”, otherwise people might start digging and find that dirty laundry hidden with that worship. And it’s probably another reason why they would like you to believe that the public denouncement of Shugden started in 1996 and not two decades earlier.

    In the early 70’s, one of the catalyst for Dalai Lama’s decision to distance himself from the worship came after a Shugden supporter Zemey Rinpoche published the famed “Yellow Book”, chronicling how various Gelugpas were punished and killed by this Dorje Shugden because they committed the heinous crime of “mixing” other Tibetan Buddhist lineages with the Gelug practices. The book was interpreted as a direct challenge by the Gelug hardliners to the Dalai Lama’s anti-sectarian stance.

    Although GKG publicly denied the book as superstitious and the nature of the practice as sectarian, but it’s also well known that Shugden was meant to be sectarian and violent and GKG’s main teacher Trijang Rinpoche had endorsed the publication of the Yellow Book. And the sectarian views of Trijang Rinpoche and his teacher Pabongkha were no news to those who care to dig through their biographies and writings.

    If you asked me why nobody seems to know about all these in the media, it’s probably because the Shugden supporters do not want you to know or simply do not want to know the dirty history of the practice itself. That’s probably why so much energy is focused on the mudslinging involved in the Shugden ban.

    Now, it’s time to debunk the whole Shugden myth, ban or no ban. “

  41. Again from the new internationalist (below), should this be tolerated?, is the Dalai Lama a religious dictator as the heading of this discussion asks?, use your wisdom and try not to mix this issue up with your own dissapointing religious adventures with the NKT.

    Dorje Shugden worshippers say the ban and its implementation are in direct conflict with the proposed constitution of a free Tibet, laid down by the Dalai Lama in 1963. The constitution states that all religious denominations are equal before the law, and every Tibetan shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. But when Dorje Shugden worshippers challenged the ban, the Tibetan Government-in-exile stated that: ‘Concepts like democracy and freedom of religion are empty when it comes to the well-being of the Dalai Lama and the common cause of Tibet.’

  42. open your eyes, this is not about the NKT and how you feel about it, this is about the issue they are bringing to your attention, what will it take for you to be able to separate the two, surely this is not that difficult
    The Dalai Lama is directly responsible for breaches of human rights, do you beleive in human rights, do you stand up for people when they can’t stand up for themselves, do you realy think all this stuff below is made up.
    You don’t like the NKT I understand that, now try to see how that is putting you in a position where you are willing to ignore evidence which clearly points to human rights abuses and to accept and/or deny their suffering.
    minorities matter

    Below From the New Internationalist 2/6/08

    The Tibetan Government-in-exile said its employees must stop worshipping the deity or be sacked. The office of the Dalai Lama told the superiors of the Sermey Monastic College in Bylakuppe, India: ‘If there is anyone who continues to worship Dorje (Shugden), make a list of their names, birthplace and class… Keep the original and send us a copy of the list.’

    According to PK Dey, a human-rights lawyer from Delhi: ‘Those worshipping Shugden are experiencing tremendous harassment. It is not in a particular part of the country, but everywhere there are Tibetans. Dalai Lama supporters are going from house to house searching.’ For example, in Clementown, India, the house of a family of Shugden worshippers was stoned and then firebombed. Wanted posters describe people believed to be Shugden leaders as the top ten enemies of the state. The posters have been put up in monasteries, settlements and in Dharamsala by the Government-in-exile’s Department of Security.

  43. Dear Phelim,

    Fair enough. I am not here to debate the shugden issue per se. I am too far from the situation to debate this with any authority with regard to the Tibetan community. However I have received much info which gives two very different sides to the way this affects the Tibetan community. At the moment i would guess that the majority of Tibetans are pro Dalai Lama and see the protests as not good with respect to Tibetan autonomy.

    My main area of concern is the involvement of the NKT in this – seeing as they proclaim themselves not to be Tibetan Buddhists. From the pictures of all of the protests so far I can see that 97% of those protesting are NKT members. Many who I know. I also know that all NKT centres have been mobilised to support this. This is my main area of interest. This is where i see the real hypocrisy. The NKT are a religious charity and have no business making political protests. This is why they are hiding behind a ‘front organization’ – the WSS.

    People will go to NKT centres and give money with no knowledge that the ordained they see, wearing Tibetan Gelugpa robes, have nothing to do with the Dalai Lama, are actually saying the DL is not even a Buddhist but an evil dictator, are not even ordained according to the Vinaya and their money is being used indirectly to pay for political protests.

  44. Dear CS
    I am not the NKT and I am using this forum to discus “is the DL a religious dictator” My opinions of the internal dealings of the NKT is another matter which as an infrequent visitor to NKT centres I am unqualified to answer. This issue is about religious freedom within the Tibetan community. It is easy to discredit people who are protesting but this does not nessesarily detract from the point they are making. I’m sure that all sorts of unsavoury characters protested about the vietnam war or live exports etc but for me this does not weaken the individual arguments it just points to the fact that we are all only human. I agree with the principle that people need protection from misguided individuals and from religious intolerance in whatever form it arises.
    I must insist that we focus on what appear to be real sufferings inflicted on members of the Tibetan community by their own government, I think the NKT has many good qualitys and some bad qualitys much like everything else I’ve ever experienced.
    may I assure you of my best intentions and respect

  45. So then how do you explain in conventional terms how Kelsang Gyatso’s two heart disciples who we can assume were dedicated Shugden practitioners ended up surrounded in sexual scandals? How do you explain why this was covered up and denied for so long until it became public.

    The NKT has grown very fast and has acquired lots of external wealth – property, Temples, Cafe’s, Hotels yet has to rely on so many unqualified teachers. It ordains many people who have little dharma experience and who subsequently disrobe.

    So i conclude that from a conventional point of view it seems that Shugden functions as a worldly protector and not as a dharma protector. For me a pure lineage is not a doctrinal one but an experiential one and comes from the experience and purity of the practitioner. NKT’s interests lie in the spreading of it’s tradition and not in the welfare and development of it’s students and teachers. If they want to protect their ‘pure’ lineage then they should concentrate on their own internal problems and not on tibetan politics.

  46. In a conventional sense it can be seen that the Dalai lama is harming DS practitioners and that this is an intentional action. his conventional action requires a conventional response as you rightly say a banana is a banana

    DS is an inner practice which has no outer manifestation other than the improvement of the practitioners mind and intentions towards others, and yes you are right the DL cannot destroy this practice for people in the west. However as a political leader he’s having a good go at destroying it within his juristiction.

    I maintain that there is no independently existant DS but that he can be judged conventionally by his actions

    I also maintain that there is no independently existant Dalai Lama (i.e we all experience our own DL depending on our veiwpoint and inclinations) but that he can be judged conventionally by his actions also

  47. Dear Phelim,

    How can DL destroy the practice of Shugden for western followers of NKT or Tibetan Shugden practitioners living in Europe/USA?

    I practiced Shugden for 9 years – so i can comment.

    Your explanation of Shugden being an aspect of the practitioners mind can only come from a deep understanding of ultimate truth. People are encouraged to practice Shugden with no understanding of dharma let alone ultimate truth.

    The use of ultimate truth to explain conventional truths is wrong and very dangerous. Just because a banana doesn’t exist from it’s own side doesn’t mean it is not a banana and doesn’t make it a spiritual path to enlightenment.

    Your faith or lack of faith in DL is coming from your mind (your words) so you say you lose faith in him and then say he is not a suitable object to develop faith by giving conventional reasons – therefore contradicting yourself.

    Kelsang Gyatso is not elected by anyone. Those that question him are removed – Lucy James etc. I am sorry but you cannot have your cake and eat it…………

  48. Dear Capitan,

    good news on the repairs; and I also appreciate your points and the, thankfully, reasonable manner in which you articulated them. And yes indeed we are all Buddhists, and even more we’re all humans!

    Take care and wishing you the very best


  49. It seems quite clear that the DL is very keen to destroy the practice of DS, and has his people dealing with this. he is unable to offer any rational explanation for this action, he is unwilling to discuss it openly and is relying on his cartoon good guy image to let him get away with it, a bit like michael jackson did with all those children. This man has lived surrounded by people who never question his opinions, he is living in comfort while his people (who havn’t elected him)live in poverty. I think it’s right to question what he’s up to and reasonable to expect a response. obviously his own people face recriminations for disobeying him as can be clearly evidenced. I am very distressed by the whole situation but I’m willing to face it with an open mind and to put aside my preconceptions of how marvelous the DL is,

    unless you engage in this (DS) practice who or what DS is is irrelevant because to you he is nothing, any buddha/deity only exists as an aspect of the practitioners mind which develops through the practice, to think there is some independant “real” DS is nonsense, all Buddhist practices are methods to attain an enlightened mind, whoever we are we can never be in a position to ethically or morally determine the methods other people should use to overcome their limited samsaric condition to benifit others by becoming a buddha. Once you have invested alot of time and effort into a practice why should someone else try to deny you the chance to complete it. surely an truelly enlightened being would rejoice in your efforts. I have lost faith in the Dalai Lama he is not a spiritual leader he is not interested in helping people to attain enlightenment he is a politician and a celebrity and he is obviously jelous of other Lamas who have maintained their purpose

  50. After fixing my ball with a bit of tape i can now continue. Points taken. Thanks for the considered response.

    Only aren’t we all one Buddhist family?

  51. Hi Captain,

    You are right, there are many other points that we could discuss, but they should not be used to divert attention away from these wrong actions of the Dalai Lama. Also you said,
    “Why are you and the NKT not equally giving energy to the Tibetans in Tibet who are suffering religious persecution at the hands of the PRC – if it’s a numbers game there are more Tibetans suffering over this. Why don’t you see that you are playing into the hands of the PRC and causing problems for all Tibetans.”

    Hey – why do I drive my mum to hospital and not someone’s mum from up the road? You are right they both deserve help, but again, not helping all mum’s is not a reason for helping no mums at all. Paul McCartney bangs on about vegetarianism, Bono about world poverty. Different strokes for different folks you know?

    Hope your balls splitting is only a temporary problem ;-)


  52. Ok Robert,

    My beef is the double standards of the NKT and Kelsang Gyatso. There are two sides to this story not just the one presented by WESTERN Buddhists. Why are you and the NKT not equally giving energy to the Tibetans in Tibet who are suffering religious persecution at the hands of the PRC – if it’s a numbers game there are more Tibetans suffering over this. Why don’t you see that you are playing into the hands of the PRC and causing problems for all Tibetans.

    This is a historical fight over Gelugpa conservatism – a fight between a secular view of Tibetan Buddhism and a sectarian view. It’s Lamaism and politics – you are involved in a political struggle. You hold onto this idea of a pure lineage and the authority coming from Trijang Rinpoche and selectively discount anything that questions your supreme position – such as the Yellow Book. Shugden has been used to strike fear intro Tibetan Buddhists long before the Dalai Lama instigated his Ban. Did i say ban – because he never told anyone to stop this practice – he just said if you want to practice this then go elsewhere and don’t take me as your Guru.

    There’s a lot more to Buddhist practice than Dorje Shugden Is it really worth it? Time will tell. By the way – I used to practice Shugden. If he really is a powerfull dharma protector then he didn’t do a good job for Thubten (Neil Elliot), Samden (Steven Wass) or Lodro (Dave Everard) did he.

    Damn – my ping pong balls split – still good game while it lasted.

  53. Dear Captain,

    Thanks for the advice, and let me reassure you, I am not hateful.

    You can’t justify ignoring one wrong by citing another. And this does affect me as a Westerner too. It has created mistrust between me and my friends from other Buddhist traditions and also created a lot of mental anguish and emotional suffering for western students who have faith in the Dalai Lama as well as their own Lama. Just to illustrate the point, look at what Lama Zopa says in the reference you gave me, and then look at what the Dalai Lama says. Poor Lama Zopa, although he advises against Dorje Shugden practice, even he can’t agree with the Dalai Lama without abandon the deep faith and respect he has for his teachers.

    Lama Zopa: “This does not mean that Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, and His Holiness Song Rinpoche have made mistakes. It does not mean they are wrong.”
    Dalai Lama: “This is not an authentic tradition, but a mistaken one.” and In the spring of 1996, His Holiness the Dalai Lama … said that this practice fosters religious intolerance and leads to the degeneration of Buddhism into a cult of spirit worship.

    Lama Zopa: “Nor does one have to look at the protector as evil. “
    Dalai Lama: “Since the fifth Dalai Lama considered this an evil force, evil spirit, and he once tried to destroy that. So therefore, me as the Dalai Lama, the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, I am among the lineage of the Dalai Lama, so I have to follow.”

    The religious aspect of this conflict is indeed complicated but the fundamental point remains: The Dalai Lama is not only preventing Monasteries from continuing a religious tradition that they have practiced for centuries, but in doing so he has made those monks and nuns pariahs in their own society and without any support network from their own communities. These people are already refugees, and as you point out, their only hope now is to look outside the Tibetan community and hope that Westerners like me will help to feed, clothe and house them.

    By forcing his view on people the Dalai Lama has created this situation and also created great suffering in the spiritual lives of Buddhists and created a terrible division with our community of faith. Of course it is right that people like me take action. All we are asking is that the Dalai Lama gives religious freedom in his own community so that Monks and Nuns and ordinary Tibetans can continue the practice given to them by their teachers without fear and cruel labels.

    With very best wishes


    This link is an example of the treatment you can expect if you arrive from Tibet and try to continue to practice your religous beliefs.

  54. Protests do not have to be hateful. The Western Shugden Societies motivation is not hatred. In democratic societies, we have to freedom to express injustices and discrimination. Shugden practitioners in the East do not have this freedom under the contol of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Preciousmetal was right in saying that Kelsang Pema does have religious freedom. The western shugden society is demonstrating on behalf of the eastern practitioners and western practitioners. Asking the Dalai Lama to let us practice our beliefs without discrimination, persecution or intimidation. We will not just sit back and watch him try to destroy the heart practice of Trijang Dorjechang and the previous Gelugpa lineage gurus of the last 350 years.

    Here’s some helpful links if you would like to see what I mean by discrimination, persecution and intimidation:

  55. Dear Robert,

    I will not bother to enter into a ping pong match over this issue. I am afraid i have become rather tired of the NKT fundamentalist line with this subject. The bottom line for me is one simple fact. The NKT who are using the WSS as a front are not affected one bit by the Dalai Lama’s instructions to the Monks in the Monasteries UNDER HIS jurisdiction. This is a political fight and has nothing to do with religious freedom whatsoever. Why is it that someone living in an NKT centre, who enrolls on a FPMT correspondence study program gets asked to leave his home (this is fact I know this person). Do you think the Dalai Lama should be picketing Kelsang Gyatso about this. No. So what right has Gyatso got dictating terms over monks who disobey the rules in monastries under the control of the Dalai Lama. The thing about freedom is that if you don’t play by the rules and get asked to leave you have to go and support yourself. Quid pro quo.

    As for you quoting Lama Yeshe – i suggest you read this…

    My advice – stop the hateful protests and use the money to set up a Shugden monastery in India. Then – no problem.

  56. Dear Captain Scarlet,

    Why do you think these monks hold this view of Dorje Shugden? In these same monasteries in the 1960’s and 1970’s the practitioners of Dorje Shugden live in harmony with other monks. The 97th Head of the Gelug School, Trijang Rinpoche was the formemost teacher of this practice. So what has changed?

    The Dalai Lama has created this situation using false but emotionally charged reasons like “Dorje shugden will shorten my life”, “Dorje Shugden harms the Tibetan cause”, “Dorje Shugden will kill me if I even touch a text from another Buddhist tradition”, “Dorje Shugden is spirit worship” etc.

    What is the result of these words by the Dalai Lama? These monks which are expelled are already exiles, who will support them? Where will they live? They escaped from Tibet to preserve their right to practice the religion they recieved from their masters and now the Dalai Lama is destroying that freedom with his words.

    Did you know that the first person to invite the Dalai Lama to the west (giving him the chance to become the global pesonality we see today) was Geshe Rabten, a Dorje Shgugden practitioner Did you know that hte largetst Tibetan tradition in the west was founded by Lama Yeshe (the FPMT He also was a Dorje Shugden practioner. Today if he were alive Lama Yeshe could not teach in his own center unless he broke his promise made to his root Guru Trijang Rinpoche ( stopped relying on Dorje Shugden.

    I am a western Buddhist whose daily practice includes prayers to Dorje Shugden, these are prayers for peace, harmony and the flourishing of Buddha’s teachings as well as an end to suffering etc ( I have achived real inner peace and happiness as a result of this practice. Now because of the Dalai Lama’s actions I am labelled a spirt worshiper and a chinese spy. In the future using his fame, the Dalai Lama will completely destroy this tradition. Even today most Buddhist now view the practice with suspicion. This means that if I were born in 20 or 30 years from now, this path to happiness would be lost. For that reason also the Dalai Lama’s actions should be protested against.

    This situation is so sad, Buddhsits fighting buddhists and buddhism in general showing a shameful face to the rest of the world. But if religious freedom is to be respected and human rights maintained, not withstanding maintaing ancient wisdom as a living tradition – what other option is there to take?

    With very best wishes


  57. Hi,
    I agree that the statements of the WSS are a bit harsh.
    But I do understand the motive behind it.
    I have been an NKT practitioner for some time and and struggled with this issue way before theses protests came up this year,and I have come ot the conclusion that I know my teachers are realized,and Ih ave gained and still am gaining amazing insight on my mind,and the nature of reality.
    If my protector was ‘inherently evil’ then how can this work?
    Plus,if we practice emptiness,how can any thing be evil from it’s own side?
    this makes no sense.
    I will stand by my practice (which also is quite large all over the world in tibetan buddhism )
    Yes,the WSS is mostly NKT,but that’s because Geshe Kelsang has brought in many dharma students with his skillful means IMO.
    But as you have seen in videos,in person and in photos that there are also Tibetans among them.
    THIS IS NOT AN NKT THING..this is a much deeper controversy.
    I pray asking to see the real deal, see that neither side is wrong and both HHDL and the practitioners of Dorje Shugden are correct.
    Please go to the website I listed under my name..this has many great unbiased articles.
    The forum is a forum so it will be mixed with angry minds and rational minds,so be cautious with that one,but overall..the content is very good.
    I have seen anti-DS websites and i am sorry to say they come off extremely angry..this is not a good approach as well to get their point across.

  58. Hi Andrew,

    I used to worship Jesus. Your point exactly? Am I still to blame for the youthful me? Perhaps, but I sure hope not.

  59. The Shugden Society or officially the Western Shugden Society (WSS) are made up almost entirely of members of the NKT – a Western Buddhist organisation who, in there own words, are do not represent Tibet or Tibetan Buddhism and are free to practice the worship of Shugden. Most of those protesting have flown in from the UK and other European NKT centres.

    The problem with the picture portrayed by the NKT is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of monks of Sera and Ganden do not want to share their monasteries with people that worship this spirit. The recent conflict began when monks refused to debate with dogyal worshippers during the annual winter debate. One monk who was present at the debates explains what happened,

    “I was fortunate to attend His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Drepung this January. During the month before, the monks from the three great monasteries assembled at Drepung for the annual winter debate. When it came to Sera Je to debate against Sera Me, the Je monks refused to put any questions to the few Me monks who still practice DS, thereby leaving them sitting in silence, in front of the entire assembly of monks from the three great monasteries! Really this is a very huge and brave thing to do. Picture a short row of seated Sera Me monks with a small cluster of Sera Je monks standing before them asking questions and surrounding them are hundreds and hundreds of monks from Ganden, Drepung and Sera, as well as their abbots. And remember these aren’t just thousands of monks, but this is the sangha community! The Sera Je monks questioned the Me monks one by one, and when it came to the two monks who practice DS, they were ignored and as everyone knows who practices DS, the reason was clear. And remember that this was acted out before, and witnessed, by the sangha community! So a very powerful statement was made that these two monks were not being accepted as part of the sangha community by other members of the community.”

    When such a thing happens, the Sangha community have to address it. The way this is done is set out in the vinaya. Monks have to decide which side they are on and publicly declare that before their peers, just as the Buddha set out. In this way, divisions in the Sangha are resolved.

    The number of monks that have been expelled is open to question, but thousands seems an exaggeration. The monk that I quoted above puts the number at about three hundred.

    The right of monastery authorities to decide a code of conduct for those that reside in their institutions is obvious, surely. It is also perfectly acceptible for these monks to set up their own institutions, as has already happened in some cases.

  60. It’s definitely true that the PRC exploits this controversy, even trying to force monks to worship Shugden. Tibetans in general find it extremely important, which is reason enough for everyone to be concerned. But the short answer in my opinion is that the Shugden cult followers had come to represent a kind of Gelugpa purism accompanied by supreme disdain for other kinds of Tibetan Buddhism. Dharamsala exile govt people were once especially engaged in this cult, and this was making it impossible to build an inclusive democratic atmosphere in which others could feel their concerns were being fairly represented. As I see it they have become rather irrelevant these days, with the most vociferous proponents found among westerners, particularly in England. But I just have to guffaw when I hear them say that HH denies them religious freedom, when they were and are themselves the most intolerant sectarians imaginable. Most Tibetans, particularly young ones, see the wisdom of HH’s position. After all, he’s not denying them the freedom to worship Shugden if they want to, just denying them the right to do so while regarding Him as their teacher. And as a Buddhist spiritual teacher, He is entirely within His rights here. That’s my take. They’re free to take their intolerance of diversity elsewhere, preferably England.

  61. I see where you are coming from Doug, thanks for the comment.

    For those that do know a bit about the whole controversy though, this article seems like more of an attack than just a simple “pale magenta or pink”. Seems this woman is irked about something that doesn’t directly effect her life. I’ve been to an NKT center and the people I met there were great. Never once was Dorje Shugden brought up, of course there were mandalas of him on the wall, but that was the extent of it. I can understand if she wasn’t able to freely practice her religion, but she is.

  62. As far as I understand this, it is a narrow doctrinal difference over whether a fierce demon protector of the Dharma is actually what it claims to be. Is that a pale magenta or pink? Winsor Blue or Navy Blue? The West doesn’t understand or care because it’s a subtle discrimination they can’t see.

    Narrow internal politics have come on gone for thousands of years, and the split is destructive, as China, no doubts revels in the criticism.

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