Friday, August 29, 2008

Will the Dalai Lama Return to Tibet?

More on the Dorje Shugden controversy within Tibetan Buddhism, from The New Statesman.

Will the Dalai Lama return to Tibet?

  • Posted by Meindert Gorter
Meindert Gorter gives his views on religious freedom in China today and the prospects of the Dalai Lama return from exile

The Dorje Shugden Society is trying to put a stop to the ban on the worship of Dorje Shugden on the basis of India’s constitution, a country where you are free to worship almost anything. The Indian High Court is due to consider the case in September.

Advanced Buddhist hermeneutics are unnecessary to understand a protector, which is actually simply a powerful thought used for developing wisdom instead of attaining mundane goals. Increasing wisdom is never forbidden and while the Buddhist teacher Tsongkhapa’s middle way philosophy has room for interpretation you have to rely on your own teacher, because he’s your protector. Teacher and protector are indivisible and the so called ‘guru-devotion’ relationship is the heart of this Buddhist practise.

You can, however, criticise your teacher. Buddhism does not mean blind adherence to dogma but rather the opposite: individual analysis. One could say the Dalai Lama found his own truth, so than let him ban the deity, but the guru-disciple relation does not apply here. It’s a decreed dogma, justified by the Dalai’s dreams: he calls upon your faith in him.

This brings back memories of the theocratic Tibet. Alas, factual history has nothing in common with the romantic Shangri-la portrayed by Hollywood, but recalling this gets you branded as anti-Dalai Lama by most who are said to be pro-Tibet. But should not pro-Tibet campaigners be working on constructive dialogue, instead of repeating the same litany over and over, creating an atmosphere of mistrust? If any constructive dialogue with the Chinese is going on, it's taking place behind the scenes and without the Dalai Lama, thanks to his policy-making friends in the West. Maybe he could fire some compassionate arrows towards Beijing.

Criticising the Dalai Lama is as taboo as Dorje Shugden is and would instantly get you branded as pro-Chinese by the majority of Tibetans. As an outcast from society, even guesthouses don’t allow you in. The Dalai Lama is encouraging this as is widely documented. His portrait next to Mahatma Gandhi’s on the Dharamsala walls shows his appreciation for Gandhi’s style of peaceful revolution, but while Gandhi's achievements were transparent and relevant, the Dalai Lama’s ways are inscrutable. When the Dalai Lama accuses China of ‘cultural genocide’, he seems to forget times have changed. The cultural revolution has ended and Buddhism is practised by millions all over China and Tibet, with the government funding the restoration of the Tibetan monasteries that the Red Guards destroyed. Its clear that China is absolutely not democratic, but as long as Tibetans don’t mix religition with politics, they are free to practise. The Dalai Lama is welcome back as long as he’s not politically involved. And, as you can read on his website: “his commitment to the Tibetan issue will cease to exist once a mutually beneficial solution is reached”.

So, back in Tibet, the only role left for him would be a religious one. He could be the humble monk he has always claimed to be, but does he really have it in him? Or is he harbouring ambitions to become the religious leader he never was, in spite of all the naive parroting of him being a ‘temporal and spiritual leader’? Why else can he be so zealously devoted to uniting the lineages? I can’t think of another reason why he’s profiling himself as a religious chief than to create the possibility of his return to Tibet as Dalai Lama.

His dual role allows him to stop being a politician and the suffering of the Tibetans in exile ends' but the Dalai Lama seems set on leading them back as the dogmatic Buddhist pope that he never was.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. This is another really well done article by by Meindert Gorter.

If the Dalai Lama does return to Tibet. He definately would have to stop all his meetings with political leaders. China would not allow it.

Can you imagine the Dalai Lama without involvement in politics? He's caused huge divisions within the Kagyu and Gelugpa traditions in his attempt to gain control over the 4 main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Maybe he's trying to weaken the power of his critics in order to make his return to Tibet possible.

Shugden practitioners such as myself will continue to protest the Dalai Lama's religious persecution until he lifts the ban on Dorje Shugden. He'll never be able to silence us.

I hope the Kagyupas will have the courage to stand up to him as well.

Unknown said...

In reply to just a few of the distortions in this post and the previous one. The Dalai Lama did not ban worship of Shugden, he only said that those who do worship Shugden can't receive teachings from him or claim to be associated with him. The practice texts for worship of Shugden contain many threats of violent harm to any Gelug follower who receives teachings from any other school. Thus the Shugden followers are fundamentalist sectarians. Ironically they promote the supremacy and exclusivity of the very school of which the Dalai Lama is the head. The Rime, or ecumenical movement which the Dalai Lama supports does not involve the "mixing" of lineages. I know from teachings which I have received that the view and methods of the different schools are very carefully distinguished, the student is encouraged to practice the various lineages received in a very pure way. There is one more point that can't be left unaddressed. The poster claims "When the Dalai Lama accuses China of ‘cultural genocide’, he seems to forget times have changed. The cultural revolution has ended and Buddhism is practised by millions all over China and Tibet, with the government funding the restoration of the Tibetan monasteries that the Red Guards destroyed." But the reality is that freedom of religion has not returned in Tibet, those monasteries that are being rebuilt are there as tourist attractions not the spiritual academies they once were. Amnesty international says in their 2008 report "Freedom of religion, expression and association of Tibetans continued to be severely restricted. The State Administration for Religious Affairs established government control over the identification and training of Tibetan Buddhist teachers throughout China." The poster say that the Shugden worshippers are falsely accused of being pro-Chinese, but then claims that religious freedom exists in Tibet.

Unknown said...

Here is a link to the Amnesty International report I quoted:

Here is an article that explains some of the history of this controversy:

Anonymous said...

John -

with respect, you're completely mistaken. Shugden practice is a central, mainstream Gelugpa practice and has been for generations. its words and imagery are no more fearsome than those of any of the hundreds of Protector deities in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon - every educated practitioner knows full well that this imagery is entirely symbolic. in Buddhism, harming another living being is anathema and a Buddha simply *cannot* harm any living being. the only "enemies" harmed by such Protectors are the inner enemies of the practitioners own negative emotions, such as their anger.

you claim to have received many teachings, but you don't know this? in fact, i find your claim somewhat difficult to credit after reading your comments about "the very school of which the Dalai Lama is the head". which school is that? the Dalai Lama is the head of NONE of the 4 schools of Tibetan Buddhism. he is a Gelugpa, but by no means is he the head of that school; the Ganden Tripa is the head of the Gelugpas.

once more, with respect - i would ask you to please research and check your facts more carefully before posting to avoid giving out such entirely wrong information.

william harryman said...

Thanks for the conversation, everyone, I'm learning a lot.


Unknown said...

Ok yes the Dalai Lama is not the head of the Gelug, rather its most prominent member. That's a rather minor point compared to whether or not there is religious freedom in Tibet.

If the language of the Shugden practice is merely symbolic of negative emotions then why is it directed against those who receive teachings from other schools?

I was not claiming to have received many teachings, only pointing out from my own experience that the mixing of lineages that Shugden is claimed to protect against is not a real issue.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

"Shugden is one of the gods known as the dabla (enemy-defeating gods). The dabla are known to be very scrupulous in protecting their followers against enemies and very generous in bestowing wealth on their devotees. Among the dabla, Shugden is considered to be very quick in acceding to requests—one reason which explains its popularity.

But even though Shugden worship may be more rewarding, it is said to be very difficult to follow because it involves praying and meditating every day for the rest of one’s life. And while Shugden is quick to respond to supplications, so is it in punishing those who deviate from its path.

Tibetans of all orders, in general, are afraid of Shugden’s anger and shy away even from taking its name."

"However, at the same time, it is not just theological liberalism on the Dalai Lama’s part that he has come out so strongly against a deity that is very much part of his own school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is also making a political statement. In the Tibet of old, Shugden was often invoked in the Gelugpa’s conflict against the Nyingmapa. (The Kargyupa and the Sakyapa, having accepted Shugden as their own, are spared its wrath.) This practice might not have seemed unacceptable in Tibet’s long and fractious history. But, when Gelugpa fundamentalists employ the method even today to make their own kind of Buddhism strong vis-a-vis the others, the danger of a rift among the Tibetan people becomes all too real."

From an article at:

Unknown said...

Here is an excerpt from the 1973 pro Shugden pamphlet that restarted the whole controversey, it's clear that Shugden is believed by his followers to cause real suffering to those who take teachings from another school. "Pema Wangchen sought many Nyingma initiations and teachings from Lama Pao Rinpoche. He also sought many other Nyingma Lamas, including lama Tenzin Dakpa from whom he received a great deal of Dzongchen teachings. ... Because he did not enter the proper path and abandon the wrong one he fell ill as a result. So with the invocation of Dorjee Shugden the advice was sought for treating the sickness. Dharma protector Dorjee Shugden told him to make the statues of Lama Tsongkhapa and his two chief disciples. He was also asked to do many ritual services. On top of that the deity advised him to eliminate the wrong path and exhorted the need to enter the proper way. As he did not act in accordance with those instructions he suffered from another disease. This time he got sores on his body. Thamcho Palden, the physician to H.H. the Dalai Lama, treated him. When one sore was cured another appeared and the pain was excruciating. In the mean time, his son, too, died due to the same disease. Pema Wangchen suffered with the pain and misery of that disease for about a year. With the help of some Lamas, he confessed to Dorjee Shugden many times. One time the deity was invoked and Pema Wangchen confessed. But the deity declared his final decision. Dorjee Shugden said that he was helpless. People like him, highly educated and holding high post in the government, but who did not practice pure Gelug tradition could harm Gaden Phodrang, the Tibetan government as well as the Gelug doctrine. All his efforts, taking medical treatment, performing religious services and engaging in every possible means proved of no help. The punishment of Dharma protector Dorjee Shugden struck and he died at the age of twenty two."

Anonymous said...

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.”

Meindert Gotter’s blogs were mainly about the influence of the Dalai Lama’s actions on Tibetans in India and elsewhere. The question is, does this affect Western Buddhists?

Western Buddhist Centers with a connection to the Dalai Lama have also been signing declarations promising not to engage in the Shugden practice or to allow into their Center anyone who does.

In the FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) Handbook, Lama Zopa says:

“All those who offer service or teach in FPMT centers are committed to follow the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As an example, His Holiness has prohibited the practice of the so-called protector, Do Gyel (Shugden), so teachers or others affiliated with the FPMT should not engage in this practice.”

This also extends to ordination. From the IMI/FPMT website:

Students considering ordination should also:

* have had Buddhist refuge for at least five years,

* have lived with lay vows for at least three years,

* NOT be a Shugden practitioner,

* be at least 20 years of age, etc etc

This is even though Lama Zopa says about himself and his teacher, the Founder of the FPMT:

“Of course, Lama and I practiced Dorje Shugden for many years. That was always the main thing that Lama did whenever there were problems to overcome. At the beginning of every Kopan course, Lama always did Shugden puja to eliminate hindrances.”

This suppression of religious freedom and private belief amongst Western practitioners is even more ironic and tragic given that about 70% of their lineage Gurus were renowned Dorje Shugden practitioners! Where is their lineage now? It seems to start and end with the Dalai Lama (who is, interestingly enough, placed alone and above all the other great Lamas on the lineage Guru page, including his own teachers). The Dalai Lama is clearly trying to destroy an established and ancient spiritual lineage not only of Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners but of Westerners too.

This February, the Dalai Lama sent the FPMT Centers the same referendum as in India with the two questions about (1) whether they reject the Protector Dorje Shugden and (2) whether they support Dorje Shugden practitioners.

This so-called “poll” does not lead to actual physical persecution as the Dalai Lama has no political power in the West to back it up (though, he does control the disbursement of considerable financial resources to these centers). But causing Westerners to swear that they are going to discriminate against others based on their religious faith is not only non-Buddhist, but creates disharmony and mistrust between the many European and American FPMT Buddhist Centers and the many Western Buddhist Centers who do rely upon Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden.

Many Dorje Shugden practitioners in the West, both Westerners and Tibetans, have been forced to remain anonymous for fear of becoming a target of the Dalai Lama’s criticism and developing a bad reputation. They are falsely accused of being demon-worshippers, Chinese agents, sectarian cult members, and so on. Because of the Dalai Lama’s unquestioned reputation in the West, the media have often believed him over the explanations of Dorje Shugden practitioners, and so have portrayed Dorje Shugden practitioners with a negative bias.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, it does not end there.

This is the latest discrimination by the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT)

Dorje Shugden practitioners are now completely outcast from the FPMT in the West as well, even though the Founder of the FPMT, Lama Yeshe, practiced Dorje Shugden until his death, as did many of the lineage masters mentioned on their teachers page. Lama Yeshe’s senior disciples relying upon Dorje Shugden have already either had to go underground or give up their life commitment to Lama Yeshe in order to stay as a teacher or ordained person in the FPMT. Now they have to do this merely to attend teachings.

This is a sickening echo to the Jim Crow “separate but equal” laws segregating blacks and whites in the American south, except that Shugden practitioners are now officially not just separate but unequal.

From the FPMT website: “Restriction: FPMT has recently issued a new policy regarding the Shugden practice in accordance with the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has expressed the wish “not to have a guru-disciple relationship with anyone who is practicing Shugden.”

This is a clear policy of discrimination against other Buddhists. It is extraordinary that it has been enacted, let alone advertised on their website, in this 21st Century.

Since Lama Zopa is still the nominal head of the FPMT, this means that Tibetan politics has now irreversibly permeated the FPMT. It means that not even Lama Zopa’s precious teachers, Trijang Rinpoche (or his reincarnation) or Lama Yeshe, would be allowed to attend Lama Zopa’s teachings.

FPMT members have long accused the Dorje Shugden practitioners in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) of being a sectarian cult. The irony is that the NKT is an open and tolerant organization that has never turned anyone away from a teaching due to their religious beliefs. That this religious belief is the 400-year old practice passed down through generations of fully accomplished Buddhist masters, including half the lineage Gurus of the FPMT, is beyond comprehension.

Anonymous said...

Do check out for updates and news and videos on this whole subject.

Finally, I’d like to quote from one of the comments to Meindert Gorter’s articles on the New Statesman that you mention above (worth going to take a look at by the way), because I feel it may be an interesting topic to discuss — is Buddhism better mixed with politics or unmixed? It seems that, as with every other religion, it would be better if it could be unmixed.

Here was the comment:

It is interesting to see the effects of the Dalai Lama’s policy on Dorje Shugden on Buddhism in general, not just in Tibet. But on this subject, I have also thought that this dark cloud could have a silver lining. And please take the following just as my personal opinion.

An earlier poster quoted this:

*Ewa (interviewer): “Your Holiness, what would you say to the Western “Buddhists” for whom the Tibetan political issue is completely distant from the religion, which they have so enthusiastically adopted?”

*H.H. the Dalai Lama: “Oh, that is wrong! Tibetan freedom is very much linked with the Tibetan Buddhism. Without Tibetan freedom, the Tibetan Buddhism cannot survive…”

Perhaps if the Dalai Lama were the true head of Buddhism worldwide and Tibet were the only true home of Buddhism (so he needs everyone’s undying support to save it from being overrun by Chinese), it would be a mistake to question him and better to preserve the status quo. But these things are not true.

Is it not more forward-looking to take the politics out of the religion? To have the freedom to practise Buddhism free from political or cultural constraints? “Tibetan Buddhism” is great for Tibetans, but we also need English Buddhism, American Buddhism, Brazilian Buddhism, global Buddhism. (We already have, of course, Sri Lankan Buddhism, Taiwanese Buddhism, and so on.)

I therefore disagree with the Dalai Lama’s assessment that “without Tibetan freedom, the Tibetan Buddhism cannot survive.”. I think Tibetans can practice the Buddhism of their forefathers in any country they find themselves in where the government allows freedom of religion (including and increasingly, we pray, in China). This is not a political statement. I am not commenting on whether or not Tibet should be free in general — simply on the connection between this freedom and the survival of the Buddhism that comes through Tibet. It is an emotive argument often used against us for opposing the Dalai Lama on religious freedom issues, but I don’t think it is correct.

The immigration officer in my line a few days ago was an African American with a gentle expression, who eagerly asked me not the usual questions of where I’d been and why, but “Are you a Kadampa?” (Kadampa is another word for Gelugpa, or Ganden, used by the followers of Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa). As I expressed astonishment at his powers of perception, he whipped out his rosary to show me that it was exactly like the one I was wearing on my wrist. He then whipped out a well thumbed Western Kadampa Dharma book called “Eight Steps to Happiness” , which he clearly reads whenever he gets the chance. He told me he attended Kadampa Buddhist teachings nearby.

What struck me talking to him is that he was a regular modern person who practices Buddhism freely in his daily life and culture without feeling the need to buy into the politics, culture or mystique of Tibet, or the antipathy to China, and so on. He was not Tibetan, had not experienced their political history at all, and yet miraculously the Buddhism that came from India and Tibet through the kindness of his spiritual teachers was now changing his life.

If the myth and strait jacket of the Dalai Lama as the Pope of Buddhism and Tibet as the Buddhist Shangri-la are dispelled (through the Dalai Lama’s own political heavy-handedness), this could pave the way for the Buddhism that originally came from India and then Tibet to adapt and survive for longer. It could become a democratic, culturally appropriate, practical, modern-day Buddhism, which could then take root all over our troubled world. It could mean that culturally diverse Buddhist masters (male and female) are free to maintain Buddhist traditions in every country. It could just help millions of regular people achieve their potential for inner peace and compassion.

Thanks WH.

Anonymous said...


Please see for daily updates of the Dalai Lama's unconstitutional ban of a spiritual practice, and the demonization and ostracism of those who wish to keep practicing it.

This is today's update from that blog (and the original Tibetan document can be found on

Will it ever stop? This mixture of politics and religion is already destroying the spiritual lives of many thousands of people in the Tibetan exile community in India, and is spreading its tentacles into the West.

Swiss Resolution regarding the worshipping of Dholgyal

On August 16, 2008, in the local assembly of Tibetan people in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, their Deputies discussed thoroughly with great responsibility. After that, the Local Assembly’s Deputies extended their appreciation to the Resolution (1996) adopted by the majority regarding the worshipping of Dholgyal (Shugden). Due to necessity there is now no option but to add three new resolutions on top of the existing five resolutions. We request all Tibetans who are above 18 years old in Switzerland and Liechtenstein to fully follow the content of these resolutions.

A The five resolutions passed unanimously by the Local Assembly’s Deputies on July 6, 1996 were:

1. The Dholgyal worshipper must completely give up [the practice] henceforth.

2. Those who do not worship Shugden must follow the instruction without falling into the trap of others.

3. You all must invite only those who do not worship Dholgyal, when you need to perform puja for oneself or for the Dalai Lama’s well-being.

4. Be it in private or a group, when you make offerings to the monasteries in Nepal, India, etc, you must do these offerings to those monasteries which do not worship Dholgyal.

5. You must bear in mind the instructions of politics and religion and abide by them without any contradiction.

B Three additional resolutions adopted on August 16, 2008 by the majority during the Second Session of Local Assembly were:

1. Recently a few Dholgyal followers have engaged in baseless criticism against the Dalai Lama in public. This we recognize as a conspiracy to spread rumors through gossip.

2. Those few Tibetans who criticize the Dalai Lama, we recognize them being in the category of Chinese government’s politics, directly, indirectly and thoroughly.

3. We will collect signatures as a truth witness which represents the volunteer support to the above-mentioned points.

For a copy of the original Tibetan document, please see

Anonymous said...

John -

this is from the infamous "Yellow Book", no? nobody in their right mind takes this literally or seriously.

once more, if you wanted to, you could find similar writings on many, many other deities, but no-one other than the highly superstiyios and credulous folk they were originally written for gives any of them any credence. i mean, as an example, Palden Lhamo, the great Protectoress of Tibet, is usually depicted riding a horse, using *her own son's skin as a saddle*, according to the fables, because she herself had killed him because he was destroying the purity of Buddha's doctrine.

such superstitious stories had a purpose, once, and were widespread. even today, we find their echoes in the images of wrathful deities.

but in Buddhist cosmology it is absolutely impossible for an enlightened being to harm any living being, because their minds are the nature of compassion.

there is, of course, considerable disagreement over the nature of Dorje Shugden. is he a worldly spirit, or is he a Buddha? while the Dalai Lama and many other lamas, at least publicly, now hold the former view, a very large portion of the most highly-regarded lamas of the last century (including a Root Guru of the current Dalai Lama, his junior tutor the Ganden Throne-holder Trijang Rinpoche) held firmly the latter view, that Dorje Shugden is a Buddha.

you quote from sources holding the former view, including such outrageous statements as "their own kind of Buddhism strong vis-a-vis the others, the danger of a rift among the Tibetan people becomes all too real." what evidence is there of this?

you make the point strongly that Dorje Shugden practitioners, as ultra-conservative Gelugpas, are somehow anti-Nyingma, but in practise currently this is simply not true. did you know, for example, that many Gelugpa monks, having been expelled from their monasteries for refusing to follow the Dalai Lama's ban, are even now being sheltered, cared and provided for by Nyingmapas in a Tibetan Refugee Village in India?

these stories of modern sectarianism and division are a smokescreen, a creation of the Dalai Lama's powerful speech and its credulous repetition by folks such as yourself. it simply isn't true, Yellow Books and ill-informed "historical" articles from the Dalai Lama's faithful notwithstanding.

but my question is this: do we, nowadays, credit such stories anyway? can they rightfully be given as a valid reason to justify such totalitarian tactics as forced signature campaigns, expulsion from schools and monasteries, barring from holding public office, and refusal to grant travel visas, ID cards, refusal to give children places at school, refusal to offer medcal treatment to the sick? how can this - which is all documented and plainly evident - possibly be justified?

could this be justified even if, somehow, almost all the great Gelugpa lineage Gurus of the last century were completely insane, worshipping a spirit? should it not be a basic human freedom that one can worship a tree if one so chooses, without fear of let or hindrance by his government? that it is the government of the supposedly enlightened Dalai Lama that is engaging in this inexcusable actions is frankly disgusting.

Anonymous said...

i misuoted above, the entire, misleading, quotation i meant to give that you quoted in your comment, John, is:

"when Gelugpa fundamentalists employ the method even today to make their own kind of Buddhism strong vis-a-vis the others, the danger of a rift among the Tibetan people becomes all too real."

as i said - what evidence is there of the truth of this outrageous statement you quote?

Anonymous said...

"misquoted", even. :-)

it's late...

Unknown said...

It seems to me that there's a weirdly self contradictory quality to the NTK's demands. 'We won't respect the Dalai Lama, but we demand that he, and those who do respect him, respect us.' The comparison to the Jim Crow laws is just ridiculous. African-Americans did not choose to be excluded from white society, but Shugden worshippers do have the choice to either continue their practice or join the mainstream of Vajrayana by renouncing it.

Atisha's Cook on the one hand wants to claim the prestige of tradition; saying that Shugden was "a central, mainstream Gelugpa practice and has been for generations", yet apparent those generations were superstitious and delusional about the nature of Shugden, since "such superstitious stories had a purpose, once, and were widespread. even today, we find their echoes in the images of wrathful deities". The Yellow Book was published in 1973, not that long ago really. I think it's appropriate that "many Gelugpa monks, having been expelled from their monasteries for refusing to follow the Dalai Lama's ban, are even now being sheltered, cared and provided for by Nyingmapas in a Tibetan Refugee Village in India". That doesn't show that Shugden followers aren't sectarian; only that some Nyingmapas didn't respond to their sectarianism with Nyingma sectarianism of their own.

Actually I do believe that some of the Tibetan community have gone too far in excluding the Shugden followers, because they see them as disloyal to the Dalai Lama. The NTK tend to exaggerate how badly they've been treated too. The whole approach of blaming all of the Tibetan communities problems on the Dalai Lama is seriously wrong. The Chinese are imprisoning and torturing Tibetan people for their Buddhist beliefs (see the Amnesty International report linked above).
Yet the NTK claim that the Dalai Lama is the real enemy of religious freedom, and praise the Chinese for rebuilding a few monasteries to get tourist money.

Andres Villalon said...

I. The NKT is not demanding anything in this case. The NKT does not need the approval of the Dalai Lama. the Demands To the Dalai Lama of Tibet are as follows (from the WSS website)

We the undersigned ask you to accomplish the following four things:
1. To give freedom to practise Dorje Shugden to whoever wishes to rely upon this Deity.
2. To stop completely the discrimination between Shugden people and non-Shugden practitioners.
3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled from their monasteries and nunneries to return to their monasteries and nunneries where they should receive the same material and spiritual rights as the non-Shugden practitioners
4. To tell the Tibetan community throughout the world in writing that they should practically apply the above three points.

II. Hate to break it to you, Dorje Shugden is not sectarian... Dorje Shugden is a Dharma protector... which means he protects your Dharma, that is to say, your spiritual experiences and realizations, from degenerating. That has absolutely *NOTHING* to do with anyone else.

III. Unfortunate things happen to us b/c of negative karma. If we are Buddhist lets please remember that and stop blaming something outside ourself for the suffering. If one actually has Buddhist refuge then you'd be protected from harm from spirits anyways. (a point that has been repeated many times, but ignored, nonetheless.)

IV. The example of the Nyigmas taking in the Shugden practitioners is of PROFOUND importance. It shows that it is not Nyingmas who have a problem with Gelugpas who stay faithful to Dorje Shugden. If the Nyingmas don't have a problem in actuality, then where did the problem come from?

V. No one is blaming ALL of the Tibetan problems on the Dalai Lama. We are just blaming him for the prevalent problem of discrimination against Dorje Shugden Practitioners.

VI. Do Gelugpa monks who stay faithful do Dorje Shugden choose to be ostracized from society? Thrown out of ALL monestaries (this is what the Dalai Lama called for... footage from France 24 Documentary). Its not called choice if you have privileges taken away as a result of making a certain choice. "Yes you have choice. But if you choose B and not A, then you cannot go to these hospitals, restaurants, stores, schools, towns, or prayer ceremonies".

VII. Dorje Shugden Practice is not contrary to the Vajrayana. Myself as well as other Dorje Shugden practitioners make offerings and prayers to Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajradhara... Of course we would do this because without Shakyamuni there would be no Buddhism in this world, so we are deeply thankful and owe a great deal to this Founder. In addition while praying to Dorje Shugden you are invoking and relating to the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri manifesting as Dorje Shugden.

Unknown said...

Dorje Shugden is neither sectarian, not sectarian, both or neither; however the function he has historically had and continues to have is extremely sectarian. Atisha's cook as much as admitted above that "for generations" Shugden worship was "highly superstitious". Now we are supposed to believe that all of the karma from vengefulness against other schools has disappeared, and Shugden no longer functions as a sectarian enforcer.

If you sincerely believe that Shugden is a manifestation of Manjushri then that is fortunate, the results of your taking refuge in a worldly protector will ripen on the teachers who deceived you and not in your own mindstream.

Sometimes you have to make a choice between two things and can't have both. For instance, if you choose to take steroids you can't also choose to keep the privilege to be in the Olympics. You can't have Shugden and associate with the Dalai Lama, and those who respect him.

Anonymous said...

John -

"Atisha's cook as much as admitted above that "for generations" Shugden worship was "highly superstitious"."

no, i didn't. i made the point that there were, at a time in Tibetan society, many people who believed such highly superstitious stories about ALL Protectors, etc. as you correctly point out, this time is not so long ago - i admit there may well still be even now some uneducated people who might believe such stories (about ANY Protector). my question was: do we, as modern people or as educated practitioners, believe such stories.

do you - seriously - believe that praying to a Prortector Deity that you believe to be an enlightened being, and then touching a text from another tradition, could result in that Protector causing you sickness or death? if so, then you do not understand Buddhist refuge and, i respectfully submit, you are highly superstitious.

this is a ridiculous reason for the Dalai Lama to give for instigating this wide-ranging, disastrous witch-hunt.s a ridiculous basis for the Dalai.

most of the Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners i know, and ALL of the western Shugden practitioners i know, do not want to "have Shugden and associate with the Dalai Lama". they do, however, want to be allowed to carry on their practice in peace, without fear of persecution by their government or its agents.

Unknown said...

I do believe that breaking samaya has negative karmic consequences. If you say that protectors and Yidams are just mental symbols and can't really harm or help us then you do not practice Vajrayana. Yes they are symbols but we are just mental symbols too, and their symbolism is far more powerful than ours. The difference between Shugden and all the other deities that I know of is that his commitments contain all of these sectarian strictures such as not to take the teachings of another tradition. The only way you can say that Shugden is harmless is to claim that some of the commitments you make in his worship are just superstion. Just as the only way you can claim that Shugden is nonsectarian is to say the entire history of his functioning in Tibet is now forgotten and meaningless.

You said: "do you - seriously - believe that praying to a Prortector Deity that you believe to be an enlightened being, and then touching a text from another tradition, could result in that Protector causing you sickness or death? if so, then you do not understand Buddhist refuge and, i respectfully submit, you are highly superstitious." As I said above "If you sincerely believe that Shugden is a manifestation of Manjushri then that is fortunate, the results of your taking refuge in a worldly protector will ripen on the teachers who deceived you and not in your own mindstream." If you believe that karma is just a superstition then you are the one who doesn't understand Buddhist refuge.

Andres Villalon said...

"Dorje Shugden is neither sectarian, not sectarian, both or neither"
--What? he's gotta be something.

"however the function he has historically had and continues to have is extremely sectarian."
--He doesn't have a function separate from the mind of those who have faith in him. So if those who have faith in him are not sectarian then how can you say that his function has and continues to be sectarian?

I've explained already his function as a Dharma Protector and you choose to dismiss that by not responding. If you do not respond with valid logical evidence that disproves the point that he is a manifestation of the Wisdom Buddha then there is no point having a discussion with you because you are not actually listening to what I'm saying.

"If you sincerely believe that Shugden is a manifestation of Manjushri then that is fortunate, the results of your taking refuge in a worldly protector will ripen on the teachers who deceived you and not in your own mindstream."

deception = lies, right?
If you wish to beleive that Phabonkha Dechen Nyingpo, Ling Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Domo Rinpoche, Dagom Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten, and Zong Rinpoche, (who without a doubt remained openly faithful to Dorje Shugden till their death) were liars and spirit worshipers then that is your choice. These are some of the most influential and accredited Buddhist Gelugpa Masters. I choose to follow them.

I'm not asking to go to the Dalai Lama's teachings. none of us are.
you can refer to my previous post to see what we are asking for. Religious Freedom :)

Unknown said...

The 'neither x, not x, both or neither' phraseology is a standard Madhyamaka formulation for dealing with imputations of true existence. According to the middle way the grasping at "gotta be something" is a delusion.

I responded to the claim that he is a Dharma Protector by stating that he is a worldly Protector. The evidence given for that was pointing out the sectarian strictures in his commitments and the history of his function as an anti Nyingma deity. The Dharma is not the exclusive property of any one school, thus any protector whose samaya enforces rigid boundaries between the schools is not a Dharma protector.

Anonymous said...

John (Tenzin?) -

i can't help feeling that you're being deliberately obtuse. why are you using traditional formulae for disproving that's just my problem, though, i guess. :-)

i agree with your Madhyamaka view that everything is a "mental symbol", and i agree that these mental symbols can and do perform functions. therefore, in my own practice, i try to rely on the help of my Guru, Yidam and Protector, in the valid belief that they can help me. however, i maintain that Dharma Protectors and Yidams *cannot* harm any living being, because they are enlightened beings whose nature is non-harmfulness. idf you believe otherwise, then you are not a Buddhist.

i accept that you may, as me, hold precisely the above correct views, but that you may view Dorje Shugden not as an enlightened being but as a worldly protector, as does the Dalai Lama. this is your right.

however, to justify your belief, and to discredit my belief, and that of Pabongkha Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, Geshe Kelsang, Domo Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten, Lama Yeshe, and many others, that Dorje Shugden is an enlightened being, you refer to "evidence" that Shugden is a worldly protector, namely: "sectarian strictures in his commitments and the history of his function as an anti Nyingma deity".

what evidence? quote these sectarian strictures in my samaya commitments (that i have apparently forgotten). i'm sorry, but in this argument, i will not accept the Yellow Book as valid evidence, for the reasons i have given already.

also, you said: "The Dharma is not the exclusive property of any one school, thus any protector whose samaya enforces rigid boundaries between the schools is not a Dharma protector." i agree entirely that the Dharma s not the exclusive property of any one school, but this cannot be used as a reason to assert that "any protector whose samaya enforces rigid boundaries between the schools is not a Dharma protector" - this is a non-sequitur. a Dharma Protector may very well, in my view, and that of many current and previous lamas of all traditions, help to maintain a strict boundary between two traditions, in order to preserve the purity and efficacy of the Dharma contained in *both*, rather than allow two pure and stainless medicines be mixed into one impure, potentially poisonous, mess.

this view is by no means universal. Ri-me practitioners (such as yourself?) believe that there is no danger inherent (don't start, it's a figure of speech!) in mixing practices from different traditions. no problem. but to assert that those who prefer to maintain a boundary are necessarily sectarian is plainly nonsense, even if deluded individuals have in the past caused sectarian division under the banner (falsely, i would say) of maintaining purity.

what is wrong with practising one's own tradition purely, whilst accepting and rejoicing in everyone else's right to practise their own traditions purely, thereby living together in harmony? what is wrong with relying on a Protector who encourages this?

to assert, as you do, that Dorje Shugden is inherently (and here i mean it literally) and irrevocably sectarian is ridiculous, frankly. the sectarian division that we are witnessing right now, such as the wall that has been erected to partition off and divide away the Shugden monks in Ganden monastery, is the result of the Dalai Lama's policy, not of Dorje Shugden's nature. this is unacceptable.

i ask you this: whether or not Shugden is a worldly protector whose practitioners are sectarian, did there exist anything approaching the present terrible and unprecedented schism in the Sangha *before* the Dalai Lama's ban in 1996?

ps. not sure about Ling Rinpoche, actually, Andres - you have a source for that? otherwise, great posts!

Anonymous said...

oops! butterfingers...

my first para above should read:

i can't help feeling that you're being deliberately obtuse. that's just my problem, though, i guess. :-)


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Atisha's cook,

Lama Yeshe who you cite for support above said "I want to add that, if you are making a new Dharma connection with a teacher, you should examine to make sure that that teacher is not someone who is against His Holiness Dalai Lama with respect to the practice of what’s called döl-gyäl, the protector Shugden. Make sure that that person does not do the practice. These days, that’s an extra analysis you should make. In that way, you’ll avoid problems in future." This is on his own website at

I could maker further points in regards to GKG and even Pabhongkha but won't as you have a connection to them and you seem to be not sectarian at least about other's practices. I do wish you would stop accusing others of mixing practices, as I explained above, in Rime the views of different lineages are very carefully distinguished in teachings and the practicioner is expressly told to practice the sadhanas received in a very pure traditional way without mixing them together.

Unless someone who hasn't already made up their mind on this controversey posts a question, I think I'll just leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

John -

once again, and i'm sorry to keep doing this to you, you're dead wrong! those are Zopa's words you quote - they are NOT Lama Yeshe's. Zopa has made the most extraordinary about-face on this issue, but throughout his life (by Zopa's admission) Lama Yeshe never did. it is absolutely horrible that, according to their new policy, Lama Yeshe himself would not now be allowed to attend his own FPMT centers.

also, i should say that i have no problem at all with Ri-me, and i apologise if i've misrepresented their practice in any way. i was simply trying to say that this is certainly not the only way to practise, and that those who wish to practise one tradition or lineage only should be equally free to do so without fear of being slandered as sectarian, so long as they are respectful and tolerant of everyone else's choice.

i have never heard or read anything from Geshe Kelsang to indicate that he holds a different, let alone a sectarian, view. indeed, i attribute my own understanding of tolerance and respect for others' practice in very large part to his teachings on the topic!

i must say: thank you for your civility in this debate. i know my tone can be challenging at times and i apologise for that. i just find it very hard to see teachers and practices that i cherish dearly badly misrepresented all over the net, simply, it often seems, because they do not agree with the Dalai Lama's view!

but perhaps this is just my attachment to view getting the better of me. in the end, the main point remains that the Dalai Lama's ban on this practice, however one views it, has unarguably caused the greatest schism in the history of the Sangha and widespread suffering throughout the Tibetan community, and this cannot go unquestioned and unopposed.

may everyone be free from misery.

Andres Villalon said...

Sorry, I think I misspoke (or typed as it were) about Ling Rinpoche.

You John are hilarious. :)
I am really enjoying this, it helps me sharpen up my wisdom... thank you.

I have nothing to add to Atisha's Cook.
much love to all